What’s in a name?

It is a question that is often asked, generally to dismiss the importance of what something or someone is called. And the rationale for this makes sense. After all, what really matters is how good (or bad) a person or a product is. What it is called should be secondary. And we totally agree with that. Yes, we understand the importance of branding and brand names but at the end of the day, the product and person are what really matter.

oneplus nord

That said, names CAN make a difference, especially when it comes to products. It can make people remember them more easily (you can remember people by face and by voice and a way of dressing up, but in products, it becomes more difficult) and as OnePlus just showed us, it is a terrific way to create curiosity.

OnePlus’ build-up and launch of the OnePlus Nord was a marketing masterclass in many ways. You might not agree with everything the brand did (I certainly did not), but what cannot be denied is that it got attention. And I think that by calling the phone “Nord,” OnePlus pulled off a bit of a coup.

If that sounds a little far-fetched, just consider if the hype would have been as impressive if it had been called the OnePlus 8 Lite (which implied it was a lighter version of another device) or the OnePlus X2 (which would have drawn comparisons with an earlier device that did not do well? Or even the OnePlus Z, which while being a whole new letter in the OnePlus terminology, would not have had the same aura – there are phones out there with a Z series!

But Nord? Ah, that was something.

The term in itself means “North” in Swedish, and is used in literary terms to refer to the “true direction” of a person (“true north”), but even purely as a piece of nomenclature, it was strikingly different. And was perfect for a new series, simply because it helped the phone stand out.

And the reason it stood out was that phone brands have tended to fight a little shy of giving their phones “proper” names. You have exceptions like the Oppo Reno or the Google Pixel, but by and large, names tend to be an alphanumerical mishmash with the odd Pro and Lite suffix – A21, K6s, Z2 lite, and so on. Even some of the names that exist are too generic – Note, Galaxy, Knight, Zoom, and so on – or sometimes just do not seem to mean anything (Narzo, Eluga, Evok).

oneplus nord

Dropping a “Nord” into the middle of all this served two purposes – it allowed the name itself to stand on its own with no connection to previous or existing devices and it also reflected OnePlus’ professed “return to its roots.” And well, it helps that it was unlike anything the tech industry had heard and is actually a valid word.

I mean, imagine if Apple had stuck to simply calling its computers the Apple 1, Apple 2, Apple 2x, and so on. The Mackintosh did not do as well commercially initially as expected, but it was the first Apple computer to really grab attention. And its name helped in an industry that was stuck with scientific-sounding names. Macintosh incidentally, referred to Steve Jobs’ favorite kind of apple (he had worked in an orchard), and thus had a direct relationship with the brand name – it made sense for a company called Apple to bring out a computer called Macintosh (the original spelling evidently was McIntosh!), and well it was Jobs’ favorite computer just as Mcinstosh was his favorite apple. It fit in well.

oneplus nord: the name is a masterstroke - thinkpad

Another example of a name making a huge difference for a product was IBM’s iconic ThinkPad – it referred to the brand’s tagline (“Think”), while the use of ‘Pad’ took the “weight” out of a term like “laptop” or “notebook” and gave the device an almost academic and professorial touch which appealed to the enterprise users at whom the device was aimed – it was a notebook for those serious about work. Thinkers!

Similarly, Nord reflects North in a language belonging to the north (Sweden). It reflects OnePlus going back to a segment it dominated. Returning to its “true north.” It fits. it is very different. People will remember it. Not just as a product name but for what it represents.

Did we tell you that OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei has a small figurine of Steve Jobs on his desk?

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