Pollywog’s Top 10 best local-brand names

1. The Electric Fetus — This Minneapolis record store has been around for almost 40 years, which makes the boldness of the name all the more impressive. As is common for provocative brand names, the Electric Fetus name has been roundly criticized. National Lampoon, among others, called it the absolute worst name for a business. Unless, of course, it happens to be the pre-eminent indie record store in Minnesota. For customers looking for out-of-the-ordinary CDs and vinyls, the store’s name effectively says, “Nothing is too weird for us.”

2. Geek Squad — Taking a cue from “Revenge of the Nerds,” Geek Squad proudly owns the pejorative term for someone who’s smart yet socially awkward. But let’s face it — when your computer’s on the fritz, who you gonna call but a geek? “Geek Squad” combines the ideas of technical expertise and on-demand service into a tight, two-syllable name. The use of a disparaging term gives it punch and memorability. Beyond its name, Geek Squad embraces 360-degree branding, maintaining a consistent personality from its funky Geekmobile to its agents’ high-water pants. It’s one of our favorite local brands.

3. Woof Dah — A blend of “woof” and “uffdah” (a Scandinavian exclamation of surprise or sensory overload), Woof Dah is an absolutely perfect name for a Minnesota doggie daycare service.

4. Wild Rumpus — With a name inspired by the wild things’ dance in Maurice Sendak’s classic picture book, “Where the Wild Things Are,” this children’s book store in Linden Hills could not be more aptly named. The name beautifully communicates that this is a place where kids can be themselves and have fun, not to mention find some of the best children’s books available. From the kid-sized door-inside-a-door entrance to the bountiful bookshelves to the cats and chickens that freely roam among the customers, Wild Rumpus does not disappoint.

5. Toro — The Toro Motor Company was created in 1914 to make engines for the Bull Tractor Company. When its parent company folded shortly afterward, Toro reinvented itself first as a WWI steamship engine manufacturer, then as a maker of cultivators for farming, and finally as a lawn care expert. It’s been going strong-like-a-bull ever since. Toro is an early example of an evocative brand name-a name that borrows positive connotations from a word that already has meaning. Spanish for “bull,” Toro evokes traits you want in a lawn mower: power, energy, endurance. Easy to say, easy to spell, short yet loaded with meaning, Toro is a brand name that was far ahead of its time.

6. Flutter
— Bridesmaid dress boutique on Lake Street. “Flutter” charmingly evokes the ruffles and lace of a bridal gown as it floats down the aisle, not to mention the skip-of-the-heart emotion of one’s wedding day.

7. Origami
— Opened in 1990, Origami was the Twin Cities’ first sushi restaurant. Origami’s well-chosen name leverages all the positive connotations of the fine art of paper folding. Artful. Delicate. Quintessentially Japanese. It’s an apt metaphor — and an elegant way to introduce Minnesotans to raw squid wrapped in seaweed.

8. Surly
— The owners named this Brooklyn Center brewing company for the way they felt when they went to a bar and found it had no “good beer.” It also describes the demeanor of the brand’s many devoted customers when they run out of Surly beer. The name gets points for being extremely distinctive in the beer category, which overflows with dull, descriptive names. The company name also sets the tone for the names of its family of brews, including Furious (a hoppy, fire-hued beer), CynicAle (a Belgian-style ale) and Darkness (a dark-colored Russian stout).

9. The Bad Waitress Diner
— A fun and provocative name for a retro-themed Minneapolis self-serve diner. Customers write down their own order at their table and bring it to the register to pay. The food is then delivered to the table by the diner staff. But water, coffee refills and flatware? Not so much. Customers have to fetch those for themselves. So you are, in effect, your own bad waitress.

10. butter
— Could there be a more seductive name for a bakery? The moniker evokes the melt-in-your-mouth pastries and natural, organic foods that have made this South Minneapolis establishment a local favorite.

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Devon Thomas Treadwell on 08/01/2008 - 09:25 pm.

    Hi, Dan. Thanks for featuring our list of best local brand names.

    With today’s glut of brands and shrinking number of available names, too many businesses are settling for weak names that end up hobbling their brands for a lifetime.

    The above ten examples show how a name that links to the brand promise in an unexpected way can give even the smallest business a powerful edge.

    Devon Thomas Treadwell
    Principal, Pollywog
    http://www.pollywoginc.com

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