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In the tech world, if you don’t evolve, you fall behind. And when you fall too far behind, even the most up to date Mapquest directions won’t necesarily get you caught back up. (Just ask Jeeves. Or Yahoo.), founded at the peak of the .com boom, is re-routing to stave off a slow ride into the sunset. Their larger strategy is to focus on a host of sub-brands centered around vertical interest areas, but as part of their rebirth, they’re getting a new name. is becoming Dotdash.




In a lot of ways, Dotdash is a great upgrade. The first part of the name’s story is that dot dash is Morse code for the letter A, which of course harkens back to the original name. With a pinch of fun alliteration, the name also captures that magical combination of feeling familiar and yet fresh. We’re all familiar with Morse code and have heard the words together before – but as the name of a company? That’s fresh.

And the second part of the name’s story is that the dot represents where they were, the dash where they are going. How quirky, abstract, and sophisticated! In the name is the promise that they are going all in on the self-reinvention. (That’s one way to make sure the new outlook permeates the brand and company culture.) And for me, at least, I buy it. The dash is a jag off from the dot. The dot feels centered and established, the dash fun and dynamic. That makes sense to me.

What does not make sense to me, however, is how they chose to represent Dotdash in the new logo. A period and then the word dash? That is too cute for my taste. And people may very well assume that .dash is one of the new gTLDs (generic top-level domains), especially since it’s written lowercase. There is nothing at or http://www.about.dash or any.dash you might try, and that could be trouble. But perhaps the company isn’t worried about folks entering such a URL directly and coming up empty. (Google will suggest if you leave off the http://.)

But this is a name review, so back to Dotdash. Dash implies speed, lightness, and ease. These aren’t, at first glance, the most germane messages for online information (especially when your revenue model involves building out listicles 50 entries long in your interest verticals), but these meanings certainly aren’t detractions or distractions.

Abstract names come in a range of styles, from totally coined — like Hulu or Zoosk — to real words simply used (far) out of context, like Alphabet or Amazon. Regardless of the style, they take confidence and vision to pull off. Dotdash‘s alliterative Ds and staccato syllables sound definitive, confident, and make the name even easier to remember. I think Dotdash is a winner. Whether the name is too off the wall for customers to really latch on to remains to be seen, but Dotdash’s phonetic qualities will help the name stick.

With a pinch of fun alliteration, the name also captures that magical combination of feeling fresh and yet familiar.

Catchword top naming agency in recently updated Tribune Tower

Catchword top naming agency in recently updated Tribune TowerMay 1998 —

Bill Clinton is in the White House, buffeted by the Lewinsky scandal, while the Department of Justice and 20 states file an anti-trust case against Microsoft.

The Dow Jones has blown past the 9,000 mark for the first time. The dotcom bubble has yet to burst, with venture capital flooding to hot new startups like Kozmo and PlanetRX, while Yahoo, AOL, and Netscape duke it out for the portal and browser markets.

The Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls are the teams to beat in the NBA Playoffs. The Lion King is a roaring success on Broadway, armageddon blockbuster Deep Impact makes a meteoric killing at the box office, and Will Smith’s “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” is a hit single (remember singles? remember radio?).

And a small, yet-to-be-named (we were NewCo for our first few projects!) naming agency opens its doors with a mission to provide clients superlatively creative, on-brand, exciting, ownable company and product names.

CWsign-cropYes, Catchword is celebrating 19 years in the naming biz!

Many of our early clients were part of the dotcom boom. Venture capital was flowing in the Bay Area, and those projects all needed a name. Petopia, whom we named in 1999, was the quintessential e-commerce startup.

Back then there weren’t many of us around. Naming was almost a cottage industry (and still is, really), with about five cottages. Catchword was the partner you could trust to collaborate with you, to get to know your brand and offer the widest range of name styles and more than enough great candidates to find a kickass name you could own.

We still are that partner. And we are deeply grateful to the more than 700 clients we’ve had the good fortune to work with over these score minus one years. We look forward to the next 19!

Catchword wouldn’t be the award-winning naming firm we are today without our dedicated and talented team, past and present. Thank you all.

Catchword top naming agency team

Yes, Catchword is celebrating 19 years in the naming biz.

Catchword Top Naming Agency 2017

Catchword Top Naming Agency 2017We at Catchword are very proud to announce our selection as a Clutch Leading Naming Agency for 2017.

Clutch, a top ratings platform for professional service agencies, helps businesses find the best creative services partner through extensive research and customer reviews. Catchword has consistently ranked among the best naming agencies since Clutch was founded in 2012.

To be featured in Clutch’s platform, Catchword was evaluated on

  • market presence, including the depth and breadth of our client base
  • creativity and recognizability of our naming portfolio
  • expertise in the naming industry
  • comprehensiveness of our services
  • client reviews

Client reviews is where Clutch really gives us the opportunity to shine and where future clients can learn what makes Catchword stand out from the crowd. For every review, Clutch analysts speak directly with clients in one-on-one interviews about every aspect of the project, including cost, schedule, and responsiveness as well as top-quality deliverables. These conversations, conducted over the phone, are designed to get a personal and accurate understanding of our clients’ relationships with us and the projects we’ve completed together. The interviews are then published to our Clutch profile.

We commend Clutch for developing a review structure that lets you know exactly why Catchword is the best fit for our clients – no mystery stars, these ratings are clear and comprehensive! Each review is a mini-case study with a summary of the challenge & solution as well as data like client industry, size, location, and budget range. Client quotes and feedback complete the picture.

Here’s a little taste. But do read the full reviews on our profile. (Note, we’ve chosen not to become a Clutch sponsor at this time — our position in the naming agency ranking is completely organic.)

Catchword 5-star Naming Agency

Catchword 5-star review

Many thanks to our clients who took the time to reflect on their experiences with us. We deeply appreciate their endorsements and feedback of every kind. Our client relationships have kept us excited about this work for nearly two decades and keep our clients coming back.

Catchword Clients Rock!         Catchword Clients Rock!

We at Catchword are very proud to announce our selection as a Clutch Leading Naming Agency for 2017.

Via Verizon Executive Tim Armstrong's Twitter

A lot of shuffling has taken place with Yahoo recently. In February of this year, the terms were finalized in a deal by which Yahoo would be bought over by Verizon. A lot of Yahoo’s value comes from the fact that it owns a 15% stake in the Chinese e-commerce/tech giant and world’s largest retailer, Alibaba.

Yahoo Screenshot

After Verizon’s acquisition of Yahoo, the search function is living on as Yahoo, and the rest of it — essentially the Alibaba holdings — has been renamed Altaba.

That caused a few namers and laypeople to scratch their heads.

And then more recently, Verizon revealed that Yahoo and a few more of Verizon’s subsidiaries like AOL and the Huffington Post would all operate under the umbrella name Oath.

And that announcement verily turned those selfsame heads.

Let’s start with Altaba. It is said to be a portmanteau of Alternative and Alibaba, to show investors that if they buy in to Altaba, they are essentially buying in to Alibaba.

It’s a shame, really, that a company as iconic as Yahoo would be chopped up and become something as empty as Altaba. Then again, it is very hard to clear a name internationally, so that surely contributed to the choice. Further, if Altaba houses none of Yahoo’s old functions, and has no more ambition than being a vehicle for investing in Alibaba as they claim, so be it. I understand that choice. (Grade: B)

The real outcry came after Oath was announced. And, I would argue, for good reason. For one, Oath is tough to say and it sounds boring — almost legalistic. And, there’s the other meaning of the word… #%*&!

Via Verizon Executive Tim Armstrong’s Twitter

Compounding all of this is that Oath simply feels off-brand. It contains none of the levity or presence of Yahoo or even AOL, none of the punchiness of Verizon. Which raises the age-old question, why? What are they driving at?

One answer is that they want to suggest trust. Of being able to uphold their end of the company-customer bargain. After all, all of the major brands associated with it – AOL, Yahoo, and Verizon, have suffered trust issues, whether it be from hacks, questionable business practices, or simply notoriously bad customer service.

My suggestion is always, if you have a PR problem, tread carefully in trying to speak directly to that with your branding choices. Consumers have a nose for BS, pandering, and doublespeak… like, say, the Pepsi commercial that tried to play off the Black Lives Matter movement. Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” thing was okay as an internal corporate motto (albeit widely and publicly disseminated) with an organic origin story (by that I mean, not created by a marketing team), but would not have worked as their actual tagline crafted by marketers.

I think a good example of a name that suggests trust is Oscar, the health insurance company. Health insurance companies are notoriously parsimonious in payouts and maddeningly bureaucratic (not to mention the fact that if you ever have to deal with them, you’re not in a good place to begin with). But instead of calling their company something that overtly said “Friendly” or “Your Ally,” they chose the simple first name Oscar. Subtle, and trustworthy.

Lastly… what’s up with the prominent colon in Oath’s logo? If anyone has a guess, please, let me know. The eyes in a sideways smile? An homage to the AOL logo’s final period and the Yahoo exclamation mark? As is, it unnecessarily (the line break is sufficient) punctuates the phrase “Oath: a Verizon company.” Worse, it suggests that you fill in the blank as to what the company is swearing to do. Or worst, suggests they are promising nothing.

Oath misses the mark.

For one, Oath is tough to say and it sounds boring — almost legalistic. And, there’s the other meaning of the word… #%*&!

Got Milk

Image: Wikimedia Commons 3/13/17

We all remember the California Milk Processor Board’s famous question. But before we can ask ourselves if we’ve got milk, we need to agree on what milk is.

A fellowship of US Congresspeople is pushing a bill (the DAIRY Pride Act) that would ban non animal-based drinks from being called “milk,” “yogurt,” or “cheese.” Are you ready to drink almond juice?

The legislators involved all hail from big dairy states, and their intent is obvious. Traditional milk consumption is quickly giving way to consumption of plant milks made from soy, rice, and nuts. Dairy producers know that consumers would be less likely to dunk cookies in soy milk if it were called “soy juice.” So instead of crying, they are trying to stop the plant-based milk from being called “milk” at all.

Before we talk about food naming protocol, here’s some history about the word milk. The term soy milk has been around for at least 100 years. Coconut milk for 120. Almond milk has actually been around since the middle ages — it was commonly used because cow’s milk spoiled faster. Additionally, milk as a word is also broader than a mere ingredient. It’s a verb, it’s part of numerous colloquialisms (milk money, cry over spilt milk, land of milk and honey), and carries connotative, metaphorical, and even mythic meaning.

Muscle Milk product shot from Hormel site 3/27/17So the first logical question is, where does the literal definition stop and the metaphorical definition begin? The word milk in Silk Soymilk leans on milk’s connotations in a way that the milk in Muscle Milk does not. A literalist could argue that many food product names are misleading. Does Smartfood Popcorn increase IQ? Are Swedish Fish caught in Scandinavia? You get the idea.

Consumers often assume, and rightfully so, that what’s in the brand name is what’s in the jar. But where do we draw the line? Why are these lawmakers concerned that milk in plant-based brand names will confuse consumers, but not worried the public will think Muscle Milk is the product of squeezed deltoids, or be confused by the use of the word butter in the name I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter? TI 3/15/17he Can’t Believe brand has not been challenged as misleading, even though the size of the word butter is much bigger than all the other words in the logo. If the bill passes, it follows that this product would need to be renamed along with the soy and almond beverages.

Note, this bill isn’t just about brand names. Food product labels include the brand name, such as Muscle Milk, Silk, Almond Breeze, and Rice Dream, as well as the food identity name (the type of food or beverage the product is), such as soy milk (or soymillk, as the Soyfoods Association of North America prefers), non-dairy beverage, almond milk, and rice drink. Current FDA regulations require that food labels include a statement of identity:

“The name established by law or regulation, or in the absence thereof, the common or usual name of the food, if the food has one, should be used as the statement of identity. If there is none, then an appropriate descriptive name, that is not misleading, should be used.”

They even permit more fanciful names, as long as consumers won’t be confused:

“When the nature of the food is obvious, a fanciful name commonly used and understood by the public may be used.”

These regulations still leave a lot up to interpretation by the government. (It’s a lot like trademark law in that way.) What it all boils down to, though, is these questions: Is the content obvious to a consumer? Will consumers be misled by the name?

The dairy lobby has argued that consumers

“have been misled into believing that the plant-based ‘milk’ was nutritionally equivalent to or better than cow milk when the products actually lack many of the essential nutrients and vitamins provided by cow’s milk” (FDA Law Blog 3/8/17)

If that misunderstanding is proven to be the result of the use of the word milk, then the dairy producers concerns about the labeling are justified. However, consumer misunderstanding about the nutritional value of almond, soy, coconut, and rice beverages may have nothing to do with use of the word milk, and so would only be remedied by a clear listing of nutritional content, rather than a change in the descriptor.

The current FDA definition of milk is

“the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.”

If this description were strictly enforced, goat, sheep, and human milk would no more be “milk” than soy, almond, or coconut. How shall we label chevre, then – cultured goat lacteal secretion?

Jon Stammers flickr - labeled for reuse with modification - 3/27/17

As with the application of most regulations, common sense should prevail over the letter of the law. The FDA’s treatment of eggless mayonnaise shows such a common-sense path. The FDA’s legal definition of mayonnaise states that it must contain eggs. However, in 2015, the FDA decided that 3/15/17Hampton Creek could keep the brand name Just Mayo for its eggless spread but must change the label to ensure “products are labeled in a manner that is truthful and not misleading.” Hampton Creek added the words Spread & Dressing as the food identity and the phrase Egg Free to the front of its labels.

Catchword recommends a similar solution to the milk shakeup. (And since the real issue seems to be lost revenue for dairy farmers, we also recommend lawmakers and the dairy lobby find productive ways to help these farmers. After all, trying to restrict the livelihood of another set of farmers doesn’t help the community as a whole.)

The milk bill seems unlikely to pass, and it shouldn’t, but we’ll see how the cookie crumbles in Washington.

Until then, if you have any questions about what is misleading and what is not in food and beverage naming, let us know! We’re here to help.


A fellowship of US Congresspeople is pushing a bill (the DAIRY Pride Act) that would ban non animal-based drinks from being called “milk,” “yogurt,” or “cheese.” Are you ready to drink almond juice?