Cha-ching or in the Red?: Outerwall Company Name Review


Many of us have lugged metric tons of spare change to a Coinstar kiosk, happy that anyone will convert it into something lighter, even if they take a cut. Spare coins still roll around in our cars, desk drawers, and pockets, casualties of an increasingly digital world (pennies are especially pointless).

We also know the glow of Redbox kiosks, haunting the entry of the local supermarket and calling to sorry souls stuck in the digital Dark Ages with no Netflix account. In a natural extension of its affordably-priced kiosk model, Coinstar fully acquired Redbox in 2009 (interesting fact: McDonalds used to own 50 percent). However, increases in revenue have slowed in the face of stiff competition from super media-streamers Netflix and Amazon—clues that on-site retail is fading.

Yesterday, Coinstar Inc. announced that it would start trading stock under its new corporate brand name, Outerwall Inc. They also made a big to-do about their $350M acquisition of ecoATM, an automatic used-electronics recycler for cash (another misnomer because we thought it was a green-minded banking service).

The new name was chosen as an umbrella brand to reflect the company’s growth from coin-counting to multiple automated retail businesses. This makes total sense to us, as Coinstar made the classic but very common mistake of namng the company and product one and the same, which is easier in the short run but limiting in the long run (peek here for more on how company and product naming are different).

But the actual name of Outerwall produced a question mark in our minds. Company CEO Scott Di Valerio said, “Our transition to Outerwall signifies the company’s next chapter as we continue to push the walls of retail out to bring new and inventive solutions to consumers.” Uh, OK.

We get that Outerwall is committed to kiosks located on the outer walls of storefronts. They’re also promoting sub-brands that won’t crumble under the digitization of everything (e.g., Rubi, an on-site coffee dispenser—as we know, you can’t stream caffeine yet). But the name itself is too literal, reactionary, and static. It suggests anything but innovation, and seems more suited for an Internet security company than a would-be retail giant.

We get that it’s a corporate name, intended to convey gravitas and trustworthiness, but its defensive tone doesn’t invite any kind of conversation, especially from customers. Who wants to try to look inside an outer wall?. What a shame—because they had a chance to think outside the red box on this, but ended up shutting everyone out.

Overall grade: C

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