Today I became aware of a very unfortunate branding issue with a new social media platform called Posterous (pronounced Post-Er-Us). First of all, you should know that Posterous is a killer application that I have little doubt will soon be a leading social media property; I will have a follow-up post outlining the reasons. Now onto a sad yet humorous (IMO) lesson in branding; Posterous appears to be commonly misspelled (and even mispronounced) as Posterious (Post-Ear-E-Us).
Why is this mispronunciation/misspelling a problem? Well first of all the creators of Posterous seem not to have considered the misspelling from the beginning because they do not own Posterious.com. Second of all, doesn’t Posterious sound a whole lot like, well, a variation of posterior? I don’t know about you but I don’t think I would ever want my startup even remotely associated with, er, the posterior of anything.
Posterous is going to have a hell of a branding problem with people not pronouncing their name correctly (although in their defence they shouldn’t be having a problem). So what now? If you were in this same situation what should you do? Well, I am thinking whoever owns www.Posterious.com is getting some darned decent traffic and can expect to be propositioned by the Posterous team for a buyout; if it hasn’t already. If not, well, Posterous will have to wait until it is popular enough that the majority of users do not make that spelling mistake; I am relatively sure the company is going to be very successful so there is a good chance that will happen. Another option is to perhaps place the phonetics of their name below their logo in central areas of their site - not pretty but effective.
To avoid this from ever having happened Posterous should have consulted Jim Hedger because I guarantee you he would have kiboshed that name right away after a giggle or two (if you know Jim you know I am right!). You see once when Jim was my employee at StepForth, he and I were occasionally in the position of helping clients determine business names while planning marketing strategies. Well, I tell you, during those brainstorming sessions where he and I tried to think of names there were many quashed ideas because the word(s) sounded too close to something completely inappropriate; we had good laughs but we always came up with a great name in the end.
- Choose a name that is not easily misspelled.
- Every domain can be misspelled so be sure to secure the misspellings of the domain before launching the site. This is because if your site is a hit it will be more costly to secure the misspellings if someone is using/squatting them.
- Make certain the name you choose does not have a completely horrific translation in another language - unless that market means nothing to you and you don’t mind a little ribbing from the press when the news gets out.
- Consider designing the logo to make the phonetics of the business/website name more obvious. In the case of Posterous, they used what appears to be a post-it note of sorts as a part of their logo. Unfortunately, I find the usage of the post-it far too subtle. Perhaps a dog-eared or raised corner with shadowing would help drive the point home?
All I know is I wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of the marketer who has to constantly correct people’s pronunciation. Oh and I pray Posterious isn’t purchased by Clusty; although I suppose that would be yet another great gift from God to the comedians of the world.