What’s in a Name? Success or Failure!

ML Jun 9, 2006

I believe your success or failure can be read in the tealeaves of your corporate name and logo. So, please excuse us today while we switch to our new name, but put in a rudimentary black & white logo, while we work out the finer details.

It was a challenge to rename MyLongTail to something more universal and less industry in-talk. It had to be equally friendly and viral as the beta codename. And perhaps most difficult of all, we had to achieve that same magical and lovely balance that transitioned you from looking at the logo “MyLongTail” to the first tab once you’ve logged in and installed the code, which shows you… “My Long Tail!”

The logo even referred to itself by turning the g-descender into a tail, and spoke of the “My” personalized sites. Not to elevate it TOO high, but I equate this layered meaning and humor as the ultimate sort of achievement in design. I’m a big fan of the book Gödel Escher Bach by Douglas Hofstadter, which draws parallels between the sort of inverted musical canons that Bach wrote, with the Escher’s negative-space artwork, and Gödel’s theorems. Ambigrams such as those of my master-logo designer professor from Drexel who did the Illuminati brands in Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, John Langdon, tend to achieve this.

It was a magical and lovely balance. The name had embedded humor, embedded meaning and double entendres that I don’t think I’ve seen since DogPile. So for a designer and a creative, choosing an EVEN BETTER name that would live in the halls of corporate America (and the world!) and roll off the tongue as easily as AdWords was a challenge and a delight. We company brainstormed. We enlisted Connie Connors’ connections in high places to critique. I even tapped John Langdon for advice. And in the end, we decided we were doing something that was no less fundamental than retail and wholesale… two phenomenon’s (technologies?) that that changed the way we live… Connors’ own manta!

So, with that in mind, our brainstormed name and best candidate seemed just a little weak… simple to the point of over-obvious: HitTail. But then, we realized perhaps simple and over obvious was exactly what was called for in this case. Then we realized we were dealing with multiple layers of meaning: was it a play on search hits and the long tail? Or was it a play on Retail? And if “hits”, was it a play on search hits, or hit products? And since we’re a PR firm, getting “hits” in the media is always a goal, and a mention in a blog for example (with or without a link) is a hit.

Then, we realized HitTail was not merely a proper noun. It was something you could engage in: HitTailing. It was something you could be: a HitTailer. We achieved becoming a noun, verb and present participle that could weed its way virally into everyday talk… truly a magnificent achievement that perhaps even surpassing the cute codename chosen for beta. And finally, that delicate and magical balance that moved you from logo to that first page on login… “MyLongTail” to the “My Long Tail” tab is equally strong, in moving you from “HitTail” to “Your Hit Tail”.

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