The innovation of product names

I like objects and experiences with a personal touch. Being personal is to draw relevance, to unpeel layers, it is a whittling-down to the core of things.

When you meet the person for the first time, you will find that repeating his or her name as you chat with him or her will help to build up a personal connection and help them remember you.

It is easier to market products with interesting names and personalities. I have noticed a long time ago that I like the vibrant personality in the name of every Kate Spade handbag: Gold Coast Elizabeth, Knightsbridge Neda, Apple Stacey…At IKEA, you have the world’s favourite bookshelf called Billy. I once bought an ice-white dining chair from John Lewis that has a name – Marilyn.

Marilyn chair

There is something endearing, familiar and so utterly irresistible to bring back home those paperbacks that bear an orange Penguin logo. The look and feel of these paperbacks entice you to make a personal, emotional connection.

Sasa, a very popular and successful beauty chain based in Hong Kong, has an easy-to-remember name with strong female appeal.

In London, I once went to a small pizza place with a friend. The local eatery seemed to have started only a few weeks ago, or so we thought, because when we asked for the menu, the waiters began to describe the pizzas in a most curious and arbitrary way. “We have a small pizza with some cheese and tomatoes; then there’s a bigger kind of pizza with pepperoni and some cheese; and a very big one which has more meats in it.” These pizzas without names hovered on our minds. We had so much difficulty visualising what they were, let alone choosing between them. 

I used to work for a property developer. One day, a GM called us in to brainstorm the name for a new shopping mall. He asked us if The Village works (the mall is a mega-collection of fashion labels, dining and entertainment outlets). I am amazed by this name because I find it very unusual to call a mall a village, but it sounds interesting and personal, so I seconded the suggestion. Not many people were up for it though. They said that village sounds backward and local, it is something people wish to escape from. But the mall is now indeed called The Village at Sanlitun, and it is no doubt gaining popularity among both Beijing locals and expatriates.

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