The Worst Brand Name of 2011

You may think it would be easy to pick the “Worst Brand Name of 2011,” but actually there are many strong candidates for this award. Someone launched a cereal in Canada called “Holy Crap” (OK, technically the launch was Q4 2010 but they did not much US exposure until 2011). Range Rover thinks Evoque is a good name for its crossover SUV. Toyota launched a new version of Prius and called it V. Heck, even Google got in the game by launching Google + (and I ask, “Plus what?”).  All these names are potential disasters, but the winner is (drum roll, please)…Qwikster!

We all know the story of Netflix and how they managed to mess up a good thing for millions of satisfied customers by splitting their business into two distinct businesses—one called Netflix that was for streaming movies and the other called Qwikster that was for receiving DVDs through the mail. Let’s analyze why Qwikster was the grand prize winner in the contest for “Worst Brand Name of 2011.”

There are several basics of a good name. Qwikster meets some of them but doesn’t come close on some of the fundamentals. For example, one criterion is to say the name to someone and then ask them to repeat it and then have them spell it. Good names are easy to pronounce, read and spell. I’m sure people can pronounce and read Qwikster, but can they spell it? The song says “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” but these days you really do have to be able to spell product/service names so that people can find the product or service’s website. Sorry Qwikster—Fail #1.

What about the potential for relevant differentiation? Qwikster is a lousy name for a “deliver by snail mail DVD service,” because there is nothing *qwik* about it. I can get DVDs faster in many different ways. And don’t get me started about the “-ster” suffix—it is straight out of the last century (as in…Napster? Friendster?).

Finally, names should be likeable and full of emotional punch—what does Qwikster bring to mind? Perhaps it is the pot smoking Elmo figure who dominates the Twitter name @Qwikster? Another fail, boys.

In short, Netflix could have done much better, and that is why I award them the title, “Worst Brand Name of 2011.” Fortunately, Netflix killed the brand a few days after launching it. Maybe they will do better next time—Hey Mr. Hastings! I’m available and would name your next business for free!


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