Apple Goes with the Flow.

Devon Thomas Treadwell | Branding,branding debacles,Naming | Friday, January 29th, 2010

ipadMuch has been written about Apple’s clumsy introduction of the iPad.

But the hook to this story is not that a big company made a naming mistake. This happens, sometimes in large, visible cases.

Nor is the story about alleged sexism at Apple. While it may be true that Apple’s culture is dominated by males, I don’t for a minute believe that they were unaware of the sanitary napkin connotations.

The real story here is that they didn’t care.

I can imagine Steve Jobs and crew concluding, “So what? They’ll get over it once they experience how great this device is.”

And I admire any company so confident in their products that they’ll bat off criticism of their brand name. It reminds me of Nintendo’s belief in the Wii, and how they weathered all the potty jokes when the product was first introduced.

(In Nintendo’s case “Wii” was actually a great name that deserved to be defended. “iPad,” not so much.)

Apple will survive the onslaught of jokes and criticism, and the iPad will live or die based on the viability of the category it has created. Is there really a gap between the netbook and smartphone–room in the market for a touchscreen tablet computer–or is the iPad superflowous? (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

And even though the brand name will not make or break this product, I must still ask, Why, oh why? As a brand, Apple prides itself on innovative products with the most seamless, intuitive user experience. To reach the level of user insight necessary to create new paradigms in UX, Apple has proven itself capable of living in our skin, of understanding our needs before we do.

Apple should have anticipated the effect of a product name so ripe for ridicule that it jolts us out of the Apple ethos.

In the long run, the blowback from this branding error will likely be minor. But with a slightly more bulletproof brand name, Jobs and company could have avoided the customer’s natural conclusion that, this time, Apple didn’t think of everything.

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