As the year comes to an end, we wanted to take a look back and recognize some naming work that, too often, goes under the radar. We want to give credit where credit is due and celebrate the strategies that go behind naming. Below are some of the names that caught our eye, made us smile and made us do a double take.
Best name that would also work for a Bond girl:
Verily, the new name for Google Life Sciences, has an archaic ring to it, an innocent tone that’s waiting to be sullied by some randy double entendre a la the James Bond movies of the Pierce Brosnan era. (Anyone remember “I thought Christmas only comes once a year?” No?) But it’s this old-fashioned sensibility—it’s how Shakespeare might have said “certainly” or “truly”—that gives the name a humanness, contrasting with the hard data and sterility that science is commonly associated with. This is life sciences, after all. It’s humans working to make human lives better. And that’s a truly worthwhile thing, isn’t it?
Best new clever name:
Move over millennials, it’s all about the centennials now. Centennials was the new name given this year to the generation that comes after millennials (currently aged 0-18, born 1997 to present). Why have they been so cleverly named? Centennials are “being born at the turn of the century.” They can keep up with the pace at which technology advances. The rationale was also given that one “cent” is smaller than one “mill.” Ah, so smart! I think marketers are also excited that this is the newest generation getting credit cards, which also starts with a “C.” Hmm…
Best name you can project your own meaning onto:
On the face of it, Facebook M—the name for Facebook’s new digital assistant—has a frustrating lack of clarity. What’s the M supposed to stand for? Messenger? Me? But the name’s ambiguity is also its strength. M is a personal assistant, after all; it can mean anything you want it to mean. More time. Make it happen. Perform miracles for me. Sure, it’s ultimately just a truncated way of referring to Facebook Messenger, the app on which M lives, but let’s not be too hasty in considering this a lazy name. I prefer to think of it as meaningful, in my own way.
Best name that shouts, “I’m wanna be cool:”
Freeform is the new channel name that will replace the ABC Family name. Owned by Disney, the channel is rebranding in an effort to more closely speak to their target of 14- to 34-year-olds. They learned that some non-viewers found the word “family” off-putting, since they associated it with “family friendly” and “wholesome.” I guess we learn cooler, more modern values from Pretty Little Liars than from older shows like Gilmore Girls and Full House. While the channel’s strategy has evolved and grown up, Freeform helps speak to the idea of molding young minds and becoming your own self.
Best name that’s pretty sure of itself:
Anheuser-Busch’s new Best Damn Brewing platform aims “to bring you the Best Damn thing you’ve had all day,” and it’s launching with… root beer. (Don’t worry, it’s got alcohol.) The name has personality—it mirrors the confidence you get after you’ve downed a couple of drinks, after which anything you taste will probably be the best damn thing you’ve ever had. And the tone is fitting for the everyday machismo of a beer brand, while offering a flexible platform for the brand to experiment with different brews. After all, what better time to experiment than after you’ve knocked back a few?
Best name that makes you think twice:
Around October, Google launched a new service named YouTube Red. It allows users to stream ad-free content for $9.99 per month. At first thought, it made me think of “going into the red,” for another monthly streaming service we need to pay. But executives at YouTube said that fans associated the term “red” with YouTube and with love, with YouTube’s red carpet. While there’s a long list of other things that can be associated with the color red, I believe they missed an opportunity to speak to the benefit of getting ad-free content through the name. While YouTube has a very simple naming system, usually very descriptive, YouTube Red breaks the mold and gets more suggestive which, of course, leaves a little room for interpretation.
While creating and choosing a name is a challenge, it’s important to make sure your communication objective is strategically being met. Does it make sense for the brand? Does it follow your naming system? Will consumers get it? Will new consumers be attracted to it? While we like to say that a name can only say one thing (maybe two) very well, brands need to make sure that their new name is telling their story in the right way.
Photo courtesy of JSA