Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Palm naming strategy for the Prē

Palm Prē™.

That's the name of Palm's (very) smartphone, the latest brainchild produced from the company who pioneered PDA in the past and maybe the last chance Palm has to stay afloat in the mobile business. The company is betting all they have left on this Prē™, this is a "do-or-die" moment for Palm.

And apparently Palm was taking very serious about choosing a name for its upcoming smartphone which is supposed to be the savior for them. Few months after the first introduction of the Prē™ at CES 2009, Michael Kwan from Mobile Magazine got in touch with Catchword, a branding company who was asked by Palm to find a name for their new webOS™-powered smartphone, and Michael let us know the story behind Palm naming strategy for the Prē™.

A name could mean everything for most people, and in this case is for Palm. It felt kinda quirky when we first heard the name: Prē™, because it's slightly different from the conventional naming of other Palm's devices. But the current Palm we know now is shaping up to become "more" than what it used to be, Palm wanted to change, Palm needed a game-changer name for their next breakthrough device. And so that's when Palm turned to Catchword to come up with the naming challenge, a name that shows the raw performance of the device itself: "it anticipated users’ needs, shifting fluidly between applications and websites–even during phone calls–for an experience of flowing, uninterrupted multitasking."

According to Catchwork's case study; "after developing many thousands of names (and screening hundreds for legal snags and global suitability) the answer was almost elemental in its simplicity. The Palm Prē. Refreshingly direct, unlike many of its hipper-than-thou competitors that take themselves way too seriously."

A further revelation comes from Mark Skoultchi the Principal of Catchword himself in an email to Michael (Mobile Magazine):

For starters, the name is a short, single syllable, word that pairs very nicely with the Palm company name. And, of course, because it begins with a "P" it's alliterative. Palm Pre just rolls off the tongue.

In addition, it makes use of an accented "e", which is consistent with other products in the Palm portfolio, including the Treo (and the Foleo), which also makes use of an accented "e". The accent is also a really nice device for distinguishing the name visually in the market.

The messaging communicated in the name is intentionally broad in order to avoid pigeonholing and the suggestion of a specific *type* of phone (e.g. text phone, music phone, camera phone, etc). General associations with setting a new PREcedent, and the implication of things to come were of course intentional. You get a bit of redefining what it means to be a smartphone. And maybe you get a little speed and efficiency from the name if you're taken to Prix as in Grand Prix.

Lastly, and this is really important, the name doesn't try to out "cool" all the other phones in the space. It's not a "Dare" or a "Decoy" or a "Sway" or a "Juke" or a "Mirage" or whatever. Pre is more understated and allows the phone itself to take center stage. And right it should, it's an amazing phone. You don't buy this phone because it sounds cool - you buy this phone because it IS cool!

At first, it may take awhile for everyone to get used to the name: Prē™. But after the device has become so popular these days, mentioned in almost opportunities and becomes the head-light (because of the rarity of its appearance) every time shown to the public, we're getting used to it just fine. Here's a big cheer and hope for Palm...

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