Name Game: We Review Our Readers’ Choices for Boston’s Most (and Least) Successful Rebrandings

7/16/10Follow @bbuderi

Call it market research, Xconomy style. On Wednesday, we initiated a poll asking our readers to weigh in on whether the rebranding efforts of eight New England startups that had changed their names in the past year worked for them. Readers were asked to pick whether the new name was better, worse, or the same as the old name.

The results are now in (you can find the poll and the results in detail here—voting has been turned off, so the polls are closed). Of course, for those checking in regularly, the results could have been seen at any time, as we have made no effort to hide them. But presuming you aren’t the obsessive type who checks in five times a day, we summarize the findings for you below, along with a bit of interpretation.

Now, I have to put out some caveats. There isn’t much room for nuance and shades of gray in our poll. For instance, while everyone might agree Name B is better than Name A, we have no real way of assessing whether people think Name B is actually a good name. It could be that name A was so bad in the first place that anything else would seem better. Take the Harvard startup originally called Get Out of Cambridge. No doubt GOOC was not intended as a real working name; it sounds more like a student project. But as a company name, it is pretty awful. I am amazed that 19 percent thought the new name—gtrot, short for globetrotting—was worse.

But with caveats aside, let’s look at how things shook out. First, here is a list of the old and new so you can see everything at a glance:

Paragon Lake – Gemvara (Online jewelry customization and sales)

uLocate – Where (Local search apps for mobile phones)

RunMyErrand – TaskRabbit (Errand running service)

HopSkipConnect – Healthrageous (Mobile health technology and services)

Datanetis – Pursway (Influencer marketing)

Droid Works – CyPhy Works (Unmanned aerial vehicles)

TwitVid – Vidly (Video sharing on Twitter and the web)

Get Out of Cambridge – gtrot (Social media application for booking and sharing travel plans)

The good news is that in our readers’ view, the majority of company name changes—five out of eight—were clear improvements. The biggest exception was Cy Phy Works (old name Droid Works), the unmanned aerial vehicle startup founded by iRobot co-founder (and Xconomist) Helen Greiner. Some 61 percent of our readers saw the new name as worse than the original. Only 28.5 percent saw it as better, with the rest saying there was no real change.

The other non-winners were Where (old name uLocate) and Pursway (previously Datanetis). In Where’s case, 46 percent of voters saw the new name as an improvement, 39 percent saw it as worse, and 14 percent thought there was no real difference. A slight victory for Where, but not really, considering all the trouble and expense of rebranding. For Pursway, only 34 percent saw the new name as better, while 42 percent saw no real change. My own assessment is that the company has shifted from one bad name to another. You really don’t get what the startup is about from either name, and there isn’t anything memorable about them. (By the way, Wade, who edited this piece, thought the new name was supposed to be about persuading or swaying influencers, and therefore should have been spelled “Persway,” whereas I thought it was about getting people to spend more, evoking the word “purse.” Obviously, there is some big confusion there.)

The runaway winner was Gemvara (old name Paragon Lake). This startup is focused on online jewelry customization and sales, which you definitely don’t get from Paragon Lake. So no surprise that such a vast majority thought something with “gem” in the name was an improvement. An impressive 71 percent of our voters saw the new name as better, with only 18 percent seeing it as worse. Right behind it was gtrot (nee the aforementioned Get Out of Cambridge), with 69.5 percent of voters seeing the new name as an improvement. I personally don’t think gtrot (too close to “gspot?”) is very good, but like I said, it is better than GOOC.

My own choice for best name change was TaskRabbit. I actually liked the original RunMyErrand just fine. But I think TaskRabbit is friendlier, more memorable, and better captures the psyche of the Internet age.

Thanks to our readers-poll takers for helping us out on our market research!


Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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  • http://www.pursway.com Eran Livneh, Pursway

    Bob,

    Regarding Pursway, actually both you and Wade got it right: we help companies get their customers to spend more by harnessing the persuasion power of the influencers and their ability to sway the market. So it’s about persuasion and swaying the market, but most importantly about connecting these to actual purchases (and not just to tweets, for example).

    Pursway aside, I think the whole premise of the survey is a bit off base. I am finding it hard to see how you can evaluate a name outside the context of its target audience and the overall company message. The question in my mind is whether our name is effective in communicating with our target buyer and whether it is congruent with our overall message, not whether a person outside this context finds it appealing.

    Anyway, thanks for including us in the survey, we appreciate the publicity!

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/bbuderi/ Robert Buderi

    Hi Eran,

    This is definitely not a scientific survey–we just had noticed some recent name changes and decided to take the poll. Thanks for your good sportsmanship!