Wordle Alternatives Teach A Valuable Lesson On Branding

Who doesn’t love Wordle? The word game has become so popular that a number of alternative games using a similar format have emerged.

Worldle – Geography based game

Heardle – (aka the musical Wordle game) gives you a clip from a popular song and asks you to guess it

SWordle – Star Wars based word game

Artle – Guess works of art sponsored by the National Gallery of Art

…and many more.

Many of these knockoffs have similar names and there is a reason for that. The people who named them are using a very common naming practice that is based on a well-known cognitive bias: the Anchoring Effect.

Allow me to explain.

First, most of the names are anchored with the “-dle” suffix. This essentially tells potential users to expect a gaming format like Wordle where players get a fixed number of attempts to guess a five-letter word (or map or song or work of art), with feedback given for each guess. By using the “-dle” suffix as an anchor in the name, people communicate a lot about their Wordle variant with just a few letters.

Second, the other part of the name communicates what is unique about the game. SWordle has a dictionary that only contains words associated with Star Wars. Artle is focused on art.

The end result creates a name that is different (and perhaps a little weird) but also at the same time is familiar enough to trigger a connection in the brain. For example, Worldle uses “World” + “dle” to signify that the game will use the “World” (e.g., global maps) in a Wordle game format.

Well done! Brilliant!

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Another Naming Contest Gone Wrong

Ithaca, NY restructured their Police Department to include five unarmed community solutions workers to a new department alongside the existing Police Department. This created a new Department of Community Safety.  So far so good. However, Ithaca asked the community’s suggestions for naming the new department. Uh-oh…naming contests rarely generate positive outcomes.

Here is the full list of suggestions that were submitted by the public:

  • Department of Community Safety
  • Community Support Team
  • Community Peace Keepers
  • Test Idea
  • Lipstick on a Pig
  • Use the Resources available
  • Department of Public Safety
  • Title ideas of new department for public safety
  • Antifa
  • Ithaca Police Department
  • Svante’s Bong Rip
  • Department of Public Safety and Community Resource Solutions
  • Ithaca Safeguard
  • OK Corral
  • Safety McSafe Face
  • Crime Spree Observers
  • Name of Department
  • Ithaca PSD
  • Name for Dept of Public Safety
  • Department of Community Care and Safety
  • OASIS
  • Ithaca Police Department
  • Name
  • SHeroes
  • ComPROMISE
  • Community Centered Safety Department
  • Coreorgonel (Where we keep the pipe of peace)
  • New Department Name
  • Title
  • Name for new department

Why do organizations like naming contests? In this instance, it appears that the Police Department wanted to garner support for the new department. Instead, they became the latest organization to have to deal with crappy results of a public naming contest. Re-read the list above and you’ll see what I mean. More than half of the submissions are obvious “smart ass” comments, about 30% of them are just invalid submissions, and most of the rest are just plain dumb. Here is to hoping Ithaca ignores this contest and just calls it Department of Community Safety.

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A Very Profitable Name Change

Apple Records was founded by the Beatles in 1968 with the intent for it to be a creative outlet for the Beatles, both as a group and individually, and to sign premier artists to contribute. The very first “non-Beatle” group signed at Apple Records was The Iveys in July of 1968.


The group’s first single, “Maybe Tomorrow,” was released in November of 1968 and met with great success, reaching the Top Ten in several European countries and Japan, and rising to #67 on the US Billboard Hot 100.


After the release of “Maybe Tomorrow” the group and the executives at Apple Records agreed that the name “The Iveys” was not right for the prevailing music scene and started to consider a name change (The Iveys were also sometimes confused with “The Ivy League”, an English vocal trio).


Here are some of the names that were considered:
John Lennon suggested: “The Glass Onion” and “The Prix”
Paul McCartney suggested: “The Cagneys” and “Home”
Apple Records Executive Neil Aspinall proposed “Badfinger” in reference to “Bad Finger Boogie,” an early working title of Lennon–McCartney’s “With a Little Help from My Friends” (Lennon had hurt his forefinger on a piano and was using only one finger when writing the music).


In December 1969, the band agreed to change its name to Badfinger.


The rest is history as they say. From the end of 1969 through 1972, Badfinger produced a hit every year:
1969 – “Come and Get It” (#7 on the US Billboard Hot 100)
1970 – “No Matter What” (#8 on the US Billboard Hot 100)
1971 – “Day After Day” (#4 on the US Billboard Hot 100)
1972 – “Baby Blue” (#14 on the US Billboard Hot 100)


Could “The Iveys” have reached the same level of success? Possibly. But Badfinger was a better name that fit the times.


BTW, George Harrison later claimed that the band was named after Helga Fabdinger, a stripper the Beatles had known in Hamburg.


You can dispute the origin of the name, but you cannot dispute the fact that the name change was a profitable one!


P.S. If you want to consider a name change for your business, please check out my article on Medium: 10 Reasons To Change The Name of Your Business

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Target Market Relevance

A few days ago, a fellow name developer asked what I thought of the name Napkins Bar and Grill.

My initial thought was that Napkins implies something that you’d need when eating BBQ, and in fact, the #1 Google search result for “Napkins Restaurant” is such a place located in Dirtbag Ales Brewery & Taproom in North Carolina. So, if the name was for such a restaurant then it might be OK.

But in this case the Napkins Bar and Grill is located in the heart of downtown Napa, hardly southern BBQ territory. It is also quite an upscale facility. So my initial impression of the name Napkins for this restaurant was negative.

Then I learned that people who are born and raised in Napa Valley use the term Napkins to refer to themselves.

Which makes the Napkins Bar and Grill name especially relevant for their target audience.

Your name needs to appeal to your target market, and Napkins Bar and Grill does that in spades by demonstrating a very deep understanding of their community.

Well played Napkins Bar and Grill!

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Name Generators

The internet is full of them. For example, a Google Search for “name generator” returns over 14 million results.

As a professional name developer, you might imagine that I would oppose the use of a name generator. Au contraire mon ami.

There is nothing wrong with using a name generator. In fact, some of them are very good because they use AI to identify proper keywords and relevant terms for your industry. Personally, I believe that a professional name developer can do a better job for you and using a professional is always easier if you can afford it. But if you have to “do-it-yourself” then a name generator might work for you.

The problem with using a name generator is this. The output from a name generator can be staggering. It is like trying to get a drink of water from a fire hose. You literally will drown in names, many of which are so bad you will wonder why you wasted your time.

This is why you need to make sure you have done your strategic homework BEFORE you start generating names. Follow a process such as this one I recommend below, and you will have a strategic platform in place that will make the process easier. A strategic platform enables you to refine your use of a name generator, so the name generator provides names that are closer to your objective. And the platform enables you to quickly evaluate the names that are generated.

I’ve always said that the hard part of developing a name is not generating names. No, the hard part is deciding which names will resonate with your target audience. If you have a strong strategic foundation, and use a consistent approach to evaluating names (such as this one which is free for a limited time: https://dynamingnameevaluation.carrd.co/), then you will have much greater success in finding a terrific name!

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What Do People Name?

I recently found a fantastic tool that provides data on Google searches: www.answerthepublic.com. It is a fantastic search listening tool.

Just for fun, I wanted to see what people search for under the category of “name my…” Here are the top-rated entries for each letter of the alphabet:

A: Name my airpods
B: Name my business
C: Name my car
D: Name my dog
E: Name my Esty shop
F: Name my frame
G: Name my game
H: Name my house
I: Name my iPhone
J: Name my Jeep
K: Name my kitten
L: Name my location
M: Name my molecule
N: Name my necklace
O: Name my organic compound
P: Name my plant
Q: Name my qartulad
R: Name my rings
S: Name my song
T: Name my tune
U: Name a US state
V: Name my van
W: Name my wheel
X: Name my Xbox one
Y: Name my YouTube channel
Z: My name zodiac sign

Some of these are quite expected (e.g., name my dog; name my business; name my kitten). What’s with the fixation on jewelry (name my necklace; name my rings)? And I was stunned to see that more searches are done on “name my car” than “name my cat.”

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Collective Nouns

Anyone who has spent some time studying the English language would know about collective nouns, which are nouns that denote a group of things. As a professional name developer, I often use collective nouns as building blocks for names of companies, products, or services. Here are some examples of collective nouns:

Collective Nouns List

I recently signed up for Peacock, the streaming service from NBCUniversal. The next day I received an email from them with the subject line: “Welcome To The Flock!” Well, the inner geek in me Googled “what do you call a group of peacocks” and found that the proper collective noun would be a “muster of peacocks” not a “flock of peacocks.”

I’m a big fan of cute marketing tactics that engage new customers, and the outreach on the day after I signed up for Peacock was good. But I do wish that NBCUniversal would have utilized proper proofreaders to ensure their content was grammatically correct!

And yes, I know “Welcome To The Muster” as a subject line would suck. So pick something else that would be grammatically correct!

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What Do You Call Fake Eggs?

A few years ago, the dairy industry took the plant-based milk industry (almond milk, etc.) to court over the use of the term “milk.” Here is what the dairy industry spokesperson said:

“You haven’t ‘got milk’ if it comes from a seed, nut, or bean,” said Jim Mulhern, the president of the National Milk Producers Federation. “In the many years since we first raised concerns about the misbranding of these products, we’ve seen an explosion of imitators attaching the word ‘milk’ to everything from hemp to peas to algae.”

Lawsuits have not been very effective at resolving the issue. Plant-based groups insist they should be able to use the term “milk” when selling their products, so long as they aren’t trying to pass off their products as being conventional milk.

Then came the controversy over the use of the word “rice” in the name “Cauliflower Rice.” The marketers behind cauliflower rice felt so strongly that they’ve argued it’s a freedom of speech issue, protected by the US constitution.

But topping the list is the chutzpah exhibited by Just Egg. You see, a product called “Just Egg” should be (wait for it) just eggs, right? Nope. Just Egg is a plant-based egg substitute.

https://www.ju.st/plant-based-eggs

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a plant-based diet if that is your preference. I just don’t like it when companies use misleading branding to sell their product. And in this case, I believe the name “Just Egg” crosses the line by suggesting their product is made from actual eggs.

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