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

Category Archives: Name Origins

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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!

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Fly the rough (I mean rouge) skies of Canada

Naming Canadian new products, branding products in CanadaOK folks, some of you may be very fluent with French words or used to putting rouge something or other on your face. But for the less educated in worldly languages, and for those of us who speed read, do you really want to fly an airline that looks rough, or maybe even a rogue?

Will everyone know it is pronounced roooge and not a rhyming word with gouge?  Isn’t English fun? Will Canadians take to having their sacred red maple leaf flag and logo in a new shade?
I still meet a lot of people who don’t know that Montreal is the second biggest French speaking city in the world. But even I didn’t stop to think that Montreal is the Canadian airline capital. But so what? One hour after take off and they are out of French Canadian airspace!

naming german products, german product branding servicesI am told by reliable sources that chicken wings are often called Buffalo wings in the USA because they were invented in Buffalo New York.  Only took me about 20 years to learn this basic fact! So now will they be served on German Wings when they are up against Rouge?

Notice: German Wings, not Deutsch Flügeln even though it may take 3 or 4 hours of flying to be outside of Deutschland airspace.

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Infragistics Name wins Award for Being so Awkward

At the recent Silicon Valley Code Camp, Infragistics provided the registration lanInfragisticsToggleyards as shown in the photo here. The novel idea of a zipper wasn’t obvious to all of us at the first go around. More importantly, we saluted them for doing such sponsorship because their marketing team have a daily problem promoting anything with such an awkward name. I am sure they picked the name because they thought it was descriptive of what they do – but it can’t be that descriptive if they still needed a descriptive tagline: Design / Develop / Experience.

This reminds me a lot of the companies that tried to use the word Intranet to emphasize what they were involved in. Sure this is a valid technical word. Doesn’t mean it works in naming. Any linguist can explain to you why it is so awkward and not even close to being on a par with Internet. Oh the joys of the English language. A small subtle change can have a major effect – especially on brand names.

InfragisticsLogoWhy couldn’t they just have chosen examples like Fragistics or Infrastics instead? Still just names. A little more intellectual perhaps. A million times easier and shorter to brand.  AND as of this writing, the .com domain names are all clear and available.

 

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Makings of a fab trademark fight. What a waste.

JustFabLogoOver on Tech Crunch Catherine Shu has layed out the full dirty mess of the Fab.com vs JustFab.com trademark lawsuit and countersuits. Wouldn’t you be mad if you were an investor in either of these because they are wasting so much money on lawyers airing their dirty laundry in public?

Who will blink first?  Is that a bomb by the JustFab logo?

Ridiculous. Neither of these sites get a name award from us. Makes me wish they would all be thrown out as being generic names so neither can have a registered trademark. Come on guys, there is not such a worldwide shortage of names. Just a shortage of creativity.

As one simple example, Gilt is apparently cleaning up and selling out on everything they offer. So my advice is don’t get confused by which Fab is billing your credit card unexpectedly, shop at Gilt or some other real brand name site.

 

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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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