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Everything’s Coming Up Fire: The New Phone from Amazon Stays on Name

Posted by: Paola Norambuena on June 18, 2014

Amazon Fire Phone

It started with Kindle, a metaphor that the e-reader’s namers felt stood for “reading and intellectual excitement.” For many, however, that association was lost behind images of books as kindling or book burnings. Comparatively, its later competitor from Barnes and Noble, the Nook, captured that lovely feeling of curling up with a great book.

But, over six years and many devices later, the name Kindle has become synonymous with e-readers and spawned a nomenclature we now recognize, use, and trust from Amazon: Kindle, Kindle Fire, FireTV.

It proves that naming is a fascinating art—you can find negative associations for almost any name, associations that brands like Amazon can easily overcome (much like Apple swiftly recovered from all the feminine hygiene product jokes at the launch of the iPad) because a great name can’t fix a bad product, but a great product can fix a bad name.

And so, today we see the launch of Amazon’s newest device, and its first smartphone: the Fire Phone. Not deviating far from its device naming strategy, the Fire features Firefly technology, a handy little way for Amazon to turn your new phone into what’s essentially a mobile retail device.

It’s hard to imagine a phone named Fire if we had not lived and loved Kindle—and Amazon—for so many years (once many of us got past what it meant for the feel and smell of now-old-fashioned paper books). The more we related to, used, and received from the device and its associated services, the more the real meaning of the word slipped away and only the experience settled in our minds.

So, are we ready for a Fire phone with Firefly? From a naming perspective, it seems so—we gave Amazon that permission a while ago. What really remains to be seen is how great the device really is, and how Amazon will fare in a market where others, including Facebook, have failed. If it’s intended to compete with the lifestyle aspects of Apple and Samsung, there may be a way to go. But if it’s simply another seamless way to connect us with Amazon’s core services, then snap and shop away.

—Paola Norambuena is Executive Director of Verbal Identity, North America. Follow her on Twitter: @panoram

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