Sep 09

Crimes against nomenclature

Stop them before they name again

Sony imagination at work

Not sure why these things delight me so, they just do. Sony has unleashed a new line of Blu-Ray DVD players, but apparently forgot to consult with their marketing department. No doubt we’ll all be eager to tell our friends about the BDP-S360, BDZ-RX100, BDZ-EX200, BDZ-RX50 and… well, you get the idea. There are actually six of these little puppies, all named to inflict maximum pain. Maybe when you get yours home, you can give it a pet name.

Now I am obligated to think like a mature adult for just a moment (it hurts), and concede that it’s unfair to criticize without knowing all the marketing issues. But as a general principle, if you have a new technology worthy of launching a whole new line of products, you might want to make it easy for people to talk about your product.

Honorable mention today goes to Kodak. Clearly eager to get a little payback for that whole “digital photography” thing, they are now set to do battle with the Flip — a hugely popular video camera with a hugely famous name. Their soon-to-be released Flip-killer, already getting some good reviews, has been christened … the Zi8. (This is actually a followup to their previous Zi6. At least they’re consistent.) The Zi8 is a temptation, for sure. But I can’t stop dreaming about the BDZ-RX50.

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  • Lori

    Ugh. Why release so many versions of nearly the same product at once???

  • Hey they beat HD-DVD. It’s a Blu-Ray player. That’s all Sony needs. I mean, what do they call this year’s version of the Panasonic flat screen?

    A “Zune”?

  • ken segall

    @Lori: Who the hell knows. Ask Sony!

    @Bob: Yeah, I guess that’s the point. Consumer electronics companies come out with new models all year long, but don’t make it easy for us to talk about them. When I ask someone what TV I should get, they might say “The Sony Bravia line is good,” or they might say “Samsung makes a really good one, don’t remember the name but it’s a 52-inch with their high-end LED technology.” Bravia at least gives me a clue. The Samsung what’s-its-name does not. I like it when someone makes it easy for me.

  • Zubin Kapadia

    Ken, my guess is that these marketing people come from the auto industry, where alphanumeric nomenclature works. For instance, most people can recognize the automaker simply by the numeric series of certain luxury cars, such as the “S500” or the “535i” (or as you mention in an earlier post the “A4”). Even Acura, which started with the models Legend and Integra, switched to alphanumeric nomenclature in the mid-90s.

    But that seems to be the exclusive realm of luxury automakers (Honda and Toyota continue to use the Accord and Camry brands), airplane manufacturers (Boeing 787) and perhaps yacht makers (though I would have no idea about the latter). With ordinary electronic products, it doesn’t seem to make sense, unless you’re limiting your line to a few “key” products (model A, B or C). Otherwise, the consumer gets confused and it looks more like a serial number than a product name.


  • ken segall


    Totally agree. In certain times and places, and product categories, these character-based names do work. In fact, some of these names have become classic brands in their own right. (Like the A4.) Obviously the Sony line I’m picking will never be in danger of being remembered that way. Like anything, it requires some common sense and putting yourself in the place of the customer. And don’t try to hide the truth. I know all about you and your yacht.

  • For some reason I still remember my old Koss Pro-4AA headphones (can you believe they still make and sell these 40 years later). But that is kind of an exception. Mostly I remember the Kodak Carousel slide projector, Kodak Instamatic camera, Poloroid One Step instant camera, etc. In other words, I agree.

  • Rio

    I’ve been wondering this for years, but presumed it was a guy thing. You know, something guys talk about when they’re alone… Couldn’t agree more. Why not make them user-friendly from the word go? Seeing as most of them have interesting names in development anyway, it should be easy.

  • ken segall


    You’re inspiring me to start a file called “Great Mysteries,” because this is certainly one of them. It’s one of those dark corners of our industry where common sense doesn’t seem to take root.