With this post I'm introducing an occasional feature, "New Name Beat," in which I'll take a close look at some recent corporate and product names. While I'll include technology names in the mix, I don't plan to focus exclusively on them. (If Web 2.0 is your own beat, check out Qwerky, which assigns numerical scores to "the weirdest Web 2.0 names" based on an arcane formula involving vowel drops, bastardized English, turning nouns into adverbs,"the 'R' thang," and myriad other factors.)
Today we slide Mochila into the NRI (Name Resonance Imager), turn the dials, and bring it into focus.
What it is: Mochila ("the marketplace for syndicated content") allows its members to buy and sell articles and photos from magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and websites. As of last week, it also allows websites to incorporate free articles from "some of the best content producers in the world" (that's what magazines and newspapers are called now: content producers. Do I hear a faint mooing in the distance?) and share in any revenue those articles generate.
What they're saying: Mochila has attracted quite a bit of ink in the business press; VentureBeat said its "a la carte publishing model" is something altogether new. Red Herring reported last week that Mochila had secured $8 million in a second round of funding.
What it used to be: Mochila was founded in 2001 as Snapbridge, a publishing automation company. The company registered mochila.com in November 2003.
What it means: "Mochila" is the Spanish word for "knapsack." In U.S. history, "mochila" refers specifically to the type of knapsack carried by Pony Express riders. Indeed, it was the mochila that made it possible for riders to change horses in less than the two minutes allowed.
What I like: Is there any question that "Mochila" is a far more spirited name than "Snapbridge"? It's easy to pronounce and fun to say, from the murmuring "mmmm" (the sound of satisfaction) to the chewy "ch-" (the sound of choo-choos and chuckles and choice and change) to the open "a" ending: aahhh. Bravo to corporate management for choosing a real word with an interesting history and for resisting the temptation to select a descriptive, literal name like, say, "SyndiCont." (And kudos for snagging that "clean" .com domain. Wonder how much it cost.) Metaphorical names, although initially a little tougher to fathom, resonate more deeply and permanently than descriptive names. They also give their owners more room for growth. Today, Mochila's knapsack carries newspaper and magazine articles. Tomorrow, who knows what it may carry? Finally, the initial "M" in "Mochila" is a subtle mnemonic device that reinforces the association with "media" and "marketplace"; "mo-" suggests "more" (we always want more); "chil" is, well, chill (verb and adjective); and the whole word carries a whiff of "macho." And thank God the name isn't a Web 2.0 copycat (Knapsackr, anyone?).
What I'd worry about: "Mochila" is very close in sound to the pre-existing company Mozilla, which distributes the open-source browsers Firefox and Thunderbird. Trademark law is based on the sounds and meanings of words, not on their spelling (just because you want to kree8tively name your company Kokkah-Kohlah doesn't mean you can); a conservative trademark lawyer might be concerned about what's called "likelihood of confusion." Another concern: as with all metaphorical names, this one requires the company to make an extra branding effort. Top managers and salespeople will doubtless have hundreds of conversations that begin with someone looking at a business card with a puzzled look on his or her face and saying "Uh, Mochila?"
The decision: On a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the bestest name in the whole wide world, I'd give Mochila 4.0. I'm hoping the company's founders are well protected by their legal team and that they relish the opportunity to tell the company's story--including the rich history of the name--every time they're asked about it.
But: Go beyond the name to the Mochila website and oh dear oh dear. Who told the MochilaMen that it was OK to use text-messaging punctuation on their corporate site? (I refer to the casual use of the ampersand when "and" is called for, i.e., everywhere.) And then there's the deadly About Us prose: "Designed/created to be first to market"--not once but twice. Repetitive use of passive dependent clauses at the beginnings of sentences (Founded in 2001...Responding to the evolution...Founded on principles). Stiff, meaningless blather (leverages the power of the Internet...promises to fuel...an asset that can be monetized--monetized? gimme a break!). Time to take a little chunk of that $8 million in new funding and hire a real writer.