Name Your Way to Fame

It’s come to my attention that the most popular mobile devices are the ones with constant branding across generations. The two examples in question are the iPhone and Galaxy line of products. Is it the name that makes or breaks a product or is it simply coincidence?

It’s hard to argue that brand recognition, beyond the manufacturer, doesn’t go a long ways when it comes to the consumer. In the event that someone wants to designate a new device that his friend is holding, he might recognize certain traits and ask if is the new “iPhone/Galaxy”. There is a good chance in this case that the owner of said device replies with a simple “Yes actually, it is”. This exchange pleases the owner in that his phone was recognizable all the while the querier could feel proud of his technological knowledge.

Now lets take another popular flagship phone, the HTC One and run the same exchange between both friends. The person may say “That looks like a nice phone. It says HTC on the back, what model is it?”. The owner may then proceed in answering that it’s the One and may leave it at that depending on his own knowledge on the subject. This particular example’s problem is two-fold. Firstly, One is a terrible name for almost any product if it’s not the first in the lineup (see Playstation 1 vs Xbox One), the HTC One is no exception. It seems to be an especially popular name since 2012-2013 with tech products but causes confusion more than anything else for the unknowing consumer. The manufacturer obviously designates the meaning of all-encompassing, single go-to device and not the numerical value but that distinction may not always be obvious. Secondly, the HTC One is on its second year bearing the same name, yet it’s not the same device. Worst more, in 2012 HTC release a whole lineup of devices bearing the One moniker (see One V, One S, One X) only to release a single One (M7) in 2013 followed by One (M8) in 2014. Getting confusing pretty quick isn’t it? Besides the geek crowd that follow tech websites religiously, people wouldn’t know that the 2013 model was the M7 and that the 2014 model was the M8. Hell, I don’t even know what those appended suffixes mean besides that they’re used to “differentiate” the models.

Going back to our friends above, the querier may go to the store the next day and ask to see the HTC One, unknowing that there are more than one One’s. The M7 and M8 may be too similar for him to even tell the difference and could cause confusion. At this point he might start doubting himself, feeling frustrated towards technology. This is not the kind of experience a company wants its potential customers to have.

I talked a lot about HTC but they are not the only ones. Sony, for example, has had trouble in my opinion naming their products in a proper way for a few years as well. What does HTC and Sony’s mobile devision have in common today? They are both reporting millions in losses1,2 . It’s not that they make bad phones, far from it. It comes back to being able to “talk” to the consumer with the least words possible. Making them feel like they already know your product even if they’ve never owned one. Resulting in a feeling of familiarity that may more easily lead to a purchase.

Everyone knows that every year a new Galaxy S phone comes out with an incrementing numerical value at the end. People also expect a yearly iPhone release, following a tick-tock cycle. This is simple for consumers to understand. People only know in limited quantities about Samsung’s other smartphone adventures. Sony, until recently with its Z flagship line, didn’t follow a particular naming convention for it’s Xperia lineup; appending T, SL, J E, V, SP and other letters to the name. What do they mean? It isn’t clear and it becomes hard to know which is the new or better one, and which is the old one.

None of this answers the original question of course. A proper, thorough, study would need to be made. I wanted to raise the point however as I’ve yet to see anyone else mention it while on my web crawlings, nor in “real-life”. I find that intriguing. Product naming might not be the only cause of disappointing sales for different manufactures, but I’m sure that it is a common factor nonetheless.


1 Sony Increases Loss Forecast to $2.14 Billion
2 The first-quarter loss was $62 million, [HTC] said in a statement yesterday