When I was young, I owned an off-road scooter that I got from a yard sale. It had an extra-wide board for your feet, no brakes, and chunky inflatable tires. I used to make race tracks in dirt piles in the yard and little jumps to try to catch some air. It was great fun.
It turns out the fun never ends — in fact, the fun may have only just begun. Today, there is a vicious race to establish which electric scooter sharing brand becomes king of the hill. Don’t turn to Catchword for the scoop on which scooters are the scootiest, but we’ll happily share with you what we think of their names.
Bird, like many of the other players in this space, was founded last year. It and Lime received big funding from the get-go and became extremely visible (to the chagrin of city officials) on the sidewalks of cities like San Francisco.
Bird is not a particularly pretty or elegant word, but a perfectly logical name for a dockless e-scooter company.
Flight is easy, quick, and liberating, and birds fly. It’s a compact word, like the tiny vehicle the brand represents. And the scooter even looks a bit like an egret or blue heron, long neck extended. Using a simple, visual word helps with memorability as well as international expansion (the company is launching a pilot program in Paris).
The metaphor has also now been extended — “bird-hunting” has become the phrase for finding and returning Bird scooters to their “nests” (designated pickup spots) — which further concretizes the brand story.
So at first blush the name may seem a bit of an ugly duckling, but it quickly shows itself a swan.
Lime is a transport sharing company that offers bikes called LimeBikes, electric-assist bikes called Lime-E, and electric scooters called Lime-S.
We love the name Lime. It’s short and easy to say. The color is memorable, evocative and visual enough for rich branding, and is easy to spot on the side of the road. Plus, the cross-section of a lime looks like a bike tire. Like Bird, Lime has a presence in Europe and no doubt would like to expand further, so an international name is critical.
It’s worth noting that Lime started out as LimeBike and had to change the name after it evolved its business. Classic mistake. When developing a company brand name, always make sure you leave room for growth. (See Catchword Resources for more company naming advice.) Fortunately, in May of this year they realized the limitations of LimeBike and switched to Lime, which works much better as a company name.
Skip doesn’t have the market presence and media saturation of its competitors, and has only raised a fraction of the money (still millions, though). In terms of company name, it also lags far behind the top two in the space.
Skip evokes skipping the traffic, just a hop, skip, and a jump away, skip to my Lou… all carefree and fun, aspects that we like a lot.
The hangup is that skipping doesn’t connote the smooth motion of a scooter. There’s a locomotive disconnect that holds this name back. If it were the name of an app for transport sharing, it could be great, but applied to a wheeled vehicle, Skip takes a wrong turn.
Spin is another entrant in the scooter game that appeared fairly early on. As we know from the song “The Wheels on the Bus,” spin is what wheels do. And scooters have wheels.
This name falls into the same verb-name category as Skip, but is rather flat because of how directly related to scooting the name is. There’s no nuance here, no rich story to tell.
A perhaps even bigger problem is that Spin is so reminiscent of spin class, and a sweet scoot around town is really the opposite of laboriously spinning in place. (Also the name Spin reminds Alex of Susan Sarandon’s chain of table tennis bars SPiN, though he may perhaps be the only one who cares about that.)
A new player is GOAT, which unlike the others, is based on a peer-to-peer model — individuals buy and rent out their own electric, dockless scooter, which the company coordinates through its app, rather than the company owning its own fleet.
The name is short, easy to remember, lends itself to visual representation, and contains the word GO. So far so good.
The company says it is based on the acronym Greatest of All Time. “Every time you ride GOAT, we want it to lead you to the best the city has to offer, so each experience with GOAT has the opportunity to be the greatest of all time,” GOAT co-founder Jennie Whitaker said in a release. That’s a cute idea, but we’re not sure most customers will get it without a sports context or without the periods (as in the LL Cool J album G.O.A.T.).
The bigger issue, as with Skip, is the locomotive disconnect. Goats aren’t known for ease or smooth motion. They’re stubborn, tough little climbers. If this brand wants to distinguish itself as the scooter that never breaks and can take you safely up the steepest hill, then GOAT is a great name, but we don’t see that differentiation in the company’s marketing.
Today, there is a vicious race to establish which electric scooter sharing brand becomes king of the hill. Don’t turn to Catchword for the scoop on which scooters are the scootiest, but we’ll happily share with you what we think of their names.
Catchword-named blockchain infrastructure company Soluna has launched, and made headlines with its announcement of plans for the first utility-scale computing facility powered entirely by its own renewable energy sources. The company will develop a 900MW wind farm to supply all the energy for an adjacent computing facility in southern Morocco, one of the world’s windiest regions. Catchword worked closely with the company team to develop the name Soluna earlier this spring.
Mining cryptocurrency and other blockchain operations require huge amounts of energy. According to Digiconomist, as of this June, Bitcoin mining alone consumed electricity equivalent to almost 10% of China’s annual usage. This tremendous demand puts an unsustainable strain on local grids and the planet’s energy resources while increasing the use of cheap but damaging fossil fuels.
In response to this ever-growing problem, Soluna was formed by private equity firm Brookstone Partners to integrate renewable energy production and processing-intensive computer operations like blockchain and offer an alternative to low-cost, harmful fossil fuels. Because the power will be efficiently generated on site, “Our power cost will be among the lowest in the world,” said John Belizaire, Soluna CEO, to Bloomberg. The company plans to eventually develop renewably powered centers around the globe.
“Our goal was to create a name that represented our ethos, our ambitious plan, and one that was unique in our field,” said Belizaire in a blog post about the naming process. “Soluna elegantly meets our brand objectives.”
A coinage of sol and luna [“sun” and “moon” in Latin], Soluna tells a rich story, evoking humanity’s most fundamental aspirations – looking up to the great light in the sky. Little is as permanent as the sun and moon, yet their cycles are dynamic. Pairing sun and moon suggests a scalable, stable source of power at all times, day or night.
The sun is ultimately the source of all life, energy, growth, transformation. The logo’s use of a triangle, the symbol of change (delta), for the final a in the name further expresses the transformational nature of the brand. Soluna expresses the renewable resource of solar energy, while more generally evoking the sustainability and beauty of the natural world.
The name recalls “solution,” which the company provides to the problem of evolving technology’s increasing energy consumption. The name also recalls “una” (one), suggesting the comprehensiveness of the company’s all-in-one energy production and computer processing model.
Soluna expresses the brand’s humanity and compassion, while the name’s Latin base suggests seriousness and intelligence. The alternating consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel construction and initial sibilant convey flexible strength and make the word easy for an international audience to pronounce. The Latin base also makes it easy for a global audience to understand and remember.
The company team reviewed more than 100 names during the process, with 10 finalists. As often happens, the company’s final choice was not the first one that jumped out at them. (Company names, especially, require a little time for the layers of meaning and metaphor to unfold. This is actually an important tool for building brand engagement. As we recognize each new layer in the name, or the visual identity, we are rewarded with a little hit of pride for figuring it out.)
As the team lived with the top name candidates, one name stood out, as Belizaire explained in his blog post: “Finally, we chose Soluna for the brand because it tells our story the best.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Catchword is very proud to have partnered with John and the Soluna team and wishes them great success in greening the blockchain world.
Congratulations to AVITA for a successful launch in the Americas last month!
The Hong Kong-based manufacturer of laptops, smart home devices, and other consumer electronics designed to fit the modern lifestyle began distribution of its Clarus laptop through Walmart in June. Catchword named the company, which launched in Asia in 2017.
Catchword created the name AVITA to convey the natural way the company’s products facilitate real life and help you explore and express your own vibrant style (vita means “life” in Latin). The company continued this direction with its tagline, “Live it up.”
AVITA’s first American offering has gotten some nice press — here’s a preview from PC Magazine.
Catchword is very proud to have partnered with AVITA and wishes the company every success!
Names with the form “____ and _____” have become ubiquitous. The form isn’t new — Ben & Jerry’s, Johnson & Johnson, and Abercrombie & Fitch have been around for years — but recently it seems like this type of name is everywhere, especially in certain industries like food and beverage and apparel.
In the apparel category, for example, we have the recent launches of Time and Tru, Terra and Sky (both from Walmart), Ava & Viv (from Target), Scout + Ro, Lark & Ro, James & Erin, Franklin & Freeman (four from Amazon), and many others. There’s even a name-generating website that mocks the trend. So what gives?
Here at Catchword we love digging into naming trends, and helping you decide whether to embrace those trends or avoid them. So here are our top 10 reasons why “X & Y” (or “X and Y” or “X + Y”) names are so popular.
1. “X & Y” names evoke friendship, family, or, dare I say, romance. Whose heart doesn’t warm at the thought of two close friends? A pair of ideal siblings, angelically playing together (no parental grief here)? Or perhaps two young lovers? And even if the X and Y aren’t personal names, they do evoke an affectionate coupling.
2. Formulas help our memories. Familiar formulas provide a framework that enhances our ability to remember names (as long as there aren’t too many similar names using that same formula).
3. Pairing two names makes it easy for a brand to express two messages or deepen a single message. James & Erin is for men and women. Terra and Sky is both grounded and aspirational (and deeply natural to boot). Doubling the words also gives you ample opportunity for alliteration and consonance. Franklin & Freeman, Time and Tru, Ava & Viv.
4. The “and” gives the names a pleasant cadence and rhythm. Names with natural rhythms are also easier to remember. Go ahead, say some of the names out loud, nobody’s listening. Now say them without the “and.” See? (For those who prefer explanation to experience: The “and” is always an unstressed syllable, and the syllable that follow is always stressed “and Jerry’s,” “and Sky,” which creates an iamb, to use a term from poetry. An iamb is a metrical foot consisting of an unaccented syllable followed by an accented syllable. The iamb has been used in literature from Ancient Greek drama to Shakespeare to the present. Many consider it the pattern that most closely resembles natural speech in English.)
5. Juxtaposition evokes sophistication and an earlier era. Putting two seemingly unrelated and even unexpected words together evokes a unique refinement or elegance that elevates the brand’s tone. It also hearkens back to the 19th century and earlier, when companies were named after the founders or used an ampersand before “Co” (Lord & Taylor, Tiffany & Co.). This retro hipness is right in line with the millennial aesthetic we see in, for example, handcrafted cocktails served in an apothecary-like gastropub.
6. Trademark is more likely to be available. The name of the game with trademarks is finding a name that isn’t confusingly similar to other names. Joining two distinct and unrelated words together makes trademark acquisition much simpler.
7. Exact domain name is easier to come by, and cheaper. In fact, the quest for exact domain names was a major driver behind other naming trends as well, like the cute misspelling trend (Digg), the dropped vowel trend (Tumblr), and the “-ly” trend (Insightly).
8. Pairing two things, especially personal names, suggests collaboration and accessibility. Brands who want to cultivate an epic or edgy vibe often embrace a single figurehead (or mastermind, cough Tesla cough). Brands that want to feel accessible can cultivate that by suggesting collaboration and togetherness.
9. This format makes it easy to use cool, graphic characters. Using symbols or punctuation in brand names can be fun and memorable, and “&” and “+” both give a name a graphical hook for the eyes. You could even place your “and” vertically to increase visual interest without impacting legibility.
10. The echo chamber perpetuates the trend. Once trends reach a tipping point, you can’t stop them. Consumers start to associate a style of name with certain emotions or desires or products, and then names pop up to capitalize on those expectations, which just creates more expectations and associations. The lasting success of brands in the apparel space that use this formula, such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Croft & Barrow, surely has played a part as well.
Names with the form “____ and _____” have become ubiquitous. Catchword explains why.
June is shaping up to be media month for Catchword!
Earlier this week, Creative Director Erin Milnes was the subject of a story by her alma mater, St. John’s College.
“A brand name is a very, very short story,” Milnes says.
And on Monday, 6/11, Senior Strategist and Linguist Laurel Sutton will be the featured guest on Rob Meyerson’s podcast How Brands Are Built.
Catchword’s own Erin Milnes and Laurel Sutton are in the media this month.