The last season of the comedy, Parks and Recreation, finished up in 2015 but was set in 2017. Much of the plot focused on a fictional business named Gryzzl that is a thinly veiled amalgam of Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google. Gryzzl employees tout collapsible transparent tablets that can be used as a skateboard, use treadmill desks, and don’t really appear to work. Their tagline is, “It’s the cloud for the cloud.” and the company mantra is, “Wouldn’t it be tight if everyone was chill to each other?”
People surf free Gryzzl Wi-Fi, communicate through Gryzzl’s social network, and Gryzzl drones deliver creepily personalized gifts. A youthful executive of the company says, “I hope you can see now there is nothing scary about Gryzzl. We just want to learn everything about everyone and track them everywhere they go and anticipate what they’re about to do.”
Satire aside, the reason I bring this up is because of the name, Gryzzl. It alone made me laugh when I saw it. The name captures the silliness in brand naming these days. Granted, it is extremely difficult to find an original name so for the sake of legal ownership and URLs, many companies are bastardizing spellings and meanings.
It is hard to say whether this is smart, trendy or lazy or all three. It is definitely reminiscent of the dotcom bubble days when names like Flooz, Kozmo, Beenz, Procket, and Pixelon came and went. By the way, Pixelon threw a $16 million launch party in 1999 with The Dixie Chicks and The Who. They were out of business a year later.
Like anything, when we pursue the unique and achieve it then that thing is soon copied. Copied to such an extent that it starts to become a familiar and safe convention. That is happening in brand naming. The names initially jarred sensibilities and attracted attention because they took creative license with spelling, pronunciation, and attempt to create new meaning from the recognizable.
Gryzzl did not start it but the television show writers nailed the trend of swapping and losing letters. We see it with Tumblr, Flickr, Frickr, Grindr, Zoomr, Soonr, and more. This has been extended to other letters of the alphabet. Twitter began as Twtter but then thought better. The ‘missing e’ is an online real estate grab to own the URL of an altered real word. I only condone it in the case of my favourite libation, Absolut Vodka, though that was a translation situation.
Wow, did this take off and fast. Everything is being “ified” these days. Adify, Crowdify, Mobify, Navify, Optify, Shopify, Spotify, Storify, Topify, and Soapboxify are all out there. It is even becoming an action when used like “gamify”. Just the other day, I heard a programmer use “playify” in a sentence and I wanted to barfify.
Just the other day, I heard a programmer use “playify” in a sentence and I wanted to barfify.
Brand naming in this century has taken many turns. In 2002, PricewaterhouseCoopers changed their name to Monday. It did not last long. Professional services was too staid an industry for such a move. It may work today but it is still massively inauthentic. While at Interbrand, we tried selling KPMG consulting on becoming “Frank”. That’s right, Frank. I loved the irreverence and imagined employees saying, “I work for Frank.” That one obviously did not fly either though BearingPoint sucked and eventually filed for bankruptcy.
Blending and compounding names are definitely here to stay. Pinterest and Facebook are good examples. I have two preferred routes these days. As both brander and consumer I appreciate one-word, real words that are then imbued with the brand’s meaning and purpose. Think Uber, Nest, Kindle, Square, and even hook-up service, Tinder. I recently named a loyalty consulting business “Bond”.
The other route is proper names and I do not mean Frank. Business naming began with the owner or proprietor’s name on the door, sign and letterhead. It meant they stood behind what they did and how they did it. Accounting, advertising, law, consulting, and architecture firms have mostly carried this on and it just feels right.
Sadly, though that is changing. A law firm in London has called itself Adam & Eve. They should have checked the rolls because there is an advertising agency in London called Adam & Eve that is now part of DDB. Overall, I fear that businesses in these industries will soon consultify or architecur.
I may be a curmudgeon but I have the utmost respect for language and its use. I recognize it evolves and we should play with it but maybe not playify. Brand naming is tough stuff and it is getting tougher but that is what makes it fun not to mention tight and chill.