A Blinding Flash of the Obvious: Sometimes, the Best Brand Names Are Right in Front of Us

December 7, 2021 by No Comments

When trying to find the right name for a brand, the best choice could be right in front of you. Too often, companies try to force a brand name or feel like they have to put in a certain amount of time and effort rather than focusing on keeping it simple. Microsoft faced this challenge when naming its successful Xbox gaming system and serves as a great lesson in learning from the obvious.

In 1998 four engineers from Microsoft’s “DirectX”team took apart some Dell laptops to build a prototype Windows-based video game console. During development, the original “DirectX box” name was shortened to “Xbox”. As they neared launch, the search for the right brand name for the console began. A list of possible names was formed and presented to focus groups brand naming suggestions. While the development team was attached to the X-box name, Microsoft’s marketing department hated it. As such, they left the name on the focus group list hoping to build a case against it and essentially eliminate the name from consideration.

Just because Microsoft chose the first name it came up with doesn’t mean that the first idea is always the best. The important lesson to be learned is that often times the best brand names are right in front of us. Before launching any product, the name should be well tested, so as to go to market best positioned for success. As it would be for any business, it would have been far too risky for Microsoft not to test the names before launch.

A key part of a successful branding philosophy is to find what is already working and do more of it. In this case, it’s hard to deny that the Xbox name worked out great for Microsoft; not only for the development team, but also for the public. Branding consultant Alina Wheeler talks about the “Blinding Flash of the Obvious,”which she defines as that thing sitting right in-front of you and you keep looking past it trying to find the right answer. With brand names, sometimes the name right in front of you is the best choice and as such, it is important for any company searching for the right name to first look around them before embarking on the laborious and expensive task of developing a brand name.

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