There’s a name for

20 years of awesome.


Join us for a look back at two decades.

This May, Catchword celebrates its 20th anniversary, and we couldn’t be more proud. So proud, in fact, that we’ve created this splashy anniversary page to tell the Catchword story, recall key milestones and favorite names, and pay tribute to all the wonderful clients that have worked with us over the years and kept our halogens on.

From very early collaborations with companies such as Clorox and Dreyer’s to recent partnerships with Uber and Kellogg, we’ve had the honor to work with market leaders in virtually every business space, and to name some of the world’s most prominent brands.

Our deepest thanks to our clients, partners, families, and a truly incredible staff (past and present) for 20 fantastic years!

The Story

The Story.

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 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.

Why “Catchword”?

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).

But in the end, we kept coming back to Catchword, which has several meanings, including a memorable or effective word or phrase that is often repeated and a guide word in a dictionary. We loved the relevance of all of them, along with the playful, active tone and the suggestion of catching the right name. We’ve never looked back.


20 Years in the Name Game

A lot can happen in two decades. Let’s look at a few of our favorite names over the years and some key agency milestones. (Want to see more cool names? Looking for names in a particular industry? Check out our full portfolio.)

May 5, 1998Catchword opens its doors

Dreyer's Dreamery

Our debut year produced some tasty names, including this one for Dreyer's premium ice cream.


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.


This little startup became the premier provider of device protection & warranty services for phones, electronics, and appliances, and it’s still going strong.

January 1Catchword moves to its permanent office in the Oakland Tribune Tower

May 23Catchword 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).

JanuaryCatchword opens East Coast office

June 24Co-founder Laurel Sutton profiled in the San Francisco Business Times

Rancher’s Reserve

Catchword helped name Safeway’s new line of beef that’s guaranteed to be tender. Rancher’s Reserve became one of the supermarket’s top brands.


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


Company naming is often renaming. In 2005, Netforts (a ho-hum cybersecurity name) was reborn as FireEye. The Eye of Fire is an ancient symbol representing omniscience. The name was compellingly graphic and still sounds cool.

Co-founder Maria Cypher profiled in Stanford Magazine

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.

We still really dig the message and consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel simplicity of Vudu. The streaming content service worked its magic on the industry and was acquired by Walmart a few years later. And maybe it’s because we’re all parents at Catchword, but you gotta love how Crazy 8 evokes the spirit of your favorite miniature maniac.

August 27First (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’s Editor’s Choice) as well as a model for company culture.

May 5
Catchword celebrates 10 years with epic Las Vegas retreat

Catchword publishes 1st edition of our 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


This 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.

Starbucks Refreshers

Green coffee extract and fruit juice in a sparkling bevvy. The name and the product are straightforward, satisfying, and cool. (We know it’s been six years, but we still get a thrill when we see them on the shelf.)

Corning Willow Glass.
Fitbit Flex.

Bendable glass—whaaat?! Yep, Corning keeps engineering glass in ways you never thought possible. And Flex was the first fitness tracker you could wear like a watch. Getting to learn about incredible innovations is one of the unexpected perks of naming.


Spinoffs are a common reason companies need names. This testing and measurement company was a spinoff squared (a spinoff from Agilent, which was a spinoff from HP).

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.

Catchword wins London International Award in debut year of Verbal Identity category

Habitat Soundscaping

Who wouldn’t want their workspace to combine the energy of an open office with the calm focus of a peaceful garden? Plantronics created such a powerful mix using sound design, water sculpture, and virtual landscapes. Habitat the name, and the idea, captured our imagination.

DecemberCatchword ranked top naming agency in the world by Clutch


May 5Catchword celebrates 20 years of naming!