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Ugg? Ugh: The Name That Fails Almost Every Test

By Mark Skoultchi

November 20, 2008

It is short and easy to pronounce. Oh, and it stands out in the crowd. Beyond that, this name is about as bad as it gets.

In my career as a naming consultant, I’ve done a lot of company naming and product naming. UGG falls somewhere in between a product name and a company name, serving both roles in various scenarios. Every time I see this name, I think: these guys should have hired Catchword.

 

Why? Allow me to explain:

1) The name is phonetically identical to a common statement of discontent or dislike (“ugh”). Kind of like naming a new candy bar “Yuck”.

2) The name immediately recalls “ugly” (and in the mind of this naming consultant, so does the product itself).

3) They don’t own the .com domain. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t think this is such a problem. However, the folks who do apparently own the name (Viterra) are not using it. UGG should be able to procure it. Maybe they don’t want it?

4) Furthermore, according to Wikipedia, the term refers to a specific type of sheepskin boot and could be considered a generic term (a la “Duck Boots”). Ugg’s parent company is suing other companies who reference “UGH Boots” despite the fact that the terms has been used generically since the 50s and the trademark (in Australia) only dates to 1971. Catchword clients benefit from names that are ownable and defensible in their own right, without the petty squabbling they have been forced to use to protect this name.

So how does one reconcile the overwhelming success of this product with its less-than-stellar brand name? I have only three things to say. First, it is further evidence that a bad name won’t kill you (so long as you can get a Paris-Hilton-class celeb to model your product). Second, let those who dare to be different rejoice! If this brand has one thing going for it, it is that it really, truly stands out. I don’t usually recommend standing out for all the wrong reasons, but even standing out for the wrong reasons still counts as standing out. Lastly, this brand name offers further proof that there is no accounting for taste. The boots are almost as uggly as the (ugh) name. But what do I know?

Name Grade: D

Grade:
D
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