What's in a Name? Why Google Has it Right

What's in a Name? Why Google Has it Right

Mike Tyson
Nov 23, 2011

Thanks to the Internet Age companies are being started at an unbelievable pace. And it seems as though the naming pool is drying up. Companies are forced into becoming quite... um... "creative" with their naming strategies for various reasons and it has lead to some regreatable results. But Google, in our opinion, has been one of the few to emerge victorious from the din that is the internet startup community. And they managed this with a simple naming strategy and we believe other companies should take note.

Lets begin by establishing what exactly is the problem right now. There is finite number of words in the English language that a company could select when naming their brand -- theres no getting around that fact. But one of the biggest issues posed towards a startup when selecting their name is their website and social media presence. Domain names play a crucial factor in this decision and are a large part why companies begin to invent words to be unique: Spotify, Skype, Gothamist, Paypal, for example.

Qwikster is a recent example of a failure in the "invent-a-name" game. Strangely enough, we're sure there was probably a ton of research and analysis done by some firm before deciding upon the Qwikster name and yet when it was released, along with all the other Netflix craziness, it was immediately criticized. The name is awkward, clearly trying to be hip, and doesn't really have any significance beyond that it suggests that the DVDs will get to you... quickly? But, Netflix could get the domain they needed and that seemed to be all that mattered. One additional oversight was the fact that the Qwikster Twitter handle was already taken by someone who probably wasn't the greatest brand embassador for the company. Hilarity insued as the internet's attention was shifted to foul-mouthed, tweeter and his pot smoking elmo avatar.

So why does Google do a better job? Well, they don't over think it. We're sure the decision to land on the initial Google name was probably long and a bit nerve-racking. Although it really couldn't have gone any better, could it? Although the word already existed, the name is now synonymous with the search engine. But their additional offerings are extremely straight-forward: Google Reader, Google Music, Google Products, Google Documents, etc... The only name where they started to get slightly inventive is Gmail. But even that has worked out for them.

So what does that say? All of these names are extremely simplisitic yet they're all free to use because they're paired with the master brand of Google. Therefor, domains are simple subdomains of the original and there is never an issue of a domain name already being taken when a new product rolls out. Things are still easily searchable because they're again paired with the unique overall brand name. So maybe companies instead of trying to come up with a cheesy mashup of existing words, which is really beginning to make them all sound and look the same anyway, should focus on lesser used words and hope to co-opt their meaning. Once that happens, they can then focus on creating simple sub-brands/domains that are not nearly as contrived.

(Image: Flickr member bump licensed for use under Creative Commons.)

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