ChatGPT as marketing triumph

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

Consider the name itself, ChatGPT. Many successful tech products have happy, shiny, memorable names: Instagram, Roblox, TikTok. Someone comes up with the name, perhaps in a brainstorming session, and then it is taken to the broader world. With luck, it will prove sticky and continue to invoke a warm glow.

ChatGPT, as a name, does not have a comparably simple history. Originally the service was GPT-2, then GPT-3. GPT-3.5 was then released, and ChatGPT was announced in November 2022. ChatGPT-3.5 was cumbersome, and by that point it was running the risk of becoming obsolete numerically. So ChatGPT became the popular moniker. When GPT-4 was released in March, there was the chance to switch to just GPT-4 and treat ChatGPT as a kind of interim brand, connected with the 3.5 edition, but no — ChatGPT it is.

I still prefer to call it GPT-4, to make it clear which version of the service I am using. GPT-3.5 remains available for free and is widely used, and so my inner persnickety nag feels the two should not be confused. But they are confused, and almost everyone (present company excluded) just says ChatGPT. Again, this is not textbook marketing, but users seem fine with it.

At this point, you might be wondering what that GPT stands for. It is “Generative Pre-Trained Transformer.” How many of its users could tell you that? How many of its users could explain what it means? I can imagine a marketing team sitting around a conference table insisting that GPT is too opaque and just won’t do.

But at OpenAI, software engineers and neural net experts are the dominant influences. So Americans get a name that has not been heavily market-tested and does not necessarily fit well into an advertising slogan. Maybe they like it, especially if they are sick of more and more of the economy being run by marketers.

There is more at the link.  The part of GPT-4 that comes across as “focus group tested” — the neutering of Sydney and the like — is also the part that is not entirely popular, even if it is politically wise.



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