10. September 2014 | Fabian Sander Fabian Sander
From i… to Apple…

Apple’s bold naming move

Wondering if Apple Pay is finally going to succeed where Google Wallet did not or if Apple Watch will become the archetypal smartwatch, one could easily overlook the remarkable change in product naming. Don’t worry, this is not another Apple hyping or dissing piece from a loyal fan or a bitter renegade. But being a branding guy and Apple being one of the world’s most powerful and best managed brands I couldn’t help noticing. I find it remarkable and would like to quickly share my thoughts on it.

Say good-bye to i…

Apple just said good-bye to one of the biggest success stories in product naming – the iSomething story. They were not the only ones who tried to seize and monopolize a character of the latin alphabet (think of T-Mobile or, in Switzerland, M for Migros) but Apple really pulled it off. Today, we clearly feel that the iThing has become somewhat stale. But it helped to get the brand (and company) out of a desperate situation in the late nineties with the launch of the iMac. At that time the names Apple or Macintosh would not have done the job. The product was bright and cool and it needed a different type of name to catch the spirit. And it worked. You know the next chapters of the story. iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad turned Apple into one of the most valuable companies on earth. The iProducts add up to approximately 90% of the firm’s revenues.

Calling a spade a spade

Today, the name Apple does the job again – in a very calm and simple way. Apple Pay, Apple Watch. Brand name + generic product term. The brand name gives identification and legal protection, the descriptive term tells me what it is. It combines the beauty of calling a spade a spade with directly connecting it to the brand. (It is by no means exceptional. It is industry standard in finance and quite common in tech businesses.) Personally, I will take it as a reminder not to forget the simple solutions when a marketing manager presses me for more “creative” naming ideas.

(Thinking of Apple TV you might argue, there was a precedent and we should have seen it coming. But Apple TV was never a big thing, you couldn’t take it as a trend-setter. And iTV was probably never an option, being the name of a major UK broadcaster.)