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Hastings Makes Waste:  Netflix / Qwikster Brand Name Review

By Mark Skoultchi

September 28, 2011

I might be the last person on this planet with a fast internet connection and no Netflix account. And no, not even a trial membership (I’ve learned the hard way from many a magazine subscription — which seem to be harder to quit than cancer sticks).

And I’m not going to start now, especially after Netflix’s polarizing split into two companies: the streaming-only service (to keep the “Netflix” name) and the familiar DVD-by-mail service, named – drumroll, please – “Qwikster.” Dammit. I’ve missed my last chance to actually look forward to snail mail (yes, I’ve ben tempted to stick a “Post No Bills” sign on my mailbox).

According to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’s ex-post-facto blog, “We chose the name ‘Qwikster’ because it refers to quick delivery…It will be the same website and DVD service that everyone is used to. It is just a new name.” But whatever misgivings I have about the name itself – we’ll get into that a bit later – my major quarrel is with the claim that “the advantage of separate websites is simplicity for our members.”

Keep in mind that Qwikster.com and Netflix.com aren’t integrated, and Reed admits, “…if you subscribe to both services, and if you need to change your credit card or email address, you would need to do it in two places.” Not to mention that any ratings or review you create on one site do not automatically transfer to the other. Easy? I think not. Unless somehow having to set up two accounts, two billing systems, and two systems of ratings is simpler for you.

Perhaps it was inevitable that the brand that unseated the almighty Blockbuster would falter some day. And perhaps time will reveal that the split was actually a savvy and strategic one. But even if it does make business dollars and sense, the marketing and communications around the whole Qwikster kerfuffle flailed and failed – starting and ending with the proposed name.

Frankly, I think that Netflix – with a bottomless budget, relatively speaking – shoulda, coulda, woulda found a better name for such a radical departure. Does anyone else question the logic in naming the slower of your two services “Qwikster”? Especially for snail-mail-based delivery, which is not really what most of us consider high-speed in this day and age.  And for those who aren’t familiar with the Netflix vs. Qwikster saga (yes, there might be more like me out there), “Qwikster” isn’t descriptive enough to properly differentiate it from “Netflix,” although admittedly, this can be easily clarified with a descriptor like “Qwik Mail DVDelivery,” or something equally cheesy.

Ah, cheese – and that brings us to the name “Qwikster” itself and the associations it creates, which aren’t exactly favorable or memorable. It sounds dated, evoking such failed cyberventures (yes, I meant to say “cyber”) as Napster and Friendster. And maybe it’s just me, but all I can think of is that chocolate-powder-pushing bunny and Squishees. Not to mention that it could be confused with the name for any of the barrage of products/services/companies that start with “quick:”  QuickStar, Quick Solutions, Quixtar, Quiksilver, QuickTime, QuickLogic, Qik, QuikPod, Quicken, QuickChek…and well, you get the point.

It’s conceivable that the name “Qwikster” is meant to be tongue-in-cheek – and capitalize on that current craze for all things retro – but even so, by keeping the Netflix name for the streaming service, Hastings and Co. are creating a clear hierarchy. Yes, DVDs will eventually go the way of the LaserDisc and 8-track, but those who haven’t hopped on the streaming wagon don’t need to be patronized with a cloying name that rhymes with “trickster,” “slickster,” and “shtickster.”

Overall Grade: C+

Grade:
C+
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