In advance of their IPO, Snapchat is lopping off the “chat” part of their name.
Among certain circles, this happened a while ago. For years, teens could be found sitting on the floor of the mall chained to an outlet declaiming, “Gotta check my snaps” or “Just sent you a snap” or “I can’t believe you Snap with your parents.”
Now the actual company is following suit. Though wisdom was spoken from the mouths of youth hanging out next to the Hot Topic charging their phones, there are bigger forces at play.
You see, Snapchat is rapidly expanding. They’ve done mobile payments, they’ve just released sunglasses with a built-in camera they call “Spectacles” (a great homonym), and all indications are that more new stuff is on the way. More wearables, more social functions, more news and current events and maybe TV shows or even airing concerts or sports events, or heck, why not video-chatting? Snap is well poised to grow.
Regardless, the change has allowed the name to take on more meanings. The Snap of Snapchat most saliently alluded to the duration and fleetingness of the message. It also hinted at the fact that it was a picture-based messaging system (for those of us old enough to remember the sound of a shutter). But now, the simple and easy to use connotation of Snap is brought to the fore, which is fantastic seeing as they’re aiming to be so much more than a one-trick-pony.
And though sometimes changing a name means that the company is rectifying a mistake with the initial name, or didn’t have the foresight to go with a totally inclusive name to begin with, that isn’t so with Snap.
The decision to drop “chat” came at the right time, and relied on the company first establishing itself with the SnapChat name. When launching a basically new concept from scratch – which they did – it is often an advantage to have the name do a bit more of the descriptive legwork (as long as it isn’t too literal and unhip). Once Snapchat became a household name, it was ready to molt. And that’s not to mention, dropping chat was easy and elegant. (That’s what makes it a no-brainer from a naming perspective. The transition is much more seamless than, say, JustFab becoming TechStyle Fashion Group.)
With your name, you really should invest the time and resources to get it right the first time. Snapchat did get it right the first time, and grew beyond what anyone thought possible. (Remember when their CEO turned down 2 billion dollars from Facebook??) And now, poised to explode into versatile, many-armed tech powerhouse, they are also getting it right the second time. Good on them.
In advance of their IPO, Snapchat is lopping off the “chat” part of their name. Among certain circles, this happened a while ago. For years, teens could be found sitting on the floor of the mall chained to an outlet declaiming, “Gotta check my snaps” or “Just sent you a snap” or “I can’t believe you Snap with your parents.”
Although the LIA has been rewarding excellence in advertising for 20 years, 2016 was the first year that Verbal Identity was added to the judging categories. I was honored to be selected as one of six jurors, along with Ben Zimmer (WSJ columnist), Rachel Bernard (CBX), Steve Martin (Eat Creative), Sean Doyle (Panic), and Chris West (Verbal Identity Ltd.), our fearless leader. This exceptionally intelligent, insightful, charming, and funny group (present company excepted) was tasked with choosing the best work in the following categories: Tagline/Endline, Naming, Tone of Voice, and Use of Copywriting.
We had two days to evaluate the work, which was submitted by agencies from countries around the world. Because it was the first year for Verbal Identity, we received fewer entries than some of the other juries did, but we expect that to change in future. But we got plenty of great work!
We had a lovely meeting room all to ourselves at the fabulous Wynn Encore in Las Vegas, and were well-supplied with coffee as well as lunches on the patio. Maria Corpuz, Ben’s wife (who came with him to celebrate their wedding anniversary, and who helped make our dinners delightful) generously did donut runs for us on Monday and Tuesday to the Donut Bar (see photo). So what did we do with all that sugar and caffeine? We worked!
On Monday we individually reviewed all the work submitted in each category and assigned a number (1-10 scale) to each piece. This was just to get a reading on our impressions and give us a rough ranking for the Tuesday discussion. We looked at videos, jpgs, PDFs, printouts, websites, and in some cases, actual products. Personally, I found the Tone of Voice and Use of Copywriting categories the hardest; I had pretty definite instincts on the names and taglines, but I had to approach the copywriting categories more as a consumer than as an expert. And I think the copywriters in our group felt the same about the names. Still, we finished our task for the day and went out for dinner at the Beauty & Essex – which you need to enter through a “secret door” (note: not actually secret), like a speakeasy. The onion rings were outstanding.
Tuesday was the actual decision-making day, along with our panel to the young creatives from many global agencies. The panel, titled “Only Words: Is language there to fill the gaps between the pictures or a branding superhero power?” covered many topics, including name creation, luxury brand marketing, how to get yourself creatively motivated, Donald Trump, and why words are more important than ever. We got a lot of great questions from the audience – the current generation of creatives is something to be reckoned with!
Our panel spent some time defining the criteria for success in each category, which was difficult, but helped us a lot in our evaluations. What IS Tone of Voice, anyway? We decided that it’s like a character speaking: it has to be consistent, believable, and convey something about the brand essence, whether in a few words or in several pages of copy. It had to speak to us. It had to work across multiple media executions. And it had to work for the target audience.
Together, these criteria created quite a high bar – deliberately so. We wanted the inaugural year of Verbal Identity Awards to set the standard, recognizing truly excellent work; no “awards for the sake of giving out awards”. It took us hours to work our way through the entries and agree on the level of recognition; fortunately, we were allowed to award multiple Golds, Silvers, and Bronzes in each category, as well as simply recognizing some entries as Finalists. We were also given the option of awarding a Grand LIA (the black award in the photo) to any entry that we felt was “Best of the Best”.
I can’t tell you what won, but I will say that we all felt good about the final list. It will be announced on the LIA website on November 2nd.
Although the LIA has been rewarding excellence in advertising for 20 years, 2016 was the first year that Verbal Identity was added to the judging categories. I was honored to be selected as one of six jurors, along with Ben Zimmer (WSJ columnist), Rachel Bernard (CBX), Steve Martin (Eat Creative), Sean Doyle (Panic), and Chris West (Verbal Identity Ltd.), our fearless leader…
Today, Venmo is THE mobile payment app in the USA. My friends and I use it all the time; splitting checks is a cakewalk. And because of its ubiquity, Venmo is contracted by large companies to process refunds and other transfers of money to or from smartphones. (This is where Venmo takes a cut and makes serious dough.)
So naturally, the nation’s largest banks have been rankled at being locked out of the mobile payment market, to the point where they’ve decided to band together to give Venmo some competition. Band together!? Yep. That’s because the biggest challenge with P2P money transfers is that all parties need the app for it to be useful. And it was just announced that these unlikely bedfellows chose the name Zelle.
Like cash, financial entities’ names trend colder and harder, but Zelle is a sharp zag from that. Zelle is a friendly app name that suggests speed – not only do fricatives at the beginning of words make us feel speed as we say them, Zelle suggests gazelle, the nimble antelope and money management guru of the animal kingdom. And with the “elle” part of the name, Zelle is about as feminine as you can get – another point of differentiation in an industry rife with Charleses, Franklins, Benjamins, Morgans, and Stanleys.
The need for a total financial industry naming convention shake-up is obvious. Big banks have not been in the public’s good graces since we took a bath in 2007, and the union of all major banks, even just to make an app, is potentially scary. They needed an app name that did not sound scary. They needed a totally fresh name, devoid of to the banks themselves or to the traditional financial services industry.
There are banking institutions that are making similarly friendly, quirky, feminine names work, more or less. Voya Financial is one example. But sticking Financial on the end tempers the name, links it to the industry, and Voya has a bit more permanence to it. I like that the name is feminine – my quibble is that I actually think Zelle sounds a bit too fast. Zelle is so light and quick it feels ephemeral, and if there is one thing I do not want my bank account to be, it is here one day and gone the next. And that’s not to mention that if you don’t get to “gazelle,” you can easily see “sell” in the name, which is a distracting and less than ideal association.
The name checks a lot of the boxes – short, memorable, evocative, graphically interesting… It’s a decent name for an app. But it has two pretty noteworthy flaws. So I gotta say, sell.
Contentious closing claim: if they took one more letter from gazelle and called the app Azelle, I don’t think being too ephemeral would have been a problem at all (another syllable adds a lot of permanence), and nobody would have seen “sell” in the name either. In my opinion, that would have been a much better name.
Today, Venmo is THE mobile payment app in the USA. My friends and I use it all the time; splitting checks is a cakewalk. And because of its ubiquity, Venmo is contracted by large companies to process refunds and other transfers of money to or from smartphones. (This is where Venmo takes a cut and makes serious dough.)…
Catchword’s own Laurel Sutton has been tapped to serve on the first-ever Verbal Identity jury for the prestigious London International Awards (LIA) to begin next week in Las Vegas. She will be the first full-time professional namer at LIA.
LIA invites “the most talented, recognized, and awarded individuals from within their respective fields” to serve on its juries. With her background in linguistics, branding, and naming, Laurel will be a significant addition to the Verbal Identity jury, which includes branding experts from Verbal Identity Ltd. (London), Panic (London), CBX (New York), Eat Creative (Tokyo), and the Wall Street Journal.
“Laurel is one of the foremost namers on the planet, with more than two decades’ experience as a naming-firm principal, name strategist, and linguist,” said Catchword co-founder and Executive Creative Director Maria Cypher. “We are thrilled that she will share her wealth of verbal branding insights on this debut panel.”
LIA (formerly known as London International Advertising Awards), now in its 31st year, is a worldwide award honoring excellence in Advertising, Digital, Production, Design, Music & Sound, and Technology. This year marks the first time Verbal Identity will be treated as a medium, with its own jury. In addition to Naming, categories include Campaign Tagline/Endline, Tone of Voice, and Use of Copywriting.
“LIA’s promotion of Verbal Identity to a medium is a ground-breaking move for the branding business,” Laurel explained. “Verbal Identity — especially naming — is an often-overlooked part of branding. Namers don’t even have a professional association, like the AIGA for design. There is an academic organization, the American Name Society, of which I’m a member, but nothing for people in the industry.”
LIA juries consist of 6-11 members who judge entries from around world in the 16 media. Last year, 14,106 entries from 78 countries vied for the gold, silver, and bronze statues. This year’s judging takes place October 6-14 at the Encore Hotel in Las Vegas.
“I was honored to be selected as a juror,” Laurel said, “and I’m delighted to be collaborating again with Ben Zimmer, a linguist and Wall Street Journal columnist. He and I have been working with the Linguistic Society of America to educate linguistic students about jobs outside of academia. I’m really looking forward to meeting the other jurors and getting down to work.”
Laurel will also participate in a panel discussion titled “Only Words: Is language there to fill the gaps between the pictures or a branding superhero power?” which will be attended by top young creatives as well as the press.
The LIA shortlists will be announced as each session concludes (mid-October) and winners November 2.
Congratulations, Laurel! We can’t wait to hear all about it!
Stay tuned for Laurel’s behind-the-scenes report from LIA October 11.
[To Our Naming Competitors: Note that jury members do not participate in the judging of their own company’s work, so Catchword’s four Naming entries will not receive any unfair advantage from Laurel’s participation — they will rise to the top on their own merit.]
Laurel Sutton is a linguist, strategist, and co-founder of Catchword. Her love of language began with a BA in Linguistics at Rutgers University and continued in graduate school at UC Berkeley, where she specialized in both sociolinguistics and phonetics. She enjoys the challenge of working out strategy and architecture issues with clients such as Cisco, Plantronics, Corning, and Keysight.
Despite being born and raised in New Jersey, Laurel speaks excellent English, and has studied French, German, Japanese, and ASL. She is an active member of the American Name Society and the Linguistic Society of America, and has served as an expert witness on naming and branding issues.
Catchword’s own Laurel Sutton has been tapped to serve on the first-ever Verbal Identity jury for the prestigious London International Awards (LIA) to begin next week in Las Vegas. She will be the first professional namer at LIA.
was last week, where 30 startups competed for 50 thousand bones.
Here at Catchword, we like to keep up with the shiniest tech innovation trends. But we pay even more attention to the new company names! (occupational hazard)
When I read about disruptive and innovative companies and services, I ask myself a few questions about the company’s name: Are the names forward thinking, with the stamina to stay fresh for a hundred years? Or do they seem like they are following the naming trends of yore? Do the names reflect the ingenuity of the company, lending priceless cachet? Or are the names derivative, holding back a company trying so hard to exude innovation?
Let’s see how names of the six finalists hold up!
EverlyWell offers quick and easy mail-order blood tests that can be shipped off and run through established labs. The name totally has the right tonality, and even though the ly ending is overused in startup naming, it is totally friendly and at least feels a little fresh coming in the middle of the name. But I’m not exactly sure what ever has to do with the core benefit of the service — the ease and comfort of being able to do a blood test from home on your own time. I think this name will work, but I suspect there was a better way to hint at what the service actually does. Grade: B
Carbon Health aims to provide a unified place for patients to track health data and interact with doctors, and for doctors, pharmacies, and labs to communicate with patients. Carbon Health could be a nice, clean, premium-sounding name in many regards — carbon makes diamonds, after all, and is what organic matter must contain to be organic. However, the associations with climate change are simply too strong in my mind for this name to work. Carbon dioxide, carbon footprint, carbon sequestration, carbon taxes… Climate change has become a big negative in public health as a result of extreme temperatures, drought, poor air quality, quicker spread of disease, and so forth, I’d stay away from carbon if I were these folks. Grade: D
Mobalytics was the WINNER of the TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2016 startup competition. It offers coaching for video-game players by analyzing their play and telling them what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how to improve. Great concept! I don’t play WoW, but I do play enough games to know that this would be super intriguing and very helpful, if I wanted to improve. However, the name very clearly suggests mobile to me. Mobile gaming may be part of their line-up in the future, but they are starting with World of Warcraft and then after that moving on to DoTA and Counterstrike, all of which require good old-fashioned computers. The lytics bit is good (and is a great example at how you can hint at what you do without being boring), but I honestly don’t know what Moba is supposed to suggest. The name has great flow, however, which is why I am giving this a B- instead of a C+. Grade: B-
BlazingDB is a new take on database management that uses graphics processing units (rather than computer processing units) to analyze massive amounts of data. Blazing is meant to communicate that using GPUs rather than CPUs is fast. Which it is. Though heat and fire metaphors are very common and perhaps overused to suggest speed, that’s not the part of the name I have reservations about. I have reservations about the other denotation of DB. Maybe nobody in the industry will read it that way because they are used to the acronym, but it isn’t beyond the pale. Grade: B-
Sqreen is a security service that monitors web-based apps for threats using a software-as-a-service approach. The name is simple, clean, and quirky, with a good double meaning. To a large extent, the trend of misspelling words came out of a need for cheap, available screen names and domains, and though misspelling are going slightly out of style (not to mention, the new gTLDs have somewhat reset the domain acquisition game), I think there is still a place for unexpected yet elegant misspellings like Sqreen. Grade: A
UnifyID thinks they’ve found a way to get rid of passwords once and for all. Their service tracks your behavior — your typing cadence, locations, patterns of use, and more — to make sure it’s really you. If you are acting erratically, or they suspect a hacker has taken the reins, they’ll ask to validate your identity. But if it’s clear that it’s you, no passwords needed! At all! I would have really liked to get my hands on this name. To me, the ID abbreviation (short for “identification”) actually suggests passwords. That’s backward! Unify kinda sorta gets at what they do, which is build a comprehensive profile of users, and they do want to imply that this service can span platforms (you can use it for Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail, for example). But I don’t think unity of platforms is the most gripping or exciting component for the user. In my opinion, the really cool creative possibilities here lie in messages about identity rather than identification. The concept of a soul, spirit, persona, or true self — this is fertile naming ground. Grade: B-
Startup naming is difficult. It’s often the last thing entrepreneurs want to focus on. But taking the time to make sure your name is the best it can be is really important! It affects how fast a new company spreads or catches on, it affects how effective your marketing can be, and it greatly shapes the user’s personal relationship with the product or company. If you have any questions about naming your new company or product, give us a shout!
was last week, where 30 startups competed for 50 thousand bones. … Let’s see how the names of the six finalists hold up!