Let’s ban “cool” codenames that don’t pass search test

Last week I had a great meeting with the guy (David Webster) who runs naming for Microsoft. He enumerated the ways that fun code names suck. Why? Cause he has to do a few things to any name that we use:

1) It has to be trademarkable. Even after his team does a trademark search they still get into trouble over names that other people own.
2) It has to test well in most markets (they do focus groups and other testing to make sure they don't pick a name that accidentally turns off people in a marketplace — even with all this testing finding names that work well everywhere is really hard).

What got me to write about it? Chris Smith talks about his favorite code names (and about Nintendo's "cooler" code name).

What's the answer? Well, he has a whole bunch of rules for product teams as they make names. For one, he wishes that teams would talk with him before coming up with "fun" code names. For two, he wishes that teams would come up with names that don't exist in Internet searches. Remember my "Brrreeeport" test? When I put that name on my blog there were zero results on Google and Live.com. Today it has 169,000 results, according to Google (yes, we know that isn't true, but let's go with it anyway, heheh).

He says that if companies and teams come up with names that simply don't exist in Google and Yahoo and Windows Live that they'll have a pretty good chance of surviving any trademark search that you come up with (it's a rare trademark that doesn't make it to Internet search engines).

I think the day is coming near when companies simply ban any product name that doesn't pass this test.

What do you think?

68 thoughts on “Let’s ban “cool” codenames that don’t pass search test

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  2. Want to start your private office arms race right now?

    I just got my own USB rocket launcher :-) Awsome thing.

    Plug into your computer and you got a remote controlled office missile launcher with 360 degrees horizontal and 45 degree vertival rotation with a range of more than 6 meters – which gives you a coverage of 113 square meters round your workplace.
    You can get the gadget here: http://tinyurl.com/2qul3c

    Check out the video they have on the page.

    Cheers

    Marko Fando

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  6. for David, to add to his “Vista” folder – in latvian language it means “Chicken” … so, there you go :)

  7. for David, to add to his “Vista” folder – in latvian language it means “Chicken” … so, there you go :)

  8. The problem with names like C# is not so much that the search engines can not find it, but rather that people use the other ways of writing it, for various reasons. One reason is that it can not be used in an URL, so people will “spell it out” in a product name. The same thing happens with .NET and ASP.NET, which gets written as dotnet, aspnet or just asp or net or even aspdotnet.
    “Mac OS X” is also difficult to search, by the way.

  9. The problem with names like C# is not so much that the search engines can not find it, but rather that people use the other ways of writing it, for various reasons. One reason is that it can not be used in an URL, so people will “spell it out” in a product name. The same thing happens with .NET and ASP.NET, which gets written as dotnet, aspnet or just asp or net or even aspdotnet.
    “Mac OS X” is also difficult to search, by the way.

  10. “Why can’t they just call Vista “Windows 6.0″? I mean, that’s what it is. And it’s not confusing or anything. Although, then I guess that would leave Microsoft competeing with “OS Ten” and “SUSE Linux Enterprise 10″. I mean, 6.0 is soooo 1997.”

    “SUSE Linux Enterprise 10″ sucks as a name.

    As for Apple’s “OS Ten”, Apple’s “brand” names for its OSes aren’t “OS X 1.0″, “OS X 1.1″, “OS X 1.2″, “OS X 1.3″, “OS X 1.4″, but are “OS X Cheetah”, “OS X Jaguar”, “OS X Panther”, “OS X Tiger”, “OS X Leopard”.

  11. “Why can’t they just call Vista “Windows 6.0″? I mean, that’s what it is. And it’s not confusing or anything. Although, then I guess that would leave Microsoft competeing with “OS Ten” and “SUSE Linux Enterprise 10″. I mean, 6.0 is soooo 1997.”

    “SUSE Linux Enterprise 10″ sucks as a name.

    As for Apple’s “OS Ten”, Apple’s “brand” names for its OSes aren’t “OS X 1.0″, “OS X 1.1″, “OS X 1.2″, “OS X 1.3″, “OS X 1.4″, but are “OS X Cheetah”, “OS X Jaguar”, “OS X Panther”, “OS X Tiger”, “OS X Leopard”.

  12. “… and you can also ban names that fork search keywords , e.g. should I search for C#, CSharp or “C Sharp”. ”

    I think that’s a fault of the search engines. C#, F#, G#, etc, should all be searchable, since they are musical notes. Let’s fix the search engines rather than cater to their restrictions.

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