Names for the next sharing economy business

Naming social media sitesNow that Uber, Lyft and Airbnb are off and running with mega big growth worldwide, it is no surprise to see a rush to create other such social sharing businesses. Postmates is a personal courier service – sort of Uber for parcels. Lantern brings you mental healthcare services via your smartphone, EatWith brings you dining partners for in home cooked meals, Fitmob provides easy access to trainers’ services,  etc, etc.

From a branding perspective, why is it that all these new offerings are trying so hard with their short descriptive names? Are the three big existing leaders descriptive? To some extent Lyft is, but not the others. Yet the world gets it to the tune of thousands of linkups a day. And what if the business plan changes, evolves, or heaven forbid even pivots for one of these new guys. Then their name probably won’t fit and they will have to restart all branding.

In the meantime they are all at risk of a real brand coming in and doing a fast follower business, with some unique protectable and new name. For example, try saying EatWith to your old Aunt. Especially if you have a big beard and are prone to not enunciate your words very clearly. Or if you have an accent of any sort..  and don’t even try it if you have a heavy Asian accent or from some other language that struggles with “th”.

And as mob riots spread across the world, ( the US this time), I don’t envy anyone promoting a name with Mob right in it.

© Copyright 2014 Brighter Naming ®

Posted in Branding, Consumer Goods, Domain Names, Naming Education, Naming News, Strange Names

Airbnb is a great name even though it is shorthand.

AirbnbLogoOver on I blogged earlier about what a great name Airbnb was and how it confused the search engines into thinking it was about airline flights or something. Now I feel stupid for having to confess it never crossed my mind that the real story is that the full long (and sometimes originally used name) was air mattress bed and breakfast!

But I do love the fact that in this day and age when we have angel investors, even micro finance and crowd-sourcing, not to mention freelance laborers, errand runners and shoppers, why shouldn’t we also have micro accommodations at a very individual level? The internet has revolutionized all reservation systems, as a big win fro both the consumers and the suppliers.

Near where I live many people rent out their second home (or in-law unit) week by week for tourists coming from around the world to visit Yosemite National Park. I even know some older couples who have their’s booked all summer each year – and they surely don’t know much about international marketing. But they know where to list on the internet. And the county doesn’t complain – instead it merely insists on collecting the Transient Occupancy Tax to help it provide county services.

How far will this go?  When can I rent a fishing boat off an individual? Or an ATC or snowmobile? Or a pickup truck? Or a tuxedo? Or a wedding dress? Should be fun as we watch for big names to emerge in these spaces – I am dying to see what brands take over and if they can succeed without getting the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in Airbnb.

© Copyright 2014 Brighter Naming ®

Posted in Branding, Consumer Goods, Naming News, Trademarks

H-P spinoff group to be called Compaq!

When AT&T acquired NCR, they called that division AT&T GIS, somehow thinking that Global Information Systems and NCR’s massive worldwide penetration would rub off on their whole company. Apparently no one told them that in the computer industry GIS was the common abbreviation for Geographical Information Systems. And they never did find a way to hook a phone to every cash register they then had in most corners of the world.

By the time they figured out they really were only a phone company at heart, and had already acquired other companies like Interbase, at least they did they right thing and so restarted a great old computer company and gave them back the time tested moniker of NCR.

Now H-P is in the same predicament. At heart not a phone company at all, but also not a PC consumer company per se. So as they let the consumer divisions go the right way, I am predicting they will finally see that all their great brand names do not/did not come from Cupertino corner offices. So hopefully Compaq will be reborn again, even though it was so strong a brand it never really went away.

Interesting isn’t it that their old chairman Ray Lane once even campaigned for the name HP PC?  Like most division execs in Cupertino, they have a strange penchant for only endorsing common English words for products and services, despite the best intentions of their own marketing people and branding consultants.  Didn’t he get that hppc is like http?  Yet another networking protocol, and only a homage to the old  past. After all, PC is now even an aged term itself and not in the least suitable for new mobile devices, not to mention printers. H-P’s other great brand names LaserJet (originally from Colorado) and OfficeJet (from Oregon) will presumably go to the new group too.

H-P spinoff compaq logoSo why not the great Compaq name from Houston (originally made up by a San Francisco naming agency when the start up changed its name from Bridge Gate Computers)? So unique and memorable – with the sticky C consonant to start and the magic sticky/soft Q consonant to end. I would even recommend restoring the original logo, before H-P opened up the Q to look like a wrench, thereby saving a bunch of money on branding agencies.

The historic and famous H-P way has clearly not been a way to run a consumer computer company. So now it is time to drop the baggage of H-P, restore the luster that those marketing folks in Texas created, and get on with the new business of Compaq.  See them today already at!

© Copyright 2014 Brighter Naming ®

Posted in Branding, Consumer Goods, Domain Names

Is Uber a better brand name than Lyft?

Uber naming servicesAt a recent branding seminar there was a brief discussion about why Uber was a better brand than Lyft. This really wasn’t a fair question. It should have been, why is Uber getting more traction than Lyft this early in the game of what will surely be a big industry?

LyftLogoAnyway, before I got around to write this column it was refreshing to see new business articles about how suddenly Lyft was catching on and catching up. They are both good new names, and I would score them equally well in a naming survey. As for how to build a brand, it takes a lot of careful attention when the service providers are freelancers driving their own cars in their own towns.

But why do they have such European sounding/spelling names?  This is something I had predicted a couple of years ago. I said when we run out of English names founders will turn to foreign or coined names. It took longer than I thought, as I missed the interim step of misspelling English words on purpose. But they have both been working diligently on securing these trademarks for transportation services, even though both names have been used in many other trademark fields. And despite the fact that Lyft sure sounds like Lift to me, which is certainly a generic word that no one can trademark.

Lesson learned:  A good brand doesn’t mean you automatically win at business. There are many other factors and corporate reputation grows and shrinks based on many actions and news items.

Linguistics footnote:  Another new startup in the fresh fast food arena is called Lyfe. Compare that pronunciation with Lyft. Isn’t English wonderful?

© Copyright 2014 Brighter Naming ®

Posted in Branding, Consumer Goods, Domain Names, Naming Education, Naming News, Trademarks

Must have New York address to get a .NYC domain

Domains for New York businessesLeave it to GoDaddy to be the first to really promote some of the new domain names, and have fun with it as well.

But before you rush out and get a .nyc domain, available as of Nov 3, you do need to have a New York business address. They are only $25 each per year.

Posted in Branding, Domain Names

What’s Fast, Free and has a Funny Name?

First of all, full credit for the title of this blog belongs to Business Week magazine. Interestingly enough that was the title of the article in print, but online the same article is titled “Hadoop data software spreads beyond Silicon Valley”. Perhaps they wanted to jazz it up a bit as they went to print!

naming big software programs and SaaSNevertheless, I used to just jumble Hadoop in with Joomla and J-Scripts and other higher level computer language tools, many with a slight Indian flavor – in development and naming it seemed to me. Well I owe Doug Cutting both an apology and a pat on the back. Fancy becoming the leader in your category when you simply named your new clever database after a character in your kid’s book!

For those of you who don’t get branding yet, this should teach us all two things: (1) Good products often rise to the top despite their name and (2) products get more attention and stand out from the crowd when they have interesting or unusual names. Plus isn’t Hadoop a much more fun name than Cloudera or Hortonworks and MapR, especially when Doug pulls out his kid’s old yellow cloth elephant at conferences?

OK, but what is the legality of using a using known toy name for your software? Well in the USA there is only one trademark on the name and it is clearly owned by the Apache Software Foundation – where the master copy of the open source software resides. I had to look very far online to find references to the story in a book – so they can hardly claim super brand or other common law rights. But once before I once asked a public legal forum about the legality of using a character or place from a show like Star Wars or Star Trek. You won’t believe how many lawyers offered to take my case, not realizing I was just posing a general question while trying to assist a client – and the techies do sure like those Star Trek names.

So the motto of this story is: Have fun but proceed with caution and do note that Star Trek actually publishes a directory of all their characters, places, spaceships, etc. Some they brought over from the classics – many others they made up – and they have big lawyers protecting their full rights.

© Copyright 2014 Brighter Naming ®

Posted in Branding, Domain Names, Name Origins, Naming Education, Naming News, Technology Names, Trademarks

Voya – A Voyeur to take you on the Voyage of life?

voya_sign_windsor_angleAs a naming professional I know how hard it is to come up with new names. Especially short ones. So in that sense I applaud ING changing their name to Voya. Why it has to be so short and awkward I don’t know, but at least it implies something.
As a naming critic, writing on this site and others, I have longed campaigned for ING to change their name – for two big reasons: (1) It was just a meaningless and awkward three initial name and (2) The company’s brand took some major hits during the fairly recent big financial market collapse.

But what does Voya stand for? Or what is it trying to imply? Isn’t it a great name for a travel company? Isn’t it awfully close to Voyeur? Is that the kind of person you want looking after your retirement financial investments?

Oh Boya! I hope your money is safe with Voya!

© Copyright 2014 Brighter Naming ®

Posted in Branding, Consumer Goods, Name Changes, Name Origins, Naming News, Trademarks

Alibaba steals Wall St with brilliant, courageous name

Origins of Alibaba nameIn all the hoopla surrounding Alibaba Group’s IPO, am I the only one stopping to think about what a strange, and brilliant, name choice Alibaba was for the first company, and now the group? No Jack Ma did not pick the name because it was some great Chinese word or symbolism, nor because he wanted to be the leader of a band of 40 thieves. He simply picked it, while on business in San Francisco, because “everyone knows the name, regardless of if they are English, German, Chinese or Indian.”

At the time he was not that confident in his own English, so he asked the waitress in the restaurant if she knew the name Alibaba. Then he asked people in the street and in business. One nice thing about San Francisco is you get a great cross section of the world in the city and up and down Silicon Valley, including a very large Chinese and other Asian population.

Did anyone jump up and down and say that is an Arabic story set in Persia (now Iran) and Baghdad? In the movie Alibaba even waves the Saudi Arabian flag – in other words the wrong flag. What is the connection to China? Well, it is simply a Chinese company that started out to enable small Chinese vendors to trade with the world. A company that took a known name that is appropriate -saving a lot of branding dollars in the process. We all know now that if we want to buy goods from China (and beyond), go to first. No need to have a cousin who has a friend who once went to Shanghai, or wherever.

AlibabaGroupIn a trademark note, Alibaba Group does not have exclusive rights to the name Alibaba, in large aprt because lots of other people registered it before they came along. But boy are they being aggressive to protect it now. You should see how long some of their descriptive claims are for the name. For example, just for education products and services their application has about 40 full lines of small print. Wow. I never knew there was that many ways/products in education.

All these trademarks are filed on behalf of the Alibaba Group, a Cayman Islands shell company – and the real company you invested in if you had a piece of the IPO action. Think about it, the Cayman Isles are in the Caribbean which has traditionally been another pirate trading stronghold!

A Chinese company with an Arabic/English name and not red corporate colors! I love it. Jack Ma is a great pioneer by not following the party song sheet. Ask yourself why your eCommerce name has to be so descriptive.

PS Unfortunately there are very few names still left that are well known and legally available to kick start your branding. Amazon is one other, but even they have to promote more and more because of push back from other Amazon trademark holders.

© Copyright 2014 Brighter Naming ®

Posted in Branding, Consumer Goods, Domain Names, Name Origins, Naming Education, Naming News, Strange Names, Technology Names, Trademarks

Naming Disaster on Inc 500 List

Finding your company on the Inc 500 list of fastest growing small businesses must be exciting. Well at least until you notice that there is another company, in the same category, with the same name as you, in a neighboring state no less!


I bet Fluent is happy to be on this list. But which Fluent? The one from New York or the one from Boston.  And yes this is an exact scan of page 162 so they are both in the Advertising/Marketing category – only six steps apart in the rankings too.

Now what happens when they try to grow like this even more? And expand nationwide? And even run into the other Fluents out there? Not to worry, their fans and customers are loyal and will follow them on Facebook!  Sure, I gave up counting how many home pages Facebook has of companies named Fluent. Admittedly a lot of these were language or translation companies, and a few tech ones, but many others were smaller sales and marketing outfits.

So who owns the trademark on Fluent in International Class 35 – Advertising, Business Mgmt, etc.? Well right now no one, though there have been other uses and Fluent Inc New York has applied for the trademark – but the application has been Suspended. Not sure what that means or why, but it has been well over a year now, so not looking good going forward. May even be judged to be generic so no one can register it.

Bottom line is something we see so often in the naming business. A great common word is an ideal fit, but it is 2014 ladies and gentleman, and most such words are taken or not suitable for branding for a company growing nationwide. Your name is not your brand, but it is the shorthand handle for your brand promise. And especially in the online world, state boundaries are crossed in a heartbeat. So to protect and grow your name you need to clearly own the registered trademark. Then you can protect and promote it and fight off all interlopers before it becomes a big expensive exercise to change.

PS Which Fluent will blink first?

© Copyright 2014 Brighter Naming ®

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Posted in Branding, Domain Names, Naming Education, Naming News, Trademarks

Set of medical top level domains being released right now

biotech naming, scientific naming, naming medical products, naming healthcare productsI thought the sequencing of the release of new top level gTLD’s, as the domain extensions are properly called, was more random than I am seeing – but that might just be a coincidence. Regardless, if you are in the medical, healthcare, research or biotech fields this is the month to seriously consider picking up one of these domains to supplement your key corporate offerings. Here is the release sequence thanks to United Domains:

Extension /Start of Live Reg /Price Per Year
08/09/2014 $59
08/13/2014 $29
08/13/2014 $49
08/13/2014 $49
08/13/2014 $49
08/15/2014 $19
08/20/2014 $79
08/20/2014 $39
08/20/2014 $49
08/21/2014 $59
08/22/2014 $199
08/27/2014 $29
08/27/2014 $49

Ok I know .ski is usually not directly connected to medical – unless you are up in a ski resort area. But I couldn’t resist because of the accidental sequencing .And as for .hamburg? I am assuming there will be restrictions on registration, like proving you have an address in Hamburg, Germany. So don’t expect to see any time soon. If it is applicable to the hamburger industry, well then it may belong in this healthcare batch.

PS And my usual exhortation:  Don’t forget to check trademarks worldwide before you run out and claim domains!

© Copyright 2014 Brighter Naming ®

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Posted in Biotech Naming, Branding, Food Names, Name Changes, Naming News, Technology Names, Trademarks

Naming Articles

New brand insider articles from an experienced marketing team. Learn all the basics of naming, branding and trademark registration from these free reports:

Jul 2014: What roles do copyrights and patents play in protecting names?

Jan 2014: Predictions for 2014 and Free Offers.

Dec 2013: Regional, National & International Name Styles.

Oct 2013: Planning for All the New Domain Names.

Jul 2012: The right names go down in history.

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