The downside of goofy-ass names

My quote of the day does not come from a blog, but from a person in the marketing and media field with whom I am working on projects related to what people who read this blog call social or conversational media. Recently in a conversation with this very smart person, I used the word widget, which led to the inevitable question I receive whenever I use words like widget or, even, wiki, with people from the real world. Today, I emailed him a link to this post on Read/Write Web called “Widgetsphere: New Playground For Marketers.” Along with some comments related to our projects, he included this observation: “Social media could be helped if people who create these things would stop coming up with so many goofy-ass names. Widgets. Widgetsphere. Makes it hard to take this stuff seriously.”

In light of my earlier post about Froogle, maybe he has a point.

I have no doubt that “blogs” would have been adopted more quickly by businesses if they were called something other than blogs. I sometimes call them “personal microsites” in meetings with corporate or association executives because I don’t want to spend an extra 30 minutes chasing some “I hate the word ‘blog'” comment.* Perhaps the lesson is this: If you have a great service, technology or concept and want to appeal to an early adopter group of tech-savvy geeks, then using puns like Froogle may work. Or maybe metaphors, initials or acronyms that are understandable to those who comprehend the underlying technology (widgets, feeds, RSS) may work. Or words without vowels may work. But if you want to reach real people like marketing directors with marketing budgets, you’ve got to name things in ways even they can understand.

*For the record, I’m glad the word “blog” scared off businesses as it allowed independent bloggers the opportunity to establish a beachhead and long headstart in pioneering the medium. If businesses — including media businesses — had adopted blogs more quickly, they may have developed some of the same “feature-sets,” but it would have never developed the same ethos.

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  • Jill

    Perhaps the point is that if you are only willing to examine new technologies under the narrow parameters of “serious”, you run the risk of missing out on the fun and profit of leveraging the forward-looking tools. I would question the skills of a marketing person who hasn’t grasped the idea that names that are fun might be more attractive to a marketplace than a more seriously descriptive phrase.