Microsoft is hoping you'll soon think "Zune"--the name of its new MP3 player that launched two days ago--instead of "iPod" when you're hankering to stick something in your ears. The company bet about $150,000 that "Zune" would become a household word, reports today's Wall Street Journal in a story about the product's naming.
The hefty fee went to Lexicon Branding Inc. of Sausalito, California, whose founder and chief executive, David Placek, told the Journal's Mark Boslet that "the letter 'Z' is among the most alive and energetic sounds in the English language. And like 'K,' 'C' and 'G,' 'Z' has an aura of strength and reliability."
Now I know why I'm not getting $150,000 per name: I don't talk about "auras" nearly enough.
According to Boslet, Placek cited several other reasons for zeroing in on "Zune":
It's a short word, reflecting the gadget's small size.
It has a familiar sound. "'From tune to zune' was the expression some inside Lexicon used," the Journal reports.
The letter "U" has "a full sound" and "makes one think there is a lot packed into a little word-- and product."
Several months before the product launched, word circulated that "Zune" was a naughty word in Hebrew. Microsoft is satisfied that it isn't. I happen to know some Hebrew myself, and I'm guessing the word in question is "zayin" (rhymes with "tryin'"). Zayin is the seventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet and is sometimes used as a slang term for "penis" (probably because of the appearance of the letter).
Even with that little controversy laid to rest, Zune has its detractors. According to the Journal:
With Microsoft's spending, Zune will become a brand name, says Jay Jurisich, creative director at the San Francisco branding company Igor Inc. But he describes Zune as a cold name that doesn't generate a human or emotional response, and doesn't believe it stands out or will be easily remembered.
Which of course is name-developer talk for "I could have done it better, and for only $125,000."
(Full disclosure: I started my naming career with Lexicon back when it was called David Placek & Associates. I had nothing to do with the Zune naming project.)
Thanks to reader Bryan for pointing me to the WSJ article.