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What's in a Name?

What's in a Name?

December 28, 2009
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" coming up with the right name can make or break a sale "

Successful brand names can become iconic, often synonymous for the products themselves — think Xerox, Chapstick, Q-Tip — and for some sex toy companies the product name is as important as the product itself.

Whether producing a catalog of 300 new items per quarter, or just three per year, coming up with the right name can make or break a sale, and with so much to choose from on adult store shelves, the key to customer attraction and retention is brand recognition.

The Screaming O has made its mark in both the adult and mainstream markets with its telltale "O" theme, which runs throughout its entire product line. Company partner Keith Caggiano said the name of each product might be more important to The Screaming O's bottom line than most adult companies in the market today.

"It's made us who we are," he said. "We try to follow the theme; it's part of our branding. We always try to stay within our own identity and be original, and our products' names have a lot to do with that."

With items including the O Wow, Big O, O Yeah! and O Man on its roster, The Screaming O has relied on one of the letters of the alphabet most associated with sex — second in line to "X" — to form its entire marketing campaign.

"Our names allow people to remember the products and have a little smile when they see the package," Caggiano said. "They get a smile when they see the light-heartedness, which is what we try to encompass with our brand."

A catchy name with a reason to remember it can often be the deciding factor for a consumer selecting a product, and associating an item with other trusted brands can offer credibility as well as consumer confidence.

High-tech vibrator designer OhMiBod based its original concept on Apple's iPod, associating its music-powered products with the trendy and stylish music player.

Its vibrators are made with a technology that allows them to pulsate and vibrate to the beat of the user's favorite music when connected to any portable music device.

"Our association with the iPod theme has worked to our advantage," company founder Suki, a former Apple employee, said. "Media outlets are very interested in all things iPod/iPhone-related, so this has worked well in helping us get the word out about our product. It also works well because of its play on words."

Suki said she and her partner are careful to pay close attention to trademark and copyright laws. Conveniently, Apple dedicates an entire section of its website to proper use of the "iPod" term and imagery in outside advertising and marketing tools.

"A name is important because it can convey a feeling, idea or functionality," Suki said. "We wanted something that could be shortened and used as a descriptor and as an organic nickname. iBod is something we see a lot in the blogosphere when referring to an OhMiBod."

She said part of the inspiration of the name OhMiBod came from the reactions of those testing out her prototypes — "Oh. My. God!" — and its association with the body also conveys the message that the products are meant to be enjoyed in a very personal way.

She found it did, however, offer a false impression that OhMiBod vibrators are solely compatible with Apple-branded music players and also only usable with music. Each item in the OhMiBod product lineup features pre-programmed modes for nonmusic-powered vibration, a core feature that sometimes is missed.

"It was a trade-off that we made knowingly and as a result, we've focused some of our messaging and marketing around the fact that all of our vibes operate with and without music," Suki said.

The Screaming O's latest release, Rock On sexual enhancement supplements, was its first not associated with the "O" theme, an intentional move Caggiano said was made as a result of a great concept and a fortunate trademark.

"We own the trademark and it's just a great name," he said. "We had fun with it because the name can take the product into areas that sexual enhancement has never gone before."

Caggiano said the name offers an air of cool, young and sexy fun, a concept that allows a more youth-minded consumer to purchase the products not out of necessity, but out of desire and curiosity.

"Sexual enhancement used to be for erectile dysfunction," he said. "Now it's a cool, hip, fun way to spice up the night."

The company has teamed with nightclub events to create themed alcoholic drinks that include Rock On as an ingredient, further stretching the brand from adult into the mainstream marketplace.

For some companies with a higher product turnout, company name recognition carries more weight than the names of the items themselves, and adult novelty mega manufacturer Doc Johnson is one that puts less weight on the products themselves.

"I think [the name] has to be the least important component of a product," said Chad Braverman, director of product development and licensing for Doc Johnson. "It's great when we come up with a perfect name, but if the product is good, the product will sell despite the name — as long as the name is not totally grotesque."

However Braverman does acknowledge the significance of a catchy name, and that it has the power to become a generic product's identity and, as a result, catapult it into a realm of recognition normally reserved for household items.

"Pocket Rocket is by far the most successful," he said. "That's our Kleenex. It's not only a product name, but it is used industry-wide to describe an entire category of products."

Braverman said Doc Johnson's product names often come from the sales department, and as each item goes through various stages of art and packaging, the name often is adjusted or changed if a suggestion is made down the line.

He believes a successful product name comes from recognition initially, followed by catchiness or clever wit, but for his company — which often releases items as part of a complete line, rather than a single launch — it's important that the collection be a success.

"Our iVibe series has been extremely successful, [and] what's amazing is that the iVibe line came before iPods, iPhones and the thousands of other products using the 'i' moniker," Braverman said. "We [also] have our Lucid Dreams line that has been wildly popular. We only add items to that line when it is appropriate; the product must live up to the standard of the line."

Suki echoes this sentiment, and though her products' names have been influential in the marketing process, she acknowledges that if the item isn't worth buying, it won't be a success no matter how genius the brand name.

"As they say, 'Names alone do not a great product make,'" Suki said. "When I think of successful products, it is really about the products' functionality, quality and, of course, marketing that make it a success."


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