By Hannah Johnson
I unfolded today’s issue of the Wall Street Journal on the subway this morning and saw that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is once again making front-page headlines, but not for a new product or pricing policy. On the front page of today’s WSJ was an article about how Bezos very carefully avoided using “the” when talking about Amazon’s Kindle device and platform during a television interview with Charlie Rose (this is front-page news?).
So if you think “the Kindle” is a great reading device, or that you saw someone using “a Kindle” the other day, I guess you’re wrong. You saw someone with “Kindle.” (Maybe I’m too traditional, but that sounds to me like someone is either going to give birth to a Kindle, or that Kindle is a person.)
According to the WSJ report, dropping articles like “the” and “a” from product and brand names is an oft-used marketing technique of many tech companies — Apple and Nintendo, among them — seeking to turn their products into something larger than just physical objects, like an experience.
Barnes & Noble is also using this technique for (the? its?) Nook devices and platform. WSJ quoted Glenn Kaplan, creative director at B&N as saying, “When somebody says ‘the Nook,’ I wince.” And while we’re on the subject of Nook, is it “nook” or “Nook?”
Of course marketers want to influence how their brands are perceived, and fine-tuning the language that they use to talk about their own brands is one way to do that. But does it have to be language that makes us sound like we didn’t pass elementary school English class? Are you really going to say “I just bought Kindle” or “Nook is a great device”? As much as marketers want us to use their language, sometimes it just doesn’t happen.
Remember when Google didn’t want people to use “google” as a verb? On the company blog, Google offered proper usage tips for the scant few who actually wanted to use “google” the way Google wanted. It seems that Google’s effort was none too effective. I don’t know about you, but I “google” stuff all the time.