Hey, “Cloud” product names! QUIT IT ALREADY!

Dear brand managers: please get your heads out of the “cloud”.

Okay, I get it. The word “Cloud” is hot right now on planet Software Development. All the biggest online players in the world – from Google to Microsoft to Apple to Adobe – are launching “Cloud” versions of their software. But using the word “Cloud” in a product name for a software brand? I Beg to Differ.

View from 30,000 feet: Ice Cream Castles

So, my brand manager friend. Before we talk clouds, give this song a listen: Both Sides Now, Joni Mitchell.

Hear that? Joni’s talking about clouds – your favourite topic! Now, she’s talking about old fashioned air-clouds not cool Internet clouds.  But listen when she describes them as “Bows and flows of angel hair/ And ice cream castles in the air”. See? She’s like you. She agrees that clouds are really, really cool.

And from way up there, those awesome, baroque cloud swirls look kind of like what the concept of “Cloud” software looks like to you technology brand managers, and especially the product developers you usually report to.

It’s a magical fairy tale kingdom of Internet-delivered goodness that just makes so gosh-darned much sense.

  • Why wouldn’t people want the latest version of their software delivered by magic from the heavens?
  • Why wouldn’t they want to switch from buying boxes of plastic disks to online subscriptions?
  • Why wouldn’t people want to store their personal files in the wondrous land of “feather canyons”?
  • Why wouldn’t people LOVE such a super-convenient, and low-cost method of delivery?

Why indeed?

Which explains why every Silicone Valley dog and his app-development team is moving towards the cloud. And they’re so excited, they’re adding the word “Cloud” to every product name in sight. Just a few examples: Adobe Creative CloudApple iCloudMicrosoft Cloud ServicesRackspace Open CloudGoogle Cloud Platform.

Salesforce logo clouds it up
One of the ugliest logo mashups in history. Or, the reason neither Sales-people nor techies should manage brands.

Or how about SalesForce.com? They love the word “Cloud” so much, they named all three of their most-promoted products “Sales Cloud,” “Service Cloud,” and “Marketing Cloud“. They even changed their logo (at right) so you couldn’t miss their cloudiness.

All for love of those amazing clouds…

View from the ground:  rain and snow on everyone

But as Joni said, clouds look very different when they are looming over your head: “But now they only block the sun./They rain and snow on everyone”. Funny, but that describes how I feel when I look at a name like “Adobe Creative Cloud” or “Sales Cloud”.

Think about the product name “Sales Cloud” by Salesforce for a moment. Salesforce.com virtually invented the market for Internet-subscription software for business – or “software-as-a-service” as we used to call it in high tech board rooms. Customer Relationship Management was the first “killer app” and it made Salesforce into a household name.

But Salesforce.com never needed to say “Cloud” before because they were all-cloud, all the time: cloud storage, cloud subscription, browser-based cloud usage.

So check out this copy from the “Sales Cloud” section of their site.

Get started with the world’s #1 CRM sales app: Improve sales productivity, boost win rates, grow revenue. With Salesforce Sales Cloud you get all the CRM capabilities you need to connect with customers…

Funny, in the olden days, they would have just said “Subscribe to Salesforce.com”. Because that’s their real product name. It’s not a cloud. It’s a subscription.

The problem with clouds? They’re bloody CLOUDY.

So let me say this once and for all: the cloud is not a software product. It’s not a place. And it’s certainly not a thing I can buy. It’s that murky Internet space between me as customer and you the vendor. And so it’s not something I want to focus on, it’s something I want to see through to the real value for me on the other side. And if you’re doing your job as a brand manager, you’ll use product names that help me understand – and buy – your stuff.

Thanks Joni.

2 thoughts on “Hey, “Cloud” product names! QUIT IT ALREADY!”

  1. Ahhhh, BUT!
    Always a BUT! The problem is less with the Brand people than with the media you know… Double the speed, usability and power of a new application and send out the PR: Oh Hum. I wonder why I got zero coverage and my brand is stuck in a mudbath of invisibility????
    Well hello, just add the word cloud to any stupid piece of PR verbiage and Voila! Instant global coverage! 
    In short: Don’t blame the brand managers, blame the lemming in the media!

    1. @Jacques Lamontagne Fair point. Of course the over-use of a  tech buzzword like “cloud” isn’t necessarily JUST a vanity play for software company insiders. It can also be meant as bait for the tech media, bloggers, analysts, investors.  I can’t count the times I’ve had to fight against other buzzy terms like “Solution”, “Web 2.0”, “Social” or going further back, the plague of “Net / Web / e-(anything) / dot-com / Cyber” products during the last bubble. 
      But that doesn’t make it the right choice! The technology product brands that last are the ones that stick to clear, human-language terms and metaphors. Do you think we’d be talking about Google today if it was called WebNetSolution.com, or would PhotoShop be a household name as “CyberPixel”? Or what if they’d chosen a hopelessly geeky and rapidly-dated name for “Microsoft”… wait. Scratch that last one….

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