The Problem:

Breaking with tradition
A new experience needed a new kind of name

Dolby’s new sound system was set to debut with Pixar’s Brave in thousands of theaters worldwide. With just weeks before the premier, Dolby still needed a name.


This was slated to be their biggest product launch in a decade. The company that pioneered Surround Sound and grew the industry standard from stereo to 7.1 was about to redefine theater audio. Their new system featured dedicated speakers for 128 distinct channels. Dolby needed to redefine its naming architecture: in no way would “127.1” convey the appropriate depth of detail and power.

The Fix:

Work directly with decision makers
Create a new category
Break the nomenclature

High stakes and a quick turnaround dictated that we work directly with senior management and the product team. Working directly with decision makers means that the process has fewer obstacles and the end result isn’t sanitized to death.

We outlined our process, agreed on a schedule, got an incredible demo of the technology. Then we got to work. This project was an exercise in balance. While the name had to be bold and dramatic — the new sound system produced an immense, almost overwhelmingly atmospheric soundtrack — we also had to consider the Dolby name, which is strong and short. It was going to be Dolby Something, and we wanted that something to feel powerful without overpowering Dolby.

“We needed a name that would convey the power of the idea, and that’s what we got.”

— Kevin Yeaman, President and CEO, Dolby Laboratories

Atmos was the pick of the lot. The soft “a” at the name’s beginning means that Dolby still sounds more powerful, but the name reminded people of “atmosphere” and “atomic.” Atmos felt like a force of nature. To create a new category, we tied that idea to Dolby’s product positioning. The idea of “atmospheric audio” created a category in its own right, and the name also gave Dolby inroads to talk about Atmos as a product of ultraspecific, atomic-level attention to detail.

“Dolby Atmos is in 1,000 theaters and I’m glad we’re there with an exciting name.”

— Doug Darrow, SVP Cinema, Dolby Laboratories



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