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Making Up Words. . .And Owning Them

November 19, 2013


Did you know the iPad was a terrible name? Not just mildly bad, Apple was accused of being misogynistic. And worse, of being out of step with their customers. When the first iPad was released on April 3, 2010, most of the media hated it. Not the device, the name. It bore too much of a similarity to feminine hygiene products. A CNBC host described it that way on air. The New York Times said the name made women cringe.

And yet, you probably don’t think twice about it. You either love the iPad, or hate it, depending on what field you are in. Despite nearly ten years at Microsoft, I’ve come to love the iPad. I’ve written every blog post except two on my iPad. Those two were when I lost my iPad for a couple days. And they weren’t my best work.

So, what’s the difference? Did Apple just get lucky? Were they really such marketing neophytes that they totally missed the cringe-worthy connection? I very much doubt it. However, Apple understood that you can invent words (who’d ever heard of an iPod?) and that you can own words.

My brother is a marketing expert. He often talks about Owning A Word. He generally talks about it in the context of companies owning an existing word. In the link above he shows how Hyundai, the car company ended up owning the word “assurance.” Other companies could attempt similar promotions, but they would have to call it something else. Not for any legal reasons, but because if they used the word “assurance” everyone is going to think of Hyundai.

We had a similar situation when we decided to name our reservations software. I was working for Agile Studios at the time and we were preparing to spin off RESMARK. Except we hadn’t called it that yet. It was just “the reservation software.” Our investors paid a search firm to come up with some possible names. I don’t remember all of them, but one of them was “Dusty Roads Software.” That was my favorite. The investor liked RESMARK. It evoked the idea of REServations and MARKeting. Two of the main focuses of the software.

I hated the name, and not just a little. It didn’t mean anything. It was a blank slate. And that is why I’m not in marketing. The name was very good. Because it didn’t already mean something, we were free to own it and make it mean whatever we wanted it to. In addition, because it was a brand new word that no one had used before, the domain name was available.

I think we can own words in our own life as well. What one word would you friends and family use to describe you?

– Intense
– Funny
– Loving
– Cold
– Smart
– Stupid
– Loyal
– Untrustworthy
– Talented
– Awkward
– Angry
– Crazy

Did you know that you have control over that word? You gain ownership of the word during your everyday actions. If you don’t like the word that people think of when they think of you, change it. It’s not easy. I talked about The Day I Found Out I Was A Jerk, and how hard it was for me to change. If you are the awkward one and you want to be talented, all it takes is work. If you are one who is famous for starting and never finishing, you have control over that.

I’ve known a couple of people in my life who were just unlucky. But, aside from the Universe throwing you more than your share of curveballs, you have control over the word for you.

Pick one you like, and then own it.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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  1. digitalbias permalink

    So what do you use to write the blog posts on your iPad?

    • I use Wordpads iPad app. It does a pretty good job. There are limited formatting functions, but the editing interface is pretty straightforward. I also use an external keyboard. I can’t imagine typing 1000 words per day on the soft keyboard.

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