Smarter Cars, Dumber Names

In Henry Ford’s day, brakes were brakes, and a steering wheel was a steering wheel. But not anymore. Now auto makers want their proprietary technology to seem superior to their competitors’, so they give it a brand name instead of labeling it generically. The Automobile Association of America argues that this practice is confusing to drivers and could actually be dangerous.

Should auto tech be branded? Maybe, maybe not, but the genie is out of the bottle now.

See: The names car companies use to describe their high-tech features sound like gibberish

When Rebranding Goes Wrong

Ad Age released its list of “11 Worst Name Changes of 2018,” many of which were attempts to correct an original name that was poorly conceived. Other companies jumped on the “shorter is better” bandwagon, proving once again that character count is not the most important consideration for a brand name.

Among those on the list:

WW — Formerly Weight Watchers. They went from three syllables to six and adopted a name that’s two thirds of World Wide Web and World Wrestling Entertainment. 

RTW Retailwinds — Formerly New York & Company. Is “RTW” an abbreviation for the one-word “Retailwinds?” Why is it used with the name? I’m confused.

M/H VCCP — Formerly Muhtayzik Hoffer, an agency that should know a thing or two about branding. Yes, the original name was problematic, but the shortened version—complete with the trendy slash—brings no meaning whatsoever to the brand.

VMLY&R — Formed by combining the former agency names of VML and Y&R. Yikes.

Ad Age had also included two names on its list that didn’t deserve to be on this Hall of Shame:

Tribune Publishing — After calling their Tribune Online Content unit “Tronc,” the media company ditched that silly name in favor of their rock-solid original brand. That’s a good call.

Capri Holdings — Michael Kors decided to rebrand after acquiring fashion powerhouses Jimmy Choo and Versace. The name “Capri” was selected because of the island’s three-rock formation, which was meant to symbolize the timeless stability of the three brands. Creating an evocative name was a good choice, so A for Effort on that. Problem is, the island’s trio of rock formations is not what it’s best known for. A brand’s connection to an evocative name should be obvious. This one, unfortunately, requires explanation.

Check out Trademark Bob’s take on this article, which gets into the hazards of adopting initials and acronyms as your brand name.


Clutch Highlights Pollywog in Annual Report of Global Leaders 2018

Pollywog has been working with brands in their formative stages since 2007, and we’ve always endeavored to produce nothing but the best work for our clients. To get some feedback on how we’re doing as a company, we created a profile on Clutch, a B2B ratings and reviews platform based in Washington, D.C.

Clutch analyzes businesses in a diverse range of industries, ranking them on their ability to deliver superior solutions to clients. They research social media presence, industry expertise, and former client reviews in their extensive evaluations. We’re proud to see how our company has stacked up against their analysis: Our comprehensive profile on Clutch is now ranked as one of the top naming agencies in their global report for 2018! And, another piece of exciting news: Pollywog is listed as a Clutch 1000 company, which is a list of the top 1000 firms on their platform.

While the awards and recognition are certainly nice, what we’re proudest of is our client reviews. Clutch interviews our former clients via telephone, gathering accounts from those who have had direct experience collaborating with us. We’re glad to hear that our passion for creating compelling, story-rich brand names has paid off. Here’s a sample of what our clients are saying:

“While their competitors made huge promises, Pollywog’s approach was both comprehensive and creative. They proposed a realistic plan that made efficient use of our time and yielded results. Their years of branding experience was also very comforting.” – COO of a High Performance Computing Company

“Don’t hesitate to call them. They produce great value and smart work that’s on budget and on time.” – Owner, McLean Properties, Inc.

 “They were committed to making sure our new name was the perfect fit for our business.” – Marketing Communications Manager, Fulcrum Health

 “They are very smart, clever, and show dedication to the missions they are working to support.” – Marketing & Communications Manager, Animal Humane Society

Because Pollywog’s ability to deliver is ranked so high among naming companies, we’re also featured on Clutch’s sister website, The Manifest. The Manifest is a site of guides to top service providers and industry trends. 

We’re grateful to the Clutch team for their research and recognition, to our former clients for their reviews of our work, and to all who have helped our company grow over the years. Our stellar rankings on Clutch and The Manifest motivate us to work even harder in the new year and deliver our best work to both new and returning customers.

Startup Growth Linked to Trademark

Of the many sites offering advice for aspiring entrepreneurs—including the venerable SBA—very few mention branding as a startup cost. Almost none advise new business owners to factor the cost of naming into their expenses. Maybe the authors of these pages believe that entrepreneurs can simply name their business by themselves.

But the the truth is, the days of easily creating a brand name—a name that links to an appealing brand promise or differentiator, uses natural words that customers can understand, and is available to trademark—are long over.

Many entrepreneurs create a name then jump into business with no regard to the possibility that they may be infringing on someone else’s trademark. And in reality, many businesses do co-exist with the same name, and many trademark owners fail to protect their mark. Perhaps it’s just too costly and time-consuming to do so, especially if your business name is one that’s easy for others to think up. ” (I feel sorry for the trademark owners of cliched names like “Cornerstone” and “Pinnacle.”)

But there’s another reason why entrepreneurs should do their due diligence and trademark their business name—because it helps them make more money.

Our friends at Trademark Bob highlighted a study in their blog today that entrepreneurs should pay close attention to.

The study found that a trademark filing is highly correlated with the ultimate success of an early entrepreneurship activity including employment and revenue growth. Firms that do not apply for a trademark registration in their initial years are unlikely to do so unless they experience employment growth. However, difference-in-differences analysis suggests sizable treatment effects, with firms making a trademark filing having substantially higher employment and greater revenue in the period following the first trademark filing.

You can read the whole study here.

It pays to trademark your name. Pollywog can help you create a name for your startup that’s custom-tailored to your offering, scores well on our 17-point evaluation and has a high likelihood for trademark registration. Contact us and ask about our special pricing for startup businesses.

Naming Mary Jane

“Cannabis Dispensary” by My 420 Tours CC BY-SA

The cannabis industry has had to clean up its intellectual property act now that it’s a legitimate product in some states. No, you can’t call a strain of marijuana “Gorilla Glue” or “Girl Scout Cookies” or “Skywalker OG”. But that doesn’t mean you have to give your product a lame name like Liiv™, Synr.g™ or Xscape.

The “Wild West” days of cannabis naming may be over, but there’s a lot of room for creativity with names. It would be nice to see these companies stretch a bit.

Here’s more on cannabis naming.

Pollywog’s Top Tip for Digital Branding

What’s the most important advice we can offer to entrepreneurs starting a business? See our top recommendation, along with a number of other tips from experts on FitSmallBusiness.

Top 28 Digital Branding Strategies from the Pros


Pollywog is a naming company. We create story-rich names that draw people to brands. 612.326.4207