More Than One Way to Skin a Cat: Segway’s PUMA Tries Too Hard



I’m sure by now most of you have seen the announcement of the new product from Segway and GM, the PUMA. The naming consultant in me is of two minds. On the one hand, I love the name. It’s short, punchy, and relatively easy on any non-native-English speakers they may want to sell to. Furthermore, it communicates agility, movement, and intelligence, all good things for a radical new vehicle to personify. So far, so good.

But on the other hand, the name has two huge flaws. First, it is already “taken” by a major athletic equipment brand. While there isn’t likely to be a trademark dispute over this name (the trademark office is smart enough to know that there isn’t much chance of consumers confusing a shoe with a motor vehicle), there is a big mindshare issue. Puma (the athletic company) has recently made a significant resurgence, and is once again among the leading brands in the category. Segway could have done itself a favor by choosing a product name with more room to maneuver.

Furthermore, the company seems dedicated to teaching us that P.U.M.A. is an acronym (it stands for Personal Urban Mobility & Accessibility — but of course you knew that). Why? What does that really long, cumbersome, and generally forced extended version of the name add? Nothing, really, that we didn’t already know by a) the fact that Segway is selling it and 2) one look at the darn thing. Every time they push the acronym extension, they take away all the great sleek and agile cat associations that made the brand name so cool in the first place. The extended version is just trying too hard to do too much. Let the brand name carry the cool part and create a tagline or product descriptor to communicate the rest.

Name Grade: B+


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