Don’t Paint by Numbers: What Tech Can Learn From Benjamin Moore

Benjamin_Moore_02Logo_color“Products have names.”  Anyone who knows me has heard me intone this mantra over and over again.

This month’s (September 2009) Consumer Reports magazine has a fun article on how and why paint companies name paints rather then only giving them a number.

The article talks about the origins of names like Old Pickup Blue, Orange Sherbet, Mermaid’s Tail, Jamaican Acqua and a few others.

What’s most interesting for the consumer technology industry is the quotes that explain why give paints names at all.  “In addition to evoking a special feeling, names can be easy to remember. ‘Lily White is infinitely better then White-937,’ says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.”

“Pantone’s color of the year is mimosa because, says color consultant Leatrice Eiseman, ‘yellow is the color of hope and change and enlightenment, and its also very warm and inviting.'”

Benjamin Moore and the other paint companies discussed are not naming only a few colors.  As the article states “There are thousands of paint colors, and each needs a name.”

So how do they do it?  “At Benjamin Moore, that task falls to senior interior designer Sonu Mathew—not that she works alone. When a new color palette is created, she enlists fellow employees, from workers at the plant to the CEO.”

This is a good model for the consumer tech industy to emulate.

Meanwhile back in the tech industry…

The other day Nikon introduced a first for a digital camera.  They announced a digital camera with a built in projector.  CNET’s Don Reisinger said “I believe that projectors will be the next big thing in the digital camera space.”

Anyone remember hearing or reading about this camera over the past few days?  If so, remember the name?  I suspect not.  Maybe because its called the Coolpix S1000pj.  Coolpix may be a name but s1000pj sure is not.  Revolutionary product.  Not so revolutionary name.

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August 6 Addendum: Just after publishing this piece I read Walt Mossberg’s generally positive review of a new Toshiba netbook in which he says: “Toshiba has advanced the netbook category in key respects.”

But, what was one of his comments about the product?  “…inelegantly called the NB205-N310…”  Give products names and avoid one more thing that can distract from the good qualities of a product.