Rant: Silicon Valley Fenetics

Yes, intentionally misspelled. Phonetics.

Phonetics and mashup are all the rage in Silicon Valley web 2.0 start-up naming conventions right now.  When it was Digg, FaceBook and Skype, this was different.  It was cool, fresh and neat.  You could not help but ask yourself, what’s that?!?

Now, it’s not cute anymore (‘sup Pownce and Jaiku!). Instead it signals, “Oh, another 2 dot-bomb.” OK, maybe we’re not there yet, but you get the point.

Branding gurus are charging clients tens, hundreds of thousands for not-so-cheeky plays on phonetics or slamming two words together.  Read TechCrunch, and you’ll find posts littered with examples:

Out of the three of these, there’s only one I like: TasteBook. Why?  Because it tells you or at least gives you an idea of what it does.  TasteBook allows Shazam-Poster-C10097475users to create and order custom hardback cookbooks (“tastebooks”). BTW, that’s what a company name is supposed to do. Tell potential buyers, partners and investors what kind of business it is.

One must wonder how much longer this latest naming fad will continue.  And if you don’t think it’s a fad, how many eGoofy cos and .bombs can you name in five seconds? Pets.com, eHarmony, eLuminant, etc., etc.

P.S. As a result of this rant and as a tribute to Doug Haslam, I’ve decided to rename my PR firm Shazaaamr.

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Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

5 thoughts on “Rant: Silicon Valley Fenetics”

  1. i agree with you but coming up with a good name is a hard thing to do. it can take months and lots of back and forth bw the members.

  2. But I wonder how many cookbook creators are lost by the Facebook reference? There is a small convergence of the two audiences there, but you wonder if the numbers are enough to merit naming a company on that assumption.

  3. I agree with Jon. Naming is an art, and it takes a long time and to launch a global brand it requires a good deal of research — from the experts and the legal team. Also, many times you are dealing with people that aren’t used to talking creatively, and need to get into a creative zone. Different strategy companies have different methods: I’ve seen flash cards, I’ve seen visualization workshops with crayon and butcher paper. It might feel like voodoo and the results can be perhaps not as awesome as you’d like — but collaborative processes are often like that. Some can be great though and then get lost by some other corporate branding initiative that might leave less than desirable results: the cases of Ofoto and Cingular come to mind.

  4. Naming woes go beyond phonetics, unfortunately. It goes into complete grammar butchering. What? No spacing between those words? What, capital letter in the middle of the word? What? No vowel before that r in a word formed to be a verb?

  5. Even when you butcher it, it should at least be somewhat of a semblance of the actual work performed. Telling me its hard doesn’t mean anything. Branding companies get paid tens, hundreds of thousand of dollars — even millions — to come up with me, too schlock that’s fad oriented rather than marketing oriented. Booo!

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