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Y oh Y? Name review of Kyndryl

By Catchword

May 3, 2021

IBM finally released the name for its new spin-off of its managed infrastructure services division: Kyndryl. And it’s not much better than what it’s been known as for months—New Co. According to IBM, Kyndryl, which will be fully separated from its parent by the end of the year, will have a global base of 4,600 customers. Given its big portfolio from Big Blue, Kyndryl will enter the marketspace as the fifth largest solution provider in the world. So what’s with this name?

The press release explains: “Kyn is derived from the word kinship, referencing the belief that relationships with people—employees, customers and partners—are at the center of the strategy, and that long-lasting relationships must be built and nurtured. Dryl comes from tendril, bringing to mind new growth and the idea that—together with customers and partners—the business is always working toward advancing human progress” (italics added for clarity).

Kin and tendril are both lyrical words with a warm, human tone, even inviting. Now, you don’t have to be a wordsmith to recognize that kin evokes a sense of family and relationship, and that tendril indicates organic growth and connection. Tendril also calls to mind the services that the company offers, with its suggestion of flexible extension from a central hub. Apparently, the name was available in what’s already a very crowded space. But are these factors enough of a reason to choose Kyndryl?

Sorry, but no.

First, Kyndryl tries way too hard with the spelling, which makes it ugly, suggests the wrong space and tonality, and means no one will know how to pronounce it till they hear it.

Does anyone else look at this and think allergy medicine (Benedryl, Delsym, Zyrtec)? Or fantasy lit? (Apparently, there are a number of World of Warcraft characters with this handle.) Or those ill-conceived baby names from the mid-90s, a la “Madysyn”? Not that we really need to point this out, but the name of a global IT company shouldn’t suggest over-the-counter drugs, elf hunters, or mean girls.

We presume that, like the well-meaning parents of those babies, the company believed substituting “y” for “i” would make the name sophisticated and unique, rather than desperate and gimmicky.

“Y” in fact are there so many “Ys”? To distance the company from existing marks? Perhaps, but they undermine the warmth of kin and tendril. Those “Ys” make the name look cold and clinical—reinforcing the misdirect to pharmaceuticals. Customers want a partner to provide solutions to their IT problems, not a doctor or pharmacist. This tonality completely undermines the brand belief “that relationships with people . . . are at the center of the strategy.”

The “Y”d-up spelling also emphasizes the word dry in the second syllable. We can’t imagine that the company wants its brand associated with dryness (dried up, dried out), and it weakens the idea of new growth.

And how the heck do you pronounce this word? “Kin-drill”? “Kine-drill”? “Kin-drile”? “Kine-drile”? A word that people aren’t sure how to spell or pronounce doesn’t slide easily into conversation, or customer memory.

Kyndryl is not just a motley mess of a word. The whole point of the construction—the portmanteau at its heart—is confusing. The spelling blurs the meaning and obscures both kin and tendril. A portmanteau should be easy to understand and immediate, like fog + smoke = smog. Kyndryl has to be explained, and even then the messaging might not stick because of the spelling.

Finally, a single tendril doesn’t sound particularly strong or direct. A solutions provider should provide confident, clear solutions. Businesses don’t want flimsiness or hesitancy in their IT services.

In the end, Kyndryl falls flat. Ugly and with mixed messages, and unclear pronunciation and forgettable spelling to boot, it does a terrible job expressing the brand. “Y” did they choose this one?

Grade:
D
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