By Julio Vazquez
posted on April 19, 2011 09:29
On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
And a partridge in a pear tree.
No, I'm not trying to bring Christmastime around earlier this year. I'll let the retail industry handle that task (will we see decorations after Easter?). I do have a point about terminology that is exemplified in this song.
What would you think if I replace the word turtledoves with wild pigeons? Doesn't sound quite as appealing, does it? However, if you look up the definition of turtledove, you discover that the bird named is a pigeon. (In fact, a dove is just a pigeon.) We don't equate doves with pigeon because we have a mental image of a dirty creature that seems to be a scavenger. Many people consider a pigeon an aviary rat, yet there's no such connotation with any dove.
This shows how important it is to be involved in product terminology early. A product name can be a powerful attractor or detractor for sales. Aside from its current popularity, how many of us were dismayed when we heard that Apple was naming its tablet the iPad? (Seems like it didn't bother the Apple faithful that much.) The product name could have killed it at the gate, but the marketing machine focused more on the product itself than the name (to their benefit).
Take time to vet a product name or any other product terminology carefully. If you can, select some of your professional social network to get opinions, especially those in other countries. What may work well in one country could be disastrous in another. (Remember the Nova's poor sales in Mexico, where the name translated into "doesn't go"?) Make sure that other terms related to the product don't have an negative impact on the product image. Get involved early, before nameplates are made and marketing brochures are hardened.
It can make or break a product, don't you think?
About the Author
Julio Vazquez is a Senior Information Architect at SDI with over 30 years of experience in technical communications and information technology. As one of the members of the initial DITA task force, he takes his share of blame for the current architecture and language structure. Julio holds a bachelor’s degree in computers and information systems from Empire State College of the State University of New York and has spoken at technical communication and STC conferences about DITA and information architecture and is the author of Practical DITA.