Time for another theme week at Fritinancy! This time we cross over to the dark side for an unflinching analysis of some bad examples of brand naming. Five days, five bad names! Who knows: I may even throw in a bonus malonym. It's not as if there's a shortage.
For our first Bad Name, may I hear a chorus of raspberries for:
According to the company blog, Blellow is a "bootstrapped start-up" based in San Antonio whose "mission is to encourage open collaboration and the sharing of knowledge." Reviewing the company in March, the technology blog TechCrunch said Blellow was "like Yammer meets LinkedIn meets Twitter in a way that makes sense." In other words, it's a microblogging site (like Twitter) that focuses on business collaboration (like Yammer) and business networking (like LinkedIn).
That's not a bad idea at all. In fact, I recently finished a project involving a large team spread over multiple time zones. We could have used a project-collaboration tool like Blellow.
The name, however, is truly awful. It's silly, difficult to pronounce, and uninspiring. According to the bootstrapping founders, Blellow blends together blue and yellow "because Green [capitalization sic] just isn't good enough. The meaning for us is the concept of bringing known elements together in a different way, resulting in something new & unexpected."
In case you still don't get it, there's a link to Urban Dictionary, which cites the character Reese, the dumbest brother on the TV sitcom Malcolm in the Middle: "I invented a new color...I mixed blue and yellow and got... blellow"!
And if you're still confused—who wouldn't be?—there's a 30-second video with a pronunciation guide and a conceptual nudge. We're supposed to think that just as "net" plus "work" equals "network," "blel" plus "low" equals Blellow. Um ... sure.
Here's what's wrong with that logic:
1. Blending blue and yellow creates green, not "something new & unexpected."
2. Nobody cares what you've blended together.
3. The Blel- consonant cluster is unnatural and discordant in English and unpronounceable in many other languages, including Chinese, German, Japanese, and Spanish.
4. The name fails to communicate a benefit.
5. The name has no secondary message beyond "blue plus yellow": there's no embedded meaning of "business," "work," or "project."
6. The name sounds like baby talk—a serious handicap when your target audience is adults working together on business projects.
7. Counting on your customers' nostalgia for an American TV show that was canceled in 2006 is, to put it mildly, pushing it. And irrelevant.
I've said it before (here, for example): portmanteaus, or word blends, are the easy default for novice namers, yet they're the hardest ones to pull off successfully. Allan Metcalf, in Predicting New Words, cites a study that found that while more than half of all new words result from making compounds (two complete words joined together, such as moonlighting) or adding prefixes or suffixes (such as shopaholic), "blends that use just parts of words rarely succeed, accounting for only about 5 percent of new words." Smog (smoke plus fog) is a rare example of a successful blend; earnest attempts that ended in failure have included linner (lunch/dinner) and plerk (play/work).
If I'd had any doubt that the naming of Blellow was a strictly DIY operation, that doubt was dispelled by a recent post on the company's blog. The team had tried and failed to create a tagline for the company (no doubt using the same shooting-in-the-dark process that led to "Blellow"), so they're inviting reader submissions. Their top ten ideas are as bad in their way as the company name, with the slight advantage of using real English words:
- Network. Collaborate. Get Work Done
- Learn. Share. Grow
- Create It Quicker, Better, Together.