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Storage branding: What's in a name?

As with practically any industry, product names are crucial when selling storage.

Storage products sit in the heart of data centers and protect business information. lAn individual storage system may stay in use for four or five years, and there is a great likelihood that a successor to that system will be purchased at least once to minimize the risks and operational changes of moving to another platform.

This is where the name becomes important. The identity of the system is associated with that name and the vendor. A recognizable name can be a major factor in sales.

Naming is a complex exercise for vendors when brining out a new storage system. There may be great value in association with the preceding product. Sometimes there is greater value in not having the same name as the predecessor. But the name needs to be memorable so that the customer can immediately associate the name with the product. What is the most suitable yet memorable name? Is it part of an overall product naming convention by the vendor? Why do that? These are questions vendors must answer.

Sometimes vendors make up names by taking words or syllables that seem to convey information about the product. Other times, they jam together two words with no space but with the second word capitalized to make it recognizable. The latter is an unimaginative way to identify something. It could be better to go with a unique name. These sometimes stick for a long time. An example would be EMC’s Symmetrix.

Probably the worst way to create memorable names is through using multiple descriptive words as the product identity. There have been many of these cases in the past and some are laughable. When you add the company name in front of a string of descriptive words, most people can’t remember that name in a cadence. Obviously, someone has worked hard at making it so customers won’t remember the product.

Another issue to address when naming products is whether the name should describe what the product does, describe its capabilities, or allude to something in the industry. The last option is tough because it’s difficult to find descriptive words that are not already overused in the industry. And something that sounds clever today might seem out-of-date in the future.

Because the branding and naming exercise usually happens late in the process of delivering a product, developers tend to know their products by their internal code names. Sometimes vendors publicly refer to products by their code names in development, and the media and customers follow suit. Then, the vendor will change the name when delivering the product. EMC’s Project Lightning (called VFCache at release) and Project Thunder (not yet named) are examples of this.

Branding is an inexact science and most vendors need to pay more attention to it. Memorable names help sales, and should be a big focus of a product launch. Of course, sound products also help.

(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).

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