Top 20 company and product names of 2017: Trends in brand naming and Catchword’s faves
We love our clients. We love the names we create for our clients. But, sadly, not everyone is our client … yet. So as the year draws to a close, we look at naming trends and some of the most compelling brand names of 2017 that Catchword didn’t create. (Check out Portfolio Highlights to see some kickass names we did develop.)
The Catchword team regularly discusses product and company names we’ve been impressed with and why. Some of these turn into Name Reviews, others make it to our WIN list (Wish I’d Named), which together provide a pretty clear picture of the naming landscape over the years.
For brand names in 2017, the single-English-word-used-in-a-suggestive-but-unexpected-way trend continued robustly, particularly in B2C tech. Ever since Nest, every company wants one lexical word to richly express its brand story. Long gone are the days of dropped vowels, -ly, and -er, with no names on our fave list that feature a 2000s-era construction. Even the use of coined compounds has waned in the face of the real English word juggernaut.
One theory is that millennials like things streamlined and meaningful, and since 18-35s are the golden demographic for most companies, company names are tending to the lyrical and short.
Interestingly, names seem to be a fairly even mix of adjectives (Candid, Nomadic, Brandless) and nouns (Dandelion, Tapestry, Switch), regardless of whether the company provides a service or product.
Are companies choosing this name style because of its simple elegance or linguistic puritanism? Honestly, it may be ‘me too’-ism as much as anything at this point, and we don’t see any sign of that changing in 2018.
OK, enough about trends, we know you’re here for the names. So without further ado, here are some of the more memorable monikers that debuted this year.
The Boring Company – Elon Musk’s tunnel-construction company. The idea is to build a network of underground tunnels to solve traffic congestion, and to reduce to the cost of building all these tunnels, the diameter will be greatly reduced and cars placed on stabilized electric skates. Oh, Elon, you clever clogs. This ironic pun underscores how a bold vision can turn the mundane into an extraordinary journey.
Brandless – manufacturer and online retailer of food, personal care, and household products, including organics, with minimal packaging design and at one price – $3. Clever way to repackage the generic effort of the 80s, updated as a modern general store. The name says it all, with a twist: their brand is to be brandless. (Look for a complete review of this name in our blog next month.)
Candid – direct-to-consumer teeth alignment company. Now you’re ready for your candid closeup. Smart use of a word we’ve long associated with smiles.
Clark – business software for tutors. “Clark” sounds like a smart, standup guy (after all, Mr. Kent is about as good as it gets). He’ll help you be a super tutor. Plus the name picks up on the British pronunciation of “clerk” – this software takes care of accounting, scheduling, payments, and other clerkly tasks.
Cowboy – electronic bicycle company. Everyone wants to be a cowboy, and every cowboy needs a steady steed. Nuf said.
Essential – Android phone manufacturer. The company’s belief that phones are deeply personal and necessary in the 21st century; that phone software should include only what you want and need; that your device should evolve with you; and that premium materials are, well, essential make this name the quintessential choice.
Hound Labs – marijuana breathalyzer manufacturer. Nothing can sniff it out like a hound. Perfectly suggestive, plus fun, and therefore distinctive and memorable, in a space where most names are dry as a bone.
Misty Robotics – manufacturer of practical robots for home and office. The company plans to build teammates, servants, buddies, even, that perform helpful tasks, provide safety, and interact with humans in entertaining and personable ways. This feminine name sounds super friendly, disarming, unintimidating (allaying fears of a robotic dystopian future), and a little sentimental.
Movement – Uber’s program to help urban planning worldwide by collecting GPS data. The name lets us know it’s about the movements of its many customers as well as urban and social change.
Nomadic VR – virtual reality arcades. Customers can strap on VR headsets and PC backpacks and roam around rooms in virtual reality. The name suggests exploration, movement, new experiences, and real life.
Octopus – smartwatch for kids from Franco-American family tech company Joy. For this product, the name must be playful but not silly, easy to say and understand in multiple languages, and suggest a device that helps you juggle many important tasks, like brushing teeth and doing your homework. “Octopus” handily manages all that, and delivers a rich graphic element for product and packaging design.
Purple – mattress and cushion manufacturer. A trend we’ve seen among the single-word names is using an arbitrary word and then building a brand story and positioning around it. “Purple” is very distinct for a mattress company, where most competitors are family names or describe the bed’s functional benefits. Although purple does suggest premium (royal purple), it doesn’t suggest bed or sleep at all.
The company uses purple for the inner material of the mattress, the packaging the mattress comes in, and a few other touchpoints, helping to build the purple narrative. (Brand names should never live on their own — telling a compelling story around them is key.) Coincidentally, another 2017 company following this trend chose a color also: Orange Bank.
Rides in Google Maps – tool to book Lyft or Uber rides directly from Google Maps (the one with the icon of a person holding a suitcase and hailing a cab). Very on the nose (a good thing in this case), friendly, casual, fast, easy.
Sound Huggle – wireless earmuff headphones. Although this company wasn’t the first to use the coinage “huggle” (hug + snuggle), it is a perfect fit. These cozy knit headphones wrap your ears in warmth and sound.
Switch – Nintendo’s hybrid gaming console, which can be attached to a TV in the traditional way or used on its own as a portable game unit. Switch conveys this ability as well as the idea of turning on (or being turned on) and electronics and computer science in general (“switch” is a term used in various ways in computer programming).
Token – maker of a “smart ring,” a biometric-based piece of jewelry that serves as wallet, keys, and flash drive. “Token” is a powerful and poetic word, evoking many different contexts. It can be a substitute for money (as in the subway), a password or object for authentication, a keepsake to show affection, a game piece that represents you, a conceptual object or word (in computing), and on and on. Fundamentally, a token is a symbol, an expression of something else, which elegantly enables the company to evolve beyond its initial product.
VoiceOps – sales call analysis software. VoiceOps is your “guy in the chair” (the one who tells the superhero what’s going on). It’s an AI that can transcribe calls and analyze for actionable info. “Voice” expresses calls and transcription, but also having a voice in decisions, while “Ops” (term for “operations”) suggests military precision. This name was one of the few compounds in 2017.
Voyage – self-driving taxi company. Like “Rides,” this name is on the nose, so you know exactly what space this company works in, but the tone is poetic, full of promise and adventure. We aren’t just getting from here to there in a self-driving vehicle, we are on a voyage into a brave new world.
As the year draws to a close, we look at naming trends and some of the most compelling brand names of 2017.