Numbers as Brand Names

TechCrunch reports that Microsoft calls its next operating system (the one after Vista) Windows 7. Mickey comments:

I’d love to see them start using logical numbers again, but it doesn’t add up:
Windows 3.1 (“Windows 3”)
Windows 95 (4)
Windows 98 (5)
Windows ME/2000 (6)
Windows XP (7)
Windows Vista (8)
Windows 7 (9?)
I guess maybe if you call Windows 3.1 “Windows 1” (since that was the first one that was any good), then it increments to the next version being 7.

This makes me wonder if Microsoft was influenced by Seinfeld’s George’s liking of “Seven” as a name for a kid. Hey, Jerry was in the commercials… so the connection could be there.
Numbers work most of the time in the software business, but not for many others. If Microsoft sticks with Windows 7 and proceeds to follow it with 8, 9, 9.5 (Photoshop 5.5 was a biggie) then it should work out fine as it has for Explorer 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8.
Look at Firefox — 1.x, 2.0, 3.0. Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X. But then Apple had to go and confuse us with Mac OS X Leopard (it’s Mac OS 10.5).
But for other industries, number names get lost especially in the automobile industry. I’m trying to come up with a couple of examples of cars using numbers (other than what I drive — guilty of a “letters and number” name with no words) and they’re not coming to me or I am not sure if I remember right (“Is it 30 or 31? Audi or Infiniti? Or maybe Lexus.”).
Yet, I can identify an Expedition and Suburbans and can tell you who makes each one (Ford and Chevy in that order). So is a GLX better than an LX because it has an extra letter? But what if it’s an SL? Which one is better? LX or SL? Some cars use names like Sport, Touring, Grand Touring. So is Sport the fully-loaded one or Grand Touring?
Good thing we couldn’t have had a V9 or V12. How would we distinguish those from a V8 other than they might contain more vegetables? Good thing the company stuck with V8 and expanded its product line around that name.
I’ve always thought telephone companies with initials just didn’t sound as powerful as those with a word or two in their names (MCI Worldcom does not count). Verizon and Cingular smartly dumped their initialized company names for memorable ones. Of course, Cingular went away with the merger and returned to initials.
Tried to find other articles on the topic, but with keywords like brand, number, names… not an easy task. Did find one good one: Counting on Your Brand’s Name.
What do you think of brand names with numbers and letters? Sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t? Doesn’t work without at least one identifier (like Windows or Explorer)?

5 thoughts on “Numbers as Brand Names”

  1. I think the Audi car family has done a wonderful job using numbers to define their place in the product lines.

    I had an A3 and just moved to an A4, for example. There’s an A5, an A6, A7 and A8. I’m not sure whether there are A2s in the US, but believe there are in Europe.

    As in any brand, once you’re a buyer, you adapt to, and become familiar with, their nomenclature system… don’t you think? You’ve got to have that basic emotional connection to ‘get’ the difference between a Lexus and an Infiniti, a BMW 3 series and a BMW 7 series, and all that that means.

    Janet Johnson’s last blog post… SEMPR: Picking Great Keywords

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  2. But if Audi wants to attract new buyers — it confuses the rest of us. I don’t know what an A car looks like at all, much less A1, A3, etc.

    I saw two cars next to each other yesterday. There were the same except one was a 300 and the other a 350. Now, I can’t remember if they were Lexus or Infiniti. I just noticed the numbers and couldn’t tell a difference from the outside.

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  3. Java versioning/naming drives me nuts… for whatever reason, Sun doesn’t want to leave the version 1 moniker. Java 2 was 1.2, Java 5 was 1.5, Java 6 is 1.6.

    What ever happened to major.minor.revision??

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