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  1. The ultimate nightcap? Name Review of Driftwell, Pepsi’s sleep aid drink

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    With Covid-19 upending our day-to-day, anxiety is on the rise and serious shut-eye in-demand. It’s no surprise then that Pepsi has decided to enter both the multibillion-dollar sleep aid and functional drink markets (respectively, $78.7B and $128.7B worldwide in 2019) with a product that combines the two in a 7.5 ounce can.

    Driftwell is Pepsi’s enhanced blackberry and lavender-flavored water drink that boasts L-theanine and magnesium. With two ingredients proven to promote relaxation and reduce stress, this functional water is designed to get you far more than 40 winks. But does this drink’s name work as well in the marketplace as the product does for your nighttime routine? Let’s take a closer look.

    Easy to pronounce and spell, Driftwell is a compound name that emphasizes function. Drift evokes the idiom “drift off,” suggesting gently and gradually falling asleep, and recalls the pleasant sensation of drifting, being carried slowly by a current of air or water. For most consumers, drift suggests peace, tranquility, even calm. Drift lightly recalls drink and dream (two five-letter “dr” words ), which subtly gives the name context. By pairing drift with well, the type of drifting this drink promotes is obvious. Doing double duty, well suggests drifting to sleep in a good way, as well as well-being.

    Taking a cue from growing brands Health-ade (a kombucha beverage line that has expanded from a few natural food shops in 2012 to 26,000 stores nationwide and a $20M investment from The Coca-Cola Company) and Care/of (a customized subscription vitamin service that’s disrupted CPG marketing), Driftwell chose a name that squarely positions it in the health and wellness category. That’s a smart, strategic play given the great expansion of that market in recent years.

    It’s worth noting what the name does not express—refreshment—given that most beverage brands focus on it. Unlike Mountain Dew, Dunkin’ Coolatta, or Bubly, the name Driftwell was not designed to seduce the senses. Nor does it over-index on fun and whimsy (think: Olipop or Sprite). However, this choice makes perfect sense with a brand story of healthful sleep.

    The name’s primary weaknesses are its use of two common words and potential unpleasant cultural associations with drift. Many existing consumer brand names use drift and well, which could easily confuse consumers or color their experiences. Fashion brand Madewell and sparkling beverage Spindrift immediately come to mind—with Spindrift a popular canned water already lining supermarket shelves. And though drifting off to sleep is a very pleasant notion, the word drift inevitably also takes us to some less-happy places: illegal drift nets threatening ocean life, cars drifting between lanes and endangering everyone on the road, and suspicious drifters lurking about. Then, of course, there’s the name’s similarity to driftwood, which brings to mind purposeless flotsam and suggests fibrous blandness or salty sand. (The idea of log-flavored water is more than enough to leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth!)

    So is Driftwell a dream-come-true, or simply a snoozefest? It’s definitely better than average, but as on many a morning when it’s time to get up, we’re craving just a little bit more. Drift plus well definitely do the job but aren’t a dream ticket.


  2. Catchword awarded Hermes Gold for WomenLift Health

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    Catchword is proud to announce that we’ve been honored with a Gold from the Hermes Creative Awards for excellence in brand naming for the second consecutive year. The award recognizes our development of WomenLift Health for the new nonprofit organization within Stanford Global Health that will improve health around the world by investing in women’s leadership.

    “We are delighted and honored to be recognized again with a gold, particularly for work on such an important project,” said Catchword principal and co-founder Maria Cypher. “WomenLift Health is literally going to change the face of health leadership on our planet, which will ultimately mean healthier, better lives.”

    The Hermes Creative Awards, one of the largest international competitions for creative work, recognizes achievement in concept, writing, and design. The 2020 winners were selected from thousands of entries in more than 200 categories.

    What is WomenLift Health?

    Despite comprising 70% of the health workforce, women are undervalued and severely underrepresented in its leadership. Women hold only 25% of leadership positions in health occupations and of the 27 companies comprising the health sector of the global Fortune 500, only one is led by a woman.

    With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, WomenLift Health will address the gross gender imbalance in the health sector by promoting and supporting women’s health leadership in public and private sectors. It will catalyze sustained change by working particularly with mid-career women in lower-resourced regional settings to attain better health outcomes worldwide. This critical shift will not only impact the lives of these women and their families, but will create strong and effective champions who will transform the global health landscape.

    Why the name WomenLift Health?

    The Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health approached Catchword in November 2018 for naming strategy advice and to name a new program known at the time as the Women Leaders in Global Health Initiative. The organization was in the planning phase and needed a name that would inspire as well as communicate the mission. Catchword worked closely with the Stanford team to understand the program’s mission, messaging, and naming preferences.

    Because the organization would be international and responsible for initiating change to deeply embedded structures, nuance was critical. The name had to express the brand messaging, while being understandable across regions and cultures, relatively short, distinct from existing organizations, and available as a domain and as an international mark. At the same time, it could not suggest exporting Western-style feminism or denigrating or excluding men.

    “Of the more than two thousand names we developed, WomenLift Health rose to the top,” said Ms. Cypher. “It clearly conveys the organization’s mission of promoting women’s leadership without suggesting any type of exclusion or a particularly Western point of view.”

    Because empowering more women in the health sector benefits not only these individuals and their families, but the health and well-being of everyone in the community, Catchword sought a name that could express this broad impact. With its double meaning, WomenLift Health elegantly communicates both the elevation of women to leadership and the elevation of health by women.

    The vocabulary of WomenLift Health is straightforward, which means the name is immediately understood by its international audience, yet lyrical, which aids memorability while inspiring program staff, participants, and funders. The name stands apart from the descriptive, lengthy names of government and academic organizations in the sector.

    Hermes Creative Awards

    Hermes Creative Awards is administered and judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals, an international organization of marketing, communication, advertising, public relations, media production, and freelance professionals.

    AMCP judges are experienced industry professionals looking for companies and individuals whose talent exceeds a high standard of excellence and whose work serves as a benchmark for the industry.

    Named after the Greek messenger god Hermes, the competition highlights the role of marketing and communications professionals as messengers and creators.

  3. Sounds About Right: Name Review of Mmhmm

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    Although videoconferencing has become a staple to pandemic living, many features and functions remain basic. That’s where Mmhmm comes in. A conferencing app (now in beta) that is billed as “your personal video presence,” Mmhmm goes beyond filters and aesthetics. For instance, presenters can share screens like nightly news anchors or move into and out of frame by shrinking and dissolving.

    At a time when joy is hard to come by, Mmhmm is likely to inject a dose of surprise and delight that we all could use. But as a namer, I can’t help but focus on the merits of the name itself.

    Mmhmm is what namers call a real-English interjection. An impromptu expression, “mmhmm” is typically used as a verbal sign of consensus or accord.

    As a name, Mmhmm has many positives going for it. For starters, it’s a shock (in the best way) to our current system. In a space dominated by descriptive names (e.g., Google Meet) and suggestive but expected names (e.g., Zoom), Mmhmm‘s naming ingenuity cuts through the noise, its style quickly communicating that this is not your run-of-the-mill videoconferencing tool. Being an extemporaneous, colloquial utterance, Mmhmm suggests a fluid and vibrant experience—one dotted with fun and unexpected functions.

    Mmhmm is also a palindrome and, as such, is visually balanced with the two “m”s on either side of the “h.” Because of this visual equilibrium, proper spelling is more assured.

    Given Mmhmm’s audience will likely be a bit more buttoned up (this is a videoconferencing tool after all), one does wonder if the name is too casual for even Casual Fridays. Six months ago, when work still happened in “the office” and videoconferencing was used solely for, well, conferencing, I’d say yes. But, not any more. As Zoom’s uses have proliferated (Zoom workouts, Zoom poetry readings, Zoom happy hours, Zoom book club) it has become clear that these apps are very much “business in front,” “party in back,” making a name like Mmhmm more than palatable.

    For all these strengths, there are real issues with the name. Depending on the inflection one uses with “mmhmm,” this sign of approval can turn into an expression of sarcastic disapproval. In the United States at least, it’s not uncommon to hear an exaggerated “mmhmm” (more of an “mmhmmmmm”) served with proper side-eye or sneer and translating to “I’ll believe it when I see it.” And, this is just one of many shades of meaning that Mmhmm has garnered in English. Many interjections and onomatopoeic words don’t work cross-culturally, and therein lies the rub for a company selling itself as “clear, compelling communication for everyone.”

    Finally, there is bound to be at least occasional confusion over whether someone is saying “mmhmm” as an acknowledgement or as a reference to the app. The name requires a certain pause to differentiate it from everyday speech. As founder (and Evernote ex-CEO) Phil Libin’s practiced pronunciation reveals, it’s a punctuated moniker that requires time to get right.

    The final take? While one can admire the positivity and originality of Mmhmm (both the company and its name), this new app needs to overcome potential verbal stumbles and international acceptability issues before it can solidify its spot in our business arsenal.

  4. The poet who doubles as a professional brand namer

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    The way Stevie Belchak sees it, naming a new company is a lot like writing a poem.

    Belchak is a senior naming manager at Catchword, and she’s branded major products for clients like Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, and Intel.

    She’s also a poet. And she points out that poets are trained in the art of capturing an image with unique wordplay — exactly what you want in a good brand name.

    Plus: Poetic devices like assonance are what make names like Sweetgreen and Fitbit pop. …

    Full story

  5. Stanford’s WomenLift Health: Promoting women’s leadership with a name from Catchword

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    Catchword is very proud to announce the launch of WomenLift Health, a new nonprofit that promotes and supports women in health-leadership positions around the world. The initiative, part of the Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, features a name developed by Catchword.

    “The Catchword team is thrilled and honored to be a part of this initiative, which will impact health across the planet,” said co-founder and principal Maria Cypher. Stanford Global Health approached Catchword to name the program last year.

    In the announcement introducing the program, Stanford Global Health director Michele Barry cites shocking statistics that illustrate the problem WomenLift Health will address: “Women currently represent 70% of the world’s health workforce but only 25% of leadership positions. Only 27% of the world’s ministers of health are women and 16% are medical school deans in the US. Of the 27 companies comprising the health sector of the global Fortune 500, only one is led by a woman.”

    WomenLift Health will catalyze sustained change by working particularly with mid-career women in lower-resourced regional settings to attain better health outcomes worldwide. The organization will invest in the leadership skills of these individual women as well as work to influence change in their work and community environments.

    Because empowering more women in the health sector benefits not only these individuals and their families but the health and well-being of everyone in the community, Catchword sought a name that could express this broad impact. With its double meaning, WomenLift Health elegantly communicates both the elevation of women to leadership and the elevation of health by women.

    As Stanford Global Health Director Barry said, “We know that when women lead, good health follows.” Catchword couldn’t agree more.

  6. Agari in The Seattle Times

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    Washington state officials have acknowledged the loss of “hundreds of millions of dollars” to an international fraud scheme that hammered the state’s unemployment insurance system and could mean even longer delays for thousands of jobless workers still waiting for legitimate benefits. …

    Among the criminal groups implicated in the fraud is a Nigerian organization known as Scattered Canary, according to a report released this week by Agari, a California-based cybersecurity firm that has tracked the African organization’s activities. The group has been running scams for more than a decade, working to steal Social Security payments, student aid and disaster relief funds, among other targets, the report said. …

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  7. Do you speak Covid? The new language of our times

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    Nationwide lockdowns are reshaping the world, and after just two months, our lives already bear little resemblance to what they once were. Here at Catchword, as we grapple to understand Covid-19 and its implications, we can’t help but see the vocabulary it is ushering in—from epidemiological and medical terms to government-promoted slogans to never-before-heard colloquialisms. Here’s a sampling of the lingo we’ve become all too familiar with.

    Panic Buying

    We’ve all experienced it: scarcity of toilet paper, Clorox, hand sanitizer, and flour; empty shelves at the supermarket; six-week delays on online orders. Panic buying, or the hoarding of products due to fear of a shortage, set in early in the States.


    Pronounced “R-naught,” R0 is a measure of contagiousness, representing the number of new infections stemming from a single case. In April, The New York Times reported that the Coronavirus has an R0 of 2 to 2.5, meaning 1,000 infected people will in turn infect 2,000 to 2,500 more. But this number shifts as new data becomes available, and communities can affect this number by simply changing behavior. In fact, our own Santa Clara County has driven its R0 down to as little as 1 after its shelter-in-place order.

    Anticipatory Grief

    The New York Times, Boston Globe, and a number of other news outlets gave us the okay to collectively grieve this month and attempted to help us understand our feelings of free fall, depression, and anxiety. Anticipatory grief is basically the result of imagining the worst. It’s the sinking feeling we get when the future feels unsure, when death feels imminent—ours or a loved one’s. While we all may process this feeling differently, NPR has some great suggestions on how to truly honor it.

    Herd Immunity

    An idea currently being explored in Sweden, herd immunity occurs when the virus is met with little resistance, spreading like wildfire across communities. When most of the population has had Covid-19 and become immune to it, they provide indirect protection (or herd immunity) to those who have yet to suffer its ills.


    A super-spreader is just that: a patient who infects significantly more people with Covid-19 than is expected or typical. An established 20/80 rule suggests that around 20% of people are likely to be responsible for 80% of transmissions.

    Flatten the Curve

    An early rallying cry in the US, flatten the curve means slowing the spread of coronavirus, so that fewer people need treatment at a single time. Through measures like social distancing, mask wearing, and sheltering in place, we protect ourselves while preventing our hospitals and healthcare providers from being overburdened.

    graphic by RCraig09 from Wikimedia Commons


    Alone Together

    We’re all feeling isolated right now. Alone Together, a popular hashtag, reminds us that though we may be physically apart—from friends, family members, even co-workers—we are in this together. It reminds us to forget our FOMO (fear of missing out) and find unity even in the most trying of times.

    Rona, Roni, Miss Rona, Aunt Rona

    Clipped from the longer coronavirus, Rona is a playful or ironic way of referring to Covid-19 when commenting on the more amusing challenges of our new normal. Though light in sound, it’s meant to be a point of connection (bringing people together in joint understanding), rather an exhibition of flippancy about the seriousness of the pandemic.

    Mask Shaming

    As masks become mandatory in much of the nation, feelings of both individual and community responsibility abound. Out of fear for one’s health or the health of others, or a desire to underline the importance of civic duty, some citizens have taken up verbally shaming others for not wearing a mask.


    Politicians who “forget” to wear masks in public, partying spring-breakers in Florida, the woman in the checkout line with 10 times the paper goods she needs … a Covidiot is someone who ignores public-health warnings and current social norms—sometimes out of ignorance and sometimes out of pure stubbornness.

    The Sidewalk Dance

    You see someone walking on your side of the sidewalk. They’re not wearing a mask, and they definitely aren’t looking to swerve. You skip to the other side, jump into the bushes or onto the grass, and then—breathe easy. We’ve all been there. In an article published on Medium, the sidewalk dance is described as the strange social-distancing move made by two people in order to ensure a six-foot berth, sometimes performed deadpan, sometimes with a smile or nod, and sometimes with a look of sheer terror.


    Once a term for privileged, middle-aged white women, Karen has taken on a nuanced meaning in the time of Covid-19. According to The Atlantic, Karens are obsessed with consumer trends and personal appearance and have a penchant for complaining loudly. In our current environment, Karens are making the rounds on social media for defiance of social distancing and government orders. But the result isn’t all bad; as The Atlantic notes, Karen memes are helping to highlight a certain type of privilege and major racial disparities among those infected.

    Zoom Dread

    As the virtual conference of choice, Zoom has taken over our lives. From digital workouts to online all-hands meetings, to book clubs and happy hours, Zoom delivers it all—straight to our living room. But for some, it brings people a little too close for comfort. The anxiety of taking yourself off mute, getting trapped in a conversation without a clear exit, or accidentally not signing off, Zoom dread is enough to make us wish webcams were never invented.


    At that start of quarantine, the Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten, reminded us to “Stay safe, have a very good time, and don’t forget the cocktails.” We couldn’t agree more. Quarantinis, a cocktail imbibed while social distancing, are on the rise. Toasting from afar never felt so good.

  8. Five ways to future-proof your company name: How Brands Are Built guest post

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    How Brands Are Built podcast features Laurel Sutton 6/11/18As the world shifts to a “new normal,” How Brands Are Built—a practical and tactical blog and podcast—continues to share insightful industry perspectives for branders and companies nationwide.

    This week, Catchword’s own Stevie Belchak looks forward, providing tips for how businesses can future-proof their names. Offering up five practical tips, this is an important read for any company launching or rebranding.

  9. WomenLift Health in Thomson Reuters Foundation News

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    Solving health emergencies like the coronavirus demands the best minds the world has to offer – including women

    Geeta Rao Gupta is the Executive Director, 3D Program for Women and Girls; WomenLift Health Global Advisory Board Chair

    Jeremy Farrar is a Director, Wellcome Trust; WomenLift Health Global Advisory Board Member

    In February a now-infamous photo made its rounds on social media. Posted by US Vice President Mike Pence, the image, which showed the members of the US Coronavirus Taskforce, left many asking a single question: where are the women?

    This isn’t just a question of parity, it’s urgently needed. …

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