At what point… cute company names bounce off the public consciousness.

I'm there already, are you?

Comments (7)

  1. Jonathan says:

    Seriously, anything that ends with "r" rather than "er" (ie Flickr, etc.) should be banned.  It would seem that companies are getting their company names from a ""

    I realize that it’s the "hip generation" and that many legitimate company names have been snapped up by "squatters", but let’s be real.  The reality is that one simply has to drop the following:

    * instead of "ed", just end with "d"

    * instead of "er", just end with "r"

    * instead of "or", end with "oor"

    * end your company with "-search"

    * etc. etc.

    BTW, if you don’t already have a company name then just use the following to get that uber-name:

    1.  Brand Name Generator:

    2.  If you’re a "New Media Company" then use the following:

    3.  If all else fails then use the following name generator (includes Google check too)

    There’s never a shortage of "quick fixes" eh?

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    Or stick your hand into a bag of Scrabble tiles and pull something out!Or did I means Scrab*l…Scraabble.

  3. Jonathan says:

    Actually that would be one of the following:

    1. Scrabl

    2. Scrabblr

    3. abbleScra

    4. ScrabbleSearch

    5. ScrabbleCaster

    6. etc

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    Someone should alert Milton Bradley

  5. Paul says:

    It is easy to be harsh regarding little companies you’ve never heard of, but not so long ago those companies included Google, Oracle, Yahoo, Microsoft and eBay.  At the time, all of those names seemed cute and were following the trends of the day.

    The things that matters with any coined brand name are:

    – memorability

    – how it reflects or embodies the brand essence

    – trademarkability

    – consistency of application

    – how much is invested to build the brand

    – the quality of products and services behind the brand

    – luck

    Whether you like a weird spelling like Flickr or not, it does have the strong advantages of being distinctive and trademarkable.  It also suggests a sort of friendliness or happy feeling – I personally think of fireflies and the times I have helped my kids catch one in a jar.  Not a strong product association, but it is positive, and with money and widespread use, it becomes a very strong brand name and trademark.

    If you look at any period in the past 100 years and the naming trends of the day, you would say that the vast majority of names were crummy, that they sounded or sound silly even today.  On the other hand, if the company or product was successful, it became a part of our language and everyday speech. We don’t think twice about names like Xerox today, but when it was coined, it sounded and looked just as odd to its intended audience.

    If you don’t like the current trends, start your own and see how difficult it is to come up with something that meets all the standards of a strong brand name.  The truth is, any name can be good or bad depending on what you’re selling, who you’re selling it to, and how intelligently you market the brand.  Unmemorable cutesy names usually get that way because the company either had a weak product idea, or poor marketing, or both, not because of the name per se.

  6. HeatherLeigh says:

    Well, there are still too may of them and the werid spellings don’t help make them memorable for me. I don’t need to start my own company to have my own opinion (that’s what this here blog is for..whee!). And I am supposed to feel better about these companies because they have a weak product ideas or poor marketing. Uh, doesn’t the poor marketing kind of lead to the names?

    I always bristle when someone says "if you don’t like x, do y". Nope, don’t have to. I can just sit here not liking it.

  7. Paul says:

    Sorry about the "if you don’t like it" phrasing.  In the interest of brevity, I used some unfortunate shorthand, and ended up miscommunicating the point.

    In every era, there are trends that affect naming of products and companies and the creation of new words.  There are indeed some really bad names (probably most of them actually), but my point was that if you didn’t have the "success" context for names like Oracle or eBay or Google, or even Microsoft, they would be just as insignificant and unmemorable in the sea of sound-alike and look-alike names from their era of origination.

    Good marketing can greatly amplify success, but bad marketing doesn’t necessarily have as strong a negative pull if you have other things going for you (e.g. great salespeople, monolopy market position, first to successfully position in market with a novel product meeting key buyer needs).  And, whether marketing is good or bad, the marketing function doesn’t always control the company name — it is often a fact of life that they have to work around, because the founder was an engineer who came up with the idea and found out that the URL was available (one of the key drivers in naming today).

    Ultimately, when a company becomes successful, whether its name is good or bad, they acquire an aura of recognition that diminishes the silliness of the name, and suddenly what seemed like an awful name becomes a good name because it sounds more distinctive.

    I certainly should have left off the "if you don’t like it" part, but I suggest you try this as an exercise to see how truly hard it is.  Using the criteria that matter when coining a name, try to invent even one really strong distinctive trademarkable name (that is usable in any language) that you really like and that doesn’t follow the fads of the day.

    The truth is, I don’t like cutesy names either, but virtually all names will bounce off the public consciousness (i.e. they lack "stickiness" in the current vernacular) and fail.  That isn’t a factor of cuteness, but rather of lack of market success.

    Here is one other way to test this notion – find a company that is very successful in a specialized niche, but who you’ve never heard of.  When you are unaware of their market positioning and probably even their existence, in all likelihood their company, product and service names will all seem lame (unsticky).  But, within their niche, you would find the opposite.  Their customers and prospects all know the name and associate strong positive things with it.  It no longer bounces off, no matter how cute or copycattish, but is the standard by which others are judged.

    btw, did you think that eBay was a good name the first time you heard it?  It has no meaning.  It doesn’t suggest anything.  It was part of the cutesy e-everything trend in the late 90s.  But it is one of the truly strong trademarks in the business today, with a nearly unassailable market position. And, it was established not on the back of marketing prowess, but by having a valuable service, being the first to do it right, and strong word of mouth.

    Also, I should say that I wasn’t so much responding to your initial post, but to the responses of people piling on.  You are too young to remember the 1950s and 60s, but there was quite a famous tiff that Winston cigarettes started with their slogan "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should".  English teachers everywhere used this as an example of how advertising was ruining the language and dumbing us all down.  Interesting, because most people wouldn’t even recognize the inappropriate grammar (the word ‘like’ should be ‘as’).  Despite this, or perhaps because of this, it was one of the most successful campaigns in history.  My parents even made a big deal out of this, insisting that we use the words ‘like’ and ‘as’ correctly, but they, like the other posters on your blog missed the point.

    Winston stuck with it and rode the notoriety to the bank with the snappy comeback "What do you want, good grammar or good taste?", strongly establishing their position as the best tasting cigarette.  So, the important takeaway isn’t whether you have a dismally crappy name that was generated but a lexical construction tool or goofy brand name generator – the important thing is how you leverage what you’ve got.

    All that said, we’re all allowed to dislike anything that strikes us a unlikable.  That’s why you get to be ruler of your own blog.

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