Name Awards Professional Commentary on Company Names, Product Brands and Business Names

Category Archives: Branding

Why Airbnb is a great name

AirbnbLogoI am not so sure about the logo, but for a service that thrives so much on word of mouth and word of mouse, not to mention publicity to spread the brand name, who care.

But for those of you who just don’t get why interesting, different, creative names are so powerful, see how good the name Airbnb is when you compare it with the mostly pedantic competitors:

9 Flats

Couch Surfing

Home Away

HouseTrip

VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner)

Roomarama

Wimdu

Sublet

EvergreenClub

OneFineStay

HouseTrip

OneFineStay

If I was to make an emotionless analysis of the Airbnb name, then I could argue it sounds like the name of business class in some exotic airline. Even Google Ads gets confused and pops up lots of other “air” ads – even though the business has nothing to do with airlines or air anything per se. Plus I am sure people using this service are not usually looking for a Bed and Breakfast (BnB) place.

Try a search for a  B&B and Airbnb doesn’t even come up. But call your friend in New York and ask where can you stay that is affordable – and expect they will respond with Airbnb, as happened to me. I felt like such a clutz for not thinking of that and not realizing Airbnb had now gone mainstream.

© Copyright 2014 – All rights reserved – www.BrighterNaming.com

Absolutdata – Running from their own trademark application!

I am not a teetotaler (well not quite) nor a prude, but I still don’t like software companies named after alcohol drinks. Yes I know Blue Martini was successful for a while, but I never could bring myself to even investigate their offerings. Now along comes a new Silicon Valley startup striving to make a new mark – and of course they need a name. But why name it after not only a big brand in alcohol, but a big, big brand in all branding studies and textbooks.

AbsolutVodkaFor those of you who don’t know, Absolut – like in Vodka, was a struggling brand until in a master stroke of marketing, they pulled the products off the shelf, repackaged it in very unique bottles, raised the price and repositioned it as a premium drink. In addition, and no one has ever executed this quite as well as them ever, they started high end ads and PR where their bottles, and often only bottle outlines, started appearing floating in other images or just standing alone. Many of these images never even mentioned the word Vodka – and they weren’t about to tell you it was the same old formula as before. Just in case you have been living too long with your head in a laptop or cell phone, Absolut Vodka is one of the major brands of the western world today.

Sometimes when you purposefully misspell a word it frees up domain space. But that doesn’t mean it frees up trademark space, especially when it is pronounced the same and is “confusingly similar”. Why Absolute Data Group out of Australia but with worldwide offices, haven’t been after them I don’t know.

Interestingly, AbsolutData have never filed for a trademark on this version of their name ever, only for AD Absolutdata Intelligent Analytics. More interestingly, they have beat a hasty retreat from this trademark application, even filing their own express abandonment of application. You sure don’t see that often unless someone knows they are in trouble. Though Absolut Vodka is a very different product in a very different International Trademark Class, they have protested vigorously, even to the point of referencing the Australian software company.  I am not sure, but they may be trying to claim they are a Super Brand – and surely they are at this stage even though there is still no where to file for Super Brand status in most trademark registers.

Finally, Absolut Vodka is also used in packaging studies as one of the leaders in Vodka packaging – which is mostly about the bottle. Next time you are in the liquor aisle at your favorite store, notice how varied and creative all the vodka bottles are – better than most other alcohols and way better than wine or beer. The main reason for this (in the USA at least) is that vodka is so tightly regulated that there is very little difference in the taste from one to another.

© Copyright 2014 – All rights reserved – www.BrighterNaming.com

Listerine®. What a great timeless brand name.

When I was a kid, Listerine® dominated the mouthwash business. And they still do. Of course they have done steady advertising ever since they were founded, often educating the world about good dental hygiene.

Naming dental and medical productsIt struck me earlier this week that while Listerine is obviously a great name that just rolls off the tongue, I had no idea what it meant or where it came from. Some quick research has shed light on fact that it was actually named after Joseph Lister, who is better known as the father of sterilization of operating room instruments.

Thanks to their advertising and extensive promotions by dentists themselves, we all know the name is pronounced Lis ter een. Through the endless wonders of the English language, this give them a great new rhyming with their new product descriptor Ultraclean.

Such well formed names, with an associated brand that is properly managed, will live forever.

© Copyright 2014 – All rights reserved – www.BrighterNaming.com

One Product, Many Names

The other day I went to the hardware store and asked the young assistant for some Perspex. He looked at me like I was crazy until I explained I wanted some acrylic sheets – that plastic glass-like stuff. “Oh, you mean Plexiglass,” he said.

Of course, we were both right, since generic acrylic sheets are sold under a different number of brand names, including Lucite, Acrylite, Oroglas, Altuglas, Optix, Plaskolite, in addition to the Perspex and Plexiglass names. And it is very interesting to me how a brand name bestows such value and quality and descriptive marketing help on an almost generic product. Most of these brand names are from different manufacturers on different continents and gives them a way to distinguish their products. This results in a little brand name warfare, but that sure beats trying to compete in a fully generic component marketplace like plain window glass manufacturers do daily.

In other cases, you may need different names for a very similar line of products as you take them into different industries. In the plastics world, once again, it is not unusual for a product to have a scientific name, a house brand name, a special name for the medical industry, and another special name for the aircraft industry say. This lets you sell different ‘flavors’ (e.g. purity) of the same product at different price points and through different channels. More than that, these brands help differentiate, separate and preserve products and product handling properly within your own company. It sure beats people running around asking “did you mean -782 or -xx type?” when only suffixes spell out the subtle differences.

If you want to see all the history behind this very interesting product family, including brief discussions of the chemistry, see the Acrylic Glass page on Wikipedia.

© Copyright 2014 – All rights reserved – www.BrighterNaming.com

SKYY is a great name, and it is not for cloud computing

Yesterday I was asking over on Brighter Naming where all the vowels had gone as I surveyed a lot of startup and popular mobile products and services. And, of course, the letter Y is the hybrid letter of our alphabet. Sometimes a vowel, sometimes a consonant. Add to that, we pronounce Sky, Skye and Skyy all the same, not making it easy for foreign English students at all.

drinks naming, branding alcohol Skyy could have been a great name for some cloud computing application or environment, but rather this smooth vodka may be helping some programmer do his or her cloud computing Python or Ruby on Rails dance. Interestingly enough – maybe even mind blowing – Skyy is a fairly recent San Francisco startup, just like many cloud and social media companies.

“SKYY began in 1992 the same way as most things in San Francisco — a tiny startup based on the vision of one entrepreneur and his dream to make something better. In this case, exceptionally smooth vodka. It was this exceptional smoothness that has made SKYY the leading domestic premium vodka in the U.S.”

Where the name came from, I have no idea, but I do like how they play up the twinning aspect in some of their marketing and social media dealings.

 
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FIFA shows how to properly use taglines

Well today the 2014 World Cup tournament is over and we have to wait another four years for this ultimate sports spectacular. Brazil did a great job of hosting the event, and FIFA did a great job of capturing that Brazilian spirit in all their promotional and communications materials. Did you notice how they used a particularly Brazilian tagline/slogan, in addition to Brazilian color, fonts and imagery?

Proper slogan and tagline for companies and events

Now FIFA is a big international operation, based in Switzerland but using its French initials as they are the catchiest. They are not about to change their name for the 2018 competition. But will they change the tagline for Russia? Of course they will. In fact they have already announced it will be “Ready to Inspire”.

And that is one of the beauties of taglines and slogans. They can easily be used and changed as needed every few years without changing the company or organization name at all. For major events like the World Cup they even trademark them, though that is not always needed.

Do take care, however, to carefully match up the slogan with the company or product name. In this case, everyone knows the World Cup, so the slogans are all inspirational. But when you are starting your new company or product line you may want something more descriptive or positional to help your initial launch.

 
© Copyright 2014 – All rights reserved – www.BrighterNaming.com
 

Damn Damballa name bugs me

Software security and consulting naming and brandingWhen I run naming projects, I always like to be fully aware of the company or founders’ personality traits. They usually don’t know this of course, but it shows up in the names they select. Now if you are going to be the company that figuratively (and sometimes literally) puts up a dam wall to keep out malware invasions on the corporate internet, then being the gatekeeper bad guy and naming your company Damballa might be appropriate. For the rest of this, such a name must surely be a heavy burden to bear at work unless you are a he-man, tough commando type guy.

But it sure isn’t my personality, regardless of what field I am currently working in. It just has such a negative feel for me…. at best a military sounding name.   And to be picky as a linguist, do you see that it also reads   damb alla     (where damb rhymes with lamb)? Oh no.

On the other hand, the company seems to be doing very well and one of only two leaders in this field. So a great example of the naming doesn’t always matter. After all, it is just short hand for the brand promise and at the end of the day, customers think of the experience they were implicitly promised and simply use the name to describe that interaction.

© 2013 – All rights reserved – www.BrighterNaming.com

Twilio name tries too hard.

When I first heard of this company, it was the name that caught my attention. That in turn made me concentrate hard to try to understand what they did. In due course I realized the potential of their tool kits and am happy to say it looks like they are really thriving well. Which brings me back to what they do and about that name and logo:

software tools naming, branding new software companies

Probably a more appropriate name for them would have been Twitter.  But if you take tweets and talks and quills and I/O and stir with the right will to succeed, you get Twilio. All in all, a clever name once you get it – but I shudder to think how most Asians will pronounce it.

But now do you understand the logo?  And what about that font they are using for their own name on the website? Even before my blogging software shrinks it a bit here, the i’s and l’s were morphing into each other. You know someone got the font style guide wrong whenever the corporate name itself is the first item to suffer on the web.

 

© 2013 – All rights reserved – www.BrighterNaming.com

X marks the spot – but it is not a name!

FlamingX

Image copyright FanPop

Often I write about naming trends here rather than about bestowing an award on any specific name, and today this lousy trend really has me hot under the collar.

  • Microsoft has the XBox.
  • IBM now has a line of X servers.
  • Xfinity from AT&T (or is it Comcast since they are undifferentiated) has the X1 platform.

Three megabig players who couldn’t find a name between them. So they use an X instead. Reminds me of the poor illiterate person who signs a form with an X.

Yes, I know there are a lot of internal politics surrounding a name choice, not to mention a lot of legal issues too. But you all have good marketing teams. Surely someone with a sense of branding and only a $5,000 spending authorization level can pick up the phone and call a naming consultant or agency to develop a unique name. Maybe not every exec will like the unique new name, but you can just X them off the list.

PS And then give your graphics designers something to work with too!

© 2013 – All rights reserved – www.BrighterNaming.com

Our take on the new e-currency Kwaba name

With all the news breaking about Alibaba’s impending big Chinese IPO, I was reminded of the name Kwaba, a planned new online currency and payment system. If these two companies had a connection that would be great, otherwise they both have interesting naming stories.

First of all, Alibaba is Chinese based and a colleague in Hong Kong that tracks these matters diligently says they are showing no signs of switching to, or adding, Chinese language domain names or portals over and above what they presently have. Of course, as the trading system between Asia and the world, they have to consider the world side. Plus they are also becoming a major player in Africa/World and other trade routes.

What western kid doesn’t know and love the story of Ali Baba and his magic phrase “Open Sesame“. I am just surprised that it is popular and known in the east too. But more power to them – it is magical and memorable. Since Alibaba Group Holdings, a Cayman Islands company that owns the business, has registered the trademark, I assume the old book and movie rights expired.

On the flip side of the coin we have a name so new no one knows it yet. The owners see Kwaba as a purely phonetic word that they can brand to be the next important digital currency. And yes, to most it is a purely phonetic word.  But even then, we are human and naturally strive to associate every name with something, if nothing else but to have a hook in our memory for  recall. As a result this style of branding has mostly been left to the big boys, like back in the days of Kodak, Exxon, Kinkos, etc.  Good sounding, meaningless words with sticky consonants for sharp recall.

kwabaOnly time and execution will tell if the Kwaba name works. No problem at all for youngsters immersed in modern online gaming worlds with their own complete vocabularies. Also no problem for anyone with a knowledge of Africa words as it has a common African language construction (one of the few places you see “kw” like the kwagga animal). For many others, they may think you are saying quaba just like kwik spells quick phonetically.
Certainly this name will go down better in England and English colonial countries where they use a softer a, as do most European languages. In America the a might get loud so the name sounds more like crab a and that would be very problematic.

Pity they couldn’t get their hands on the name Kwando instead…  just as abstract, although it has an implied Can Do, and a famous Kwando, kwando, kwando musical piece to go with it (or is it Quando, quando, quando?).

Caution: Just because a domain registrar or broker or trader rates a name premium, doesn’t mean it is a premium name at all – except if such listing helps them get an exorbitant fee for a pedantic name they can barely give away in a normal marketplace.

© 2013 – All rights reserved – www.BrighterNaming.com