Your Name's Meter is Running: 6 Brand Names for Your Next Quick Get Away


You're an entrepreneur, you have investors putting their faith in you and making demands on who surrounds you. You're getting advice from all quarters, but ultimately it comes down to you.

What are you going to call this thing?

Now if you're a disruptive element—think Branson, Virigin, Elon Musk, Apple at the iPhone launch—you don't mind shaking up an established industry and doing things your own way. You look at the homogeneity of the competition and want to stand out. That still doesn't tell you what to do with the name.

Traditional taxi company names are as generic as the all the First National banks out there with weak, watered-down trademarks. That makes sense as most taxi companies are local and small scale. They aren't typically spending much or thinking about brand building. They are as commodity as commodity can get, though they have the perks of choosing their vehicles, colors, name, their drivers and the mods to the inside of the cab. Is a pretty stable business model that's lasted decades.

Now to the disruptive element, are you going to go for business as usual in your name? Of course not! What do you do?

1) You call yourself Uber. Well, originally Übercab, but then you get sued by San Fran and California and call yourself what you should have been called all along. The name suggests superiority, and apparently their customers agree. Anyone who's taken a typical cab can see the opportunity for improvement—well, I guess anyone but the taxi industry. This area was ripe for a big brand name, and now in a slew of major cities, people have one. It's caught on so well that there's even now a trend of calling something the "Uber" of another industry.* The Uber of teeth-cleaning? Really? Is that really necessary? Is it wise?

Bottom line: the name is excellent. It was a terrible mash as Übercab, but as a simplified, stripped-down concept, Uber is not only a great jab at the competition, while looking like no other brand in the field, but it is incredibly fun to say. Say it 5 times fast! It's kind of like when you were a kid and you'd flick your fingers quickly across the front of your lips while humming. It's a name that suggests superiority but also has a bit of whimsy in the pronunciation.

2) Or you call yourself Lyft and wax up your handle bar mustache! Lyft came out of Zimride, which provided service for long distance trips. Lyft is a playful, coined (that is, made-up, not a literal word) name, referring to "getting a lift." While Lyft doesn't get the press that Uber does, its brand stands out in its own way thanks to the pink mustaches it has drivers place on their cars when they are working. This allows for a level of visibility in the cities that Lyft serves. It also gets them a lot of smiles as one of their cars drive past. Uber has responded to their rivaly, among other ways, by rolling out their own illuminated "U" logo perched just inside the windshield.

Either way, both names are evocative and memorable. Lyft suffers from less PR swirling around their name, but definitely is a contending brand. Will they stay competitive? That has yet to be seen, but if not, it is likely more a business issue than a naming one for them.

3) Or if you're in London, you call yourself Hailo and play by the rules. Hailo doesn't go against the taxi infrastructure in the locations they're in. They actually just match requests for a ride via their app to comapnies with fleets in the area. They add a percentage onto the fare, and have now expanded even into some US cities.

The name is brilliant, playing on the experience everyone has had hailing a taxi in a major city (or trying to) and then also plays up its role as the good guys by being a homophone to "halo." The clever reference both to their industry and their role within in helps give this name legs. 4) Or if you're in Asia, you call yourself GrabTaxi and expand quickly into multiple countries. While I have nothing personally against compound names (names with two words mashed together), they are not typically the strongest brand vessels. Compound names can sound cheaper and less polished depending on which words are mashed together and how it's done, but then again, not all brands are out to shout "high end" or "superior quality." Walmart, Costco and other such compound names (those are clipped as well) are out to communicate great value and low prices.

Still, the GrabTaxi name concerns me. One of the concerns customers have with freelance taxi services is safety. While convenient, many of these new services use freelancers who do not have the same licensing procedures as the traditional taxi companies. Whether it is a regular taxi or a freelance one, people inherently have a concern for their safety when getting into the vehicle of someone they don't know. Women in particularl also have concerns about whether or not they will be sexually assaulted by a driver. For me, the name GrabTaxi, while clearly not referencing sexual assault, does use the word "grab." This is a common word in sexual contexts, as in the colloquial phrase "grab ass" among other references. Some of the connotations of a "grab" though lend themselves to the non-consenual end of the spectrum.

In context, the GrabTaxi brand is unlikely to be seen in this light. "Grabbing a taxi" will be the obvious meaning, but most taxi companies at some point find one or more of their drivers accused of sexual assault or misconduct. Can you see the headlines and the resulting PR nightmare: "Why You Should NOT Ride the 'Grab' Taxi," "Driver Takes the 'GrabTaxi' Name To New Heights," etc. This is not the strongest or safest of brand names. 5) Or you call yourself Gett, as in "get out of town" or get a taxi. This is a clever brand vessel that could take this company far. Most likely users will refer to their taxi as a "Gett car," which itself sounds like a get-away car and implies adventure. At this point I don't have a lot more to add for this newcomer, but may expand the analysis of them later.

Or lastly 6) You call yourself SideCar and let drivers set their own prices. While some indicate the drivers are not as vetted as some of the other services, others say are often more available at non-peak hours. Either way, SideCar has caught the eye of new invester Richard Branson and has rolled out a referral program that will often pay for your rides as you recommend others to the services. The SideCar name? Brilliant! It creates an immediate image in your head, which the other brands do not (except maybe the pink mustache, which itself is not part of the name). While the name's image is of a mode of transporation that is windy and an adjunct, it also makes you think of any dog in a sidecars video you've ever seen. (I had to add at least one link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bEWCtQP-Fg.) It is a mode of transport that can be joyous and fun and implies comradarie. SideCar is a metaphor for what this service is. The name brilliantly pairs with the concept the business has. This is also a name that once you hear it, it will stick with you. The name isn't as fun to say as "Uber," but if they play their cards right, they should be able to grow thier brand outside of their current eight markets. They also do deliveries, for which this name works equally well. It's an adaptive, memorable brand name. Kudos!

All six of these names have great growth potential as brands. Of them, the one that concerns me the most is GrabTaxi. Only time will tell if and when its brand meter will run out.

*"‘The Uber of’ … you name it," The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/05/28/the-uber-of-you-name-it)

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