By 2001 I had really started to like the name “GoTo.com.” It was short and catchy, it had a nice color scheme (yellow and green) and they had sent me a plastic goose, a gold-colored egg in a fake nest, a doormat, and an apple pie (delivered by a guy dressed as a baker, no less) all reinforcing their GoTo branding.

Then, for reasons still somewhat unclear to me, they decided to throw all of that branding away and switch to Overture. At first, the name Overture really annoyed me. And the soft blue color just seemed too boring. But eventually, I admit, I even started to like the name Overture.

And then the folks at Yahoo decided it was time for a change and Yahoo Search Marketing was born. I understand the rationale here – take advantage of the Yahoo brand to aid legitimacy. But this is a name that is fraught with problems. For one, it is too similar to the Yahoo corporate brand name, People by nature like to abbreviate names and thus Yahoo Search Marketing is rapidly becoming known as either “Yahoo” or “YSM.” Yahoo is easily confused with, well, Yahoo. YSM either sounds like some sort of Voip protocol or the abbreviation for “Yves St Laurent” – YSL. Any way you slice it, “Yahoo Search Marketing” just doesn’t roll off the tongue like ‘AdWords’ or ‘AdSense’ or even dare I say ‘Kanoodle.’

The true evidence of the failure of the YSM branding is the fact that so many people in the search engine marketing industry – including people at YSM – still refer to the company as Overture.

Here are some other examples of bad branding names I’ve experienced in the last two years. See if you can guess the original name versus the proposed new name:

1(a): Fresh Latitudes World Cafe
1(b): World Wraps

2(a): FindLaw.com
2(b): Thomson-FindLaw

3(a): Deloitte Consulting
3(b): Braxton

4(a): Shopzilla
4(b): Bizrate

The correct answers for original names are 1b, 2a, 3a, 4b.

At my first dot com, I was given the prestigious assignment of coming up with a new brand identity and name for the company, previously called “Rentals.com” (an apartment rental site).

After a few months of research, reading up on branding, focus groups, surveys, etc, I arrived at a few recommendations. I can’t exactly remember them at the moment, but I think they were names like “OneRent”, “ApartmentChoice” and “AptFinder”. Frankly, none of them were as good as Rentals.com, but I did my best to complete the task.

In the end, the executive team huddled in a room for a few hours and wrestled mightily over the decision. When the emerged from the room, they had found the new name. From Rentals.com to . . . Rentals Inc. Pretty pathetic.

Thus, my wisdom of the day is two-fold: 1) Yahoo, please change YSM back to Overture; 2) Pick a name and stick with it – the alternatives are rarely better than the original and your time is too important for such silly tasks.

Leave a Comment

David Rodnitzky
David Rodnitzky is founder and CEO of 3Q Digital (formerly PPC Associates), a position he has held since the Company's inception in 2008. Prior to 3Q Digital, he held senior marketing roles at several Internet companies, including Rentals.com (2000-2001), FindLaw (2001-2004), Adteractive (2004-2006), and Mercantila (2007-2008). David currently serves on advisory boards for several companies, including Marin Software, MediaBoost, Mediacause, and a stealth travel start-up. David is a regular speaker at major digital marketing conferences and has contributed to numerous influential publications, including Venture Capital Journal, CNN Radio, Newsweek, Advertising Age, and NPR's Marketplace. David has a B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago and a J.D. with honors from the University of Iowa. In his spare time, David enjoys salmon fishing, hiking, spending time with his family, and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes, not necessarily in that order.