Editorial

iEditorial: 'One' more criticism of 'S-branding' technology

Is Samsung's branding sensible or messy?

In the tech world, companies follow trends, such as wearable computing in the past year, or increasing smartphone screen sizes. Yet there's one trend that continues to frustrate: branding. Whether naming their third generation product the 'One', adding 'i' or 'S' in front of virtually everything, or using confusing numbering and lettering systems, few marketing teams have got it right. So, dear Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, HTC and the rest of you, can we please have some clarity in the names of our gadgets?

I sighed when I saw SkyDrive was being replaced by 'OneDrive'. Why One? One signals the first of something, something new. OneDrive isn't new at all, it's a rebranding. The Xbox One may be an innovation, but it's not the first generation, and veers well out of the way of any previous Xbox branding. 'One' tells me nothing about the product. HTC are famous for this as well, introducing the One S and One X (and One X+, One S Mini and more) before the superior 'One'. What are they going to call the next generation, the One 2?

​Steve Jobs announcing the original iMac in 1998

Back in 1998, Steve Jobs announced the iMac, introducing a lowercase 'i' that would become synonymous with Apple products. It stood for 'internet', because that is what the iMac was, a computer made for the web. Yet, a few years later, came the iPod. An industry changing device, but one that did not connect to the internet. Of course, it relied on downloaded music, but it signalled that 'i' was no longer an acronym, rather, a branding move - an icon.

But since, that 'i' has been used by so many other companies, such as BBC iPlayer, a catch-up service in the UK that has no relation to Apple products. There is even a popular british newspaper, known as 'i'. It is being used to brand technology as hip, and innovative. And other companies are getting the same idea.

Samsung's branding became very unoriginal very quickly, as the Korean firm emulated Apple and began preceding accessories and devices with 'S'. The S-Pen, apps like S-Suggest and S-Note to name a few.

Despite this, the way Samsung actually brand their phones seems to be on the right track. The name of the product line, Galaxy, is now widely known and the word that precedes it clearly defines what the product is. The S2, S3 and S4 are upgrades to their standard line, the 'Note' is bigger, and the 'Mega' bigger than that. Phones can come as a 'Mini' and their tablets are clearly labelled 'Tab' followed by the screen size in inches. They are clear, and with the exception of using an S prefix too often, avoids clichés. Nevertheless, it is still unclear as to which product has newer technology.

'Lumia 1520' - a dull but logical name

The Lumia range is intelligently branded as it makes it apparent which is a newer device, however, it fails in the respect that it's boring, and most consumers have no idea what the difference is between a 920 a 925, a 928 and a 1020. They just assume they get better as they go along. But they are logical. The first number is the line, where higher equals more premium, and a larger display, the second number is the generation, and the third denotes variation. It makes sense, even if it doesn't have clarity for the every day consumer.

Apple have traditionally taken a more straightforward approach, naming each generation by increasing a number, or just dating the product with a year. Yet this took a turn when the general public began calling the sixth generation iPhone the 'iPhone 5'. So Apple went ahead and named it, the 'iPhone 5'. The current iPhone 5s, therefore, is the seventh generation iPhone.

Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the third generation iPad

When they tried to remove the numbering of their iPads, and called the third generation 'the new iPad', consumers were left baffled, and even to this day support documents are incredibly confusing because of this choice. The iPad Air is a step in the right direction, but later this year, will they release the Air 2? Furthermore, the iPad 2 is still on sale beside the iPad Air, and the iPad mini is a cheaper option for those who may have considered the 'iPad mini with retina display'. How are consumers supposed to know there is more to the newer iPad mini than just a 'retina display'? Things are messy, and it's hard for Apple to get out of the rut with the iPhone 5c - a bad lettering choice, as so many critics immediately dubbed it the 'iPhone Cheap'.

So what is the answer? How do we fix this issue? Is there a solution? Personally, I suggest naming products with their year. If there is a variation of that product, add another word. How does the iPhone Colour 14, the Galaxy mini 12, or the Lumia Pureview 13 sound? Far from perfect, but at least the consumer knows what their getting, and how new that product is. While it is not too late, I strongly encourage any marketing executive to number and name their products sensibly. Make it easy for those who do not follow the technology news. It doesn't have to be like this.

Images: Samsung, Nokia, Apple

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36 Comments

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The year naming convention is really terrible as well. The products are not just a linear "new one is better" but as features change the next year's model might actually be worse in some ways.

By far the worst were the ones HTC were peddling. They had all these superlatives like HTC Dream or Desire etc.

There is no way out of this naming mess. You can please some of the people some of the time but you can't please all of the people all of the time. Move on.

Really? The nokia is your example of "intelligent" branding? The numbers are about as confusing as it can be

Rudy said,
Really? The nokia is your example of "intelligent" branding? The numbers are about as confusing as it can be

Considering 99% of all carriers only offer 2 or 3 Nokia models at the most. (basic, mid range, high range)

People on sites that cover all the carrier versions might be confused, but what is available for you to buy, not so much.

For example, there is the 920, 925, 928, 1020

If you have Verizon your option is: 928 (I know confusing as heck, should you buy white or black, right?)

If you have ATT the 920 is the older model replaced by the 925, and the 1020 is the premium camera version. (Again so confusing, do I want a 41mp camera or not. Oh, and there are color options, all under the same model number on the 1020, so confusing again, right?)

Is there a better choice than either not offering but one phone model a year, or lying to consumer about version differences?

Funny that with a massive number of Android phone, people just look at specifications and pick what they want and can afford, no version information needed. But Nokia offers specific ranges of quality to remove the technical jargon which just makes things too confusing..

Rudy said,
Really? The nokia is your example of "intelligent" branding? The numbers are about as confusing as it can be
Totally agree! Hence my comment a few posts up ^

I remember reading a few years ago, an article about the "I" branding or even the proliferation of "my" products My Banking etc..
It's a tool to think the user has ownership or control over part of the brand.. it helps them associate their id with what the company wants. And because of herd mentality, when others see someone with an i or My product, it drives their own desire to be a part of it. The actual product itself takes a back seat to the psychology.
The fact is though, we control nothing of the brand or the product. The seller controls everything.. they control the product, the service, and they attempt to control your demand; it's about offering the illusion of giving more to the consumer, but in reality, controlling even more of what they see, feel and think.. I'm not talking tin-foil hat stuff here, it's a solid marketing tactic that continues to be used for a reason.

And because we feel connected to the brand due to a perceived control over the product, it becomes special and elevated in our eyes, when really, it's just another product.

Tapping into our need to be accepted, and also our need to control things in one brand name is incredibly powerful, and, frankly, insidious as well.

You can almost do what you want with the product itself, it doesn't have to be astonishing, because the person will justify their purchase as it's linked to their id (similar to the concept of post purchase rationalisation)

Edited by ZipZapRap, Jan 29 2014, 11:14am :

Always thought that the way they brand anything is one of the dumbest things in the world! Why can't they just make it a simple thing?

Almost as dumb as the way they numerically call updates to software programs with .this.that.etc dot. Way to many numbers and dots in those.

An example right from the front page of what I'm talking about is KM Player 3.8.0.119. WTF do you need all those numbers and dots for?!

Version numbers are not necessarily there for the consumer, but the developers. They can tell how many revisions they've made and plan updates. This is different than product branding in my opinion, although they can get seemingly out of control.

Apple were NOT the first to use the lower case "i" in front of their products. In fact they pinched this from NTT DoCoMo's highly successful iMode mobile system. Because iMode was only ever available inside Japan, Apple got away with it. Again. Don't forget Apple were sued - and lost - for stealing their own name. How cool is that?

iDon'tCare, it's not about the branding/model name scheme to me, it's about the specs and whether or not it suits my needs. I'll do research before I buy any device, so I don't care what the name is. It's helpful when it conveys certain information to the customer, but I'll still be looking deeper than that anyway.

I should add to my previous comment that the labelling of cars has always made more sense than with consumer electronics. The BMW 1, 3, 5 and 7 series for example. The new model was called the 2013 5 series for example. This kind of branding is clear and DOES let the consumer know exactly what they're getting when compared to the last edition.

mikeaspatrick said,
I should add to my previous comment that the labelling of cars has always made more sense than with consumer electronics. The BMW 1, 3, 5 and 7 series for example. The new model was called the 2013 5 series for example. This kind of branding is clear and DOES let the consumer know exactly what they're getting when compared to the last edition.

lol apart from the two door m version of the m3 now being called the m4

mikeaspatrick said,
I should add to my previous comment that the labelling of cars has always made more sense than with consumer electronics. The BMW 1, 3, 5 and 7 series for example. The new model was called the 2013 5 series for example. This kind of branding is clear and DOES let the consumer know exactly what they're getting when compared to the last edition.

indeed.

I think they should take a page out of the auto industry, in fact Apple already have with the MacBook line. Just one name, just have to worry about what year it was.

I wish Nokia went with a different naming scheme. I actually had a friend ask which Lumia I would recommend since they want to test out the Windows Phone water. A member here pointed me in the right direction, but for the average consumer, this could be a daunting task. To make matters worse, they release a new phone it seems every month.

Nokia numbering makes sense.

In lumia range, the first half of the digit (like on older Nokia models) usually stands for if its either high, low or medium end.
2nd half of the digit shows the version and revision.
920-925-928. 9 = high end, 2 = version, 0-5-8 = revision.

same with old ones, 3310 was a low end phone, while a 6310 was a high end phone

I understand that now after my research a few months ago. I am talking about your average phone shopper that has no idea what those digits mean. Consumers are used to the iPhone 5, 5s or the Galaxy Note, Note 2, Note 3, S3, S4, ECT. These are easier to recognized what is new and what is old.

Do you deal much with the average consumer? I'm in software testing for financial software with a recently released product, and these 'accountants' don't even know how to click a 'Search' button, and called and chewed off some poor support tech's ear until he managed to pipe in with 'click Search'. Logical number schemes like this aren't user friendly to the average consumer. I would hazard a guess that most, if not none, of us that visit this site don't fall into that category. As my brother, a lead programmer, says: You've got to code to the LCD, the Least Common Dumbass.

AsherGZ said,
Don't think it can get any easier than that.

Really? You don't think it can get any easier than choosing between a 525, 1320, 1520, 625, 1020, 925, 520, 720, 620, 510, 820, 920, 710, 800, 610 or 900?

JHBrown said,
I wish Nokia went with a different naming scheme. I actually had a friend ask which Lumia I would recommend since they want to test out the Windows Phone water. A member here pointed me in the right direction, but for the average consumer, this could be a daunting task. To make matters worse, they release a new phone it seems every month.

Maybe Nokia should lie a bit more like other OEMs and just name the product line: Nokia Series 3, and then just let the customers figure out the differences between the versions of the 'Series 3'. Samsung does well with this.

Or they could just have one model once a year and not worry about needing silly versions. Apple does well with this.

The strange things about complaints like this, in in the computer models, the CPU naming, the GPU naming are thousands of times more confusing, but somehow people figure out how to buy a 'computer'.

But when it comes to a phone, having various versions it is just to TRICKY.

Those devices range from $50 to $750. If I'm in the market to get a $450 device, why would I look for phones in other price ranges?

Mobius Enigma said,
The strange things about complaints like this, in in the computer models, the CPU naming, the GPU naming are thousands of times more confusing, but somehow people figure out how to buy a 'computer'.

But when it comes to a phone, having various versions it is just to TRICKY.


People figure out what to buy because of sales consultants, nerdy friends, IT guys, and so forth that know more about this sort of stuff.

The REAL people doing the work here isn't your average consumer, and with that in mind, the technical details work fine.

Edited by dead.cell, Jan 30 2014, 12:55am :

dead.cell said,

People figure out what to buy because of sales consultants, nerdy friends, IT guys, and so forth that know more about this sort of stuff.

The REAL people doing the work here isn't your average consumer, and with that in mind, the technical details work fine.

I agree 100%, but saying that the use of more friendly naming is somehow harder is just disingenuous.

Nathan, while I agree that labelling such as "i" or "S" is as poor as using the "e" labelling for eco products, sometimes the naming conventions used by companies do make sense. Examples of this are the 1, 2, 3, 4 labelling by Apple and Microsoft of their products.

With OneDrive, alas this was something Microsoft were forced into and most likely would not have done otherwise, but the Xbox One branding does make sense when you think who they're pitching the product at. These aren't people who respond to dry version numbers, and naming a console that will be on sale for a decade wouldn't be smart.

Should Microsoft call their new console the XBox 1080 when many homes will likely have 4K TVs when it's only half-way through its product life? One does accurately describe their vision of one device in the home for everything, a role it fills reasonably well.

While I've always disliked "i", "S" and "e" marketing generally, there are some times when breaking with standard naming conventions can make sense for an individual product.

Nathan Liu said,
How do we fix this issue? Is there a solution? Personally, I suggest naming products with their year. If there is a variation of that product, add another word.

That's pretty much the way Apple handles it with their Macintosh products, isn't it?

edit - sorry, mikeaspatrick, didn't mean to respond to your post

"One" in these contexts has nothing to do with being first. OneNote wasn't the first note taking software. The idea is that it's the only one you need. Same for Xbox One (signifying its ambition as an all-in-one set top) and OneDrive.

I don't love the OneDrive name but it's what I predicted. And they could do much worse. Just a shame as SkyDrive was one of their better branding decisions.

Great Article, I was just thinking the other day when reading the One Drive rebranding article (I know they had to rename it) that one of Microsoft's biggest faults is constant rebranding. It Feels like the Marketing departments have nothing to do so they Rebrand a product and instead of giving a product a big push in advertising $$ that they spend a little with each new name whereas Apple, Google pick a name and have a larger advertising budget.

iSomething is one of the most recognised brands on the planet, so erm.. no.

"One" could mean, THE ONE!, The only drive, the only drive you'll need.

When i hear S3 or S4 i don't automatically think Samsung. I wouldn't even say it is a recognised brand.

Really? I just assume people know by now what the S means. They've been around for quite a while, I've had my s3 for about a year and a half.

Vast majority of users don't care what you call any of it. When you get a hit product, cannibalizing the name is par for the course because historically, there are sales to be had due to the willful confusion it causes.