A name change begins with questions—what do we need to communicate? how do we want to express it?–and it ends not merely with the new name but with the story that accompanies it. In the best of outcomes—if the renaming process was guided by a clear and comprehensive naming brief—company executives can tell a cogent story about how the new name came to be. Other times, perhaps because they are a little muddled about what just happened and why, they spin their wheels and generate a not-very-convincing or useful word cloud.
This post is about one of those other times.
Zeebox, a London-based “social networking and social TV platform,” was founded in early 2011. In April of this year, the company announced it was changing its name to Beamly.
That’s right: another Name That Ends in -ly.
Pinkish wordmark + heart-ish logo = girl appeal?
The name change, according to an April report in Digital TV Europe, represents the company’s “bid to ‘capture the zeitgeist’ of its core target audience of 16 to 24 year-old millennials and to break away from its ‘geeky male audience’.”
What made Zeebox geeky? What makes Beamly zeitgeist-y? I certainly wanted to know. Instead, here’s how Simon Miller, the company’s chief of product and content development, attempted to explain the name change:
Naming an app is tough. You’re looking for a memorable, distinctive name with an available an [sic] web URL and preferably with a connection with the purpose of your app. zeebox was by no means perfect, but it worked for our original focus. However, as our users asked us for more than just second screen features, we began to evolve beyond second screen experiences into what you might call a social network for TV, and our original name just didn’t match that evolution. We needed a new brand.
The explanation, such as it is, left me wanting more: Why was Zeebox “by no means perfect”? What about this imperfect name made it nevertheless a good fit for the “original focus”? Why was it a poor fit for the new, social-network focus? Why is it only “preferable” that the new name have “a connection with the purpose of your app”?
(And by the way: Don’t tell me that naming is “tough.” Cry me a river.)
Hypothetically, and especially since renaming is so “tough,” one might argue in favor of keeping the Zeebox name (“Zee is for zeitgeist!”) and instead just changing the tagline, the color palette, the font, or large chunks of your content to suggest a more “social” mission. Remember, you don’t have to change your name just because you’ve shifted your business strategy.
As a social network for TV, we wanted a friendly, all-inclusive name to brand a community of TV lovers whilst retaining our second screen beginnings plus, of course, it needed to be memorable, distinctive and available. We considered hundreds of names, hunted high and low and eventually the name that put a smile on our faces (and everyone’s when you say it) was “Beamly”.
Oh, really? Why does Beamly make you happy? Because “beam” is a synonym for “smile”? Because television “beams” images? Or because “everyone” smirked smiled while recalling that there are more than 200 other company names that end in -ly?
Of course, there are also quite a few company names that incorporate “box.”
(Wondering about that “whilst” in Miller’s copy? Beamly is still a UK company, and “whilst” is a marker of British English. In American English, “while” is preferred unless the writer is aiming for an antiquated or humorous tone. However, Ben Yagoda observes in his Not One-Off Britishisms blog that “whilst” has been on the rise in the U.S. since about 2008. But I digress.)
Beamly’s corporate communication machine runs a little more smoothly when the controls are turned over to the art director and the creative director, who talk about Pantone colors, fonts, and navigation. Still, I’d rather not hear that “designing a logo is never a short process”—as with the “tough” naming job, who cares? And while (or whilst) there’s some lip service given to form, function, and simplicity, there’s also too much of this sort of thing:
In the end we opted to use Beamly Coral at the top level of the app (My TV, Discover, Guide, Notifications, Me), but when navigating to a TV Room or TV show the colour of those pages would be calculated by analysing the colours within the image representing the show.
Hmm? Oh, sorry—I just switched channels.
As for the Beamly name—well, you already know what I think about -ly names. Still, “beam” is a valid starting point, and even a mediocre name can be strengthened by clear and effective storytelling. It’s disappointing to see this company miss the opportunity to tell a meaningful name story in language its customers can understand and value.