Ask now Jeevesless

Ask Jeeves has changed its name to Ask.com, muddying the branding waters with About.com and Answers.com.

Of bigger concern is the track record of generic brands on the web, especially in this space. Remember FindWhat, LookSmart, InfoSeek, AllTheWeb, etc? How about Pets.com, Drugstore.com or Business.com? And there are no intellectual property laws stopping anyone from launching AskAbout.com, AboutAnswers.com or AskAboutAnswers.com.

When is comedy not funny?

Right now. Or at least begining at 12:10 pm pst today. If you are close to San Francisco, tune to 91.7 on the radio or listen online here. Igor’s Senior Brand Strategist Andy Valvur and our good friend Will Durst will be discusing what makes funny funny.

A man about a horse

Former Enron Broadband CEO Ken Rice laid out the power of language in court this week, demonstrating the value inherent in what a business is called. From Fortune:

He later described a May 1999 meeting where Skilling advised Enron’s top executives that, to boost the company’s shares, they needed to help him dream up an alternative to describing Enron as a “trading company” — since Wall Street viewed trading companies as risky ventures, and refused to give them lofty multiples. Management soon embraced a new mantra: Enron was a “logistics” company, engaged in “intermediation.” Its multiple began to soar.

The rollout of the broadband business accelerated that process. When Enron announced broadband’s new status as one of the company’s “core” businesses at a January 2000 analysts’ meeting, Enron shares leapt 25 percent overnight. The problem? “The business had very few customers and almost no deal flow,” Rice testified. And, oh yes — costs of $100 million a quarter.

Alas, the power of language and the leverage it wreaks in framing perception is equally potent in the cloven grip of a centaur as it is in the hand of man.

Stay tuned — coming up next on ‘My Little Pony’, Honolu-Loo pony hedges against U.S. inflation by going long on Japanese equities and buying puts on the yen.

The Finite Mind

The inane monosyllabic grunts of Igor co-flounder Steve Manning can be suffered through on this week’s “The Infinite Mind” (he’s on for contrast) radio show on NPR. If you don’t normally listen to the radio at 3 a.m. on Sunday, you can listen online.

Johnny Depp Jumps the Shark

Johnny, we hardly knew ye. The description on the steering wheel reads, “Naturally Sweetened Chocolate Pearl Shaped Cereal with Pirate Shaped Marshmallows”. In fact the marshmallows are heart, pentagon and other non-ship shaped shapes, so your actual satisfaction may depend on your definition of “Pirate”. Let’s see how Sean Penn tops this.

Johnny Depp Cereal

Embarq is new name for Sprint local

According to the U.SP.T.O., the other two leading contenders for the new company name were Zilliant and 5Point, so Hobson’s choice.…

All three names were filed for T.M. registration on the same day, on Sprint’s behalf (actually through a dummy corp. to throw people like us off the scent). This is S.O.P. when a company is trying to make a final choice on a name.

[ More posts about | More blogs about Embarq ]

qwerky is as qwerky does

qwerky is one of the best sites on naming that you’ve never seen. The proprietors describe their mission thusly:

This is qwerky, notebook of the weirdest new webapp names.

And a gorgeous notebook it is, an hilariously perilous stroll down the B.S. laden halls of Web 2.0 speak. One defining broken neuron that all Web 2.0 guru-hoohahs share is that their naming, branding and communication sensibilities are stuck in 1999. It’s still all about a short domain name, no matter how poor a name it may be.

Here are a few names from Qwerky’s list of sites currently in beta–stealth mode:

Diigo, Noodly, Gootodo, Renkoo, Woomp, Zoozio, Gliffy,
Colib, Tagsy ,Tioti, Otavo, Wrickr, Skobee and Flagr.

Notice the frequent occurrence of the “oo”? It’s unclear if the “oo” trend began as an homage (to put it nicely) to Google and Yahoo,
but the “thinking” behind Web 2.0 name “Squidoo” can be sloshed though here.

In any event, keep checking back in with qwerky- it’s good stuff. And while the names qwerky collects do not serve as good examples, they do serve as horrible warnings.

Good naming news

Today heralds the launch of Accomplice, a new time / project management software company. The name works in large part because “accomplice” is a word that is mostly invoked when something tawdry is afoot, yet when used in this context that quality gives the name just the right amount of intrigue, relevance and memorability.

Most companies would have vetoed the name Accomplice for fear of possible implied criminal traits, but this company was smart enough to know that the target audience is not that literal. Nicely done.

Additionally, the Accomplice tagline, “Your partner in time” confidently calls back the “negative” (intriguing) aspect of the name.