One of the most challenging and unsung tasks in the marketing world is naming a new product. Over the last 30 years, Anthro has come up with countless product names: some were trademarked, some weren’t, a few evoked potential lawsuits, and many others were just plain silly.
One of our most recent new products is a great example of how challenging it can be to fit the right name. We designed a very small, simple, lightweight cart; one employee actually deemed it “a shelf on a stick” after seeing an initial drawing. But it needed a real name, so the Creative Team went to work to come up with the best name possible.
The process started with the team, a whiteboard and a marker. Potential product names were thrown out faster than the scribe could write, and by the end of the meeting, the board was covered with everything from made-up combinations of letters, practical descriptions and animal names.
Next, it was time to let the ideas settle in. After thinking over the names, and reconvening for another meeting, the team voted on top names they considered to be the best fit. (Narrowing down the list isn’t as easy as it sounds: people become very passionate about their choices, and whoever is moderating the meeting has to really use their mediation skills.) Eventually, the list was winnowed down to one or two strong contenders and then we did a quick Google search to see if another company in our market got there first. (Often there are disappointing groans when it turns out that, indeed, many have thought of the same name already.) But in the case of the small cart, the name we decided upon, Cartsicle (cart on a stick—get it?), was open.
Quick calls to our trademark attorneys confirmed that the name was clear, and we could begin the trademark process. With that go-ahead, the Creative team began planning the campaign with clever imagery and taglines. There was a lot of excitement around marketing this new cart; the team had some really great ideas.
In the meantime, however, the US Trademark Office posted the name for anyone to contest, and much to the Creative team’s chagrin, someone did. Unilever, who owns many top household brands worldwide, indicated their displeasure in having such a close name to their famous frozen treat, the Popsicle. At that point, to avoid being stuck in potential litigation, we decided scrap it and go back to the drawing board. “Peanut”—the Creative Team’s second choice—became the little cart’s new name.
We also use lots of internal nicknames for upcoming products, which adds even more crazy to the whole naming game. Larger AnthroCarts were called Bridge Carts until they were renamed 48”, 60” and 72” wide. The Zido Cart
was nicknamed Mango. The Power Supply Cart was called Tesla (though, obviously, that would never have made it through). Tree Cart was used before officially becoming the POC Cart and the Steve’s Station family
was called Max.
And to complicate matters even further, Anthro’s plant employees have their own nicknames for products. They call the Tablet Charging Cabinet
a bird house, which is actually pretty clever. As a new employee, it can be hard to know exactly what product someone is talking about.
Arguably the best name we ever came up with was AnthroCart
. 30 years later, it’s still the bedrock of our product line, and customers often call other products of ours “AnthroCart” as well. You might say it’s our Kleenex in the tissue world. Let’s hope that doesn’t elicit a letter from Kimberly-Clark!