What's In A Name?

Last week, we got news about a couple of corporate name changes. On Friday, Cellular South said it was changing its name to C Spire Wireless. (For more, click here). And earlier in the week, Netflix announced it was separating its DVD mail-order business from its streaming business. The DVD business will be named "Qwikster," and the newer streaming business will be retaining the "Netflix" name.

For C Spire, apparently company management felt it needed a fresh name to move forward with new technologies and services. "The old name was more about the category than who we are and what we aspire to become," said President and CEO Hu Meena. "We’re a multi-media and mobile computing business."

Maybe it should have named itself "C Aspire."

But does a company really need to spend thousands, maybe millions, on a name change to move forward with new products and services?

It reminds me of Comcast’s rebranding of its services as "Xfinity." For a time, it was kind of confusing to see some trucks driving around the city with the name "Comcast" and other trucks with the name "Xfinity." Now, all the signage has been swapped out to "Xfinity," but we still think of it as "Comcast." What was the point?

Netflix’s name game makes a little more sense. The company is suffering from a public-relations crisis since it raised its prices. (For more, see Netflix Defends Pricing Strategy and Hastings Attempts to Rectify Netflix’s Bad Publicity). Perhaps Netflix executives thought a new name might distract from the pricing complaints, but it didn’t take long for people to start poking fun at the word "Qwikster," pointing out the similarity to an Amway company named "Quixtar."

C Spire’s Meena said, "Naming experts recommend that company names be short, memorable and tell a story."

For my two cents, and as a journalist, I just wish companies would use real words with real spellings. I had to look up the spelling of "Qwikster" each time I wanted to use it.

One thing I’ve noticed covering technology is that younger companies go for funny names like "Miso" and "Hulu." (For more on Miso, see Social Media, Pay TV Get Friendly). They’re not real words, but at least they’re not an alphabet soup. As someone who has to write about DOCSIS 3.0 and IPv6, I appreciate that.

Why not take a cue from one really successful company named "Apple"?

-Linda Hardesty

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