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Android Code NamesSome companies spend a fortune coming up with enticing names for new products - and sometimes it goes disastrously wrong

A memorable example is the Chevy Nova, which in Spanish roughly translates to the Chevy doesn't-go. 

Even if the name doesn't mean something inappropriate, our research shows that gimmicky product names might not be as clever as their creators imagine.

The study involved observing fifteen potential customers browsing through brochures to find a new smartphone. Techie jargon aside, what really threw them was the variety of dessert names in the product subtitle.

We observed five problem areas.

1. They confuse new customers

Novice users didn't really understand that smart phones even had operating systems and explaining to them that Google uses dessert-themed names for different versions of their Android mobile operating systems just made it worse ( especially as they couldn’t find any explanation  in the brochures).

2. The logic is not obvious until it is explained

Explaining that names were in alphabetic sequence didn't help much. Especially when it appears that A and B never appeared in public and Honeycomb was for tablets (and different from the phone systems). 

The "added value" of the cool name did not appear to impress our sample.

3. The sequence becomes confusing

Since operating systems get updated fairly regularly, it's really quite easy to check that if you have version 5.x, version 6 is probably an update. 

It is a lot less obvious that Donut is an upgrade for Cupcake.

4. The names are  culturally dependent

No doubt Fro Yo (2010) is a pretty common abbreviation for Frozen Yoghurt in the place where Google people live but it doesn't work internationally. 

This seems like cultural imperialism (in a very small but irritating way).

5. The names become increasingly contrived

As the sequence progresses, one suspects it  becomes increasingly difficult to get the next name to be at all catchy and memorable (which presumably is one of the reasons for names in the first place). 

I guess we can look forward to "kiwi fruit cocktail' to follow jelly bean or some such as California grows 98% of the US kiwi fruit crop.

So can we please revert to plain old numbers which:

  • are easy to understand
  • have a clear logic and progression
  • work all over the world
  • never run out?

Maybe firms should reserve this creativity for the product itself...or am I just being boring?

Tom Stewart

Published 4 February, 2013 by Tom Stewart

Tom Stewart is Executive Chairman at System Concepts, and a guest blogger at Econsultancy. System Concepts can be followed on Twitter here, and Tom is also on Google+.

35 more posts from this author

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Stewart Longhurst

Stewart Longhurst, Director at V1 Digital

Like the Chevy Nova example, there wasn't much French interest in the Toyota MR2 - as they pronounced it "em - air - de" or "merde"!

about 3 years ago

Stewart Longhurst

Stewart Longhurst, Director at V1 Digital

Back to your central point, though, I agree for operating systems it seems better to stick to numerical progressions - look at MS Windows - it was doing well for a while, then we got XP, Vista then they're back on track with 7 and now 8.

For the product itself, I think a "cool" name helps sell it to consumers better than numbers. Just ask Nokia whether it regretting sticking with seemingly meaningless numerics for its phone models when Apple came out with "iPhone"! Hello Lumia!

about 3 years ago

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Sam Brown

K is going to be Key Lime Pie I believe...

about 3 years ago

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Stephen James

"...or am I just being boring?"

You are just being boring.

about 3 years ago

Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler, Director at VelocitySmall Business Multi-user

I keep having to ask, "Is Mountain Lion before Snow Leopard or after?".

Never had to do that with OS8 and OS9.

I do get annoyed when companies assume I'll invest the energy to learn their naming conventions -- BA may call me World Traveler Plus but I think of myself as Fast Track.

D

about 3 years ago

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Neale Gilhooley

Honeycomb is a friendly word, tasty even. Yet the logo appears to be an aggressive robotic wasp.

Which product has a sting in the tail?
(A: all of them)

about 3 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

> This seems like cultural imperialism (in a very small but irritating way).

You really are worrying too much!

Customers not in the know, will just ask for 'the latest' and won't care the details on that. For them V6 is equally opaque as Ginger Bread.

But for your customer-base who are more experienced, the friendly name is a way of building the community feel, insider jargon: promoting the 'fun' element of the band. These guys will be happy to explain to friends the difference between Ginger bread and ICS or etc.

Maybe we need to wait to see how well iPhone 5 does over time: their naming is as simple as it gets ... almost a grey-suited boring number system!

about 3 years ago

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Tony Edey, .

Numbering only works if it's done properly, graphics cards are an absolute nightmare for knowing whether what you're looking at is better or worse than the next one.

That said if everyone just used numbers the world would be a little poorer. For example take cars. BMW have taken ownership of (usually) logical numbering to name their cars, it's necessary for other brands to do something different to distinguish themselves.

By the way I am totally stealing the term 'cultural imperialism' and will be hurling it at my monitor every time I see "English (US)" show up as the only English language option when installing software from now on (so speaks a Brit) :)

about 3 years ago

Chris Knowles

Chris Knowles, Web Designer at The Data Octopus

I suspect that the same people who are confused by these names would also look confused if you asked them what version of iOS their iPhone is running.

The master brand is Android (which I believe isn't doing too bad for itself), the cutely named derivatives appeal to the people who make the platform what it is, the developers. Or code ninja samurai's, or whatever they like to call themselves.

about 3 years ago

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Ted

To whomever owns this blog I would just like to say that the information you provide here is excellent! I have just scrolled through a few articles and from a business and marketing perspective you have so many useful stuff!
Great job.
Ted

about 3 years ago

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David Titley, Senior Designer/Developer at The Partnership UK Ltd

I'm not sure I understand the point of the study in the first place. Why target novice users? Half the people I know barely understand the difference between iPhone, Blackberry or Android handsets, let alone the OS. As long as it works... the rest is irrelevant!

about 3 years ago

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Helen Cheetham

Our client hired us to investigate what would motivate non-smartphone users to purchase a smartphone. They wanted to understand which phones and related information appealed to them when looking through phone brochures and the main things that influence their decision to purchase a new phone.

about 3 years ago

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David Titley, Senior Designer/Developer at The Partnership UK Ltd

Thanks Helen, that clarifies it a little, though I'm sure there are some far more critical factors that influence a buyers choice when purchasing, like price, contract, ease-of-use, size of device, colour(!), what friends or relatives are using? Was the same exercise done with iPhones as Chris notes above?

about 3 years ago

Tom Stewart

Tom Stewart, Founder at System Concepts

Hi Jane
I'm not sure I said or implied that operating system names were critical purchase factors. I doubt that they are although the features that they offer almost certainly matter. But what I think this small finding reminds us (and it was part of a far larger study which we can't talk about) is that 'cool' design does not always work for real users. Really clever design looks good and works well.

about 3 years ago

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Rob Gilliam

"It is a lot less obvious that Donut is an upgrade for Cupcake."

Once you know (or realise) that each release has a name starting with the next letter in the (English) alphabet, it's not that hard to figure it out really (OK, provided you have a western language as your first or second language, but that's probably the vast majority of potential smartphone users.)

That said, I did work for a company that chose names of fruits at random for their versioning, which was a complete nightmare for new users inside and outside the company (until they sensibly switched to version 3.3, 3.4 ...)

Of course, really successful companies would avoid such a mis-step and wouldn't do something ridiculous like naming versions of a core software product "Cheetah", "Puma", "Jaguar", "Panther", "Tiger", "Leopard", "Snow Leopard", "Lion", "Mountain Lion", now would they?

about 3 years ago

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Pierre

The new electric Audi e-tron is another example.
As it's the exact slang word for "shit", in French.

I don't really care about brand name, but for sure I will not drive a "shit" car, especially considering the price...

about 3 years ago

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