This week it was announced that there’s a newer new way to pay, and it’s called Loop.
Stuffed billfolds and swiping motions are hassles of the past with this small FOB device, which is available either embedded in a special phone case or as a keychain attachment. After storing your credit card data in Loop, you merely hold it within 4 inches of any standard credit card reader to complete the transaction. With the requisite flourish and proclamation of voilà, of course.
Loop has made great efforts to distance itself from Coin, the much-hyped programmable credit card also designed to replace all the cards in your wallet. Though both products serve essentially the same purpose, their names are quite different in both descriptiveness and tonality. First of all, Loop is short and catchy—like Coin—but it is also playful and fun to say. Coin on the other hand sounds sleek and elegant, even high-class.
Furthermore, whereas Coin is a descriptive or lightly suggestive name, Loop is abstract, and as a result it’s hard to connect the name to its function, a payment service that prides itself on ease, convenience, and security. Loop’s abstractness is rather unique in the space—think about other tech names like Dropbox, SnapChat, Grazer, Flickr, and Lift, all of which allude to their function to varying degrees. The problem with abstract names is that initially they tend to be less memorable—for it to really stick, customers need to be able to link the name to something they understand. If you learned via word-of-mouth of two new devices that can replace all the cards in your wallet, Loop and Coin, which one are you going to remember the next day? Probably Coin.
The funny thing about “Loop” is that it sounds like it should be suggestive and somehow relate to its function. The name invites guessing and speculation as to its meaning or derivation because the word is evocative and it is sits in an industry space where the convention is to have a more suggestive or descriptive name. (Had I just heard the name on its own, I would have guessed it was a social network. Or a DIY knot-tying guide. Or a navigation app for cul-de-sacs. You get the idea.) And indeed, the connection between name and device is almost, ALMOST there. One could argue that Loop, being a single, fun syllable, conveys ease and convenience—but that’s equally so for every other one syllable name in the space. Beyond that, in the keychain form the device has a small hole which could be considered a loop, but not in the phone case form (which they seem to be promoting most, based on the Google ads that have followed me around today…which makes sense if the purpose is to reduce the number of things you have to carry around, right?) Their logo is quite loopy, with the double “o” forming a loop-the-loop of sorts, but that says nothing about the device itself. And perhaps the full circle aspect of the name hints at convenience, as Loop is able to be used with most cards and at most merchants, but that explanation doesn’t really stick for me, especially not at first glance. So, where did the name Loop come from?
It took me a while to find it, but buried in the FAQ page on their website is this:
[Loop’s] Magnetic Secure Transmission technology generates changing magnetic fields over a very short period of time. This is accomplished by putting alternating current through an inductive loop, which can then be received by the magnetic read head of the credit card reader.
Now I see. Loop is in a tough spot—the name relates to the technology but the technology is tough to explain and hard to understand. By not explaining the name up front, they are protecting the customer from confusion (or boredom) because of the difficult science behind it. But, I don’t believe the other associations between the device and the word Loop are strong enough to make it a great name—without knowing about the technology aspect of it, the name seems arbitrary. It’s totally fine to have an abstract name, but you’d better make sure that the qualities the name evokes align readily with the desired qualities of the device, and I just don’t think in this case they align quite enough. Loop’s a good name, but I would not call it a great name.