Five Terrible Names for Products (and What They Could Have Named Them Instead)

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In Alexandra Watkins' latest book, Hello My Name Is Awesome, she talks about the various qualities that good product and business names should have and also what pitfalls to avoid.

Every year, corporations and individuals spend a lot of time and money creating names for themselves and their products, and every year, despite their best efforts, many of them arrive at names that are, well, terrible.

Of course, some products and companies have become successful despite having a troublesome name. (But to Watkins’ point, why would you want to start there?) Here are five awful product names and what Alexandra would have named them instead.

1. Iams
Named after its founder, Paul Iams, the uninviting name of this super premium pet food fails to evoke anything about caring for our beloved pets. It’s difficult to pronounce and hardly cute and cuddly. Plus it sounds like it tastes terrible. Thank goodness pets can’t read.

Better Name: VET’S PET
Iams products are distributed through veterinarians. When you’re at the vet, you want to know what he feeds his or her pet. That’s why a simple name like Vet’s Pet works. It evokes “this is the doctor’s choice for your dog or cat,” in a friendly and approachable way.

2. e.p.t.
When it was introduced in 1978, e.p.t. was the first early pregnancy test. Now 38 years later, competitors abound. While the brand is well-known thanks to quality products and millions spent on advertising, the name is makes no emotional connection with most women in their child-bearing years.

Better Name: MAYBE, BABY
The uncertainty of not knowing if you’re pregnant is a nail biter. A friendly, love-at-first-sight name like “Maybe, Baby,” makes a woman smile, and reduces her anxiety level. The name is lyrical, fun to say, and would incite “just in case” impulse purchases and wedding shower gifts.

3. Salonpas
This name sounds more like a fancy French hair salon than a pain relief patch. Like many bad names, it’s a loose amalgamation of two words (Salicylate + pass), which is completely lost on us. Plus, for a powerful product, the name is way too feminine and could turn off the tough guys who need it most.

Better Name: SMACKDOWN
You smack on the patch and it smacks down your pain. This name brings a smile, which is a pain reliever in itself. Big companies are terrified of names like this because they (pardon the pun) are outside the comfort zone. Yet fun names are the ones we love to Instagram.

4. Massage Envy
I’ve had massages in Bali, Fiji and Thailand. Now that’s something to envy. But an “affordable massage” in a shopping mall? Not so much. Massage Envy sounds awkward and would have made more sense as Envy Massage. I suspect the domain name was available for $9.95, which is never a good reason to pounce on a name.

A gentle transition from the current name (often recommended for a name change), Massage Well is a much deeper name. “Well” has a double meaning – “we massage well,” and “we’re committed to your wellness.” Plus men wouldn’t be embarrassed to go there.

5. Planter’s NUT-rition
This silly and misleading name drives me nuts. They have wrecked a perfectly good word to make a perfectly bad word. Worse, the name (and green packaging) evoke that nuts are good for you. Sure, in small quantities. But even a single serving packet has a whopping 17 grams of fat, 6 more than a McDonald’s cheeseburger.

Better Name: GO NUTS
Planters is trying to align their brand with a healthy lifestyle. So for people on the move looking for energy sustaining snacks, Go Nuts, makes sense. The name is fun, doesn’t make claims or trick consumers into thinking this is something healthy you should eat by the handful in front of the TV.    

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