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Now is the time of year where you can read about all the top baby names from 2016, and all the predicted baby name trends of 2017. But as I was perusing those lists, I saw a news story about Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, which Netflix is producing, and it got me thinking: Daniel Handler’s pseudonym Lemony Snicket is perhaps my favorite pen-name of all time. (Got a different favorite? Let me know in the comments!)

SpyIt’s a special opportunity and privilege to get to name another human, and a lot has been written about how to pick of the best baby name. But it’s a far stranger exercise to give yourself a new name. Maybe you’re an author, or a pop star. Maybe you’re a secret agent creating a fake identity, or a criminal on the lam, or a college freshman reinventing yourself, or all of the above. Either way, here are 6 considerations that might help!

1) Phonetics. First things first, you want your new name to sound good. To flow off the the tongue like fondue. Rappers Khalif and Aquil Brown perform under the name Rae Sremmurd, which is the name of their home label “Ear Drummers,” backwards. That is an example of what NOT to do. Lemony Snicket scores very high in this category — that name is so darn fun to say, and the combination of hard and soft consonants is magical.

2) Meaning (implicit or explicit). Just like with a company or product name, your new name should be the epitome of your brand. The connotations you want to imbue in your name can be obvious and overt, or almost subconscious. You can get pretty quickly from the name Nicki Minaj to the phrase ménage à trois. Stevie Wonder, Freddie Mercury, Foxy Brown, John Legend… pretty clear connotations to those names, I would say. Then there are softer, subtle suggestions. I would also argue that the impulse to use a common first name as a last name among male performers — Bob Dylan, Elton John (though his given name, Reginald Kenneth Dwight also fits the bill, with a full three consecutive first names), Toby Keith, Brett Michaels, Steven Tyler, John Stewart and many more — conveys an implicit familiarity, personableness, and often folksiness. (Billy Joel, Paul Simon, the Jonas brothers, and others fit into this category, though those are their given names.)

So ask yourself. What is your personal brand, and what do you want people to feel when they hear your name?

3) Search Engine Viability. If you are a pop-star or author, you want your name at the top of the search results. If you are a criminal on the lam, you want a name that blends in. John Doe is not a great pop-star name. Lady Gaga is not a good name for someone infiltrating a foreign government. Frank Ocean is a great pseudonym because it involves two common, memorable words that are nevertheless extremely rare to find together. That ensure that early in his career, his name would be at the top if “Frank Ocean” was searched. (Great job picking Frank over Arctic.) Also, don’t forget to pick a name where the exact .COM domain is available!

Searchability considerations are also why only the most iconic celebrities can get away with only using a common first name, like Madonna or Rhianna. I seem to remember Lindsay Lohan saying a while back that she wanted to be known simply as Lindsay, but I can’t find any evidence on the internet. Anyhow, you get the idea.

4) Memorability. This is a fairly intangible quality because memorability in enhanced by a strong performance in the other categories listed. Here are some other ideas: you can use shock value to create memorability if you’re in the right industry (looking for a pro-wrestling name?), or out of left field strangeness (Chad Ocho Cinco and Metta World Peace come to mind). You can incorporate punctuation (Ke$ha, of course) or you can use repetition (Lady Gaga), alliteration (Meek Mill, Harry Houdini, Marilyn Monroe), internal or external rhyme (Frankie Valli, Norah Jones), or any number of other linguistic tricks.

5) Industry-specific logistics. You may want your pseudonym to be as advantageous for your particular industry as it is mellifluous. For example, you may want to pick a name that begins with “a” so that will appear at the top of an alphabetical list. Sadly, many female authors use androgynous pseudonym or even male name (like George Elliot) because of the implicit bias towards male authors that many publishers unfortunately harbor. (Unless, of course, they write erotica. In that genre, it is not uncommon for male authors to adopt female pseudonyms, because consumers are more likely to buy erotica written by authors with traditionally female names.) Or, you can go by your initials, like N.K. Jemisen or J.K. Rowling. Additionally, some performers or comedians also unfortunately feel the need to adopt a less ethnic sounding name to avoid potential racism, or because their last name might be difficult for their audience to say, spell, or pronounce. (E.g., Mindy Kaling was born Vera Mindy Chokalingam.)

6) Backstory. Having a solid backstory to your name can enhance memorability, and can also make it easier for you to decide on a name. Miley Cyrus adopted Miley because she used to be called Smiley. The name Lemony Snicket was an inside joke among Daniel Handler’s college buddies. Even if you are simply adopting your middle name as your first or last name, having a personal connection to the name is important both for others to understand, and for your own identity transition to be smooth.

That about sums it up. To all those future rock-stars and secret agents out there…Happy pseudo-naming!

Maybe you’re an author, or a pop star. Maybe you’re a secret agent creating a fake identity, or a criminal on the lam, or a college freshman reinventing yourself, or all of the above. Either way, here are 6 considerations that might help!

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top-10-gtlds

It’s been more than two years since the new gTLDs started to be released. Meant to provide companies and individuals with a plethora of options for where to register their domains, these extensions inspired betting left and right as to which would float, which would sink, and how much the gTLDs would be embraced by the average domainer. To tell you the truth, the domain world hasn’t changed much since then. Check out the top 10 new gTLDs, from https://ntldstats.com.

top-10-gtlds

When it comes to the new gTLDs, .XYZ has outpaced the pack by a healthy margin, claiming a full quarter of new gTLD registrations at about 6.5 million. On the other hand, .COM is at or around the 130 million mark, and growing at about 7% year over year, according to Verisign, steward of the .COM extension.

.TOP is second to .XYZ among new gTLDs; however, they are ranked artificially high. The company that created the .TOP extension admitted to having a robot trawl whois email addresses on domain registries, and sending a phishing email to all registrants of other domains, asking whether they would also like to register a .TOP domain. This tactic infuriated many, but also resulted in a spike in registrations. It should also be noted that .TOP is perhaps the cheapest to register, costing only 99 cents in some instances. Its popularity is highest in China, where the company that bought .TOP is based.

Though .XYZ doesn’t quite roll off the tongue or scream cache, its success may stem in part from being inexpensive, easy to remember, and for all intents and purposes, generic, like .COM. It makes sense that extensions like .NYC and .PIZZA and .ATTORNEY are less prevalent because they are more specialized. And it didn’t hurt that Google opted to host parent company Alphabet’s site at www.abc.xyz.

But suffice to say, total registrations don’t tell the complete picture. For that, we’ll need to look at renewals and the percent of domains that aren’t parked (i.e., being held by investors). We’ll have a clearer picture in a year or two, but until the dust settles, our advice from when the gTLDs first started coming out still rings true. The quick and dirty is this: go with the .COM if you can. It’s like owning a store downtown, on Main Street, versus out in the boonies, and it’s still the most trusted extension available.

Unless you are a pure e-commerce business, t’s okay to modify the exact .COM with a short descriptor (health, hi, systems). If you truly can’t find a .COM that’s suitable for your business, well, there are other perfectly serviceable ccTLDs and gTLDs, including .IO, .CO, .ME, .LIVE, and .TV. And, if there’s a specific gTLD that speaks clearly to your business focus, that can be a consideration also (e.g, .CAFE for your coffee and sandwich shop–that makes a whole lot of sense).

It’s been more than two years since the new gTLDs started to be released. Meant to provide companies and individuals with a plethora of options for where to register their domains, these extensions inspired betting left and right as to which would float, which would sink, and how much the gTLDs would be embraced by the average domainer.

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Tubular

Last week, I discovered Adidas’ new shoe line, Tubular, because they bought a promoted hashtag on Twitter (for a pretty $200K, if you were curious).

TubularAt first I thought about the name. It caught my attention because it was different – it didn’t feel like a brand name at all – but maybe not in a good way. It’s a pretty ugly word, and brings to mind grandpa’s socks. But, it did catch my attention.

But that’s not the point of this blog. I started looking at their promoted hashtag: #Tubular. Like volcanic activity, hashtags spring up out of the blue, catch fire for a while, and then die away to lay dormant for possibly eternity. (#Eyjafjallajökull) So how was Tubular doing?  It was barely even smoldering. There was one tweet with the #Tubular hashtag every 45 minutes or so. Whoops!

The first thing you should ask yourself when creating a hashtag is, does this resemble the hashtags that have arisen organically? Twitter trends change quickly, but here are all of the organic hashtags as of writing this sentence, right now:

#LayoverPastimes
#HumanRightsDay
#ArmyNavyGameDay
#RussianHackers
#SignsIveMatured

It took me a while to see the last one as Signs I’ve Matured, because you can’t have an apostrophe in a hashtag. But beyond that, all of the hashtags make immediate sense. These are the hashtags that work. I could tell which ones I was interested in clicking on, what they were about, and I could read them easily.

The point of a hashtag is to get people talking. To create an echo-chamber that swells, pulling others into the fold. The more people tweet about something, the more exponential your reach will grow.

So, I figured I would put out a few rules for creating good hashtags. Our job is to create brand names that get people thinking and talking, and that’s a lot of what a hashtag needs as well. So whether you are promoting a hashtag for your brand or hoping to organically start a trend, here are a few rules to keep in mind.

1) Be straightforward and specific. If you want other people to participate, you have to make it crystal clear what the hashtag is about without the need to click on a tweet. Don’t, for example, use acronyms that aren’t widely known and understood. Don’t be vague or empty (#Cool is not going anywhere). #Tubular was specific, but by no means clear.

2) Create a discussion by inviting people to share their own opinions. If the hashtag is for a live event – that’s easy. #Debate2016 or #MondayNightFootball provide that without even trying. #LayoverPastimes does that, as does #SignsIveMatured. #Tubular does not.

3) Create an allure. People should want to know more, to dig deeper. That’s what will pull people in! Tubular did a better job of creating an allure than it did of creating a discussion, just because it was a weird word. But that wasn’t enough. If consumers are interested in reading what other people are saying, as with #LayoverPastimes, they will click. DiGorno’s Pizza had a great promoted hashtag #DiGorNOYOUDIDNT that created great allure and great discussion – your hashtag should try to do the same!

4) Shorter is better, obviously, but not at the expense of 1) or at the expense of uniqueness!

5) Use intercaps wisely. This will allow tweets and hashtags to remain readable. If the words run together, then that will make it difficult and people will move on to the next thing.

6) Don’t forget to put your brand name into the hashtag! Tubular got that one mostly right, but since it is also a real word and one that really doesn’t FEEL like a brand name, they should have clarified that it was a shoe, or that it was from Adidas.

7) Twitter users are smart – so be especially careful about pandering! The hilarious catastrophe of #McDStories illustrates just how twitter can and will respond to a hashtag they deem not up to snuff. So, trust that users will appreciate subtlety and humor. Resist the urge to play it really safe – don’t pander!

If you have any questions about how we can take your brand’s verbal identity to the next level, don’t hesitate to reach out!

The first thing you should ask yourself when creating a hashtag is, does this resemble the hashtags that have arisen organically?

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CBC News

CBC NewsCatchword founder and executive creative director Maria Cypher was quoted in the CBC’s story on the new .eco top-level domain:

Imagine sitting across from your friend at a pub, several pints in, with a big idea — one that could change the internet and maybe even help the planet. The prelude, perhaps, to nothing but a hangover.

But for Trevor Bowden and Jacob Malthouse, that night in 2007 was the start of a multi-year quest to secure soon-to-be-released online real estate: the domain of .eco, which they believed could be an asset to the environmental movement. “We knew that there was this opportunity coming up,” recalls Malthouse….

It’s hard to say which new domains will catch on, and “.com is still king,” said Maria Cypher, principal and creative director at Catchword Branding, who has created names for Starbucks and Fitbit, among others. “We feel [.eco] stands a really good shot of being one of the real successes,” she wrote in an email, because it’s short, pronounceable and meaningful. It’s a term that is widely understood to mean environment, sustainability, green … things that are important to a huge number of people.”

Read the full story and hear what else Maria has to say: How .eco domain was won: Meet the Vancouver team behind the internet’s new green turf

Catchword founder and executive creative director Maria Cypher was quoted in the CBC’s story on the new .eco top-level domain:

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from www.audi.com

Audi has had a few electric versions of their existing models for a while, using the descriptor “e-tron” to designate electronic (e.g., the Audi A3 e-tron). But now, they are gearing up to offer an all new, all-electric SUV that is simply called the Audi e-tron. Now that the brake screeching noise has cleared out of my brain, I figured I would write a little bit about this name.

from www.audi.com

from www.audi.com

It’s easy to see what they hoped for. They hoped for a name that conveyed electric vehicle, and also sounded futuristic and maybe even hip. It wasn’t quite as easy to see how they arrived at e-tron because I got hung up on the movie/comic (Tron) for a while, but then I realized they took the word electronic (or just electron), kept it lowercase, and replaced a few letters with a hyphen. As a version descriptor, e-tron is debatably okay. But as the name of a new line of cars? Notwithstanding the confusion they may create by using it in different contexts, I think it was a mistake. Here’s why.

First, any crash test dummy will tell you that the “e-“ prefix feels very dated. E has signified electronic (in the digital sense) for a long time — a la eBay, eHarmony, eHow, and just plain email — and that’s a bad thing. Feels like they have thrown it into reverse with using an old, uncreative naming convention.

Second, using the hyphen is total bush league! It is meant to take the place of “lec” in electronic, but — permit me a schoolmarmish grouse here — that’s what apostrophes are supposed to do. And more unfortunately, hyphens are not sexy. If I ranked punctuation on how sexy it is, hyphens would not make the top five. They make the name seem cut-rate.

Third, it is a mistake that nothing is capitalized. It makes the name look weak and inelegant. I can get on board with non-capitalized names for, say, a coffee shop or shampoo — something that wants to be cute or quirky — but not an electric car, which needs to do everything it can to suggest power and strength (because as drivers will tell you, electric vehicles have a reputation for pretty wussy performance on the freeway.)

So, why didn’t they start an E Series to fit with the rest of their naming architecture? I think it’s simply because they had been going with e-tron as a descriptor for a while and thought that it carried some cachet. But, how much better would an alphanumeric have been! The Audi E1 or Audi E3 would have been intuitive, elegant, and powerful.

from www.audi.com

from www.audi.com

Not to be a back seat driver, they still could have done much better even if they didn’t want to start an E Series. Just playing with the word electronic, I would have preferred the Audi Elect, the Audi Tronic, or the Audi Lectro better than the Audi e-tron. At least those have capital letters in them.

Yes, a lot of consumers’ draw towards one car or another has to do with the brand. You’re a Toyota person, or you’re a Ford person, etc. Audi has always relied on the strength of the Audi name, and not on model names, so the e-tron line will be protected because it will always be yoked to Audi. However, with electric vehicles, I think automotive brand allegiance doesn’t carry the same weight. It’s a different ball game (after all, one of the market leaders is Tesla, which has never made combustion cars). As a result, Audi should have been much more careful with picking the name of their electric vehicle.

Not to be a back seat driver, but just playing with the word electronic, I would have preferred the Audi Elect, the Audi Tronic, or the Audi Lectro better than the Audi e-tron. At least those have capital letters in them.

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