The great and the groan-worthy: 2013 names in review
January is a time of reflection for Interbrand New York’s Verbal Identity team. Every year, we resolve to learn from the best—and worst—of the previous 12 months. From a spotlight on simplicity to a procession of oh-no-they-didn’t “faux-nuts,” 2013 gave us plenty to ponder.
Let’s start with the great:
Bucking the notion that technology needs to sound, well, techie, Google Glass (and others, like last year’s Microsoft Surface) lets consumers attribute the techie-ness to the product, instead using the name to redefine what we think of the form factor. We hope to see more of this in 2014 as technology moves into wearables and everyday items.
The beauty of the Waze app showed us the way to name this year, giving the GPS category (and new owner) a beacon of ease and effortlessness.
Vocativ brought us back to bold, and reinforced the notion that a brand is only as strong as its willingness to live up to its name. Vocativ came out of the gate strong with an in-your-face-mission to discover the stories other news organizations miss.
Google’s Project Loon was another winner—a network of balloons sent to the edge of space to expand Internet coverage. Loon conjures an image of a flock of birds and references balloons, but it’s also a playful nod to the reaction one might get when pitching the concept of sending balloons into space.
Amazon introduced its corporate citizenship program, AmazonSmile. As we noted, Corporate Citizenship naming is becoming more personal, more tied to a brand’s role in the world. A reference to Amazon’s smiling logo, the name expands the definition of the joy the company is able to deliver.
And end with the groans:
Last year gave us the VagX Lumisac. This year, Fukuppy was placed on our doorstep. We always say that even when it’s local, it’s global—skip your linguistic disaster check, and worldwide laughter might ensue.
(Technically, Kat Von D’s Celebutard lipstick should have been number one, but we didn’t feel a name this bad deserved any special honors.)
The promise of Maybelline Baby Lips is fantastic—baby-soft is an adjective we’re all OK with. But something about seeing it in noun form gives us a case of the uncomfortables—it sounds like Maybelline is selling actual baby lips.
Sort-a-neat Laundry Basket. We’ll file this under so clever it makes itself sound mediocre.
The team here is torn about the name Cronut: on one hand, it doesn’t sound the least bit delicious (“Crone Nuts? Gross.”) but it is a terrifically functional name (“Oh, it’s a hybrid croissant-donut? I get it.”). What the verbal identity team can agree on is that some of the worst names of the year were attached to the me-too pastries that tried to ride Cronut’s sweet, sweet coattails. We saw the rapid genericide of the term as “cro-nuts” were sold across the country. We saw scone-donut hybrids called Sconuts, a crazy cronut called the Craynut, the maybe-Kardashian-inspired Kronut Krullers, an ooh-la-la version called Doughsánts, the barely-making-it-a-different thing Croughnuts, and the grossest of the lot, Crumbnuts. One ripoff we can respect? Croissant Doughnuts. Gregory’s Coffee, we salute you for calling it like you see it.
The Yoga tablet from Lenovo, while not an outright disaster, awkwardly attributes an age-old spiritual practice to a tech device. It's meant to reference the flexibility of the device, but the spiritual perspective feels like a big promise for a device that’s only breakthrough is in its form factor.
Android released a phone in early 2013 and named it the HTC First. Then it released the HTC One—a more advanced phone. While versioning is always tough, we’re having a hard time imagining customers understanding why they’re better off going from First to One. (We’ve also heard rumblings that an HTC One 2 will be released in 2014…)
And we’ll end this party with a name that would ruin any party: Tyson’s Any’tizers Wyngz. We might have turned a blind eye to the Any’tizers line of snacks, but when we noticed an asterisk next to Wyngz calling out that they contained no actual chicken wing meat? It’s hard for consumers to trust brands when their names become shorthand for “not what it sounds like.”
2014 promises to bring more delights and disasters—and we’ll learn our lesson from every last one.
This week's guest author, Caitlin Barrett, is a Director of Verbal Identity for Interbrand and the creative lead for Naming.