Google’s Achilles?

16 10 2008

The Consumer Reports National Research Center just released a poll stating that 72% of consumers are concerned about their online privacy.  Specifically, that their “online behaviors were being tracked and profiled by companies.”  Digging deeper, 53% said they felt uncomfortable with companies sending targeted advertising to them based on the content of their email or their browsing history.  

This should be of great concern to companies like Google that mine and monetize intelligence from our browsing and consumption patterns.  Why?  Because these poll results reflect a sentiment not yet inflamed by any sort of organized attempt to educate consumers about the lack of privacy online.  What will happen to public sentiment when the inevitable round of Congressional hearings crops up, or a sensational news story about an abuse of online data gathering?  The consumer’s lack of understanding is reflected in the same poll which shows that 61% of them “are confident that what they do online is private and not shared without their permission” and 57% erroneously believe Internet companies “must identify themselves and indicate why they are collecting data and whether they intend to share it with other organizations.”  Once they become aware of their lack of online privacy, disease could turn to outrage.

This presents a tremendous opportunity for those who can sell privacy.  And by that I mean, selling access to online services and content instead of providing it for free as in the current ad-supported model.  This is year’s down the road, but I suspect that the pendulum will swing back in favor of the old-fashioned walled garden approach of premium subscriptions once people get a whiff of what’s being done with their data.


What’s in a Name?

21 08 2008

Recently, I was helping a friend try to figure out a name for a mobile software start-up.  The field’s so crowded with ventures now that it’s not easy to pick a name that hasn’t already been taken.  And it’s even harder to avoid names that are too techy, too cutesy, too clunky or just too, well, plain.  The only thing we were certain of was not taking a regular word and starting it with the letter “i.”

After umpteen passes with random imagination we decided to take a different approach.  Rather than just brainstorm names, we would first identify the qualities we thought would constitute a good name so we had something against which to judge our ideas.  Here’s what we came up with:

FLEXIBLE –  A word with multiple meanings and interpretations.  Better yet – a word that can be used as a verb or a noun.  Not only does this open up more possibilities for your marketing communications, it gives your design team a lot more options.  At one point we had gone down the road of fly-fishing imagery (tangential, yes, but we still think it’s cool) and words like “fly,” “lure,” and “catch” all fit this bill.  

EVOCATIVE – You want a name that conjures up interesting imagery.  Imagery that will be powerful in telling your story and conveying your brand image.  Words attached to common metaphors (like “window,” “door,” “sky”) are also more apt to translate internationally.  But beware:  you also want to conjure up the right imagery.  One name that we came up with was quickly squashed by the graphic designer because the first thing it made her think of was the creature in Alien.  Not so friendly.   Google got this one right with the name of their new mobile platform, Android, even if it is a bit scary.  Flickr got it right too.  And Richard Branson really got it right with Virgin. 

WE LIKE TO SAY IT – Maybe it’s hard to quantify this, but we all know it when we hear it.  There are onomatopoeic words like “sizzle.” Words with hard sounds like “hatch” and “jot.”  And just plain goofy words that are fun to say like “Google,” “Zoho” and “Twitter.”

AVAILABLE DOMAIN & DEFENSIBLE – a minor detail (heh)

We never did come up with a name.  I think the lawyers are duking it out over a bunch of second string ideas.  Turned out the one we liked most were too polarizing.  But, we still think these are useful guidelines for those of you undertaking the Sisyphean task of naming your start-up.  Good luck.