No one sets out to create an unremarkable brand name.
In our experience, most unfortunate naming situations are synonymous with budgetary constraints.
Sure, there are some instances where a company founder blindly chooses a name early on, a name that ends up sticking despite its deplorability. And there are instances where an evolving culture negatively influences meaning over time. But, more often than not, a poor name is settled upon for lack of financial play room.
And, as you'll see, the consequences can be dire.
In this article, we've gathered 7 of the most unfortunate brand names ever trademarked. After discussing how we can learn from their mistakes, we'll also reveal a revolutionary tool you can use to decrease the likelihood of your name ever ending up on a similar list.
The 7 Most Unfortunate Brand Names Ever Trademarked
Qwikster was launched by Netflix in 2011. In an effort to grapple with fleeing customers due to DVD rental price hikes, the company momentarily split itself into two brands. Here's what CEO Reid Hastings had to say about it:
It’s hard to write this after over 10 years of mailing DVDs with pride, but we think it is necessary: In a few weeks, we will rename our DVD-by-mail service to “Qwikster”. We chose the name Qwikster because it refers to quick delivery. We will keep the name “Netflix” for streaming.
Don't remember this happening? That's because the service barely lasted a month. The company immediately received public backlash from consumers. While the name does have a rhythmic quality, it has nothing to do with the service it represents.
Perhaps, this 2011 Huffington Post article put it best:
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.
The Lesson: When choosing a literal brand name, make sure it draws a clear association to the product or service you provide.
2. Ayds Chocolate
As far as businesses go, Ayds Candy was as uncontroversial as it gets...
Until 1981, when the media began talking about acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS. Initially, Ayds decided the disease didn't constitute enough threat to warrant a name change. But by the end of the decade, the company realized it had made a huge mistake. Their solution? Rebrand as Diet Ayds!Unfortunately, the new name wasn't received any better than the first (shocker). The company soon went out of business.
The Lesson: Consistently watch your trademark for potential threats to its integrity stemming from both other businesses and cultural conflicts. Act quickly to change your brand name if need be.
If you knew nothing about Adminstaff, what would you assume they do?
Providing temporary staffing services would be a solid guess. Unfortunately, you would be mistaken. The company provides offsite Human Resources and business performance solutions.
Which is why the company finally rebranded under the name Insperity. Sadly, this was after they had already spent millions of dollars on advertising trying to explain what they actually do.
The Lesson: When using a literal name, ensure it accurately describes your product or service.
4. AmericInn Hotel
AmericInn Hotel is a mid-priced hotel franchise consisting of 240 locations across the United States. While we weren't in the room when the establishment was being named, we can imagine what it was like:
"I know – what about American spelled with the word 'inn?' Get it, Americ-Inn?!"
While AmericInn has done arguably well for itself, one can only wonder how much better it could have done with a different name. The problem isn't the name itself, but its awkward spelling. Can you imagine all the clarifications that have occurred between family and friends as a result?
The Lesson: Don't try to be too clever. And when purposefully misspelling common words, proceed with caution.
Analtech is a Delaware-based biotech company that sells thin layer chromatography plates. From pharmaceutical development to quality control in foods to forensic studies, their plates are used in labs around the world. Luckily for Analtech, their industry is about as specialized as you can get.
And we say "luckily," because we can't imagine their brand name being flashed across a national advertising campaign. The company routinely refers to their thin-layer chromatography as TLC:
"Analtech—the world's best provider of TLC!"
The Lesson: Don't choose brand names with unfortunate alternative meanings.
6. Hitler Chicken
Did you know Thailand experienced a Nazi chicken craze in the early 2000s?
We didn't either until we heard about Hitler Chicken. Unfortunately, the naming association with the former Nazi Party leader was intentional. The restaurant appeared to be a continuation of a trend CNN dubbed “Hitler chic,” in which pop-culture icons are recreated to resemble Hitler.
From a legal standpoint, the problem wasn't so much the name as its accompanying image: KFC’s Colonel Sanders dressed as the controversial figure. KFC promptly sent a cease and desist order. The Colonel was removed and the name has since been changed to H-ler.
The Lesson: Don't name your brand after one of history's most despised cultural figures.
7. Pee Cola
Why settle for Coca-Cola when you can have Pee Cola?
The popular soda from Ghana means "Very good cola." Unsurprisingly, most tourists don't know this and tend to avoid the fizzy beverage. Since Pee Cola doesn't seem to have plans for global expansion anytime soon, their unusual brand name most likely isn't hurting them too much.
Nonetheless, we're sure they would have gone with an alternative moniker had they known what Western English-speakers would associate it with.
The Lesson: Double check your brand name candidates for alternative meanings in other languages and cultures.
How to Avoid Unfortunate Brand Name Casualties
The best-case scenario: Choosing an unfortunate brand name may cause a few laughs.
The worst-case scenario: Choosing an unfortunate brand name may annihilate your company.
The good news? Most naming incidences are 100 percent avoidable.