Perhaps it needn’t be said that everyone wants a unique name for their company. After all, if it isn’t unique at least from a trademark standpoint, you’ve got a cease and desist letter on your hands. But more than that, any naming company will tell you that a distinctive name that positions you apart from your competitors (who, as you know, are all following the herd) will do wonders in cutting through the noise and reaching consumers. Then, of course, there are the names that are so unique—in concept, execution, construction, or otherwise—that they don’t really resemble anyone else in any industry. And as you know, when you swing for the fences you will either hit a home run, or strike out. So, here’s Catchword’s list of notably unconventional names, for better or worse.
1) Virgin. Let’s start with a rousing success. The Virgin brand has snowballed into a world-dominating behemoth, involved everything from phones to casinos to space travel. And, they no bones about the name, treating it as though it is totally conventional. Well guess what: It’s not! It’s the kind of name that would never ever make it through a committee or shareholders meeting, but has been wielded with great success by the audacious one man show that is Richard Branson.
2) Kalashnikov Concern.Yes, that’s right. It’s a rifle made by Kalashnikov that will replace the infamous AK-47. I don’t know about you, the people in my life that show the most concern are my parents, my doctor, and my neighbor who works at the humane society. The disconnect with this name is so absurd! If you couldn’t tell, this name is an utter disaster.
3) Oscar Health. This healthcare company’s name is simply a first name that sounds friendly. Sure there are plenty of companies named after founders or historical figures, but this is different—it’s not Louis Vuitton or John Hancock Insurance or Oscar Meyer Wieners—it’s just Oscar. Well done!
4) This. “This.” is a name for a new social network. It is slightly unconventional in that it includes the punctuation, but moreover, what a common word! It is mesmerizingly simple and yet stunningly complex. Though “This.” will be hard to find in Google at first because it is such a simple word, but other than that, This. nails is.
5) No-Ad. No-Ad is a sunscreen/skincare company that’s been around since 1962, and the name simply comes from the fact that they don’t advertise. It’s totally descriptive of the company, and yet not descriptive of their products one iota…how unconventional! I’m not a huge fan of the name, which sonorously falls flat and is kind of confusing at first, but hey, they are still going strong and keeping those UVBs away.
6) Urban Decay. A cosmetics company whose name invokes decay? The saturated market space they are in really allowed them to really get unconventional. And no matter if you think of the make-up as a band-aid for your own decay, or a proud emblem of your decay, the company name works, and sooner or later we will all decay.
7) Orenitram. It’s a drug for pulmonary arterial hypertension, if you couldn’t tell. But, it has a cool backstory—the name was created by reversing the first eight letters of the name of the drug company’s CEO, Martine Rothblatt—Orenitram is Martine Ro spelled backwards. It isn’t any wackier than the majority of drug names—which are beset by a myriad of FDA restrictions—and so I deem it a success.
8) FCUK. The French Connection—a company based in the UK that makes mostly clothing and perfume—also goes by the acronym FCUK. Now, not only is “The French Connection” the name of a massive, elaborate heroin smuggling operation, the acronym is…well, you see it, don’t you? I’m not rushing out to buy Eau de FCUK any time soon—the name is undeniably off-putting—but it worked wonders with their demographic.
9) I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. What list would be complete without this gem? I can’t think of any longer name out there, and I just want to say, thank goodness they used contractions. Though it has irreversibly lodged itself in our brains as a punchline before a food product, it has nonetheless irreversibly lodged itself in our brains.
10) Burt’s Bees. The name pays homage to the founder’s bee colonies that he cultivated to make honey and candles to sell at farmers markets. The name is just Burt and his hobby, and sure there are possessive brand names like Wendy’s, but this is not Burt’s, this is Burt’s Bees. So humble, so deliciously unconventional!
11) Wii. The Wii was a startling name at first. English speakers were so not used to two i’s in a row that the name was almost viscerally repulsive to some. But folks quickly got their mouths and brains around it, and history has vindicated the Wii. After all, try to say it and not smile!