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

If names were all literal

safewaylogo.jpgEvery week as a professional namer I see people struggle when they can’t get names that are very descriptive ofstarbucks_logo.jpg their products or services. Yet so few famous brand names are .. so for Xmas fun, lets award some name prizes to names that would have rather different connotations if taken literally.

For exampmicrosoft_logo.jpgle, Safeway is a great name for a condom company, StarBucks is good for the name of a bank in Hollywood, Microsoft is very fine bathroom tissue, and Oracle could be thoracle_logo.jpge Toastmaster’s Club or local church.

Why don’t you think of some more and suggest them, especially after a trip to shop for Xmas.


P.S. Shouldn’t FritoLay be the name of fresh eggs? Look at the logo too!

Dr. Seuss jumble of awful names

This week’s name award goes not to a name, but to David Pogue, a greatnytlogo122×18.gif columnist of the NY Times who recently posted a good article on the garbage coming out of automatic name generators.

More importantly, he called out the companies like Doostang, Wufoo, Bliin, Thoof, Bebo, Meebo, Meemo, Kudit, Raketu, Etelos, Iyogi, Oyogi, Qoop, Fark, Kijiji, Zixxo and Zoogmo that are launching their Web 2.0 sites with these names. We couldn’t but agree more with him that the future of such companies is probably non-existent – unless they will only be dealing with aliens from outer space.

I guess that means they could work as gaming sites. But for the rest of the world, creativity is not ended. There is an endless supply of names that are a lot easier for humans to understand, use and embrace, even if they are not in the dictionary. But they are made up by humans with much smarter brains and resources.

What is a domain worth nowadays?

Recently I had a client who considered buying a domain name for some strange idea he had. As is often the case nowadays when you see it come up with a number of links only on the page, it was hosted at Sedo. The seller was quick to say it had been professionally appraised and that is why the price was $24,000. He also quickly snapped up all the .net, .org, etc. variations once he got this inquiry.

Well guess what? My client had it appraised by Sedo themselves and (probably the two biggest services in the business) and their average price was just under $2,000.

moneyguysml.jpgYes, lots of domains are being bought and sold, but most for sale are worthless. The average sales price ends up being somewhere about $1,500. Sure there are still occasionally the jackpot names out there… but they are few and far between.. and have proven revenue capabilities or are really needed for a new brand name.

This latter case is very rare though when you consider that you can get a good professional naming agency to come up with a new name for a corporate account for less than $6,000. (Even much less for a small business or small proprietorship startup). And that price includes full legal registration, trademark checks and matching .com domain name!

Trademark beer

This week I am working on a beer naming project, which is rather amusing because for weeks I have been thinking of putting up this posting about the Bass Ale name.

basslogo.jpgHave you ever sat in a bar and looked at the big red triangle in the Bass sign, and noticed that it says Trademark across it? They are a very special case in trademark law, as Bass is the first registered trademark ever issued anywhere in the world.

Yes, the British beat the USA to get their system going by a few months. And they selected Bass to be the first trademark. After all, what could be more British than a pint of ale?

So Bass has a name and trademark distinction no other beer will ever have. Of course, today it is a registered trademark around the world – and you do see the magic ® in the bottom right corner.

Androids and Symbians in your cell phone

The dictionary defines Android as a robot with a human appearance. Isn’t it just the old word for Googlelite? And therefore very suitable for Google’s phone operating system development platform? So the much rumored “gphone” was just that – a rumor. But wait, the trademark filing is for hardware and software. And it seems like even their lawyers operate in the very minimalist interface world that has been Google’s signature all along. I doubt I have ever seen any other lawyer file a trademark application in category 9 and simple declare the description as “hardware, software”. This will be fun to watch as it progresses through the USPTO.. but for now.. Google’s lawyers win a 3 trophy award for simplicity. They obviously didn’t come from Intel where the Pentium trademark filing scrolls on for pages and pages of unintelligible fine print. You’d think they were defining each piece of a rocket ship!

Symbian name originAs a lovely sideline to the Android story, many more people are discovering that for years they have been using phones with software based on the Symbian platform… a name that yours truly came up with about 8 years ago. There are millions and millions out there.. and finally my name sees the light of day. I had a fascination with the word symbiosis from when I first learned what it meant.. and finally found a great use for it in a naming project where we had NEC, Nokia and Motorola for a client.. simultaneously.

Getting Fired up About Service Naming

Just about when I was getting fired up about Firedog and similar names (see a few blogs below), serviceforprofitlogo.jpgTom Pencek of Service For Profit was also getting excited about why people pay so little attention to properly naming and branding their service offerings. Since services can be so profitable, why don’t they get the same attention as products?

ideahead25.jpgSo now we are doing a joint one hour webinar to discuss the subject on Wed, Nov 14th at 10am PST. It is free to all. Listen in via an 800# and follow along via your internet browser. Registrants will also get a free download copy of my Creative Naming Supplement – to help you make up names when your own creative juices run dry. (Normally this is part of my Brighter Names: Naming for the Average Propeller Head book).

To register, visit

What’s in a Taiwanese Name?

The November 12th issue of Business Week has a good article titled “What’s in a Name? Fatter Profits” wherein they discuss the move to branded lines of computer and tech products for Taiwan’s old line companies now that they are under such price siege in the OEM market from mainland China. This comes as no surprise. But if they are going to use their own brands on computers, then only Acer has acer1.jpggot it right, even if they re-invent their logo and positioning every few years. (I hope their switch to a lower case logo doesn’t have the same negative effect it has had on other companies like SGI).

In the article, HTC are very proud of their initials.. wonder if anyone has told them they are not as famous as IBM? Nor do they have the same marketing budget. And there is another HTC (or more). The California one is recovering from a big management scandal which makes some of us very leery of any associations with those initials – that stand for nothing we know.

But the real disaster is Asustek… this is how Business Week spells it asuslogo.jpg(and they are of the highest editorial repute). But the trademark is actually on the name Asus and their website is at and not at any of the Asustek domains. And they claim their company name is ASUSTek Computer Inc. All these inconsistencies do not matter much in the OEM space but are tragic in building a consumer brand. Especially when the name is unpronounceable and so awkward to start with.. looks like a typo for Aussie Tech.. now there is a name with more hop in it.

Can I buy a vowel please?

All Scrabble and Wheel of Fortune fans know the value of a vowel. Now it seems like all the e-businesses have snapped up the “e”‘s. We know Apple has used a lot of “i’s and someone somewhere is hoarding the “o”s too.

flickrlogo.jpgHow else do you explain popular new names like Flickr, Razr, Rokr, Rizr, Loopt (pronounced looped)? Of course, we don’t need those vowels – they were silent anyway. Everyone still knows how to pronounce these names… and so the English language continues to evolve. looptlogo.jpgBut speaking of letters not needed, so often I type in Flikr instead of Flickr or Flicker. Perhaps there is too much flickering going on for the Yahooligans… you’d think they would make these other spellings (for Germanic people and those who know good English respectively) point as well to Flickr! Heck, Yahoo is now a top level domain registrar.. does someone have to explain forwarding to them?rokrphone.jpg

PS Motorola probably got tired of paying the original Razor for the name rights. We note with interest that the proper names are now Motorazr, Motorokr, Motorizr, etc.

Zune it will be over

If ever there was a product Microsoft copied off Apple that really was a me too, it is the Zune. Not to worry, new and improved versions are coming Nov 13th with more gigabytes! Yawn. Have you seen the boring new print ads? Double yawn.

zune_logo.jpgI predict this product will zune be gone from the market, long before the zunni’s are gone from the middle east. (I have commented before in my name critic column about the problems with this name.)

In the meantime, for something musical that really is cool – and different frompacemakerlogo.gif Apple’s offerings – check out the new Pacemaker.

Fun name, fun product. It’ll make your musical heart sing.

The foxy service dogs are on fire

firefoxicon.jpgYou could invent an internet browser and steal somebody else’s boring name and called it Internet Explorer (and later pay $7mill to settle the legal infraction), or you could stop being so pedantic and name it Firefox!

firedoglogo.gifBut what do you do when your direct competitor has scooped up the ultra cool Geek Squad.. and equipped them with a lot more decorated VW bugs?

Well, you set the dogs on fire.. and call it Firedog and get your service people jumping through hoops to be of assistance! Congratulations to Circuit City (a big company) to have the chutzpah to pick such a name. Sure beats old style names like Circuit Service Team.