Don Norman, design legend and author of The Design of Everyday Things, invited me to speak at UC San Diego Design Lab about how to name innovations. My talk focused on how to create descriptors for innovative products—the part of a name that conveys a product’s category. “Smartphone” and “universal remote” are examples of descriptors.
Why are product descriptors important? If you’ve genuinely “created a category” by inventing a one-of-a-kind product, you’ll need words to describe the category you’ve created. But it’s not always easy to name a product category from scratch.
My talk, entitled “Naming the New,” details a best-practice process for developing a product descriptor for an innovation. I shared two projects, Quell and Cinder, as examples of how the process works. Below, you’ll find a video of the talk. It’s over an hour long; by the end of it, you’ll be an expert on novel product descriptors.
UPDATE: Since Cinder launched two years ago the founders changed the original product descriptor based on customers’ feedback. The original descriptor, Sensing Cooker, was replaced with another idea I presented, Precision Grill.
Today, Cinder stakes its claim as “the world’s first precision grill.”
Why the change? Precision Grill is clearer and more familiar than Sensing Cooker. The lesson here is that it’s not necessary—or necessarily a good idea—to create a product descriptor that’s entirely unfamiliar (like Sensing Cooker). Framing your innovation within an established category can strike the right balance of differentiation and relevance.
I applaud Cinder for adapting their name in response to customer feedback. There’s ample precedent: What’s now known as the George Foreman Grill was originally called the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine.
RELATED: Listen to Anthony’s episode of the How Brands Are Built podcast, available now.
Anthony is an award-winning linguist who brings together human creativity, corpus linguistics and machine learning to advance his relentless quest for original brand names. To date, he’s introduced over 200 product and company names to the world. Anthony wants everyone to be a great namer or great judge of names, so he gives away all that he knows at OperativeWords.com.