When companies name an online enterprise, the right name can transcend the notion of a mere store and describe an entire shopping experience. This is the kind of thinking that wins over consumers while giving a competitive advantage in the overall landscape of business. Amazon is a sterling example of this. Although books were the first products associated with Amazon, the name has come to describe a full platform based around shopping and variety.
When you visit Amazon’s homepage, you see a vast array of options and opportunities, from media to housewares to fashion and beyond. If the company had gone merely with a descriptive name like Allbooks or Bookmart, it would never have had the capacity to encompass all of these different but inviting departments. (Apple's iTunes is an obvious counter-example, but the Apple halo and focused i-initiating architecture more than make up for the narrow scope of tunes.)
Indeed, the easily identifiable, compelling name of an immense river proved more effective than any regular department store moniker. Over the years, “Amazon” has become something else entirely: a community, a platform, a social movement, a whole world of feeling.
We see an illustrative example even if we look at two bricks-and-mortar titans – Wal-Mart and Target. If you ask a typical consumer which name is more fashionable, Target will likely be the clear winner. As a real word with many effective associations – hitting a mark accurately, getting what you want, a “bull’s eye” – Target is a name that captures an emotion and efficiency, not merely a “mart” where many different things are sold.
Now compare the online sites of both of these brands, the air of innovation that Target has is immediately apparent. The name clearly sets the company’s tone, sets its identity in the marketplace.
A key example of effective online naming in Lexicon’s history involves the retailer originally known as Internet Diamonds. As the name clearly implies, the company once specialized in efficient and reliable ways for customers to buy diamonds online; in most cases, the typical customer was a man shopping for an engagement ring. But as time passed, obvious questions arose:
What if a customer wanted to buy something other than a diamond?
What if a woman were shopping for herself and wanted a little bit of intrigue and allure incorporated into the process?
How could the experience put a stake in the ground that would remain compelling as competition swelled?
Naturally, the company needed a new name. So Lexicon worked with the client to create a new identity that opened up an entirely different world of possibility.
Like Amazon, Blue Nile conjures up a feeling – an air of potential, beauty, vastness, and enticement. Blue Nile is now a multibillion-dollar business. A similar example is Piperlime, which Lexicon named in partnership with Gap, Inc. Again, in adopting this name, Gap, Inc., chose to evoke a certain emotion in the customer, not simply define a narrow window of opportunity. Due to its bright sounds, the zesty images of both piper and lime, and the enticing lime logo paired with the name, the word implies fun, variety, and satisfaction, and Piperlime now rivals Bluefly as one of the most recognized shopping sites in the world. (It even figured prominently in the hit reality competition series Project Runway, where host/supermodel Heidi Klum clearly took pleasure in pronouncing it.)
What’s more, if Gap ever wants to branch out further and build upon Piperlime’s potential as a full-on social media hub or community, the name has the capacity for that type of expansion.
Names like Amazon, Blue Nile, and Piperlime allow for storytelling with an edge, a customer base with an extra bit of panache, and that is why creating a name that has a broader appeal than simply selling one type of thing or describing one kind of store is so important. Stores come and go, but a store’s style — the sentiment that it instills in a customer — endures.