SWonderful: SXSWi 2016 Name Roundup, Part 2

By Erin Milnes

March 24, 2016

Yesterday we embraced the Monosyllabic Metaphors of South by Southwest Interactive 2016. Today we move on to Funky Spelling and Curious Capitalization.

Funky Spelling

Ah, the allure of tweaking a letter or two to distinguish your company or product. Dubbed ‘sensational,’ ‘invented,’ or ‘divergent spelling,’ nonstandard spelling certainly makes trademark easier to grab while enabling you to convey a strong message. Consider Lyft, Disqus, Flickr, Tumblr. But be careful not to overdo it. The startup space is pretty full of such orthographic oddities, particularly the drop-the-e-in-er variety. Plus you don’t want to lose your audience with a difficult-to-pronounce brand. 

Prynt. This combination phone case-photo printer and media-sharing app won a finalist slot in the SXSWi Accelerator pitch competition. Prynt pairs a very descriptive word with an uncommon spelling much as it pairs cutting-edge printing tech with an app to reimagine “how we share digital content in the physical world.” Prynt makes a lasting impression.

Qwil. This payment infrastructure system enables independent contractors to access their fee as soon as they’ve invoiced the client. At the stroke of a virtual pen, Qwil facilitates payment. It’s quick, with a hint of strong will (which a freelancer sometimes needs to squeeze a check out of the corporate finance department in big-city-goes-here).

Gnack. Another Startup Village resident, this influencer marketing platform helps companies leverage “micro-influencers” to champion their brand. Although the meaning is not on-the-nose (often a good thing), Gnack gets at the natural ability and authenticity of small-scale brand advocates while suggesting the gadfly quality of a gnat. Invented spelling or coinage, despite a minor potential pronunciation challenge, Gnack is memorable and fun to say. 

Capitalization Gone Wrong: Nothing Compares 2 MU

HYP3R. NUEYORKER. MUrgency. InSpirAVE. You know the type, and it’s uppercase. These SXSWi Accelerator startups have compelling products, but may need a restart on their name.

Often a subset of invented spelling, nonstandard capitalization can be a straightforward way to increase memorability, emphasize a concept, or otherwise distinguish your brand (iPad, LinkedIn, eBay). But take care—caps can easily be a crutch rather than a tool for conveying your message.

All caps may look great in your logo, but you can’t rely on it to differentiate you. Plus it’s hard to read when longer than five character or so, it’s tough to enforce in the media and other outside communications, and in URLs it doesn’t exist. (All lowercase is not a legibility party either, particularly when coupled with funky spelling.)

Using numbers as letters might make your brand stand out right now, but it desperately shouts “Hey, Millennials!” and will likely look dated in years to come.

Capping a letter to indicate that we pronounce the letter name and not the sound it makes can be a cool way to tweak a spelling and increase ownability (Mpower, Xponent, FX Networks, fellow SXSWer Bang-N Records). But it’s not always your friend. If you think you’ll need a parenthetical telling customers how to pronounce your name (it’s “emergency,” not “murgency”), consider something easier to grasp and file in the brain.

Capping letters to draw attention to an imbedded word might work if the word is discernable without the caps, but when many letters intervene it just doesn’t track. (And since caps don’t exist in URLS and email addresses, the message will be lost completely in those contexts.) It appears that InSpirAVE, “The Internet of Savings,” is using caps to connect S to AVE, but without the tagline we get inspiring rave, not inspiration to save.

These SXSWers shouldn’t be too hard on themselves, though. Even major players toss up a capitalization oddball from time to time. Consider Casio’s G’zOne super-durable phone line and Sony’s h.ear on hi-res headphones.

In general, be careful about saddling your brand with a capitalization curiosity, spelling head scratcher, or hard-to-pronounce handle, particularly if you are going global. It’s unlikely your brand will find a home in the minds of your customers if they must struggle to pronounce it or understand it.

Yesterday we embraced the Monosyllabic Metaphors of South by Southwest Interactive 2016. Today we move on to Funky Spelling and Curious Capitalization.

Ah, the allure of tweaking a letter or two to distinguish your company or product. Dubbed ‘sensational,’ ‘invented,’ or ‘divergent spelling,’ nonstandard spelling certainly makes trademark easier to grab while enabling you to convey a strong message. Consider Lyft, Disqus, Flickr, Tumblr.

  • Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!