June 27, 2005

What's the name of the second-highest mountain in the world???

This is elaborating on a reply to a comment I wrote in the EV-DO post below. I had written that BroadbandAccess was a stupid name for Verizon to give their new 3G cellular service...

Scott Chaffin commented: ....John: the name, BroadbandAccess, fits with their old marketing name of NationalAccess for 1XRTT, the 140kbps data. Trying to shoe-horn Phaeton or JuneBug into customer (and corporate) mind-share would have taken even more billions, I'm sure...

Yes, well, I have NationalAccess, but it it doesn't have any of my mind-share, because I never remember it. Maybe I have an inflexible mind, not properly stretched because I don't watch TV, and ignore the ads in magazines. Maybe other people hear NationalAccess, and immediately think "Verizon. Cool." But I seriously doubt it. It's boring. Banal.

There's a classic book on advertising, called Positioning, and it argues that there are a limited number of slots in people's ever-more-cluttered minds for brand names. People tend to remember one name in each category. Just like everybody knows the name of the highest mountain in the world--and few know the name of the second-higest. We all remember "Tylenol," and not the competitors who also sell acetaminophen. Tylenol owns the name for 'non-aspirin pain reliever." The Pediatrician always says, "Give your child Tylenol."

And introducing a new product is the main opportunity for grabbing that mindshare. Once Tylenol is set in people's heads, you could spend a trillion on advertising Chaffinol, and probably not be able to bump Tylenol out of its spot. But if you have something new, the mind-space is up for grabs. It's not always the first-comer who gets the prize. AltaVista was the first popular search engine, but it was Google that won that little space in our brains, and now we use "google" as a verb.

The value of this is incalculable. There are now lots of different photocopiers, but Xerox still means quality photocopier. So the Xerox corporation doesn't have to sweat to build "brand recognition."

What Verizon's doing is colossally stupid. This is a new thing, they are the leader, and they have the opportunity to own the name for it. Just like Google owns the name for search engine. There are lots of new search engines appearing, but they will probably never displace Google from that slot in people's heads. Verizon could have the brand-name that means 3G cellular, just as Kleenix means tissue to most people. But you can't do it unless you have a real name. "BroadbandAccess" isn't a name, it's just some words mushed together.

Also with a new thing it doesn't matter if the name sounds silly, because it becomes the word for that product. Even Google no longer sounds goofy.

UPDATE: Scott answers, in the EV-DO comments...

Posted by John Weidner at June 27, 2005 8:33 PM
Weblog by John Weidner