The Compendium of Amazing Names (CAN): P


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 ]

Part and Parcel

A Product Name Wrapped In An Idiom

A great name for a messenger bag from our friends at Crumpler, “part and parcel” is a well-known idiom meaning, “something that cannot be separated from a condition or activity,” perfect for a bag that wants to be considered at one with the laptop computer it is designed to carry. Plus there’s the nice the descriptive meaning of “parcel” as a “wrapped package,” giving this name another point of entry. Playing off a known idiom in a new, fresh way can be a great strategy for breathing life into a product brand.

[ Part and Parcel ]

Pink Floyd

Contradiction And Simplicity In An Enduring Band Name

Whatever you think about their music, past or present, the band Pink Floyd has an amazing, enduring name, with a subtle power that reveals itself gradually over time. The name was created on the spur of the moment by early member and “crazy diamond” troubled genius Syd Barrett, by combining “the given names of two blues musicians whose Piedmont blues records Barrett had in his collection, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council” (Wikipedia). The unique combinations of strangeness and familiarity, modern (“Pink”) and retro (“Floyd”), young and old, have led to this being an enduring name still vital nearly 50 years after it burst upon the London music scene in the mid-1960s. Contradiction and simplicity combine to form one of the greatest band names of all time. And it only works because “Pink” can be a name and not just a color, which is only the case because “Floyd” is a name; note, for instance, how much less interesting is the contemporary band name Pink Martini.

The band wouldn’t have been in the pink without the influence of Syd Barrett, however, as a look at the names of their previous, pre-Barrett incarnations reveals: Sigma 6, The Meggadeaths, The (Screaming) Abdabs, Leonard’s Lodgers, The Spectrum Five and, finally, The Tea Set, a name they would have stuck with had there not been another local London band with that exact name. A great example of viewing a name or trademark conflict not as a  problem, but as a blessing in disguise if it leads to a much stronger name.

In a world where too many bands try too hard with their name to be different, the name Pink Floyd is one that, with seemingly little effort, stands out clearly from the pack. Shine on.

[ Pink Floyd ]

Pinnacle of Horror

“The horror. The horror.” No Mr. Kurtz, the “Pinnacle of Horror,” yet another in a seemingly endless line of great bag and strap product names from Compendium favorite Crumpler. This one is an awesome laptop travel bag that will leave you feeling anything but horrible.

[ Pinnacle of Horror ]


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 ]


A name we created for a defense navigation software company, whose elemental nature is perfectly captured by the name Primordial. With a name this powerful, the company can use mostly descriptive names for its products, much in the same way Apple does with its descriptive “i-names.” But you can only get away with that if you have a powerful company name, otherwise you’d disappear entirely.

[ Primordial: case study | website ]