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The seltzer tsunami washing over America has not abated, and this month it was announced that one of the biggest bastions of beverage is getting in the game. Introducing bubly, brought to you by PepsiCo.

I’ve gotta say, Pepsi’s new brand is really impressive, and a wonderful case study on how the name and graphic design can create a whole far greater than the sum of the parts.

from Instagram (bublyWater)

 

Perrier in Catchword name review of bublyHere’s a quick and dirty summary of how we got here. The OG bubble water brand, Perrier (born circa 1898), effuses pure class and elegance. S.Pellegrino (1899) also evokes European sophistication. (Not coincidentally, both companies are now owned by Nestlé.)

Fast forward to LaCroix — a brand that lived in relative obscurity from its founding in 1981 until its meteoric rise in the 2010s — bridges elegance and fun. (Note the name LaCroix actually references the St. Croix river and the town of LaCrosse, both in Wisconsin, where the company began.

LaCroix in Catchword name review of bubly

For those of us outside the Badger State, however, the name is simply “cross” in French. Anything French suggests refinement to the American ear, and its cursive font and pastel colors evoke elegance and femininity, while the forms in its packaging are dynamic and fun.)

With the name bubly, Pepsi went all in on fun. “We created bubly to provide consumers with a great-tasting, flavorful, unsweetened sparkling water in a fun, playful, and relevant manner that is unlike anything we’ve seen in the sparkling water category today,” said Todd Kaplan, Pepsico Beverages Vice President in a release.

The word bubbly means, of course, full of bubbles, or, metaphorically, vivacious. It also is used as slang for champagne, which suggests celebration. In general, an “ee” sound at the end of a name conveys friendly and familiar, all part of having fun. This ending is also rather genderless (as opposed to the traditionally masculine-sounding “o” or feminine “a”), which could be an advantage given the feminine-skewing competition.

Spelling the word without the third b ensures that it is pronounced with two short syllables (“bub” + “lee” rather than “bubble” + “ee”), which makes it peppier. This spelling also distances it from champagne enough to avoid possible confusion about whether the product contains alcohol.

But the real genius comes from the lowercase b, and this is where the name and packaging work in full concert. The colors are bright, one might even call them bold. But the brand took care not to appear aggressive — these aren’t energy drinks, or even sodas with caffeine or sugar and intense flavors. So the lowercase b and rounded, sans serif font soften the position, while also communicating playfulness and independence. This brand doesn’t care about conventions and formalities like capital letters.

You might think that the smiling u would have kept the name light and fun all on its own. But tempering the first letter for bubly was especially important because it is a plosive, a letter that involves a burst of air as in b, p, d, t, k, or g. Plosives carry a lot of force, so pulling back from that with the lowercase was a subtle yet important choice.

PepsiCo is planning a huge product launch, with the brand set to debut with two ads during the Academy Awards broadcast March 4th. They’re hoping this night for bubbly will become bubly’s night.

The lower case b is casual, intimate, and playfully flaunts convention, all of which orients the consumer to see the intense colors as fun rather than bold.

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Catchword names Keysight PathWave

Catchword names Keysight PathWaveKeysight, leading provider of electronic product design, test, and optimization solutions (and long-time Catchword client), has launched PathWave, the first design and test platform that accelerates workflow by connecting every step in the product development path.

PathWave is a scalable, AI-based predictive software platform that combines software, instrument control, and application-specific test software in an open development environment. From design and simulation to prototype and test through to manufacturing and deployment, this suite of interoperable tools integrates and streamlines.

“Keysight has broken new ground with PathWave,” said Laurel Sutton, Catchword Senior Strategist. “The product development path is relatively fixed — certain things have to happen to get from A to B to C — but speed and economy along that path and final outcome can be greatly improved with smart, customizable integration. That’s exactly what Keysight has done.”

Catchword was delighted to partner again with Keysight, whom the agency named in 2014 (when the company spun off Agilent) and has worked with since to develop several product names.

“PathWave is a great choice for this innovative platform,” Catchword Creative Director Maria Cypher said. “The name denotes fluid acceleration through the development path, while its construction style suggest simplicity and efficiency.”

Keysight, leading provider of electronic product design, test, and optimization solutions (and long-time Catchword client), has launched PathWave, the first design and test platform that accelerates workflow by connecting every step in the product development path.

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A new online retailer has launched to provide natural food, eco-friendly household items, and socially conscious personal care items. The company’s name is Brandless.

from www.brandless.com

Much like No-Ad sunscreen (which, if you can’t guess, doesn’t run any advertisements), the deal is that the brand Brandless supposedly forgoes branding, thereby saving overhead, and passes on those savings to the customer.

Paradox notwithstanding, I like the name as well as the concept. The simple packaging and lack of marketing ado makes the products seem simpler, less adulterated, more natural, and, dare I say, more authentic — perfect for their target market of health-conscious young shoppers.

from www.brandless.com

And, the paradox gives it an allure. There’s a way in which launching a brand with this kind of contract between the brand and consumers subtly flatters consumers, making them feel savvy and sophisticated. It even makes shoppers think they’re beating the system, or that they’ve really struck on a secret deal. Gets those hunter-gatherer endorphins coursing.

Another distinctive aspect of Brandless is that it is one of the rare names that employs a negative construction; that is to say, it calls out the absence of something, instead of highlighting the presence of something good. I can think of a few examples (Payless ShoeSource, Goo-Be-Gone, No Fear Shakespeare come to mind), but they are definitely the exception. Brands usually (and rightly) avoid names that negate a negative rather than describe a positive. Unlike high price, ugly goo, and fear, however, a brand isn’t generally thought of as something bad. By pointing out the absence of it, the name suggests that it is, in fact, something to be avoided. Plus, given the “less” suffix and the “a” vowel sound, the name recalls desirables “pay less” and “painless.”

Of course, once the company decided on the message of not having a brand, its name choices were very limited. But they could have still made a misstep. Since the name Generic is, well, too generic and is almost certainly not trademarkable, the most salient alternative would have been to follow No-Ad’s lead and go with No-Brand. But, think about the difference between Brandless and No-Brand. The former is more sophisticated, and the “ess” sound at the end feels almost fancy. The latter is blunter in denotation, sound, and personality. Good branding decision not to go with No-Brand. 

P.S. In case you’re curious about how much the company discounts its stuff, here’s a note about pricing. At Brandless, all items are 3 dollars. Though this does make it difficult to actually compare prices to other retailers because it means they tinker with the sizes, Brandless is a bit cheaper, if the company’s coffee pricing is a good indicator. At my grocery store, organic coffee in K-cups is usually around 75 cents or more per cup, or 12 bucks for a pound of beans. At Brandless, for 3 big ones you can get a six-pack of organic K-cups, or 6 oz of beans. Though the portions are different, the math checks out: Brandless is cheaper.

Paradox notwithstanding, I like the name as well as the concept. The simple packaging and lack of marketing ado makes the products seem simpler, less adulterated, more natural, and, dare I say, more authentic — perfect for their target market of health-conscious young shoppers.

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Catchword's top brand names of 2017

Catchword's top product names of 2017We love our clients. We love the names we create for our clients. But, sadly, not everyone is our client … yet. So as the year draws to a close, we look at naming trends and some of the most compelling brand names of 2017 that Catchword didn’t create. (Check out Portfolio Highlights to see some kickass names we did develop.)

The Catchword team regularly discusses product and company names we’ve been impressed with and why. Some of these turn into Name Reviews, others make it to our WIN list (Wish I’d Named), which together provide a pretty clear picture of the naming landscape over the years.

Catchword's top brand names of 2017

For brand names in 2017, the single-English-word-used-in-a-suggestive-but-unexpected-way trend continued robustly, particularly in B2C tech. Ever since Nest, every company wants one lexical word to richly express its brand story. Long gone are the days of dropped vowels, -ly, and -er, with no names on our fave list that feature a 2000s-era construction. Even the use of coined compounds has waned in the face of the real English word juggernaut.

happy millennials - Catchword presents top 20 brand names of 2017

gotta love those happy millennials

One theory is that millennials like things streamlined and meaningful, and since 18-35s are the golden demographic for most companies, company names are tending to the lyrical and short.

Interestingly, names seem to be a fairly even mix of adjectives (Candid, Nomadic, Brandless) and nouns (Dandelion, Tapestry, Switch), regardless of whether the company provides a service or product.

Are companies choosing this name style because of its simple elegance or linguistic puritanism? Honestly, it may be ‘me too’-ism as much as anything at this point, and we don’t see any sign of that changing in 2018.

OK, enough about trends, we know you’re here for the names. So without further ado, here are some of the more memorable monikers that debuted this year.

Catchword top 2017 brand names - The Boring Company

photo: The Boring Company

The Boring Company – Elon Musk’s tunnel-construction company. The idea is to build a network of underground tunnels to solve traffic congestion, and to reduce to the cost of building all these tunnels, the diameter will be greatly reduced and cars placed on stabilized electric skates. Oh, Elon, you clever clogs. This ironic pun underscores how a bold vision can turn the mundane into an extraordinary journey.

Brandless - 2017 top names - Catchword

photo: Brandless

Brandless – manufacturer and online retailer of food, personal care, and household products, including organics, with minimal packaging design and at one price – $3. Clever way to repackage the generic effort of the 80s, updated as a modern general store. The name says it all, with a twist: their brand is to be brandless. (Look for a complete review of this name in our blog next month.)

Candid – direct-to-consumer teeth alignment company. Now you’re ready for your candid closeup. Smart use of a word we’ve long associated with smiles.

Clark – business software for tutors. “Clark” sounds like a smart, standup guy (after all, Mr. Kent is about as good as it gets). He’ll help you be a super tutor. Plus the name picks up on the British pronunciation of “clerk” – this software takes care of accounting, scheduling, payments, and other clerkly tasks.

Cowboy electric bike - Catchword top 2017 brand names

photo: Cowboy

Cowboy – electronic bicycle company. Everyone wants to be a cowboy, and every cowboy needs a steady steed. Nuf said.

Dandelion – geothermal heating company. See our name review for why we give this an A+.

Essential – Android phone manufacturer. The company’s belief that phones are deeply personal and necessary in the 21st century; that phone software should include only what you want and need; that your device should evolve with you; and that premium materials are, well, essential make this name the quintessential choice.

Catchword 2017 top brand names - Hound Labs

photo: Hound Labs

Hound Labs – marijuana breathalyzer manufacturer. Nothing can sniff it out like a hound. Perfectly suggestive, plus fun, and therefore distinctive and memorable, in a space where most names are dry as a bone.

Misty Robotics – manufacturer of practical robots for home and office. The company plans to build teammates, servants, buddies, even, that perform helpful tasks, provide safety, and interact with humans in entertaining and personable ways. This feminine name sounds super friendly, disarming, unintimidating (allaying fears of a robotic dystopian future), and a little sentimental.

Movement – Uber’s program to help urban planning worldwide by collecting GPS data. The name lets us know it’s about the movements of its many customers as well as urban and social change.

Nomadic VR – virtual reality arcades. Customers can strap on VR headsets and PC backpacks and roam around rooms in virtual reality. The name suggests exploration, movement, new experiences, and real life.

Octopus watch - Catchword - 2017 top product names

photo: Joy

Octopus – smartwatch for kids from Franco-American family tech company Joy. For this product, the name must be playful but not silly, easy to say and understand in multiple languages, and suggest a device that helps you juggle many important tasks, like brushing teeth and doing your homework. “Octopus” handily manages all that, and delivers a rich graphic element for product and packaging design.

Purple – mattress and cushion manufacturer. A trend we’ve seen among the single-word names is using an arbitrary word and then building a brand story and positioning around it. “Purple” is very distinct for a mattress company, where most competitors are family names or describe the bed’s functional benefits. Although purple does suggest premium (royal purple), it doesn’t suggest bed or sleep at all.

Purple - Catchword top company names 2017

photo: Purple

The company uses purple for the inner material of the mattress, the packaging the mattress comes in, and a few other touchpoints, helping to build the purple narrative. (Brand names should never live on their own — telling a compelling story around them is key.) Coincidentally, another 2017 company following this trend chose a color also: Orange Bank.

Rides in Google Maps – tool to book Lyft or Uber rides directly from Google Maps (the one with the icon of a person holding a suitcase and hailing a cab). Very on the nose (a good thing in this case), friendly, casual, fast, easy.

Sound Huggle – wireless earmuff headphones. Although this company wasn’t the first to use the coinage “huggle” (hug + snuggle), it is a perfect fit. These cozy knit headphones wrap your ears in warmth and sound.

Catchword 2017 top brand names - Nintendo Switch

photo: Nintendo

Switch – Nintendo’s hybrid gaming console, which can be attached to a TV in the traditional way or used on its own as a portable game unit. Switch conveys this ability as well as the idea of turning on (or being turned on) and electronics and computer science in general (“switch” is a term used in various ways in computer programming).

Tapestry – the new parent company for Coach, Kate Spade, and Stuart Weitzman. See our name review for why Tapestry gets an A.

Token – maker of a “smart ring,” a biometric-based piece of jewelry that serves as wallet, keys, and flash drive. “Token” is a powerful and poetic word, evoking many different contexts. It can be a substitute for money (as in the subway), a password or object for authentication, a keepsake to show affection, a game piece that represents you, a conceptual object or word (in computing), and on and on. Fundamentally, a token is a symbol, an expression of something else, which elegantly enables the company to move evolve beyond its initial product.

VoiceOps – sales call analysis software. VoiceOps is your “guy in the chair” (the one who tells the superhero what’s going on). It’s an AI that can transcribe calls and analyze for actionable info. “Voice” expresses calls and transcription, but also having a voice in decisions, while “Ops” (term for “operations”) suggests military precision. This name was one of the few compounds in 2017.

photo: Voyage

Voyage – self-driving taxi company. Like “Rides,” this name is on the nose, so you know exactly what space this company works in, but the tone is poetic, full of promise and adventure. We aren’t just getting from here to there in a self-driving vehicle, we are on a voyage into a brave new world.

As the year draws to a close, we look at naming trends and some of the most compelling brand names of 2017.

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Catchword named top naming agency in the world 2017

Catchword named top naming agency in the world 2017On Friday, Clutch—the leading provider of unbiased ratings and reviews for marketing agencies—announced its Global Leaders in Naming, and Catchword ranks as the #1 naming agency worldwide!

“It’s no easy feat standing out from the rest when it comes to the naming industry,” said Clutch Business Analyst Jenna Seter. “On Clutch, where the naming competition is especially fierce, it’s even harder to be distinguished as one of the best companies that provide naming services.”

With 20 reviews from clients such as Corning, Plantronics, and BlackBerry, Catchword averaged a perfect 5 stars across the four categories of Quality, Schedule, Cost, and Willingness to Refer— landing us in the top spot in a field of 159 naming-service providers.

Clutch evaluates each agency through in-depth phone interviews with vetted clients, along with an analysis of overall experience and market presence. The client and project details in these reviews are often more helpful for potential clients than simple testimonials or star ratings. We are deeply grateful to the clients who took the time to provide Clutch their thoughts about their Catchword experience.

“Clutch is very proud of all of the agencies [that have] earned their spot as leaders on our platform,” Seter continued. “At the #1 spot for naming agencies on Clutch, Catchword is certainly no exception.”

As Catchword approaches its 20th anniversary in 2018, we are simply delighted to be recognized in this way. Our co-founder Maria Cypher said it best: “We love what we do, and we’re constantly striving to create the best names and the most satisfying client experiences. And well, to be validated for it feels pretty darn good.”

Heartfelt thanks to all our clients and partners for being an integral part of our success and for sharing in our excitement!

On Friday, Clutch—the leading provider of unbiased ratings and reviews for marketing agencies—announced its Global Leaders in Naming, and Catchword ranks as the #1 naming agency worldwide!

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