Wrong Name? Sorry, No Sales

by Giuseppe Taibi on December 5, 2009

This post about the impact of product name and message on sales is from Phin Barnes, the First Round Capital team member that will visit betahouse on Monday.


Basically, he created a kind of shoe that I actually used to own and like a lot, and thought that nobody was making them anymore: the laceless snicker.

Phin had originally named the product “The Slide” but sales were slumping. Then…

The shoe was a failed experiment until our audience helped us with the messaging.

On my last testing stop before heading back to Asia to finalize the line I was at the Northline Mall in Houston, TX and didn’t notice the kid holding The Slide until the argument started. 30ish high school kids, boys and girls, surrounded the shoes and 29 of them were laughing at the one holding the shoe. He argued with them with no success until he said, “No, stupid. It’s not to hoop-in yo, it’s to-chill-in.” The other kids were silent. Then, one by one, they agreed. In this group “the slide” was the best shoe.

I delayed my trip to Asia by a week and went back to all the other places we tested product, but this time I did not bring “The Slide” I brought the “Tochillin.” It tested off the charts and we included it to the line. Within 12 months we had a $50M Tochillin business with multiple styles and the original Tochillin Low went on to sell over a million pairs in 3 years.

The name of a product or service or how it is positioned through marketing and customer messaging can determine its success or failure. Don’t assume to know your audience, listen to the market to discover the right message. If you have an example of messaging changes that drove significant changes in consumer acceptance I would love to read it in the comments. If you own a pair of ToChillin’s, post it here or on twitter with the #todayskickstag.

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