Do Weird Company Names Help or Hurt?

| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

 

One of the perks of my job is getting to learn about new companies that are doing interesting things. And occasionally I end up wondering how some businesses came to be named. I mean, any idea what Zoomingo does? Or LootTap? MoonTango? MangoSpring? Vizua? BookieJar? Canappi? I had none until I looked them up. (And in some cases, I’m still not sure.)

Granted, in taking his innovative idea of film photography to the people in 1888, George Eastman knew his product would need a catchy name that was “short, vigorous … and, in order to satisfy trademark laws, it must mean nothing.” Eastman hit it out of the park with “Kodak.”

It helped that Eastman had an appealing product that caught on with consumers. Match a clever name with a bad product and you most likely get bubkes. Similarly, a worthwhile product can be rendered worthless by a confusing name.

Consider Zoomingo. How do you pronounce it?

According to zoomingo.com, the name of this Seattle startup is a contraction of “zoom in and go.” The company makes an app that helps shoppers find the best sale prices at local retail stores, allowing the user to zoom in and go find the item. The correct pronunciation, then, is “zoom ’n’ go.” But when I asked 10 friends and colleagues how they would pronounce it, all 10 said “Zoo Mingo” without hesitation.

I actually prefer Zoo Mingo because Zoom ’n’ Go sounds like a fast-acting laxative. Not sure what Zoo Mingo would be—a dating service for caged animals?—but it’s an easy choice over Zoom ’n’ Go.

The creators of Zoomingo obviously failed to consider alternate pronunciations, which is kind of ironic since Zoomingo was started by the cofounders of the language-learning website Livemocha. This confusion illustrates the tricky business of corporate nomenclature, especially in the crowded marketplace of smartphone apps, which now number in the hundreds of thousands.

Take LootTap, for example. This startup also targets people looking for products at a attractive prices, and while the name gets closer to the idea of scoring a bargain than Zoomingo does, it’s not a slam dunk. First, it doesn’t roll off the tongue. Second, it looks as if it had been created by an anagram finder that just as easily could have hit upon LapToot, OatPlot and AptTool.

Same with MoonTango and Mango-Spring. Any guesses? One sounds like an X-rated dance step, the other a retirement community in Florida. Actually, MoonTango lets you shop for things like tampons and condoms—the stuff no one likes to shop for in person—and have them delivered to your door. (I believe Amazon.com already does that, but, whatever.) MangoSpring is a software company.

Of course, it’s easy to poke fun at names you haven’t had a hand in crafting. To its creator, Canappi was no doubt a stroke of genius in the cluttered and competitive world of mobile-apps providers. Forgive me if I assumed it had something to do with catering.

I did come close to guessing correctly on Vizua, figuring it had something to do with “visual,” but I also considered VIZ-wah, VEEZ-wah and vye-ZOO-uh as possible pronunciations. Turns out it’s VIZ-you-ah, and it’s all about three-dimensional imaging for the health care industry. Curiously, the name offers no clue to this 3D link, but the company’s web address is vizua3d.com. Go figure.

Which brings us to BookieJar. It’s certainly easy to pronounce, but it would never have occurred to me that it was a publishing platform for independent writers. You can bet on it.

John Levesque is the managing editor of Seattle Business magazine.

 

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