On what’s in a name?

You may have heard that in the high definition DVD format “war”, Blu-ray has emerged victorious over its rival HD DVD format. In fact, HD DVD is in its death throes. Anyone left holding a HD DVD player is trying to offload them on to ebay.

The popularity of Blu-ray discs over HD DVD in Australia (and elsewhere) is substantial, despite the fact the Blu-ray format maintains the ridiculous regional coding of the movie DVD racket, yet HD DVD is regional coding free. There are other technical differences. However, for the average consumer there is little between the two high definition formats and the real issue has been a battle for the consumer mind,  much the same during the 1980s with the Beta and VHS video tape format duel back then.

In a completely unscientific manner, I surmise that Blu-ray has largely won the war over HD DVD based on the name – Blu-ray. Blu-ray is so-called because the beam of light that reads the high definition movie discs is a blue coloured ray – nothing too spectacular there. But Blu-ray sounds innovative and new. Blu-ray more easily captures an image in the mind that a two-plus-three letter acronym fails to generate. Blu-ray is 21st century.

The alternative HD DVD format, pushed by Toshiba and allies, is just another bloody acronym that competes for attention in the human brain space with all those other acronyms. For all we know, HD DVD could be an abreviation for a hard drive with a DVD player installed. In other words, there is nothing special about the name HD DVD, nor is there much else to visually associate with the name to give any impact to the actual marketing of the format. HD DVD as a name for an innovative, new consumer digital product is a dud.

The implication should now be obvious (certainly if my unscientific hypothesis is correct). Words and names really do count!

When I introduced the communities of practice at Rabobank Australia I deliberately avoided calling them by that torturous and largely unheard of name. I called my virtual communities “pubs” – a name well recognised to my target groups and symbolic of the informal, conversational spaces in which people were familiar and that I hoped to replicate in the virtual communities. Moreover, by initially marketing the communities using images of pubs (and running a competition each week in the weekly newsletter), the images gave visual recognition and support to the name “pub” and the concept behind it. I had managed to create rapid awareness and recognition for the project that encouraged the initial take-up of the communities and thereby create critical mass in a short space of time. The “pub” name for the communities spread quickly via word of mouth and this informal communication channel enhanced the spread of the message and further take-up.

Putting the effort and the thinking into selecting the right words and names to help drive home the message can really make a difference, IMHO.


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