Wi-Fi: Legit term or just a good marketing idea? Posted by Excollective on Sep 3, 2015
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In the recently concluded Sydney Science Festival, we were reminded of how the term “Wi-Fi” or “Wireless Fidelity” became a widely-known tech buzzword – a term that seemed to be born out of thin air! How was this possible and how did it catch on among technology users? Read on to crack the code:

Wi-Fi, or the “IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence”, was invented by an Australian team of CSIRO (former Wi-Fi Alliance) scientists with deep expertise in radio communications. We were also reminded that “Wi-Fi” is not an acronym, and it has no de-facto meaning; it is simply a trademarked phrase!

Can you imagine saying, “Hey, do you have IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence here?” That would have been bonkers! Thus, “Wi-Fi” was born as a semantic play on the term “Hi-Fi” or high-fidelity, referring to the high-quality reproduction of sound for audio equipment.

Engaged by CSIRO for its interoperability seal and marketing efforts, the branding consulting firm Interbrand created the term “Wi-Fi” along with its yin yang-style logo. It seems the only reason we hear anything about “Wireless Fidelity” is that the CSIRO at the time could not imagine using the name “Wi-Fi” without having some sort of literal explanation, so they came up with the tagline “The Standard for Wireless Fidelity” after the fact.

For the first year or so, the tagline appeared in all of their communications. Later, when Wi-Fi was becoming more successful and the realisation struck that the tagline was confusing people and diluting the brand (and some marketing and business people from larger companies joined the CSIRO board), they dropped the tag-line.

You might be surprised to know that all 19 international patents in the Wi-Fi family expired by 24 November 2013, 21 years after the first patent was filed in 1992, earning the CSIRO $430 million – just in royalties alone!

The Wi-Fi Alliance was always careful to stay out of inventing standards. The standard of interest is IEEE 802.11; “Wi-Fi” could never be a standard.

What is the bottomline here?

“Wireless Fidelity” means nothing and “Wi-Fi” was a simple but remarkably indelible branding idea. Call it a stroke of luck at its initial stages, but as shown here, what is important is making your brand unique and memorable to your target audience.


Want to come up with a remarkable branding idea? Simply message us and we can help you conceptualise your branding strategies and events!

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