The Compendium of Amazing Names (CAN): company names

Amazon

An Evocative E-Commerce Name That’s A Force of Nature

When Jeff Bezos created Amazon in the 1990s, many alleged “branding experts” thought he should have named the company “Books.com.” Bezos knew better. He understood that you can’t build a lasting brand, one that can grow above and beyond mere commodity-value associations with the goods and services it offers, if it is saddled with a boring, generic name that is only about such goods and services. Look no further than Pets.com et al to see just how right he was. Bezos realized that only a very different, evocative name like “Amazon” would set his brand apart from the thousands of newly hatched Internet companies launching every month. The name Amazon metaphorically evokes depth, breadth, power, speed, flow and an awesome force of nature, all of which the company has come to embody in the world of e-commerce.

[ Amazon ]

Antidote

Relief From The Common Continuing Medical Education Name

Every year, physicians and other health care professionals are required to take a certain number of continuing medical education (CME) credits, to stay up on advances in their medical field. In a sea of sound-alike, blandly descriptive names that populate the CME market space, one name, Antidote, stands far above the rest. It’s “the cure for the common CME,” and you know with a company name like Antidote, which we created, the experience will be different.

[ Antidote: case study | website ]

Apple

An Iconic Brand Name With Deep Meaning, Myth and Story

Apple is the iconic brand we know today because its founding Steves–Jobs and Wozniak– had the vision in the 1970s not to name it “Simplicity Computing.” Or Compaq, Gateway, Acer, Tektron or AST for that matter. They chose instead an evocative name that metaphorically demonstrates the key positioning of simplicity, warmth and humanity. And if it had come down to a choice between two “fresh fruit” names, such as Apple or Strawberry, you need look no further than the incredible depth of cultural meaning, myth, story and history behind the word “apple,” from the Garden of Eden to Isaac Newton, Johnny Appleseed, “an apple a day,” Apple records, and all the varieties of apples, such as macintosh. Strawberry has… Strawberry Fields, Strawberry Shortcake, and that’s about it. And because of that choice many years ago, this company is the Apple of our eye today.

[ Apple ]

Baldwin&

A Surname-Based Company Name That Transcends Ego

David Baldwin is the founder of “a hybrid / digital / content / advertising / entertainment / events” agency that is named after himself. So why should a boring, surname-based name be admitted into the august company of amazing names here in The CAN? Because Baldwin did something quite canny with the use of one single keyboard character, the elegant but humble ampersand, adding it to his surname to create the brand Baldwin&. This is a brilliant upending of the usual employment of ampersands in advertising agency names as mere grammatical glue linking the founders’ egos–think Davidson & Belluso, Ogilvy & Mather, or Saatchi & Saatchi, and many other similarly-constructed company names in communications, law, finance, insurance and accounting. Baldwin& suggests that the conversation isn’t over, it has only begun, and is waiting to be completed by new partners, new clients and new creative work. It is the opening of a story, and it very humbly forces you to complete the story with your own narrative, and thus become part of the story. This is what makes it so interesting: it sets up an expectation that this is going to be yet another ego-based company, but then violates that assumption by insisting that you, the observer, are part of the story too. And what could be less egotistic than such warm inclusion of other participants into their world? Its a tacit admission that they don’t work in a vacuum, that they can only exist and thrive through collaboration. The ampersand becomes an invitation.

As always, however, it’s not enough just to have a great name–you have to back it up and demonstrate your brand values at every opportunity. Baldwin& delivers with great advertising work for Audi, Burt’s Bees, Habitat For Humanity, and Virgin Airways among others. They have a simple, direct and openly honest philosophy that we here at Zinzin relate to very much–here’s a sample from the Baldwin& website, as explanation of what they do:

We create our own brands.
We create our own companies.
We create our own luck.
We’ll do anything that sounds like fun and lets us live our mission.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. The name Baldwin& beautifully demonstrates that sometimes the best solution is very simple and right under your nose. And with the right execution, the simplest constructions are capable of great impact.

[ Baldwin& ]

Betabrand

Online Retail Fashion Name At Forefront Of Brand Innovation

Betabrand is an online-only clothing company based in San Francisco. They design, manufacture, and release new clothing “inventions” every week, in collaboration with local designers. They also have a growing global community they call Betabrand Model Citizens, an amateur fashion-photo force. Their name cleverly co-opts the language of cutting edge technology innovation–Beta version, a work in progress–and puts it into service of selling not just clothes, but lifestyles and attitudes. This is the forefront of brand innovation–it’s the Betabrand. Extra indie cred for punning on the name of the great 1996-2004 Scottish indie group, Beta Band.

Betabrand carries their flair for naming over to their products as well, with such names as Cordarounds, Japants, DARPA Hoodies, Bike to Work Pants, Sons of Britches, Cornucopia Bags, the Vagisoft Blanket and more. This is a brand to watch.

[ Betabrand ]

Caterpillar

The Brute Force Power Of An Unexpected Name

Caterpillar is a wonderful name for a heavy machinery company. You could imagine a naming committee dismissing this name if it were on the table: “We make big, tough, powerful, brute force earth-moving machines, and caterpillars are small and cute and easily squashed. We need a name like Workhorse, Bulldog or Buffalo, a macho name.” But it’s that very unexpected quality in the name that sets Caterpillar apart in its industry. That and the fact that, while a single caterpillar might be a small, insignificant bug, in aggregate they can transform a landscape. It’s a power that sneaks up on you, just like this brand name.

[ Caterpillar ]

Coca-Cola

A Descriptive Brand Name That Became An Icon Over Time

Arguably the most iconic of classic American brands, Coca-Cola was invented in 1886 by Atlanta pharmacist Dr. John Pemberton. The name was a suggestion given by Pemberton’s bookkeeper Frank Robinson. Here we have a name that seems to break all the rules of great names: it is descriptive (for the first nineteen years the soft drink contained extracts of cocaine as well as the kola nut); it has a hyphen; and it was named by a bookkeeper (no offense). But what the name Coca-Cola does have is great poetic alliteration and symmetry, and an iconic hand-drawn flowing script logo still used today, also created by that multi-talented bookkeeper Frank Robinson.

The name also morphs into a classic nickname brand, “Coke,” as famous now as “Coca-Cola,” and used much more in vernacular speech. So add “brand dilution (being known by two names)” to the list of “mistakes” above that add up to make this brand so great. If only all brands could fail this successfully!

[ Coca-Cola ]

Crumpler

An Invented Name That’s Both Humble And Full Of Attitude

Crumpler is a great invented name for an Australian company that creates bags, cases and straps. Evoking “crumpled” and “rumpled,” able to take a beating, the kinds of products you can use day in and day out and mold to your body and your lifestyle. Humble, yet full of attitude, which really comes out in this company’s outstanding suite of product names, many of which have also been featured here in the Compendium.

[ Crumpler ]

Firefly

A Name That Illuminates A Dark Corner Of The Legal Profession

We created the name Firefly for a law firm specializing in the murky and little-understood area of process serving. To be different and memorable the name had to be warm, friendly, and human. Firefly accomplishes this with aplomb and illuminates this dark corner of the legal profession.

[ Firefly: case study | website ]

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 ]

General Assembly

A Co-Working Name That’s Both Descriptive And Evocative

General Assembly is a communal office campus in downtown New York City, where entrepreneurs can rent office space for their startup company and immediately join a thriving tech community, meet other entrepreneurs and investors, and have access to complementary technologies and a talented labor pool. It’s a great concept, with a perfect name that works on multiple levels. The first reference in the name is to the United Nations General Assembly, the only one of five U.N. organs in which all member nations have equal representation. Through this metaphor, the name General Assembly very effectively conveys the key concept of a participatory environment for “everybody” with a serious start-up business.

Further, the name General Assembly evokes an old-school industrial manufacturing company — think General Motors — which adds the gravitas of real-world tangibility to the gleam in the eye of an entrepreneur or the dream on the page of a business plan. And the name lends itself to iconic abbreviation in its logo, which features “GA” in the middle of a gear, further reinforcing the industrial references. These brand cues of tangibility and realness, in a realm where far too often new ideas disappear in to “vaporware,” is extremely compelling, and reflects the same kind of thinking that went in to the company name we created for the software company Rivet. Great work, General Assembly.

[ General Assembly ]

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 ]

Groove

A Groovy Name With Many Idioms And Great Cultural History

A groovy name we created for a Camelbak water bottle that fills the straw “groove” with an inline filter, so you can get your fresh filtered water Groove on wherever you go. Taps into lots of shared culture and idioms, from “Get your Groove on,” to “Groovin”, “Groovy,” and “In the Groove.”

[ Groove: 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 ]

Iregular

A Playful Name Using Intentional Misspelling For A Reason

Iregular is an “Interactive Content Creation” company based in Montreal, Canada, that has created a number of very cool interactive installations, websites, apps and games. The Creators Project has a good profile of Iregular, with videos of various Iregular installations. Their name not only playfully refers to the strangeness and originality of their work (culturally irregular) by being an irregular spelling of “irregular,” but it also works as a play on the company founder’s name: Daniel Iregui. A perfect fit between name and named, form and function that is very cool. Like Iregular.

[ Iregular ]

July

A Name The Uniquely Evokes Financial Freedom

A quietly powerful name which we created for a business services company that is all about helping its clients achieve financial freedom. With its evocations of the Fourth of July, Americana, and the joy of summer, the name July conveys powerful ideas and images of “freedom” in a refreshingly new, non-literal way. Pretty good for a name that was just sitting there on the calendar in front of everyone, but remaining unused as a brand by that same “everyone.”

[ July: case study | website ]