Blog Article

Should You Brand Your Features?

Steve Jobs presenting the Retina Display

Jens Schumacher

Feb 6, 2024

5m

minutes read

Article

Last week I’ve read Matt Hodges excellent post “On naming new product”. He started his post with a quick history lesson on Apple’s “Retina display”.

Branding major features is a strategy that works well for Apple. And a multimillion dollar marketing budget to promote those brands certainly doesn’t hurt either.

But what are the benefits of branding a feature the way Apple did with the Retina Display?

Benefits of branding

Differentiation

Branding major features can help differentiate a product from the competition. In the case of the Retina display, Apple emphasized the high resolution and pixel density, creating a unique selling point that set their products apart.

Had they simply used numbers to describe the feature, competitors could try to one-up Apple with a higher density display. Instead, Apple registered “Retina” as a trademark. Ensuring no other company could “create” a Retina display.

The branded feature was first launched in 2010 with the iPhone 4 and is still used as a brand today. Retina is now synonymous with ultra crisp displays.

Easy to understand

Giving features a brand name can also simplify communication. Consumers don’t need to understand that the number of pixels needed for a Retina display is about 300 PPI for a device held 10 to 12 inches from the eye. They just need to know that Retina displays are ultra sharp.

Not only does that make things easier for Apple’s marketing team, but it also makes it easier for users to recommend the product to their friends. “The Retina display is amazing” is easier to say than “The 300 PPI display is amazing when you are 10 inches away from it”.

Should you brand your feature?

There are clearly good reasons to brand a feature. But before you jump in and give every feature and bugfix a name, here are a few things to consider:

Less is more

When crafting a presentation, it’s best to pick one or two points you want the audience to walk away with. More than two points, and there is a good chance they won’t remember any of it.

The same is true for branding. If you create dozens of brands within your product, nobody will remember them.

Don’t confuse your customers

When releasing a commonly known and understood feature, it is important to avoid confusing your customers by giving it a different name, unless the feature truly offers something unique.

Not only will it make it harder for customers to understand the feature, they might even think that you are missing basic functionality.

Keep it familiar

Often times you will find branded features are made up of new and familiar terminology. With “Retina Displays”, consumers know right away that it’s a display, and that it’s not a regular display. It’s a great way to differentiate yourself while making it still easy to understand.

Use the brand everywhere

Once you decided to brand a feature, make sure it’s everywhere. Naming it alone won’t cut it, you need to market it and actually establish it as a differentiator.

Feature brands in practice

NeuralSearch

At http://Search.io (now Algolia), we developed a search engine that used mathematical vectors to understand and find relevant results based on concept similarity rather than just keyword matching. However, traditionally Vector search has been hard to scale while keeping costs low. Our solution was a neural hashing algorithm that compresses vectors without significant information loss, allowing for faster and more cost-effective searches.

At its core, it was still a Vector search, but much faster and a cheaper. Not a message that is easy explain and convey in marketing… unless you brand it. That’s why we named it NeuralSearch.

Smart Commits

A big differentiator for Atlassian tools has always been their tight integration. When we explored how to automate more of the developer workflow back in 2010, we came up with the idea of adding commands to a git commit (you can think of a commit as saving a file and keeping a log of what has changed).

Back then, we added the ability to transition an issue, comment, and even log time. All you needed to do was to follow a simple syntax that mentioned the issue key and a command as part of the commit message. It saved developers a whole lot of time. No need to jump between tools to complete those tasks.

It was a key differentiator, and a feature that wasn’t easy to describe.

So we gave it a name that was still easy to understand, but also suggested that this feature is different… Smart Commits.

Now, when users search for“Smart Commits”, Atlassian pages still turn up first in Google results, and it’s a well understood feature.

Both of the above examples followed the same thinking:

  • Each one represented a core capability of the product

  • Each one made it easy for customers to understand what it represented and kept it familiar (Neural Search, Smart Commits)

  • Each one was treated as a brand across the organization, from product to marketing.

Hopefully the above gives you a rough framework for when you need to make the decision to brand or not to brand a feature.

Brand away!

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