Battle of the Brands: Quirky Versus Telling

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With the advent of Web 2.0 it seems that most new media entrepreneurs have delegated the responsibility of coming up with names for their services to four year-olds. Will these names stick or is it just wishful thinking?
Back in April, we saw Google deciding one day that they were going to rename their product search and price comparison engine from Froogle (which they had initially chosen because it looked like Google and sounded like frugal) to Google Product Search – a name that immediately told people who were unfamiliar with the service what it did. All the effort that went into solidifying the original brand went to waste and probably lead to some confusion which could’ve been avoided if they had put some effort into branding.
A similar problem seems to plague the plethora of most Web 2.0 startups. Matt Ingram took a look at the names of all the companies that were announced at TechCrunch 40, and as you can imagine, more than half of them don’t make any sense if you aren’t already aware of what the service is. When you think of Faroo, Argoo, and Orgoo, what comes to mind? While these names are quirky (if not downright silly) and are in line with the Web 2.0 naming convention, they say nothing about the services they represent.
Of course there the argument that Yahoo!, Google, and a multitude of now-ubiquitous companies also have names that don’t readily tell the story behind the brand and so here’s my question: is it better to brand your service in a way that immediately draws your target audience or is the uniqueness/quirkiness of the name worth the extra effort you have to put into drawing users in and the confusion the name might cause?

Cameron Olthuis

Cameron Olthuis

Cameron Olthuis

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  • datapencil

    Great question Muhammad. It can be very difficult to find the right combination of description and brand identity. In answer to your question, I would say that clever, off-beat, or even downright silly names can work very well, but that the name should somehow connect with the product or service being provided. Either way, a creative, well planned and prolonged marketing strategy can turn what seems silly into what makes sense!

  • Ciaran

    My main problem with a lot of these names, is that the marketing strategy seems to go no further than ‘Let’s come up with a strange name’. Yahoo!, Google etc.. all had killer products.
    I blogged about this a while back; let me know if you’d like the link.

  • Ryan Nichols

    It’s neither, and sort of both. The name of a brand has the same requirements that the brand identity does. It first and foremost has to be memorable. The most descriptive name in the world will fail if it’s not unique or memorable. The same goes for the most quirky name, as you mentioned in your list of ‘goo’ names above.
    The problem with those names while ‘quirky’ or ‘fun’ they are completely forgettable, as your list so perfectly demonstrates. When those companies are first striking out, they should seek differentiation as their primary objective. Google did it wonderfully with their name back in day, now that they have so much recognition it doesn’t matter how many copies (azoogle, moogle, or their own froogle) there is only ONE google.
    This is precisely why dropping the froogle name was a good idea. Because it was confusing to customers when they should be thinking about only one ‘oogle’ name. Any startup with an ‘oogle’ name will face the same problem the froogle product did.
    When you correctly put differentiation as the key, and approach naming that way, the other little questions quickly fall into place.