Is the Cup Empty or Not Yet Filled? Thoughts on Coined, Empty Vessel Names, Part One.

By Alex Kelley

March 18, 2015

Coined, empty vessel names carry no meaning for the average consumer. Kodak? Exxon? Zappos? Zoosk? Adidas? Meaningless, the lot of them, and that is their first huge advantage. Because empty vessel names harbor no pre-existing definitions or associations, they can be the most utterly distinctive. Any other name derived from an existing word will share meaning with that existing word, and if I’ve learned anything from Life (the cereal, board game, and traditional sense) is that sometimes sharing isn’t all its cracked up to be. Also, a related bonus is that these utterly original names are much easier to trademark, and to find an available domain name.

The second advantage is that coined, empty vessel names allow for unlimited growth in any direction. Zappos started selling shoes, and now they sell handbags, clothing, and more, which wouldn’t have been easy to do had they named themselves ShoeCentral or even Shooz. Heck, if they realized after a year that they getting anywhere selling shoes, they could have done a 180 and became a naming firm like Catchword.

That being said, Life isn’t all easy-breezy with coined, empty vessel names, either. First and foremost, if you simply heard someone talk about Zoosk.com, you would have no idea what it was. As a result, companies that opt for empty vessel names have to spend much more money and effort to educate potential consumers. And, more intangibly, it takes people more time to become comfortable with an empty vessel name. Our gut reaction to words we don’t know can be negative, so consumers may hesitate to embrace it until they encounter it multiple times.

empty boat

At the end of the day, your brand defines your company, and the strength of your brand determines your success. Just as an actual empty vessel needs a bold and visionary skipper to hop aboard so it doesn’t crash, an empty vessel name rides on the strength of your brand. So be warned, and get excited: if you adopt an empty vessel name, you had better be ready to back it up with an especially trenchant brand. And stay tuned, because next week we’ll share some tips on how to come up with a winning coined, empty vessel name that compliments and bolsters your brand personality.

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