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CES 2014: Naming the Unknown

Posted by: Katie Conneally on January 24, 2014

Today is the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh computer, and as CES 2014 proves, we've come a long way since then. While this is the end of our CES naming wrap up, this is just the start of a conversation on technology and branding that we’ll continue in future blog posts.

After taking a look at the names for trending and everyday technology that came out of CES 2014, it’s clear that companies are trying to pack in as much meaning as possible, favoring descriptive names that ensure clarity. Which begs the question: how do you name an emerging technology—those things that are less product, and more concept—if it’s something the world has not yet described?

Take Edison, the latest, greatest miniature computer from Intel. It’s a 22 nanometer dual-core PC, a little bigger than a postage stamp, that has the potential to transform wearable technology into something much more powerful. But its exact purpose isn’t known yet, which is why Intel is offering developers over a million dollars in prize money in their “Make it Wearable” competition. 

Edison

And the name? A nod to Thomas Edison, one of the great inventors who made much of the technology we have today possible. That’s a pretty big legacy to live up to in a name, but the product seems like it may be able to deliver. The name Edison also seems like a challenger to IBM’s Watson, the artificially intelligent computer who once bested humans at Jeopardy. Game on.

There’s also Oculus Rift VR, an augmented reality headset that you wear while playing video games. The name sounds techy and cool, and alludes to the act of seeing through the goggles, while also conveying the idea of a rift between what’s real and what’s virtual. 

But the product feels like so much more, and early uses for it are stepping outside of the gaming world. With a name so targeted toward a gaming audience, there’s a risk of alienating those who fall outside that space, and a chance that really interesting applications of the product may be overlooked.

Auto-maker Ford got into the technology game at CES 2014, releasing a concept car called the C-Max Solar Energi Concept. It’s an electric car and a solar powered charging station all-in-one, with solar panels on the roof to charge the car’s batteries. 

But while the car itself may be efficient, the name certainly is not. It’s an extension of their line of C-Max Hybrid cars, but the unnecessary coining of “Energi” makes it seem trite. Coining a name to say “cool” falls flat when it doesn’t have a broader purpose. Since this is a concept, there’s time to change the name and we hope Ford can find something that expresses just how amazing this product has the potential to be.

As we wrap this year’s review of names from CES 2014, we’re excited to see what next year brings. Will the names suggest experiences beyond our wildest imagination? Or will companies stay with the trend of descriptive naming? All we know is that as technology gets more and more advanced, names will play a critical role in helping consumers understand and connect to the next big thing.

Katie Conneally is a Consultant, Verbal Identity at Interbrand New York.





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