Two new names—Kinnek and Kngine—are bringing back old memories.
The names are more similar than they appear. That’s because – surprise! – Kngine is meant to be pronounced “kin-gin.” Yes, “kin-gin,” despite the fact that (1) Kngine is meant to be a compression of “knowledge engine” and (2) in English, K before N is always, always, always silent.*
But language appears not to be the strong suit of the Kngine team—which is odd, since Kngine is billed as a natural-language app.
“Links are not answer”?
Copy is not answer, either. This line appears in large type and unpunctuated:
With its simple interface and brilliant engine your life will be smarter
My life has a rather complicated interface, actually. But I digress.
So what we have are two more names that begin with kin, just like—here comes the nostalgia—Kindle (Amazon’s e-book reader), KIN (Microsoft’s ill-starred mobile phone), and Kinect (Microsoft’s Xbox 360 peripheral).
Some of you may also remember Kinetic, a fitness game made by Nike for the Sony EyeToy.
New York-based Kinnek calls itself “a better way to manage your business purchases”; Silicon Valley-based Kngine says it’s “changing the way people create, acquire and consume Knowledge [capital K sic].”
The companies may be brilliantly innovative—it’s too early to tell—but they haven’t signaled it with their names, which are derivative (Kinnek) and forced (Kngine).
* In Yiddish you’d pronounce the K. Compare knaidlach (matzoh balls), pronounced with a kuh and a nay.
The latest namifying example to catch my attention is Zenify, a relaxation drink. The manufacturer was handing out free cans at last weekend’s Brewery Art Walk in Los Angeles.
Brother, can you spare a hyphen?
At least the makers of Zenify have made up a story about their verbifying suffix. It’s poorly articulated, but it’s something:
Zenify is a Zen state of mind, clearing away mental clutter to the power of the Phi(fy), which represents the perfect balance between excess and insufficiency. When you drink Zenify, you will be in a Calm, Sharp & Focused [sic] state and this feeling will allow you to react at peak performance in over-stimulating times. Zenify helps you harness your existing energy without being distracted by your surroundings.
Elsewhere on the site, you learn that by “the power of the Phi(fy)” they’re referring to the “golden ratio” or “golden mean,” a mathematical concept expressed by the Greek letter phi. What does all that have to do with the exponential numeral in “Zen2”? I’m in a state of not-knowingness.
The “zen” part of Zenify is even more pervasive in commerce than the “-ify” suffix. As I wrote in a 2008 column for the Visual Thesaurus, zen often stands in as “a synonym for ordinary nothingness”:
Zen can be combined with mail to describe “an incoming e-mail message with no message or attachments.” Zen spin is a verb meaning “to tell a story without saying anything at all.” And to zen a computing problem means to figure it out in an intuitive flash — perhaps while you’re plugged into the earphones of your ZEN MP3 player, now available from Creative with a 16Gb capacity.
When I last documented another startup name ending in -ly—that would be Swipely, which I wrote about almost six months ago—I noted that by my count, there were 50 -ly names cluttering the Web and confusing customers. “Enoughly,” I declared.
But I declared too soon, or soonly. Since March, I’ve discovered at least nine additional -ly names attached to new companies or apps. It’s no longer a trend: it’s a plague.
The latest repetitive offenders:
Cofounderly: A couples app for startup founders, according to TechCrunch. “A simple, entertaining, and insightful way for busy cofounders to stay connected....and avoid a nasty startup divorce,” according to the iTunes Store listing.
Contently: “Empowering and connecting quality journalists and brands.” Also: “Anyone can be a publisher!” The emphasis is, presumably, on the first syllable. Instead of a mission statement Contently has a manifesto. Instead of a slogan it has a mantra: “Be awesome.” I may have to take up drinking again.
Diagram.ly: “Draw diagrams online.” Uses the Libya country code, .ly.
Dorkly: “Dorkly is videogame comedy. Like TV, but dorkier.”
Livingly: The new name of Zimbio, a celebrity-news website that’s been around since 2006. According to the TechCrunch story, “Livingly” is “a cross between ‘living’ and ‘lovingly’.” Seriously.
Mural.ly: Not for wall paintings: nope, they’ve redefined “mural” as “a flexible content format that aggregates media and files, ideal for group ideation and visual sharing.”
The company is based in Buenos Aires, which may explain the need for a pronunciation key. But it doesn’t explain why they didn’t go with the Spanish equivalent, “Muralmente,” which is not only an adverb but also incorporates mente, which translates to “mind.”
Refer.ly: Calls itself “a community of people endorsing things they love” in hopes that other people will buy those things, earning the endorsers a cash commission. I’m guessing it’s re-FER-ly and not REE-fer-ly. Warning: vertigo-inducing website.
Rexly: A music-sharing app for iPhone that—it says here—is “powered by magic.” The name may have something to do with the founders’ fondness for dinosaurs.
Swarmly: An iPhone app that helps users “discover the places where people are swarming to have a great time, right now.” Tagline: “Be part of the buzz.”
I also chanced upon one honorable claim to an -ly name. Gravely is not, as you might wearily suppose, a cemetery app but rather a lawn-mower company established in 1916 and headquartered in Brillion, Wisconsin (population 2,937 at the 2000 census). It’s named for its founder, Benjamin Franklin Gravely.
Before she went off to Washington University in St. Louis as a freshman three years ago, [Amanda Zuckerman] went shopping for dorm furnishings and found the offerings at big-box stores “very childish,” she said. “No one had Twin XL bedding that was very stylish,” she said, referring to the irregular bed size native to residence halls.
So Ms. Zuckerman and her mother, Karen, an advertising executive in Washington, started Dormify.com, an e-commerce site that sells stylish (and generally more expensive) bedding sets, wall decals and sorority-themed items like posters and Greek prints.
Politify: “Discover the financial impacts of the 2012 presidential candidates’ plans.” Created by two UC Berkeley students; aside from the copycat name, it’s an interesting and useful app. (Via TechCrunch.)
Sponsorfied: Oh, look—an adjective! “We simplify sponsorships by connecting the best brands with amazing opportunities.” (Via TechCrunch.)
Stopify: “An application for Android phones that helps you miss fewer phone events when you are out walking!” Note the use of “phone events”—which presumably includes texts, emails, and Twitter alerts as well as phone calls. Like Lumify, Stopify is a .me domain. (Via @ErikaRemmy.)
Balm Chicky Balm Balm lip balm is available (nope, not gonna say “comes”) in five flavors: Juicy Melons, Sweet Baby Ginger, Huge Cucumber, Wild Mountain Honey, and Hot Chocolate Love. Direct quote from the home page:
The sound track to the 70s can now be spread across your lips making them moist, supple and ready for action! With all natural ingredients and scents to fuel your inner fire, BCBB is ready to please. Want more? The real scene stealer is our unique patented package. The Friend End™ tube is designed to keep balm users from sharing more than just lip relief. Never taint your balm again!
I published a couple of posts in February—here and here—about a bunch of “new me” names: Numi tea, nu.me domains, Numi toilets, the Noomii “centralized online coach directory,” NuMe beauty products, and the NUMMI auto plant (R.I.P.).
It’s all lower case in the logo, but “NewME” in the content.
NewME Accelerator, which is based in San Francisco, was (ahem) new to me. I’ve since learned more about it from a couple of NPR Morning Edition reports (here and here). The venture sounds like a worthy idea: “a residential technology start-up accelerator/incubator for businesses that are led by under-represented minorities in the technology industry.” The founders of the fledgling companies move into one house and “eat, sleep, and breath [sic] startups.” During the 12-week program, the startups’ founders learn at the feet of venture capitalists and successful, experienced executives.
So far, so good.
Not so good: the NewME name. According to Monday’s NPR report—I couldn’t find this information on the NewME website—“NewME” stands for “new media entrepreneurship.” Unfortunately, though, the name doesn’t communicate that meaning: it sounds like a personal-growth/self-discovery course rather than a boot camp for tech startups.
And then there’s the problem of sounding “new” when there are so many other companies that sound exactly the same.
I was interested, too, in the names the startups have chosen for themselves. I hope part of the residency is devoted to rethinking them.
Whoorli wants to be “an easy way to promote your personal brand through video, picture, file sharing, and search digital content.” I’m not quite sure what that means, and I’m also not convinced anyone ever said “Whoorli” aloud. Because it’s thisclose to “whorely.”
Plisten is “a Social Site that Changes how You Interact with Corporate and Political Brands and Personalities”—and yes, all of the content is randomly capitalized and poorly punctuated. The name? It’s a lame portmanteau (I think the P stands for “political”) that conveys neither story nor benefit.
Dwllr “helps homebuyers, sellers and real estate professionals buy and sell real estate faster and completely online.” Here we have yet another name that sacrifices vowels (and good sense) in the interest of grabbing a cheap domain. Not to mention that it’s uncomfortably close to the established brand Dwell.
Of the 33 speakers and mentors identified on the NewME site, not a single one is a branding expert. That’s an oversight: there’s a lot more to starting a business than polishing your pitch and calculating projected sales. How about a half-day Naming 101 workshop, NewME? We’d focus on techniques for creating a name, strategies for securing a domain, and ways to develop a verbal brand. It’s not too late to fix those startups’ names.
Remember the Starbucks “Let’s Merry” slogan from the 2011 holiday season? It was no fluke. Recently I’ve seen two new examples of “Let’s X” branding, in which X = a non-verb enlisted to play the part of a verb.
Tanqueray has a new campaign that doubles down on the anthimeria. The campaign slogan, “Tonight We Tanqueray,” turns the brand name—legally speaking a modifier, as in “Tanqueray gin”—into a verb. And one of the ad slogans, “Let’s Tonic,” turns a noun into a verb.
Shot from the window of my car in San Francisco (Columbus near Washington).
Tonight. Tonight we off the cellphone, retire the email. And save it for another day. We slow it down, drag it out and downshift day into night. Then throw in a few limes, a few rocks, maybe toss in some juice. A wink. A toast. Give her cheek a little love. Tonight we raise our glasses and let them kiss.
Note the Mafia-style use of “off” as a verb.
“Tonight We Tanqueray” reminded me of those much-parodied “Tonight, Let It Be Löwenbräu” commercials from the late 1970s to mid-1980s. Here’s one from 1984:
“Here’s to good friends/Tonight is kinda special…”
The second example of “Let’s [non-verb] X” comes from Amsterdam-based Let’s Pizza, which has been dispensing hot pizza via vending machine to customers in Europe for about three years. Which surprised AdFreak: “How did Europe get these things three years before us, anyway? The universe got that backwards.”
Let’s Pizza kneads the dough, forms a round, adds tomato sauce, layers toppings – and then bakes it all in front of your very eyes. There are no frozen pizzas here; Let’s Pizza is a mini-pizzeria that’s open 24 hours a day!
And here’s the news you’ve been waiting for: PizzaMarketplace.com reported last month that Let’s Pizza will introducing its first machines to the U.S. market later this year. A ten-and-a-half-inch pizza will cost about $6 and deliver 646 calories. In Europe, that probably translates to “dinner for the family”; in the U.S. it will probably be marketed as “personal size.”
My post earlier this week about Hipmunk’s “funner-er” ad prompted a couple of readers to contribute other examples of super-comparative coinages in advertising.
From HildebrandBurke, a new Twitter friend, I learned about KFC Australia’s recent “Goodest Get Together” promotion, an extension of the international “So Good” slogan. The agency, Ogilvy, went a little nuts inventing new words for this explanatory video:
“You simply take a good thing, emgooden it, and voilà—you’ve made it gooderer, as in ‘That’s the gooderest thing I’ve ever tasted!’”
Yeah, it’s pretty silly*, but even sillier (sillierest?) is the utter absence of brand referents. No food, no restaurants, no happy customers—what’s the deal? And why should I care?
Here in the U.S., reader Jenne reported seeing a store promotion that used the slogan “Make it creamier-er-er.” “Sadly,” Jenne wrote, “this explosion of ‘er’ did not make me remember what the product was.”
It was Kraft Natural Shredded Cheese.
Now, I understand that advertisers are constantly looking for new ways to say “superlative.” And I certainly don’t have a problem with wordplay and word invention. But I’m tired of the copycatting. When Android used “funner-er” back in 2008, it got attention. Then, in 2010, a bunch of companies hopped on the bandwagon: BlackBerry used “closer-er,” Captain Morgan used “delicious-er,” and Old Spice coined “fresherer” and “freshershist” [sic!]. Last year Maker’s Mark tried to sell us on “Maker’s-er” and United Airlines flew “worldwider.” Now Hipmunk is recycling “funner-er.”
It’s getting, shall we say, tedious-er.
Sticking an -er or an -est on an adjective doesn’t tell me you’re creative. It’s no longer a way to stand out from the competition. All it says is that you’re too lazy to do some truly original thinking about what your brand means.
* I give partial credit to “emgooden,” but it’s not as good as “embiggen,” whose coinage is usually attributed to “Simpsons” writer Dan Greaney, who used it in a 1996 episode. In fact, the first citation for “embiggen” appeared in 1884.