Why Are We So Interested in Company and Brand Names?

By Adena Schutzberg

Remember when Nintendo came out with the Wii platform for video games? How we all laughed! Then it became a hit and saying Wii Fit didn't sound funny at all. Then there were the rumors about Microsoft renaming its search engine, which had a parade of challenging names, Bing. What could be funnier? I joined in the fun on our blog, but frankly, now I don't find the name funny at all. Frank Lafone at Very Spatial continues to make the funny "bing" sound, but I suspect he's in the minority. The products are big international consumer plays, so everyone can and does pile on about the funny names... until the products prove themselves.

When companies or products are more specialized perhaps there's even more interest in name changes. During March several stories have broken related to geospatial companies changing names. The first was a name change caused by a trademark issue. A rather small Philadelphia GIS consultancy changed its name from Avencia to Azavea. Still, my blog post on the news (March 4), prompted in part by my personal connection to the company, made it one of the most read posts during the first half of the month.

Then during the second half of the month came a string of naming news stories. On March 18 I read on a blog (there was no press release on the matter) that Boston area uLocate was renaming itself after its product/platform; the company was to be called Where. The company liked the blog post noting the change so much it reposted it on the Where.com website. My post quickly skyrocketed to a "most read" blog post list we keep internally. Why? My guess is that this news simply didn't appear in too many places.

Three stories on name changes topped All Points Blog's internal "most clicked" list in the second half of March 2010.

Rumors started popping up on Twitter the week of March 15 that ESRI was moving away from the more formal EEE ESS ARE EYE pronunciation to the less formal and user community-used EZREE pronunciation. I did the homework to get an official statement from the company, which many cited (March 24). And, not surprisingly, many felt the need to understand why ("to grow ESRI's name recognition globally") and to share their opinion on the matter. That's been a longtime topic of conversation in the GIS world, and even at ESRI, so I was not surprised there was so much interest, and again the post climbed up the "most read" list.

Then came the most interesting name change, in my opinion. On March 29, in an official press release, SRC LLC announced its name change to Alteryx, its key product. I'm the first to raise my hand and note that I do not specialize in the location intelligence/business intelligence corner of geospatial technology. Still, I did know the company name and the product name. And, I knew, I think because one of my classmates worked there, that SRC had an odd URL for the company, ExtendtheReach.com, which I never quite understood. My colleague, Joe Francica, detailed the change in a blog post, along with a second URL, with which I was unfamiliar: FreeDemographics.com. To my surprise, his post jumped passed the ESRI one and the uLocate one to clench the title of most read geospatial name change press release in March 2010. Why the great interest in that change? I have no guesses on that.

What can we conclude about the apparent fascination with names of companies in our space? My best guess is that it's akin to "baby names," an evergreen topic for long hikes in the woods, or long car trips, or most recently for me, long training runs. Everyone has a story about baby names. Everybody has opinions about baby names. And, I suspect, everyone has stories and opinions about the names of companies or organizations in their field of interest. Those stories and strong opinions, I'll suggest, come simply from the fact that babies and companies are living, breathing entities with which we hopefully have pleasant interactions. And thus, their names are important.

For those who wonder: My name, Adena, is not in the memory of anyone in the family; my parents just liked the name, which comes from the same Hebrew root as Eden, as in the Garden of Eden. It's the Hebrew word for "gentle" and I've always loved it.

Published Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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