Recently I wrote about the difficulty choosing a camera among many choices. Essentially, the problem was that Canon had several cameras that were essentially the same. In the comments to my original post, Jason gave a reason that manufacturers might have so many models:
“I’m sure GE would rather produce one product, but the large stores refuse to carry products that aren’t unique, in order to give them pricing freedoms, and not be held to their price matching promises if a competitor runs a special.”
Given that they must create so many similar products, it makes sense that companies resort to pseudo-random product numbering. The side effect is that not only can I not decide which item to buy, once I do, there’s no way for me to understand its place in the world. If we all went by our social security numbers, I might not have as many friends that I care about.
Des Traynor says to give your products names, not numbers, using mobile phones as the largest example:
“Funnily enough, the only people I know who can say it with certainty own the Motorola Razr. It’s easy to write that off as a result of impressive advertising, and a distinctive look and feel. There is one other big reason though, the Razr has a name.”
There are some humorous counter-examples in the comments (Levi’s, BMW, Chanel perfumes), but the point remains: names mean something, numbers don’t.