True story: when Alex was 5, his parents paid him 2 cents for every dandelion he pulled up from the yard. He probably exacerbated the problem by blowing the seeds off the top of every one he pulled up. But we tell this story not only because it was the first line on his resume, but was a stark lesson in the arbitrariness of what we consider weeds.
Which brings us to Dandelion, a new startup from Alphabet (Google’s parent company) created to offer affordable geothermal heating and cooling systems for the home.
The idea is simple — 300 feet into the earth the temperature is always 50 degrees. Send a pipe down that far, and in the summer, the system cools your house with that air. In the winter, when the temperature outside is freezing, water in the pipes absorbs some of the earth’s heat to warm your home.
The system costs 20-25 grand, and is currently available in select upstate New York counties, which is perfect for giving people sweating it out in the city this summer another reason to dream about moving north.
Now, the sticklers out in the sticks will tell you that dandelions are weeds. But dandelions, as weeds go, are great. You can make a salad from the leaves. You can make wine out of the blossoms. Traditional medicine systems used it to treat various ailments. (A pretty useful resource for a weed!)
Dandelions are tough, resilient, and can flourish anywhere — sidewalks and concrete driveways be damned! The yellow flowers are cute as buttons. Plus, it’s downright magical the way the tiny seed umbrellas are swept off by the wind. No wonder we make wishes on them.
As a name, Dandelion gets to a natural, happy thing in your yard. It sounds elegant yet homey, suggests tenacity and strength (of a lion!), and is very pleasing to read and say. People who grew up with the flowers generally have fond associations with the word. It is a bit long syllabically, though not bad simply counting the number of letters.
But how does Dandelion convey geothermal heating and cooling you say?
The company’s approach centers on drilling pipes into the earth to access a steady temperature, much as the dandelion sends it long taproot deep into your lawn to access a steady supply of water and nutrients. And dandelion wishes subtly suggest the company’s aspiration for a future where homes are heated and cooled with renewable resources.
Note that these are beautiful, and apt, metaphors, but don’t directly communicate heating or cooling. One could make the case that the company would be better served with a name that clearly expresses the company’s core functions given that the technology has never been marketed to individual homes before and could be unfamiliar to consumers.
But if geothermal takes off, there will be plenty of Geothermal Citys and Cool Earths around so a name like Dandelion, with its deeper meanings, will really stand out. Plus, the company may want to expand its business down the road.
Dandelion has legs (roots?) for the long term.
(When choosing a name, particularly when naming a company, always think long-term. You don’t want to be limited by it a few years from now. For other company naming tips, see our many Resources. If you need more help, drop us a line.)
When I was 5, my parents paid me 2 cents for every dandelion I pulled up from the yard. I probably exacerbated the problem by blowing the seeds off the top of every one I pulled up. … Which brings me to Dandelion, a new startup from Alphabet (Google’s parent company) created to offer affordable geothermal heating and cooling systems for the home.
Emma is still the top baby name for girls. That’s the third year in a row. (And it’s placed in the top 5 since 2002.) Next come Olivia, Ava, Sophia, Isabella, and Mia. All very old-school European and feminine with that final “a.”
The next four of the top 10, Charlotte (inspired by the young English princess, no doubt), Abigail, and Emily are also old-fashioned and feminine. Harper at number 10 is the only modern or androgynous name.
For boys, Noah tops the list, where it has stood for the past four years. The dignified Liam and William [Irish and English versions of the same name] follow — they’ve ranked in the top 5 for the past five years plus. Like Charlotte, William‘s popularity may also have been influenced by the English royal family’s increased visibility since the wedding.
As with the girls, the majority of the top names for boys are old-fashioned, but unlike the Latin- and Greek-derived feminine names, the boys are largely biblical: Noah, James, Benjamin, Jacob, Michael, Elijah, and Ethan. Mason (number 4) is the only top 10 not found in the good book. Like Harper, it is a given name taken from an occupation-based surname.
See the full list, searchable by name, year, and change in popularity, at SSA.gov.
Emma & Noah still number 1. According to the Social Security Administration, the most popular baby names haven’t changed much from the past few years, with old-fashioned and biblical being common themes.
The Bay Area is undeniably the wild west of new tech. And if Uber and Lyft thought this town ain’t big enough for the both of them, well, they’ve got another thing coming; there’s a new horse in town. The next means of getting from the downtown Oakland saloon to your hideout in the Berkeley hills is called Gig. Giddyup!
Gig is a car share that, like some city bike operations, lets you drive a car without returning it to where you picked it up. It’s $2.50 a mile, and then $.30 cents a minute if you park it but keep it reserved (or park it outside of downtown Berkeley or Oakland). There are hourly and day rates as well.
Gig fits a lot of the criteria for a great app name. It’s clever, short as can be, and has a repeating letter which, even non-sequentially, makes a name more memorable. Giggle is a great, subtle suggestion, and little may some people know, one of gig’s historical definitions is of a two-wheeled carriage pulled by one horse. (Hence the wild west claptrap at the head.)
However, in the current zeitgeist, the strongest connotation of gig is a short job. We’re living in the heyday of the gig economy, and so the name ironically brings us back to competitors Uber and Lyft. Gig is not, however, part of the gig economy, because the service doesn’t come with a driver working as a contractor. Gig is not really part of the sharing economy either, because the cars are owned by the company. It’s really a new spin on rental cars more than anything else, so the gig economy suggestion may be slightly confusing.
Another aspect of the gig economy I’d like to note – and this is important for the name simply because it can be associated with the word gig – is that in some political and social circles (including East Bay circles), the benefits and consequences of the gig economy are starting to be questioned more and more and more by economists and journalists. (Of course, there are many that also laud the gig economy.) That trend may continue, and if the gig economy becomes increasingly criticized, the name Gig will suffer.
Lastly, for the sake of equal airtime, I’ll end with the other definitions of gig: a musical performance engagement, a type of rowboat, a spear used for frog hunting, slang for a demerit for an infraction of military dress code, and slang for gigabit-speed internet. You may see the name lampooned (or harpooned) in Bay Area Frog Fishing Monthly, but other than that, no huge issues there.
In the current zeitgeist, the strongest connotation of gig is a short job. We’re living in the heyday of the gig economy, and so the name ironically brings us back to competitors Uber and Lyft. Gig is not, however, part of the gig economy…
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.)
About.com, 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. About.com 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 http://www.dot.dash 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 dotdash.com 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.
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.
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.
Yes, Catchword is celebrating 19 years in the naming biz.