I recently heard about a consulting gig with a San Jose creative agency. The firm does strong work in branding and web design, and it has a dynamic website. But one thing made me hesitate.
The agency’s name.
WebEnertia. If there’s a name less likely to inspire, to motivate, to rally … well, I can’t think of it right now. My brain’s inert.
Oh, I can speculate about how they arrived at “WebEnertia” in 1999, when the agency was founded. E- because that was the cool prefix back then for all things digital. Inertia because someone discovered in a dictionary or remembered from Physics 1 that one of the word’s meanings is “the tendency of a body in motion to remain in motion.” Perfect, right?
But inertia has an everyday, non-physics meaning, too: resistance or disinclination to motion, action, or change—the tendency, that is, for a body at rest to stay at rest. Right there at the beginning of inertia is inert. Sluggish. Unable to move or act. Lethargic.
And those, alas, are the only meanings evoked by this name.
(“Endless solutions” in the tagline doesn’t help. Endless can mean interminable. As for solutions, it’s one of the most overused, least meaningful buzzwords in Buzzwordland.)
Why hasn’t a company that specializes in branding (and rebranding) taken a month off to rebrand itself? It’s a puzzlement.
Here’s an even bigger mystery: WebEnertia isn’t the only Enertia out there. Not by a long shot.
Searching the USPTO database, I found seven registered Enertia trademarks. (WebEnertia is missing; evidently it never bothered to file for protection.) There’s an Enertia brand marine propeller (suggested tagline: “Dead in the Water”). There’s an Enertia software company that makes “upstream enterprise solutions,” presumably for very slow-moving streams. (Also: that S-word again!) There’s a livestock feed called Enertia from the mega-agribusiness Archer Daniels Midland. And there’s an Enertia Homes, which owns the prized* enertia.com domain.
Enertia Homes. I’ve had general contractors like that.
Not in the trademark database, but worth including in this list as an example of how not to do everything, is a web-development company called Enertia Solutions in Michigan. It has a terrible name (with “solutions”!) and a train wreck of a website. It also has a Twitter account, but nobody’s tweeted since September 2012. Because … inertia.
But the body-at-rest prize goes to Enertia Motors, which makes, or made, diesel-electric-hybrid cars. (“Powered by Enertia. Feel the Freedom”). Its website copyright hasn’t been updated since 2009.
Finally, there’s this head-scratcher: the Enertia electric motorcycle. It’s made by a company in Oregon called Brammo, which itself is a cool and intriguing name. But Enertia? Here’s what my colleague Christopher Johnson, aka The Name Inspector, wrote about it in 2009:
It’s actually hard to think of another name that so clearly communicates exactly the wrong message. Let’s face it, people are going to be skeptical about an electric motorcycle. They’re going to be concerned that it just won’t have enough oomph. Putting the word inertia in their minds isn’t going to help with that. The Name Inspector loves this quote from an otherwise rather positive review of the Enertia: “I cannot think of a more stupid name for a motorbike. I mean my bike cannot get over 35mph but because it is called the Ruckus I always feel something exciting might happen.”
Maybe the name Enertia is part of a daring, counterintuitive marketing concept. This is the motorcycle for people who don’t really like motorcycles! Or any form of transportation, or movement, really. Don’t worry, it’s electric. It only goes 51 mph, for Pete’s sake–just hop on! No, actually, get on carefully, holding on tight to the handlebars–but first make sure your helmet straps are properly adjusted. Now are you ready for the ride of your life? No? Good–don’t get too excited. This is really just a moped without the pedals–a noped.
Guess what? The Enertia motorcycle is still around in a new, improved version: the Enertia Plus. Plus what? Apathy? Inefficiency? Torpor?
I should ask, but I think I’ll take a nap instead.