Taglines and slogans are part of the art and science of naming, so I thought it is about time we gave an award to a good new tagline. In case you have been on another planet, eBay has changed its tagline to Shop Victoriously. Not only is it a great tagline, it is also a great marketing slogan and general rallying cry. It is both descriptive and inspirational.
And a massive improvement over the old Whatever it is, you can get it on eBay. Oh how I love the power of the right two words… that rescue us from the boring, corporate, descriptive taglines of old.
PS Do you know that eBay’s original company name was WebAuction? See other Famous Name Changes too and learn how a less descriptive name is a better brand name in the long run.
Today’s award goes to all namers who have had to endure the rants and raves from corporate executives about how they hate us for making up coined names.
They say how they will never embrace such names – even as they drive down the street in their Camry’s, talking on their Verizon phones, munching on some Oreos as they stop for Exxon gas, before heading over to Kinkos to send a Fedex parcel. Sigh.
While VentureBeat gave a good mention to Xobni’s presentation at the recent Tech Crunch 40 in San Francisco, more than one person has asked me about this name. In short, no - it is not clever. Any name that has to continually be explained usually gets changed when they have some salespeople on the phones making 100 calls a day.
Don’t you think prospects will think they have backward salespeople if the first thing they hear is “Oh yes, that is our name, it is backwards for Inbox.” And when they do more than recover email, what then? Perhaps by then they will have raised enough money to pay a professional to get them a new name… and save as much the first month in squandered sales and marketing costs. Some people might even pronounce this name Sob Knee.
Reminds me of a friend’s email. Her name is fairly common, so she picked an email address where her name is spelled backwards. What a pain. No one gets it – or gets it right!
Yesterday’s Expo at the awfully named Plug and Play Tech Center had even the Mercury News commenting on some of the strange names making pitches for funding. If fact Scott Harris was reminded of his Dr. Seuss names when he saw companies like Moowee, Twiki and Planaroo.
In particular, he researched that the supposed root origins for Moowee are a little (wee) movie. Come on guys, any English 5th grader can tell you that Moowee is Cow Piss! This name rates a triple bomb… unless you have seen their logo which does a reasonable job of fixing a bad name. Imagine calling so bigger companies and explaining that you are from Moowee. Might work down on the farm though
I wonder what Planaroo is all about. Especially why are they at a tech conference. Their logo makes it look like they are in the baby-planning business. Maybe it is biotech related.
In the much better naming category, maybe even the really good category, we like Bambi Francisco’s Vator.tv, even though I was slow on the draw realizing it came from Elevator Pitches. The name style is very interesting, even though it is a simple truncation once you realize what they do. And I should know. I literally made a pitch in an elevator to get my first job out of college.
With Palm politely announcing they are canceling their $10 million Follyo (I mean Foleo) it got me to thinking about their name and logo again. Doesn’t the name Palm seem a bit naked standalone, but powerful when coupled with a product name? In fact, that was the original idea for Palm Computing and the great name Palm Pilot. Of course, that was until Pilot Pens stood up and said “Hey wait a minute. That is our name and brand.”
So today we have the Palm Treo instead. How come their hand only has 3 fingers? Are they slightly handicapped? But I’m OK, as you can see in the logo here, My Palm has 5 fingerprints.
And shouldn’t they have named the company Palms? Especially for a high volume product they are trying to get into the hands of many consumers? Then the casino in Las Vegas could have been at Palm.com instead. After all, there is only one, even though it has a trio of leaves. Must be the same 3 fingered designer!
While Palm was the first commercially successful PDA (Personal Device Assistant aka Pretty Darn Awkward) product company, somewhere along the line as they went through yet another management change, they came up with a new logo. In high resolution and properly rendered it has a nice orange 3D look. But what were/are they trying to tell us. Oranges grow on palm trees. No? Must be to caution investors. Not yet red, but not green either. And nothing to do with hands anymore.
Many an executive has said (or at least thought) that any old name will do since they have such great technology or such a great solution, or even such a great sales force? But what happens when you grow up?
A123 Systems cut their teeth in lithium ion battery technology making batteries for RC Model cars. Then progressed to power tools. And now hybrid vehicles. The company is hot, hot, hot. (Hope the batteries are not!) So any old name will do. But really guys, A123 might work in the model car business. Isn’t it time for an adult name that doesn’t sound like you were just stuck and wanted to be at the front of the yellow pages?
Hint: Tesla has a great name, and they are also a hot startup. Maybe even your customer.
I have actually been approached by marketing students who have asked why Hyundai doesn’t change its name. Well, not so easy for an international auto company, especially where it takes so much time and money to build brand awareness. Plus no one wants to repeat one of the biggest naming mistakes of all time – when Datsun changed their name to Nissan to satisfy a few investors… and alienated a few million consumers and customers for years.
But at least Hyundai is using colorful and descriptive model names to cut through the noise of numbers and boring old names the other auto companies seem to be stuck on. In particular, my favorite of the week is Entourage. How appropriate for a minivan! Plus it has won more safety awards than any other minivan so your whole entourage can ride in the Entourage with confidence.
Inc magazine has just released their annual 500 fastest growing private companies list. As usual, this makes great reading for business and financial and entrepreneurial types, but it is also a lot of fun for some potential name awards. At least on this list you get some imaginative and distinctive names, not like all the boring ones on the Fortune 500 list.
There was still the usual cadre of boring names that will never be household brands, like Hospital Partners of America at number 3, all the way down to Image Solutions at number 500. But for some fun, how about Red F Marketing at number 106 which they say is short for Redefining the Future .. not the Red F you got in class? (Their logo is as boring as they come so we do not show it here). Now we can’t but wonder if 5W Public Relations will move up from number 153 and one day become 10W 50 P.R. say?
Solid Cactus from Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania came in at 255, (Hex FF for you computer propeller heads) making us wonder if an Arizona cactus was perhaps hollow. Leading the real strange and weird name award category though is Urooj at number 399. Imagine being a sales or marketing exec and having to call fifty people a day – and tell them you are from Urooj!
But the big disaster is at number 422. Coolibar is a rude and offensive name to a large ethnic group. We are staggered that no one recognizes this. The C word to most Indians is as bad as the N word to most African Americans. Double ouch disaster!
A week or so ago, Sun Microsystems changed their stock exchange name to Java in an attempt to perk up their corporate listing. But Sun has always been an interesting name because (a) it is such a common word, (b) the founders claimed it was short for Stanford University Network originally, and (c) it is such a difficult name to own and protect.
Even when Sun was founded, there was already a Sun Moon Star computers in Los Angeles. And many other Sun names especially in Asia. So even the State of California had them add the stupid moniker Microsystems. Lucikly we all just called them Sun and ignored fact they have seldom done anything micro like, except design a few chips.
But along the way, a small R&D group was working on a computer language that had the long-awaited appeal of write once, run anywhere. This was called Oak originally, based on the tree outside their office window (very creative!). When that sounded old and stodgy, they changed the name to Green. Maybe it was springtime! But when Kim Polese showed up as product manager, it was renamed Java. Oh the magic when a marketer knows what they are doing – and gets her way. No changes needed from engineering except to change all the name references. And a whole new world opened up.
The rest they say is history… except it is not over yet. The original power of Sun workstations was simply the fact that they took existing technologies and properly integrated and commercialized them. Now many others have figured that out.
Java, on the other hand, was unique and different and original research. One day, that is what they will be most known for, and the child will be more famous than the parent, and the company itself will be renamed Java!
When you list the names of online job services, it is dominated by names like:
and many others that all start to sound alike as they are almost generic. Companies that described themselves as opposed to really naming themselves.
And then there is Monster.com! Just cuts through the noise doesn’t it? What the heck is the connection between jobs and monsters? Don’t they even have a negative or scary image? Well, yes, but that was solved graphically with a cute little friendly monster that shows up at various times.
So I recognize this name with a full 3 trophies award.
And sometimes when you work smart and hard, you get lucky. Maybe even very, very lucky. Like when a company with a similar name, that few have heard of outside the broadcast and video equipment industry, decides to pay millions to the San Francisco 49′ers to remain their Candlestick Park home football field Monster Park. My casual surveys continue to show that many people think this is named after Monster.com and not Monster Cable Company. Wow.. what a great free fortuitous PR event. Your name on a stadium for free.