Given everything else that made headlines in 2008—the Beijing Olympic Games, a financial meltdown, some sort of election—you may not have been paying close attention to brand names. Not to worry: that's what I'm here for. Here's my take on MMVIII in nomenclature.
1. RealWords™ make a comeback. After all the silliness of early Web 2.0 names—Meebo, Thoof, Doostang, Xobni, and the rest—Web 2.0 businesses came abruptly down to earth in 2008. Dozens of them embraced not just single real words but double-barreled ones: Consider Tripwolf (a travel site), RareShare (for people with rare diseases), Booksprouts (a social network for book groups), Snackfeed (a video recommendation site), FriendFeed (a news feed aggregator), SocialThing (another news feed aggregator), BlackBird (a browser that targets the African-American community), Glassdoor (bringing workplace conditions and salaries to light), and RepairPal (auto maintenance). Compound names—one from Column A, one from Column B—are often the fallback option of the do-it-yourselfer with limited resources; they're also what you tend to get when you consult an online name generator. Done well, they can be evocative and memorable. (I happen to like Glassdoor and RareShare.) But lazy compounds don't advance a brand story. "Thing" is an empty noun that communicates nothing about a brand benefit. And how many "-feed" names can we accept before they blur together?
2. Kree8tivity continues with domain extensions. I touched on this trend briefly in my mid-year trend report. Since then I've noticed a spate of new businesses that incorporate country domains into their names—including .ly, the extension for Libya, a country that until recently was terra non grata in the United States. Good thing that's changed, because -ly is a handy adverb-maker. For example: the URL shorteners Bit.ly and Ow.ly. (Dot-com domains ending in -ly also proved popular: see Twingly, Estately, Quotably, Startuply [formerly Jowba], and Slantly.) North Americans colonized other parts of the globe besides Libya for their domain extensions: I spotted Moccas.in (India), Lulla.by (Belarus; apparently defunct or pending), Looky.lu (Luxembourg; ditto), and Is.gd (Grenada).
3. The color purple. Plums continued to be the namer's low-hanging fruit: we saw the spread of PlumChoice tech support (founded in 2001) and Plum Organics baby food (founded in 2005). Nearby on the color wheel was a new beverage made with purplish fruits and called simply Purple. (You can buy it at 7-Eleven.) Purple has traditionally signified royalty; in this year of blue states overtaking red states, the color purple took on new meaning as a democratic mashup. It was an important hue in fashion, too. (UPDATE: Via Murketing, I've learned about Purple Stuff, a "pro-relaxation and calming elixir"; like Purple, it's sold at 7-Eleven. There's no explanation on the Purple Stuff site of how the brand got its name, but "purple stuff" is street slang for a drink made from codeine cough syrup and soda, usually Sprite.)
4. Numerology becomes cool. All-numeric domain names have increased in popularity, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month. Speculators, and even a few legitimate business developers, were worried about a perceived scarcity of real-word names (unfounded; see #1, above) and willing to spend a lot of digits—more than $300,000 in one instance—to buy cryptic domains such as 88.com (a piano site?). My question: now that they own the domains, how are they going to turn them into meaningful, viable brands?
5. Phones acquire language. Sure, you can still buy a Nokia N95 or an Ericsson W810i. But the bigger news this year was mobile phone makers' embrace of short, vivid words in their nomenclature. From Samsung: the Instinct, Gravity, Beat, Blast, Gleam, Juke, and Rant. (For more on the Rant, see my Bad Brand Names post, published yesterday.) From LG: the Decor, Dare, Rumor, Swift, Wave, and Flare. From Research in Motion: the BlackBerry Storm and Bold. In early December, Motorola bucked the action-hero-vocabulary trend and introduced the contemplative Aura, said to be "inspired by luxury watches and handcrafted design." It'll cost $2,000. Recession? What recession?
Read my post on naming trends of 2007.
Have a swell New Year's Eve and an auspicious start to 2009. See you next week. Or sooner, if I just can't help myself.