A San Francisco startup called Gramr has blasted past its $15,000 Kickstarter goal in less than two weeks and appears likely to reach its “stretch goal” of $50,000. Before I give you any links or clues, try to guess from the name alone what Gramr makes. Language-learning flash cards? National Grammar Day T-shirts? An app that corrects your faulty subject-verb agreement?
No, no, and no. Gramr looks and sounds exactly like “grammar,” but the company has a completely different mission.
“Gratitude Changes Everything” sticker from Gramr.
Gramr calls itself a “gratitude company”; its product is thank-you cards—the paper kind that you put in a square envelope, seal with sealing wax, and mail with a postage stamp. The business model is a subscription service like BirchBox and RocksBox: every month, a new box of cards. Co-founder Matt Richardson told TechCrunch he wants to “turn the world into a more grateful place.”
It’s an admirable goal, and Gramr gets a few points for not choosing a copycat “box” name. But the “Gramr” name sends at least three wrong messages:
- It sounds like “grammar” (or possibly “grandma,” or like something you use to measure in grams), which means the name will be explained over and over again. The founders don’t explain how they arrived at “Gramr”—maybe the gra- comes from “gratitude”; maybe they wanted “thank-you-gram.” But neither the sound nor the spelling of “Gramr” suggests those meanings.
- Even if you were able to separate Gramr from grammar, you’d be stuck with a name that sounds rough and inelegant—think grind, grate, grapple, graft, grab, grasping. It’s the wrong sonic fit for a company and product intended to foster “a habit that makes you happier.” Gramr doesn’t sound gracious or grateful; it sounds like a chore. And it looks like a texting shortcut.
- That missing vowel in the suffix says “we were desperate to get a cheap dot-com domain, so we noodled with the spelling.” Flickr started the trend back in 2004; Tumblr, Frappr, Flagr, Zapr, Weekendr, Talkr, Kontactr, Blogr, BlogRovr, Resizr, Wishlistr, Grindr, and countless others followed. The trend is played out. There are smarter, more elegant ways to land a domain.
Other aspects of this fledgling brand’s verbal strategy also strike me as half-baked. For example, why is the $8 pledge level on Kickstarter called “gracias” and the $88 level “danke”? Is German ten times more meritorious than Spanish? The names of giving levels can give your overall brand a boost—take note, nonprofit organizations—but they need to follow a rational, consistent system. When Gramr suddenly abandons the foreign-language strategy in favorite of categories like “California Dreaming” and “The ‘365’ Plan,” we feel a little lost.
Don’t get me wrong: I like writing and receiving thank-you cards, and I applaud Gramr’s commitment to old media and the U.S. Postal Service. I do hope, however, that the company changes its name. (Let’s talk.) They’ll be thankful in the long run.