Comment: What's in a name?

BikeBiz wonders out loud about the naming of a product or business and what information or connotations certain branding can give off
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Ever observed a customer sporting a vacant stare as they try to understand packaging? Us too and without intervention that’s a sale lost, argues @marksuttonbike...

So, what's in a name? 

You’ll be glad to hear I’m not about to recite Shakespeare. In all honesty, my delivery is terrible and I’d forget my lines at the crucial moment. But the question remains, what connotations, or lack of, can a product or business name give to those buying into the cycling business. 

I’ve always loved Schwalbe’s method of branding tyres up. Racing Ralph – that’ll be a tyre with racing credentials. Marathon Plus – sounds durable, perfect for a tourer. It’s self explanatory stuff. Even the Hans Dampf, not obvious by the name alone, just sounds like the kind of product that is unafraid of a rock garden. 

So, why then do so many labels shun product titles that translate common sense on the retailer’s shelf?

During my time mystery shopping up and down the country I had to pretend to have no prior knowledge of cycling or cycling products. No easy task for someone whose shed looks not too dissimilar to your average bike shop’s store room. There were, however, occasions where I was genuinely struggling for knowledge of why one product differed from another and which was ‘better’ for a riding style or weather conditions.

There were no clues in the product name and depending on the store’s enthusiasm, it could be hit or miss if the staff member on hand could give valid reasons, or enthusiasm, as to why a WHL-505 was better or worse than a WHL-606. My guess is that those are not real product names, but they could quite easily be.

If these ‘products’ came past our desks in a press release, no matter how flash the engineers had made it look, the enthusiasm has died with the trail of thought; how do I make a sexy headline from that? Is my copy going to read like it's written in binary code?

We're currently experiencing a significant boost in new cyclists numbers, bringing a new wave of custom to bike shops up and down the country. Jargon and ambiguous branding won't help those with bricks and mortar stores sell product. Worse still, this will drive the first time buyer online in search of more information and ultimately right into the hands of discounters who are less likely to explain the pros and cons of a product in the way an independent expert can.

So, come on bike industry, help us get excited. Make it easier to buy and, perhaps more importantly, understand what it is that we're buying.

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