Naming and branding are by far not easy, even for well established global brands. In the 60s Electrolux came up with the infamous “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.” Edgy marketing or just fail? It’s for you to judge. Let’s have a look at some recent naming and branding attempts gone wrong.
A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is—it is what consumers tell each other it is.
Dunkin’ Donuts – Dunkin’
William Rosenberg, an American entrepreneur who founded Dunkin’ Donuts, at first named his restaurant “Open Kettle.” Then, an architect working for the restaurant was inspired by the idea of dunking doughnuts into coffee, according to company lore. In 1950, Open Kettle became Dunkin’ Donuts. On September 25, 2018, the company announced that it is officially dropping the “Donuts” from its name, going by simply “Dunkin’. The change became effective in January 2019.
However, the 69-year-old chain failed to secure the exact brand match domain name Dunkin.com. The owners of the domain are Tim Dunkin & Wandzia Rose from training & coaching firm called DunkinWorks.com. When you type the domain Dunkin.com in your browser you’ll be automatically redirected to their website. The next thing you will see is the note: “This is NOT the path to the company Dunkin Donuts. To contact them, you will need to find their site.”…does “Ouch” cover it?
Skims – Kimono
Skims is an American Shapewear Line by Kim Kardashian West launched in 2019. In June 2019, the entrepreneur and ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ star launched her debut line of shapewear solutions under the name Kimono and on the matching domain name kimono.com. Although, she has reportedly filed to trademark the word “Kimono” along with the phrase “Kimono body”, she had to drop the name after a plea from the city of Kyoto and many posts calling the name cultural appropriation.
In August 2019 in an Instagram post Kim announced changing the name of her new brand to SKIMS. She went on to explain that she used to cut-up and customize her shapewear when she couldn’t find the right pieces or ones that matched her skin tone. Thus, Kimono (now Skims) was born. The company secured the domain name Skims.com and Kimono.com was redirecting to it for quite some time and was later put for sale. Another fail worth mentioning there – the singular to Skims – skim.com is actually an adult live cam site. I bet they don’t complain for the extra traffic they get!
Founded in 1923 as “Italo Suisse”, the Belgium chocolate maker changed its name to “ISIS Chocolates” in 2013. ISIS, of course, is also the acronym derived from Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the jihadist group that arose in the Syrian civil war and now has invaded parts of Iraq. After the company experienced a slump in sales due to its name association with the Islamic terrorist group, the name had to be changed to “Libeert”. They have the exact brand match domain name Libeert.com.
WeightWatchers – WW
In September 2018, In an attempt to rebrand itself away from what you might consider your mother’s diet program, Weight Watchers officially changed its name to WW. However, WW failed to generate enough awareness for the name change before the rebrand. The advertising was confusing, weak marketing campaign, and a new purpose all at once diluted a half a century’s worth of equity among customers. The abrupt rebrand lacked context for consumers. This is what could happen if you flip the switch too quickly.
Qwikster was launched by Netflix in 2011. The service barely lasted a month. The company immediately received public backlash from consumers. Qwikster never would have received such mockery or derision if it had been called something that approached a respectable name for a media company. While the name does have a rhythmic quality, it has nothing to do with the service it represents.
Qwikster sounds like a lot of things—a super cool startup from 1998 that’s going to be totally rad and revolutionize the way you “surf” the “web”; something a cop in a 1930s talkie picture might call an elusive criminal—but a DVD-by-mail service in 2011 it does not.
Huffington Post article
Founded in 2009, Ashton Kutcher-backed startup Fashism was a web and mobile app that allowed users to solicit feedback from peers about their fashion choices and style. The ultimately unsuccessful startup’s name was a play on the word fascism – an odd choice for an app based on voting, which might have sadly been lost on its younger fanbase.
Needless to say, the app announced that it is officially closing down in September 2013.
Founded in 2012, Bawte gave consumers a way to track information about products they bought, such as warranties and recalls. The word “Bawte” is tortured spelling of the word “bought”. The problem with making your name a deliberate misspelling of a common word is that potential customers are probably going to misspell it, too. The company announced that it is officially closing down in March 2015.
Stockwell (originally Bodega) was a startup company launched by former Google employees Paul McDonald and Ashwath Rajan in September 2017.
The inspiration for our former name, Bodega, was, we thought, an homage to the local corner store, the people who ran it, and their place in our collective conscious.
He went on to explain that they “were wrong” in the culturally-appropriated branding. Finally, after raising nearly $10 million in total funding, Bodega announced a name change to Stockwell. The name change, as Eater reported in 2018, was a strategic move to distance the company from its offensive use of “bodega” in the initial launch.
After raising at least $45 million in funding, Stockwell later still shut down, unable to find a viable business for its in-building app-controlled “smart” vending machines stocked with convenience store items. The site is still active on Stockwell.com.