The Compendium of Amazing Names (CAN)

Yes we CAN! The Compendium of Amazing Names, or CAN, is a directory we have created and filled with what we consider to be the best company, product and service brand names in the world.

We in the naming industry often talk about what makes a name great, but as far as we know there's never been an attempt to document as many great names as possible, until we began collecting them in The CAN, where we briefly discuss what makes each name magical. Click on the sidebar navigation to browse The CAN; by clicking on a name, you will load an individual entry page where you can comment on the name and participate in a discussion about it.

We hope you will find the example of amazing brand names as inspiring as we do. To suggest names to add to The CAN, please drop us an email or use the contact form.

Here are the 10 most recent additions to The CAN:

Nothing

Nothing is A Brand With Something to Say About Nothing

What do you need if you have everything? You need Nothing. That is the brilliant premise behind the product brand Nothing. A smallish, nicely-finished black rectangular block of sculpture that can be yours for €29 or about $48. The genesis of Nothing was a stroke of genius:

“One night when I couldn’t sleep, I had the insight that for a long time now I haven’t really known what to ask for on my birthday, or what to give others for their birthdays,” says Pim de Graaff, who launched the product at the end of last year. “At the same time I feel, and maybe it’s a generational thing, that we’re looking for more meaning. So I loved the idea to make ‘nothing.’ To give someone nothing, to enjoy nothing.” (FastCompany)

As the minimal Nothing website says, “Nothing reminds you to enjoy everything you already have.” We couldn’t agree more. This is a great product brand name for a paradoxical company/product that is simultaneously an object for sale and a social commentary on the unnecessary profusion of objects for sale. It is also a deft and playful use of language with endless possibilities. Nothing says it better.

[ Nothing ] »»»

RedShift

Expanding the Universe of Business Education in the Real World

Redshift is a name Zinzin created for eCornell’s new MBA-level online training program for business. Derived from the astronomical term for the shift in the wavelength of light of distant galaxies toward the red end of the spectrum, which is considered evidence that the universe is expanding. Redshift helps business expand their universe of trained, professional employees, and the name playfully refers to eCornell and Cornell University’s red color (Cornell’s sports teams are known informally as “Big Red”). Redshift expands the universe of what a university education can be out in the real world of business.

[ Redshift: case study | website ]

Warby Parker

How An Incognito Superhero Became An Avatar of Fine Eyewear

Warby Parker is a great example of a brand created from an invented character name, similar to other CAN favorites Humphry Slocombe and Pink Floyd. With this invented construction the brand perfectly evokes the milieu of 1920s-1940s history, literature and music, with many eyewear products named after historical and cultural figures: Crane, Chandler, Duke, Winston, Fillmore, Roosevelt, Beckett, Miles, Crosby, etc. But the extra special vibe that the name “Warby Parker” exudes is that of the incognito comic book superhero who spends half of his or her time as an awkward, nerdy dude or gal just trying to blend in with the crowd, though we readers or viewers know their true, powerful identity — think Peter Parker (Spiderman), Clark Kent (Superman), and non-superhero supporting characters like Snapper Carr (Justice League television news reporter) or Iron Man Tony Stark’s amanuensis, the brilliantly named Pepper Potts. And speaking of smart and sassy women, many were portrayed in such period films as His Girl Friday (Rosalind Russell as the feisty Hildy Johnson), Philadelphia Story (Katherine Hepburn as the regal and queenly Tracy Lord) or Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (the incomparable Jean Arthur’s Babe Bennett opposite Gary Cooper’s Longfellow Deeds), and are vitally important to the brand narrative of the unisex-named Warby Parker, making the name equally powerful for selling women’s eyeglasses as men’s.

On its website, the company directly answers the question, Why did we name our company Warby Parker?:

We’ve always been inspired by the master wordsmith and pop culture icon, Mr. Jack Kerouac. Two of his earliest characters, recently uncovered in his personal journals, bore the names Zagg Parker and Warby Pepper. We took the best from each and made it our name.

They did a great job. And of course Kerouac himself was a product of the generation that the name Warby Parker alludes and pays homage to, extending the brand’s metaphor range into the Beat era as well (think Allen Ginsberg with his iconic black-rimmed glasses, for example), perfect for a brand catering to today’s prep school iconoclasts and creative class hipsters. Somewhere out there in the cultural exosphere, Clark Kent is thinking, Peter Parker is slinking, Sam Spade is drinking and Pepper Potts is winking.

[ Warby Parker ]

Fluent

Speaking the Many Languages of Home Automation

Fluent, a name created by Zinzin, fluently re-positions this home security company as a complete, state-of-the-art home automation company. The name captures the essence of getting diverse systems “speaking” to each other, and to homeowners, with ease.

[ Fluent: case study | website ]

Pivot

The Perfect Name to Embody a Shift in Direction

Pivot, created by Zinzin, is the name of a new entertainment and social action television network. To pivot is to turn or rotate, like a hinge. Or a basketball player pivoting back and forth on one foot to protect the ball. Beyond just turning and rotating, pivot (lowercase) is the one central thing that something — maybe everything — depends upon (it is pivotal). It can be a structured course correction or a re-alignment of priorities. Pivot is all about thinking on your feet, adaptation and informed change.

The pivot brand is empathetic, and connotes the dance of collaborators, the auteurs and the audience, learning to work together, to understand and inspire each other. The pivot network doesn’t strong-arm or browbeat you, it uses compelling, entertaining stories to get the audience to gently pivot in their thinking, and to inspire them to action. The name pivot is perfect for this ambitious network that is both television and post-television. The old ways of thinking, acting and relating to each other and the world are not working anymore. It’s time to pivot.

pivot. it’s your turn.

[ Pivot: case study | website ]

Larky

A Playful, Singsong Name to Surprise and Delight

Larky, created by Zinzin, is the name of a company and mobile app that keeps track of all your perks and reward program memberships in one place. The name plays off “lark” — a carefree or spirited adventure, harmless prank, or family of melodious songbirds — in fun, playful, singsong way, and also conjures up a “lucky” feeling. It also alludes to “perk,” but in an associative, non-literal way. It is the perfect, carefree name for an app that is ever-vigilant about alerting you to special deals sure to surprise and delight you with all the perks and discounts you deserve from your memberships.

Get Larky and get what you deserve.

[ Larky: case study | website ]

Humphry Slocombe

A Name With Character For An Ice Cream With Attitude

Humphry Slocombe is a unique, “adult oriented” ice cream shop in San Francisco’s Mission District that makes quite possibly the best ice cream on the planet. If you’ve ever had their “Secret Breakfast” flavor ice cream, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Humphry Slocombe is an ice cream pioneer, mixing unusual flavors to great effect, using ingredients such as bourbon and toasted corn flakes (the aforementioned Secret Breakfast), Huckleberry Crème Fraîche, red wine and Coke (Jesus Juice), or Boccalone Prosciutto. They have over 100 flavors that rotate every day, sometimes 2-3 times throughout the day.

As incredibly good as this ice cream is, however, we wouldn’t be talking about it here if the company didn’t have an amazing name, a name that sets this shop apart from all other ice creams and magnifies their social media draw. Founder Jake Godby worked as a dessert chef at several outstanding San Francisco restaurants before opening the store, honing his craft as a crafty experimentalist. According to a profile in the New York Times (I’ll Take a Scoop of Prosciutto, Please), “With Humphry Slocombe, Godby continued pressing food buttons, beginning with the name, which is aggressively obtuse. (Mr. Humphries and Mrs. Slocombe were characters on the bawdy old British sitcom ‘Are You Being Served?’ Godby insists that if Alice Waters could name her Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse, after a highbrow French film, he could name his ice cream store after a lowbrow British farce.)”

In our opinion, the name Humphry Slocombe is not so much “aggressively obtuse” as it is strange, distinctive, memorable and totally original, just like their ice cream. It is a name with attitude, a name that establishes a character, with a handcrafted, old-timey feel that plays perfectly against the avant-garde nature of their ice cream. It is also similar in its construction to the name Pink Floyd, creating a new character out of the recombinant parts of old characters. As a testament to just how good and unique are Humphry Slocombe’s ice cream AND brand name, ask yourself how many small, one-store ice cream parlors are there with nearly 300,000 followers on Twitter? With an unbelievably great company name and product, and some brilliant flavor names, imagine how far they could go if only they would just address the issue of their graphically-challenged logo and website.

Humphry Slocombe is a company that has created the perfect brand name to represent the very unique thing that it does. A name with character for an “ice cream with attitude.” And that’s just aggressively brilliant.

[ Humphry Slocombe ]

Gravy

A Juicy Name That Really — and Metaphorically — Flows

Gravy is a hyperlocal event listings mobile app we named that is all about finding great things to do near you, wherever you live or plan to visit. Gravy is the good stuff, the “secret sauce,” a source for discovering all the juicy things going on around you. Like the gravy you eat, the event listings in the Gravy app flow smoothly to your mobile device, and the feeds are customizable in a variety of ways. It is all about serendipitous discovery, finding your fun, getting the scoop with “insider information” about cool happenings near you. Think of it as your very own hipster tipster!

Pass the Gravy, please.

[ Gravy: case study | website ]

Pandora

An Evocative, Metaphorical Name That Rewards Curiosity

There are thousands of Internet radio stations, but only one with the amazing name of Pandora. You probably know the story. In Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman, who, possessed with the gift of curiosity, couldn’t refrain from opening a jar–which in later stories became a box–full of dangerous gifts from the gods, thus unleashing evil into the world. Like Eve’s lust for apples, another strong-willed woman had opened up a can of worms for humanity; such are the fears of men, apparently.

You can easily imagine how a theoretical corporate naming committee might have dismissed this name: “We have a cool Internet radio product, but it’s sometimes buggy — the last thing we need is a name that suggests a whole lot of headaches are in store for users who ‘open’ the app.” Or, “Pandora is a woman’s name, so it skews the brand too much toward the female, and our users are 75% male.” Powerful names, however, transcend such literal and “negative” meanings, and Pandora instead promises to reward the curious listeners who use the service to discover new music. A bold service that demonstrates its boldness by having a bold, memorable name that also maps strongly to the idea of curiosity.

Such an evocative name works not in spite of its meaning, but because of it, and, crucially, because its meaning in some way runs counter to the literal function of the brand (“opening” the app shouldn’t release “evil”). When the metaphorical associations of an evocative name are employed merely as symbolic shorthand toward a “deeper meaning,” such as the moon named Pandora in the movie Avatar, the name can easily degenerate into cliche (“if we ‘open’ the planet Pandora for exploitation, we’ll unleash the evil in our cold, capitalists hearts”).

And don’t forget your mythology. After Pandora inadvertently let all the evil out of her “box,” one precious thing remained inside: hope. “Hope is the thing with feathers,” wrote Emily Dickinson famously, “That perches in the soul.” Pandora gives hope to companies every day that powerful, evocative names can set brands free from their bland, sound-alike competitors. Let that knowledge perch in your marketing soul.

[ Pandora ]

Gorilla Glass

An Amazing, Cool Name Employing Alliteration and Poetry

Manufactured by Corning, Gorilla Glass is “an alkali-aluminosilicate sheet glass engineered specifically to be thin, light and damage-resistant. Its primary application is portable electronic devices with screens, such as mobile phones, portable media players, and laptop displays.” (Wikipedia.) It’s a cool product with a lot of potential, but of course its name is what really turns us on. By metaphorically evoking gorillas, which are the ultimate combination of strength plus intelligence, in a name with a great sound, look and poetry through its effective use of alliteration, Corning has created a winner that has already become the standard-bearer in the industry.

[ Gorilla Glass ]