IBM, now there’s a name. International Business Machines. Says what it does, does what it says. Okay, so it does other things now too. Not just Big Blue anymore; more like Big Blue Man Group.
Here’s a question: What’s a Lenovo? You’d think having nailed the name game at the start, IBM could do better. Legend, maybe? Plus a soupcon of innovation? Also, it has that dashing ovo ending, suggestive of first person present tense action verbs in Spanish, Italian, and Greek. “I create legends! I innovate!” (Holy Cow, that took a lot of thought. What was wrong with ThinkPad, again?)
This years Ad:Tech made my head hurt in a similar way. It also made me a little afraid. The last time I encountered hip, coy, utterly impenetrable names like the list of Ad:Tech exhibitors was, well, on a list of Ad:Tech exhibitors. Only it was 2001.
Of course, in any dot-com crowd, there will be the simply bizarre– Blue Lithium, JargonFish– that don’t fit in any distinct category. But the rest are roughly classifiable. Here’s a list. First, the mash-ups. Those Frankenstein’s Monster eponyms that shove together bits of suggestive roots with some kind of suffix to indicate it’s an actual word.
Then there are the names that use edgy media words and plays on the word “broadcast.”
Next, we have the companies who want to be both cerebral and hip. They may use in-the-know words, implying that if you have to ask, you’re not smart enough to do business with us. F5 Networks seems like they might be one of those. But the more inclusive brainy companies employ gray-matter type words like “knowledge” and “logic.”
Intela (Actually, this last one kinda fits in list #1 too, but who’s counting.)
The next group wants action. With their help, everyone will Do! Click! Go! Racking up responses and ad impressions like pinballs.
Another thing I noticed is that the quirky letter Q has become quite popular. He makes names a little hard to decode and, one would think, to pronounce.
I wonder how the sales folks at those companies say those names over the phone. Am I being qantakerous?
But my favorite of all, after three hours of glossy dot-com brochures, thousands of free pens, mousepads, coffee mugs, and keychains, plus one guy in an enormous dog suit: The Blind Network. Perhaps it is just the humility latent in the name. (And yes, I did check. They’re an ad network and have nothing to do with the disabled.)
Humility. There’s a concept, albeit an old fashioned one. Have any idea what these companies do? Me either. I’m not saying these corporations aren’t terrific, thank-your-lucky-stars-they’re-here, paradigm-shifting, value-creating entities. I’m sure many of them are. But many of them aren’t, created by the inevitable froth that follows in the wake of easy VC money. The hairbrained names are just a metaphor for empty dot-com arrogance. When you arrogate the right to create language, focusing on hip wordplay, and leave out the meaning, will you leave out other important things as well? Say a value proposition?
I blame DoubleClick. They started it all with the silly name thing—back in the time when you actually had to click twice on your Macintosh mouse. Something most of us don’t do any more. And in a nice ironic twist, DoubleClick was just bought by Google—with perhaps the loopiest name of them all, a bastardization of the mathematical “googol.” But if you take what you do seriously, more seriously than your cool name and its marketing potential, I guess you get to create new words like google, and have your fans turn it into a verb.