Jan 5, 2024

Company and Product Names That Could Try Harder

Perhaps I’m a yahoo to suggest it, but….

By Ed Goldman

Why do some companies name themselves or their products after dubious sources? Take ALIBABA, the internet commerce giant. Do you really want to do business with a firm that keeps 40 thieves on the payroll? 

Then there’s YAHOO. Originally, this was a term coined by Jonathan Swift in his 1726 satire “Gulliver’s Travels” to characterize “a brute in human form.” Over the next 300 years, it came to mean someone not exactly being recruited by Mensa.

Edgy Cartoon

Tune that name!

Could GOOGLE have really been named in homage to Barney Google, a comic strip character whose pal was Snuffy Smith—and who was alluded to in the 1923 hit song, “Barney Google (with the Goo-Goo-Googly Eyes).” And you thought rap songs had inane lyrics.

TWITTER was a silly enough name for a company. Then Elon Musk decided to change its name to X.  Apparently, Musk isn’t old enough to realize that “Brand X” was always the inferior rival of a product being touted in a commercial.

This makes me think of Grin and Bear It, a comic panel from decades ago. When Brand X references were running rampant, the cartoon depicted a group of admen coming up with this brainstorm: “We’ll call our product Brand X and sue everyone for millions.” (To digress: Brand X disappeared as a phantom foe when the FCC, PUC or FTC started to allow companies to mention their marketplace nemeses by name.)

Anyway, it’s clear I’m not the only one who wonders about the mercantile name game. The Huffington Post seemed similarly tickled to document a few (my possibly needless comments follow in parentheses). 

– A shipping company called “Goin’ Postal.” (I think maybe I’ll just stay here and send my package from the company mailroom, thanks.)

– A pizza joint called Sam and Ella’s. (This could be truth in advertising, but you hope it isn’t.)

– A coffee shop called Jitters. (This is definitely truth in advertising.)

– A fuel firm named Passmore Gas & Propane. (I wonder if this company partners with a window installer.)

– The philosophically named Amigone Funeral Home. (If you’re able to ask that, better send for the director.)

– A Mexican restaurant called Tequila Mockingbird. (Try the Atticus Finch-under-glass.)

– The lunch joint Hindenburger. (No, its motto is not “Oh, the humanity—and fries!”)

I was getting so giddy I decided to ask this column’s own marketing wizard, Brandon Allways, to create a few dubious product names and taglines. His list:

– Rainy Day Car Wash and Detailing;

– Suck It Up! (vacuum cleaners, toilet plungers and snakebite kits);

–  Tartar Source (tangy dental floss); 

– Doggone Pet Relocation Service (motto: “When ‘Lassie Come Home’ turns into ‘Lassie, Get Lost'”);

– Catholic Converters (a religious rescue mission in a high-crime district);

– Opera Win Free (a combo classical-music/casino enterprise);

– Got Bilk? (a payday lender);

– Roughage Estimate (an all-bran breakfast cereal);

Looking for a Great Gift?

– Cereal Killer (a digestion aid recommended for inconvenienced consumers of Roughage Estimate);

– Musk Perfume (for that special allegedly antisemitic multi-billionaire in your life);

– Campbell’s Instant Clear Liquid® (“Just add soup!”); and finally,

– Caesarian Salad Kit, when there’s simply not enough time to prep dinner (motto: “When ‘Push’ Comes to ‘Shove It!’”)

Don’t forget! A new Goldman State Podcast drops every Friday!


Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).