A history of Catchword in names & numbers
Since our start during the Wild West of the internet, brand identity has transformed from cottage industry to serious marketing discipline. For Catchword, an early focus on Silicon Valley and startups gradually yielded to deep experience across industries, and collaborations with market leaders in every space—Amazon, PwC, Intel, GM, Aetna, and McDonald’s, to name a few.
Read on for the story of our founding, then check out the yearbook, where you’ll find agency highlights and top brands we’ve developed from every year of our history. Share our journey from upstart to #1 in the world and catch a glimpse of the fascinating interplay of culture and branding.
So a Stanford MBA, a Harvard MBA, and a Berkeley linguist walk into a bar…
… well, the Rockridge Cafe, actually. In early 1998, three co-workers, and language lovers, began talking about founding a new agency dedicated to the development of compelling names that are equal parts creative, strategic, and legally protectable.
At the time, specialized naming firms were few. Most companies created their brand names in-house or asked their advertising firm to do it. Maria Cypher, Laurel Sutton, and Burt Alper wanted to bring much more process and creative rigor to the nascent industry. In the midst of sea changes like the internet and globalization, they knew that the need for great, globally available names was about to explode.
On May 5, 1998, Catchword opened its doors in Oakland, smack in the middle of the dot-com boom. Many of our early clients were Bay Area dot-coms with startup funding, like Petopia and SquareTrade.
In January 2001, Mark Skoultchi joined the firm to head up East Coast operations and soon after became a partner.
An obvious question to ask a naming firm is why they chose their own name and how it expresses their brand. And you should ask. A naming company with a bland, unpronounceable, or hard-to-spell name isn’t worthy of your business.
Our name had to be memorable, evoke our pragmatic but fun personality—so nothing too whimsical or too academic—and suggest our services without limiting us as we evolved. We also wanted to avoid the words Name and Brand, which were a bit on the nose and also overly used in this business.
We explored every imaginable word, coining, and metaphor, resulting in an enormous pool of names. Some of the other finalists were Fluent, Lingo, In A Word, and Namesake (which we could not stop referring to as “na-ma-sa-ki”! And of course it violated the no Name names rule).
Catchword by the numbers.
The name of this e-tailer of pet supplies, and poster child for the DotCom Boom (and Bust), is one of our all-time favorites and positioned Catchword as a leading naming partner for startups.
JANUARY 1 | CATCHWORD MOVES TO ITS PERMANENT OFFICE IN THE OAKLAND TRIBUNE TOWER
MAY 23 | CATCHWORD COMPLETES 100TH PROJECT
Ahold’s family of sodas - Rally, Dr. Bob, Quist, Ramp
Naming private-label brands to suggest their well-known counterparts is more fun than a tub of tamarins. Over the years, we’ve named more than 20 of these feisty challengers for Ahold (parent of Giant Food and Stop & Shop).
JUNE 24 | CO-FOUNDER LAUREL SUTTON PROFILED IN THE SAN FRANCISCO BUSINESS TIMES
Catchword’s been proud to partner with many nonprofits over the years, including this organization that serves victims of domestic abuse. We’re also proud to have created a name that’s both an acronym (Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse) and a personal name for discreet client communication.
The assignment was to develop a quintessentially elegant name for a premium vacation club. Cropping a meaningful term is a common namer strategy, and it worked perfectly for this luxury brand.
JULY 4 | CO-FOUNDER BURT ALPER PROFILED IN THE OAKLAND TRIBUNE
NOVEMBER | CO-FOUNDER MARIA CYPHER PROFILED IN STANFORD MAGAZINE | View Article
Popchips. ClickStart. Eska.
What do a popped potato snack, LeapFrog’s intro computer for preschoolers, and glacial water from Canada have in common?
Good taste in naming agencies. 🙂
Vudu. Crazy 8 (for Gymboree).
AUGUST 27 | FIRST (OF MANY) CATCHWORD QUOTES IN THE NEW YORK TIMES
Palm Prē. Asana.
Another great naming year! Palm’s prescient new phone kept things short and sweet. Asana, all focus and flow, has become a top productivity platform (PC Magazine Editor’s Choice) as well as a model for company culture.
MAY 5 | CATCHWORD CELEBRATES 10 YEARS WITH EPIC LAS VEGAS RETREAT
JUNE | CATCHWORD PUBLISHES 1ST EDITION OF COMPREHENSIVE NAMING GUIDE
Sprize (for Gap)
Though short-lived, this rewards program that credited customers with post-purchase price drops was truly a surprising prize. The program may not have lasted, but this little gem of a name remains one of our favorites.
This spinoff biotech company had a new approach that gave scientists greater freedom. … Ah, coined compounds: the unsung workhorse of naming. Well, we’ll sing it to the world—Catchword wants you, needs you, and, yes, loves you.
JULY 8 | CATCHWORD LAUNCHES ONLINE NAMING GAME POPNAMER
Deem, the name for an incisive Commerce-as-a-Service provider, anticipated the rise of the REWN (real English word name), a fave brand name style among the “age of the authentic” millennial generation.
Green coffee extract and fruit juice in a sparkling bevvy. The name and the product are straightforward, satisfying, and cool. (We know Refreshers have been on the market for some time, but we still get a little thrill when we see them on the shelf.)
Spinoffs are a common reason companies need names. Keysight, a testing and measurement company, was a spinoff squared (a spinoff from Agilent, which was a spinoff from HP).
OCTOBER | CATCHWORD PUBLISHES JUST NAME IT! REVISED EDITION OF NAMING GUIDE
Optane (for Intel)
We always strive to provide the most creative, strategic names we can, but when a client tells you the technology will revolutionize computer memory, the pressure’s really on. And Intel delivered. Optane dramatically increased speed, endurance, and responsiveness without compromising capacity.
Mochi is ice cream wrapped in rice-flour pastry. Very tasty—both this line of mochi from Gordon Desserts and the name we created for it. LIA agreed and chose Mochidoki as a 2016 winner.
NOVEMBER | CATCHWORD WINS LONDON INTERNATIONAL AWARD IN DEBUT YEAR OF VERBAL IDENTITY CATEGORY
Habitat Soundscaping. Corning Valor Glass. Hitachi Vantara.
With Habitat Soundscaping, Plantronics combines the energy of an open office with the calm focus of a peaceful garden. Valor pharmaceutical glass from Corning reduces contamination and provides 30 times more protection than conventional glass vials, with potentially life-saving results. Vantara brought Hitachi’s IoT solutions (including Lumada, which we named in 2016), cloud, application, big data, and analytics under one roof.
NOVEMBER | RANKED #1 NAMING AGENCY WORLDWIDE BY CLUTCH
Blockchain mining requires huge amounts of energy. Soluna offers the natural solution to this problem: all-in-one computer processing and energy production using its own sustainable sources.
MAY 5 | CATCHWORD CELEBRATES 20TH ANNIVERSARY
OCTOBER | TRANSFORM AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN NAMING STRATEGY FOR SOLUNA
DECEMBER | RANKED #1 NAMING AGENCY IN THE WORLD BY CLUTCH (2nd YEAR)
Attain by Aetna. Ursa. GoMotion.
The Attain by Aetna app helps members attain their health and fitness objectives using health history, personalized goals, and big rewards. Ursa, a music service designed by working musicians, enables a deeper connection between artist and audience. With GoMotion from SportsEngine (a division of NBC Sports Group), it’s easy for studio owners, parents, and students to manage activity classes, registration, and more on the go.
Hermes Creative Awards Gold for Soluna
MarCom Awards Gold for Ursa: Music Extreaming
Transform Award for Attain by Aetna
Ranked #1 for Naming worldwide by Clutch (3rd year)
Ranked #1 for Branding worldwide by Clutch (1st year)
Snap’d. WomenLift Health.
Snap’d, the crispy, curvy new snack from Cheez-It, is as munchable and delicious as you’d expect. WomenLift Health, a new organization from Stanford Global Health, promotes and supports women health leaders to elevate health outcomes for people worldwide.
Multiple strategy and architecture projects for PwC, Indeed, Juniper Networks, TELUS International, Stack Overflow, and other clients.
OCTOBER | Launch of The Catchword Accelerator—
ultra-premium brandable dot-com domains
Hermes Creative Awards Gold for WomenLift Health
MUSE Creative Awards Gold for URSA: Music Extreaming
MarCom Awards Gold for WomenLift Health
Ranked #1 for Naming worldwide by Clutch (4th year)
Ranked #1 for Branding worldwide by Clutch (2nd year)
Vuity. Intel Arc.
Vuity is the first treatment for presbyopia (age-related blurry near vision), which affects nearly half the US adult population. Intel Arc is the new portfolio of graphics solutions for high-performance gaming, immersive visuals, powerful multi-tasking, and seamless streaming.
Diverse brand strategy and naming projects for TikTok, FICO, Thermo Fisher, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Boston Scientific, WellPet, and many other clients.
MarCom Gold for Ply Gem Elements
MUSE Creative Awards Silver for Ply Gem Elements
Ranked #1 for Naming worldwide by Clutch (5th year)
Ranked #1 for Branding worldwide by Clutch (3rd year)
Leader of Clutch Global 1000 (#1 of 150k agencies in 35 countries)
SameSky Health. Denim.
SameSky promotes health equity by removing cultural barriers to care for more than 2.8 million members in 25 languages. Denim provides reliable, essential, and universal fintech solutions that keep freight moving, much like the fabric that moves the world.
Sub-Zero, HBO Max, Andersen Windows, The North Face, and many other brands join the client roster.
JANUARY | Catchword formalizes brand strategy services, brings visual ID design in-house to support clients in one integrated process, opens branding services HQ in Denver area, and goes international with Calgary office.
OCTOBER | Redesigned Catchword site goes live.
MarCom Awards Platinum for Vuity
Hermes Awards Platinum for Caribou
+ 4 gold, 5 silver from other competitions
Ranked #1 for naming worldwide by Clutch (6th year)
Ranked #3 for branding by Clutch (4th year in top 3)
Clutch Global 1000 (5th year)