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

Category Archives: Name Winners

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.

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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 –

Raptr has my Raptor in Raptures

Oh how I do love to see a great name when I visit anywhere, and this is one I found in Silicon Valley earlier this week. Raptr is obviously a fun name for a social gaming site, but also a magic trick with languages when the abbreviation can be form two different words, both positive.

RaptrLogoAnd they didn’t stop there. A cool little logo makes all this so so much better than their old corporate name – the meaningless GXL Inc. And properly registered as a US Federal Trademark too.  I will be sending all my gaming friends over today – I am sure they will be in rapture playing with the little raptor.


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Late July is a great fresh packaged food name

I have been meaning to blog here for weeks but kept running into only bad names – and I have been reluctant to put my black hat on too many of them. Then this morning I was served in the bank by a lovely lady named April and was very tempted to ask her if her sisters were called May and June. Thereafter I went to the supermarket and found Late July new organic chips on an end cap shelf and I broke down and bought a bag as my treat of the week.

Whenever naming packaged food products I encourage customers to please think outside the bag. Doesn’t always work because they are so enamored by what they have concocted in the kitchen (or lab) they just want to describe it somehow. Others, like Nicole Dawes here, realize a new brand name, which will subsequently have many products or flavors, is really needed. Since she gets so many questions about the name, she has made up a great feel good story about that being the perfect time in summer for family relaxation. Well maybe, but the cynic in me wants to say, hang on, what about those people in mid winter in Australia? Or the people burning up in a long, hot summer in Phoenix?

LateJuly_Packaged_Food_NamesAnd, of course, the fact that her birthday is on July 31st is purely coincidental :) Anyway she has some great product names and packaging as you can see here.

I wonder if there is no vinegar in her sea salt flavored chips because her kids are a key part of the taste and flavor development process? This is my only disappointment since though her chips are all super healthy and have no sugar, all those carb heavy snacks turn to sugar fast in my diabetic system. And sour ingredients, like vinegar, mitigate the sweetness dramatically. I can even see the difference in my blood sugar readings. But the kick of vinegar is an adult taste unfortunately.  Hmm vinegar and sea salt… fond memories of fish and chips.


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AARP has a great new tagline

AarpLogoTaglineAs the big baby boom wave starts to hit retirement age in the USA, it is very appropriate that the biggest retirement organization (unfortunately with just another set of initials name) chooses to update its position and go for a great new tagline: Real Possibilities.

I love it when so much power is contained in so short a tagline, and always wonder how many hundreds of words and taglines they studied before coming up with the final winner. In addition, it is nice to see the writers and editors in their magazine also embracing the tagline and making numerous references to it and using it as a hook for a number of stories.

Some companies and organizations are just stuck with an old name or set of initials. A new logo doesn’t make much of a difference. But anyone can do a new tagline or slogan, and easily get it legally approved. Congratulations to AARP for showing us a great example.

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Leatherhead Originals is a great name for a small outfit

Sometimes it seems to me we over think all these clever company names, and then along comes a very small business that shows us how a basic, but unique name, can do the job so well.

LeatherheadOriginalsIf you are looking for a jaw dropping great affect from your friends and family at the next Medieval Faire, fancy dress or Halloween, then seriously consider a leather hat or mask (or in my case helmet) from Leatherhead Originals. Beautiful soft, lined and often recycled leather in many colors are the materials of choice for this master craftsman. Yes, quality costs money, but ignore the price, you are going to keep it forever.
Plus Josh’s tagline is simple and direct: Unique Leather Hats & Masks.

And if the name and tagline haven’t hooked you yet, see the illustration logo on his business card here. Wow. If he can make that, what can this master craftsman make for you? See a lot more of his work on Etsy now that you know his name.

© 2013 – All rights reserved –

Red Hat names sure get your attention

RedHatLogoWhen the Unix Open Source movement started with Linx way back when, I immediately noticed all the companies springing up to commercialize it. That in itself was an interesting idea because how do you make money off “free” software was a big question in those days. Even then, before I transitioned into being a naming professional full time I noticed the names. Without doing some research I can’t tell what the others were, or even if they have survived. But I can tell you I remembered the name Red Hat from the outset, and it continues to jump out at me every time I see the name.

Interestingly enough, I have not seen (or noticed) the logo as much but I do have a vague recollection of once upon a time wondering why some guy was ambling around a trade show in a big trench coat and a red hat. This name is so simple, so evocative and so unusual, it really stands well by itself.

RedHatSocietyLogoCompare that with the Red Hat Society and their use of the name and logo. I had never heard of this name and had to research it when I did first encounter it. Of course, I am not a lady, and even if I was I am not sure I would have the personality to dress up to the hilt in red and purple to go to lunch with other ladies. But what do I know. You will recognize them at their own table somewhere someday, if you haven’t already, as they now they claim to be the world’s largest ladies social group. And yes, they wear big hats just like in their logo – and typically dress in red and purple too.

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Do you know why Parktown Dental is a great and strategic name?

ParktownDentalI am preparing a new comprehensive article on why you should not name your business after yourself when I was reminded of this Dental Service I used to walk by on my way to the gym. Being a namiac even simple names like Parktown catch my eye – in particular because that was a suburb name where I grew up (a couple of continents away).

Thinking I might get a clue from the dentists’ names, I checked the small print of this basic facility in Fremont, California. The partners were called Espejo and Nguyen, if I recall properly, back in those days. I never did find out why they called it Parktown unless they got that name from some version of Monopoly or something, but that isn’t the point. What if they did not want to cater exclusively to Hispanic or Vietnamese clients? Especially as they were located in a neighborhood that is predominantly Indian, Chinese and Caucasian?

More than that, suppose I wanted to recommend them. Instead of saying you should see my Dr Nguyen (or Dr Tim as I might have said to help him get a new client in the door), I can easily say go see Parktown Dentistry. Just sounds upper/middle class and is so easy for everyone to grasp and remember. Why they picked Parktown is irrelevant.. it is simply a great change from the Dentist’s own names. And I have remembered it for over 10 years, even though my name brain database overflows daily.

And it has one more great benefit, as was proven in this case. Dr Nguyen is no longer with the group. But I am sure they still want his Vietnamese patients – and many more of all sorts of international backgrounds seen in Silicon Valley now they have expanded to Mountain View too. And certainly not only Hispanic clients, even though the principles are now Espejo, Mohica and Espejo. One is even a lady dentist, which some people (mainly idiots) don’t like. All this is hidden behind the great branding and marketing of Parktown. My hat’s off to you.

© 2013 – All rights reserved –

Xooming to new heights

XoomLogoThis past Friday Xoom executed on the ultimate branding event – going public on the stock exchange. As a regular user of the Xoom service, which beats the competitors by a mile, I feel remiss for not commenting on their name earlier.

Much as I like the name, I am surprised how many people hesitate over the pronunciation. Even though they know how to say xylophone and Xerox, for some reason they don’t immediately get that this name is simply Zoom with an X.

After many, many years in the naming business I continue to be pleasantly surprised about how the change of one letter in a name can make a big difference. Zoom is pedantic and common, but Xoom is unique and interesting. It doesn’t say “transfer money” like Moneygram implies, but then again it is a lot more appropriate a name than Western Union – as long as you haven’t grown up with Western Union as the brand for sending money.

And for all you software houses out there, don’t think of Xoom as just a way to send money to relatives. Think of it as a way to send money to off-shore contractors and vendors, especially those not wed to Paypal.

© 2013 – All rights reserved –

Both Events win Name Awards – Spartan Race & Tough Mudder

In the new world of he man sports obstacle racing is growing like gangbusters. When I was a young business professional we went and did the Lake Run or Zoo Run or went Reservoir Windsurfing. Today’s youngsters (and others) don’t have time for boring things like Ironman marathons, so the sport of Obstacle Racing is exploding.  Seems a lot like army training without the uniform and the dumb kommandant yelling at you. Plus this way you can shower off and go back to work on Monday morning.

Event naming, naming of sportin goods and clothingAnyway, two companies both claim to be the leaders in this sport: Spartan Race with its west coast origins, and Tough Mudder with its east coast (via some exBrits) origins. Both are well promoted and branded. Both are properly trademarked and protected – probably helped along by them both realizing early on the merchandising potential of their events, brands and goods. But which one has the best name, from a purely naming point of view?

Sports naming, equipment naming, event naming, sports product brandingWhat style of name would you have selected: Tough Mudder which is descriptive with the right sort of tough mother edginess, with instant recognition (in fact the name has been used for other events, like in trucking) or Spartan Race which is unique and tough sounding, but doesn’t explain much – and in fact taken literally Spartan could even imply threadbare and not Sparticus-like warriors?

For us the answer is very clear. Both these names are deserving of a naming award – in large part because they are unique names and not copies, nor are they boring very descriptive “ultimate obstacle events” names. Both stand out from the crowd. Both are unique enough to be legally owned and will develop good mind share  in short order.

Of course, like any event attracting such a following so quickly, the sponsors were sure to show up…  so we can’t blame Reebok for putting their name upfront. Maybe Tough Mudder will find a sponsor humble enough to play second fiddle. For example Tough Mudder by Firestone.

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