Instagram and Snapchat are identical constructions. Each simply substitutes new words from an accepted utility name: Instant Message. Insta & Snap are synonyms for Instant, and Gram & Chat are substitutes for Message.
Since Instant Message is already a universally adopted name, you know that Instagram and Snapchat will be accepted as well. If what you’re naming doesn’t map to a two-word generic, break it down into one first.
You can do this by re-purposing an unrelated, well-known compound word, as in Apple’s Wi-Fi base station being called “Airport” – a port accessed through the air. It’s easy to remember and readily embraced because everyone knows the word Airport already.
Proposing a name like Airport to a committee will be met with immediate pushback such as, “Everyone hates the experience of an airport” or, “Last time I was there they cancelled my flight, I had to sleep on the floor and I missed my child’s birthday” or “The first thing I think of is stress, long lines and bad service”- as if any of this will make the name less successful, which of course it doesn’t.
As soon as the name Airport is applied to a Wi-Fi device the primary definition disappears, your audience puts the clever double meaning together in their heads in an “aha!” moment, and smile at the humanity you’ve brought to the game. They will think well of you and warmly embrace the name and its new meaning. And never forget it. You are immediately best of breed in their minds, having uttered only a single word.
Because this simple concept is inherently difficult for corporations, names like Airport are rare indeed – but they do happen.
As you would expect, lots of their competitors have “smile” in their names. So instead, the name Smart Mouth makes you smile.
Using the word “smile” in a name is explanative, using words that cause your audience to smile is demonstrative.
In naming & branding, as in all aspects of life, demonstrating is always more effective than explaining.
It’s also a twist on a descriptive name, saying “It’s a Smart choice for your Mouth” and that the dentist is “Smart about Mouths”.
Since parents, not kid’s are the audience, giving them a laugh about their kids makes it work, makes it warm – and unforgettable.
To understand why they work so well, you have to get literal for a moment:
Hotwire = “to steal a car”
Pandora = “unleashed plagues, diseases & all the evils of mankind”
These types of meanings will get a name dismissed ASAP by a naming committee – a committee that would have been wrong to dismiss these names, obviously.
Consumers don’t attribute these literal, negative qualities to the companies who use Hotwire & Pandora as their company names (you don’t, do you?). But naming committees erroneously believe they will.
In each case the name is a metaphor for something about the company. Hotwiring a car is a “hack”, Hotwire positions the site as a travel hack – a way around high prices. Pandora Radio is a marketplace, positioned metaphorically as a “box full of intrigue”.
When juxtaposed in line with the company’s positioning, the names simply become interesting – they have personality. They demonstrate confidence and uniqueness. Metaphorically re-purposing the negative is what makes them so positive.
The names are provocative, differentiating and memorable.
From a business perspective, these names are a pure positive, derived from a literal negative. It’s called “The Principle of Negativity”.
Don’t fear the Negative – well executed, it’s a Positive.
“Coin” is simply one card to replace all the credit cards, bank cards, et al in your wallet. It’s linked to your smartphone via Bluetooth so you can manage all the particulars including security.
The name is iconic, definitive, memorable, viral, a deep well for marketing & advertising, lends itself to endless wordplay in the press / Twittersphere, etc.
Most remarkably it is a name that came to be even though the company could not acquire Coin.com. They did it anyway.
Coin realized that the name was too important to have it be decided by dotcom availability – they reside at onlycoin.com, which won’t hurt them one bit.
Had they bought into the ridiculous herd mentality that it’s better to have a lesser name as long as it matches the dotcom address we would instead be reviewing a marketing, branding & advertising albatross like Coinly or Coinify or Coinacopia or LoinCoin. Or worse.
What do you do when your brand gets adopted by a terrorist organization? That’s the question faced by businesses with ISIS in their names–the English-language acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The most extreme strategy is to simply change the name. Mobile payment app Isis has announced it will change its name to Softcard.
But so far, this is the exception. There are 49 corporations in New York State alone with “Isis” in the name, from Isis Fitness to Isis Nails.
Patricia Luzi is the founder of Isis Essentials, selling organic oils and other products. She’s not afraid of a terrorist homophone.
“Isis is an Egyptian goddess and has been for thousands of years,” she says. “I am not affected at all.”
According to Steve Manning, founder of naming agency Igor, most Isis-branded businesses have nothing to fear because there is little chance of confusion with a violent sect of Sunni fundamentalists.
“But if your business isn’t doing well or if you’ve got a bad reputation, it’s the perfect excuse to make a change,” he adds.
This is what Manning believes was the true motivation of the mobile wallet app that is now called Softcard.
“The irony being this mobile wallet was a huge initiative that never got any traction,” Manning says. “Had it, they wouldn’t have changed the name.”
You know it, you love it, it’s TED:
TED works as a name because it’s memorable, it demonstrates something new is happening and makes potentially difficult subject matter warm, inviting and simple. It’s also very confident and comfortable with itself – always an attractive quality.
The trouble with TED is it’s a name that companies will tell you they love, want something like it for their similar venture, but would likely get killed in a corporate committee .
“TED doesn’t convey “Best and Brightest”"
“TED” skews too masculine; its a man’s name. The name needs to be gender neutral to appeal to both sexes”
“The thought leaders we need to attract may not want to be associated with something so trivial sounding”
“The acronym “Technology, Entertainment & Design” is too limiting”
Would TED make it through your corporate naming process? If it is a process designed for real world efficacy & power, yes it would.
Because they understand the power of a name to define & own a category.
And to get them a staggering amount of free press / product awareness / brand name recognition.
“Typo” does everything you want a name to do. It cuts through all the clutter, it’s viral, is instantly and eternally memorable, demonstrates the notion that this is a ground breaking offering, exudes confidence, is relevant, etc.
And it makes the cash register ring.
Why is this type of name so rare and why hasn’t it been given to a keyboard before? Fear. Irrational fear based on a lack of understanding of how consumers process names. The objection is obvious – “We want to convey that we make typing a better experience, typo is the opposite. It will convey there is something wrong with our product”.
Really? As a consumer does this name make you doubt the quality of the product? No. That possibility is a wholly imagined one and exists only within a naming committee – yet fear of the baseless is the basis for most naming decisions.
The key is understanding how Typo gets its positive power from the same qualities that intuitively are seen as negative nullifiers.
You need to ensure the right filters are in place when evaluating names.
Unless your plan is to be seen as trendy, flash-in-the-pan-flame-out.
If they name it “Googly Eyes”, Apple’s version could be “iPatch”
Tesla is a fantastic name for revolutionary electric car company, but not a name that could navigate a typical corporate naming process and survive.
The death of a thousand cuts would include:
- We can’t acquire Tesla.com, we’d have to use Teslamotors.com, a non-starter. Electrificity.com is available. Let’s go with “Electrificity” instead. We can get the domain.
- Nicola Tesla’s inventions were all in AC, not the DC battery power the cars use. Edison was the man when it came to DC. Tesla advocated the opposite
- Most people don’t know who Tesla was
- “Tesla” was a big selling ’80s hair band
Most Teslas are sold online, and though they were unable to secure Tesla.com, they knew the common wisdom that going with Teslamotors.com would hurt sales was and is nonsense.
Tesla knew it was a great name even though Mr. Tesla’s work was with AC electricity, not the DC electricity the car runs on, which was the domain of Edison. They knew Tesla is a much sexier word attached to a sexier, more mysterious personality. The name Edison is just boring all around. So no one cares about the glaring discrepancy – they just associate the name with electricity.
For Tesla, going with the domain Teslamotors.com and using the name Tesla was a better move than changing the name to Electrificity or some such because they could get the Electrificity.com.
Tesla is memorable, has a great look, sound, meaning, mystery and sexiness to it. Do you walk away from that over domain availability? (Hint: “What would Elon Musk do?”)
We are all for a matching domain name, but it must be a powerful one.
Harry Shearer skewers the world of corporate naming.
Cloak has just the right amount of mystery, intrigue, fun & functionality to make this name both memorable and viral. Download on the AppStore.
Via Fast Company Design:
“Sick of running into your ex? Brian Moore was, so he developed Cloak, an app that warns you when other people are nearby
There is no shortage of social media apps out there that will loudly broadcast to everyone where you are at every second of the day. Rarer is the app that exists to obfuscate you. This, though, is the goal of Cloak, a new app that wants to keep other people from being able to find you.”
We could not agree more. Excellent article.
Many entrepreneurs when they’re deciding what to name their new business, put a lot of weight on what domain name they can acquire. But their isn’t unanimous agreement in the startup community about the importance of the right web address. Check out this tweet from serial entrepreneur and investor Chris Dixon:
Names are underrated, but domains names are (increasingly) overrated. Square, Dropbox, Box.net all started with temp domains.
The tweet was highlighted in a post offering advice on naming your startup on the Buffer Blog recently. In it, founder Joel Gascoigne agrees with Dixon and suggests you “take a look at all these successful startups which either had a temporary domain name, or which still have a different domain name to their name,” before offering this list:
Square was squareup.com
DropBox was getdropbox.com
Facebook was thefacebook.com
Instagram was instagr.am
Twitter was twttr.com
Foursquare was playfoursquare.com
Basecamp is basecamphq.com
Pocket is getpocket.com
Bitly was/is bit.ly
Delicious was del.icio.us
Freckle is letsfreckle.com
His conclusion: “Pick a great name, then add something to get a domain name. It really doesn’t matter all that much.”
Do you agree?
Yes, yes we do.
Great name, positioning, branding & advertising. They are on a mission!
All single-word domains were taken back in the last century. Here is a list of the most common domain prefixes and suffixes to help you find a workaround.
The name a Naming Firm gives itself provides clear insight into to the kinds of names they believe in – and how good at naming they really are.
If a Naming Firm cannot manage to give itself a distinctive, memorable name that sets it apart from a slew of competitors, that can evolve into a strong brand and come to represent more than just the goods and services being offered, how can they possibly convince others that what they fail to do for their own Naming Firm they can somehow magically do for clients?
Here is a competitive analysis of the names of Naming Firms
It’s because the companies that chose these names understood all the things the right name could do for them, and decided they wanted it all:
1. Clear separation from your competitors
2. Demonstrate to the world that you are different
3. Reinforce a unique positioning platform
4. Create a positive and lasting engagement with your audience
5. Be unforgettable
6. Propel the brand through the world on its own, becoming a no-cost, self-sustaining PR vehicle
7. Provide a deep well of marketing and advertising images
8. Rise above the goods and services you provide
9. Completely dominate your category
Many new service and food businesses today are looking for the most shocking, funny, sexy, or downright rude name they can think of, in order to stand out from the crowd. Drug references are also big these days, as with the marijuana-themed sub-shop CHeBA Hut (“Toasted” subs) and smoothie chain Maui Wowie (the latter has nearly 600 units).
One of my favorite examples is budding 7-unit franchise chain We Do Lines, which is in the business of painting parking-lot stripes. Co-founder and president Chris Coursi told me the three founders grasped immediately that their name would have to be memorable or they’d be just another face in the crowd, competing with big, established contractor firms.
The Ridgefield, Conn.-based trio experimented with a few names before deciding that one was the most memorable. Going edgy turned out to be a key factor in their business’s success. “It ended up being our best form of advertising,” he says.
Going for the giggles
For chains with a younger audience, the giggle factor increasingly comes into play. At barbecue chain OinkADoodleMoo, co-founder Mark Peebles says he blurted out the nonsense phrase once on a car trip with his then 3-year-old son, while they were having a funny-animal-noise contest.
It got a laugh. A pro griller who was competing on the professional barbecue circuit, Peebles immediately thought it would be a good name for a barbecue restaurant.
Families flocked when the first restaurant opened in 2006. Now, the Dayton, Ohio-based restaurant chain has four units open and two more under construction.
For more sassy brands, click here to see my favorite 10 Crazy Brand Names at Growing Chains.
Seriously. Seeking funding.
NY Times summarized a study from The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on company names, language and money:
A stock ticker symbol or company name that is easy to pronounce may be a significant factor in short-term increases in stock price, according to a report published online yesterday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Two researchers created a list of fictional stocks and then had a group of students rate them according to ease of pronunciation. “Ulymnius,” for example, was rated complex, while “Mayville” was not.
They then asked a second group to estimate the future performance of each of the stocks. As the researchers predicted, “fluently named” companies were estimated to outperform the hard-to-pronounce ones by a significant margin.
…People respond positively to easily processed information in other areas as well. For example, they are more likely to believe an aphorism that rhymes (”woes unite foes”) than one with an identical meaning that does not rhyme (”woes unite enemies”). Studies cited in the report demonstrate that people more often judge easily processed information to be true, likable, familiar and convincing than more complex data.
The Times fails to mention two other curious reports in Sunday’s PNAS, notably, “Polarized axonal surface expression of neuronal KCNQ channels is mediated by multiple signals in the KCNQ2 and KCNQ3 C-terminal domains” and “A hybrid two-component system protein of a prominent human gut symbiont couples glycan sensing in vivo to carbohydrate metabolism”, which are basically concise summaries of the Interbrand and Landor naming processes, respectively.