09.19.11

For the sake of your personal sanity, don't misspell your company!

Qwiskter-elmo-stoner

From this January through June, I was working on a startup called Outdrsy. That's pronounced Outdoorsy. But without the two 'O's in door. O-u-t-d-r-s-y. That's right. I liked the name Outdoorsy for my mobile/social/local/group-buying/pivoting/buzzword-generating service for outdoorsy people but didn't have the money to shell out for an english-word domain name and Twitter handle. Outdrsy was available for both, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Little did I know that I would spend the next six months repeating variations on the first four sentences of this article. Over and over again.

Apparently nobody in the decision making chain at Netflix has worked at a misspelled Web 2.0 company before. Reed Hastings (Netflix CEO) and most Netflix employees are going to spend the next few months of their lives going through a similar ritual.

Dinner Party Rando: "Oh, you're the CEO of Netflix? Cool. You guys just, like, totally renamed your business or something, right? Flixster or something?"
Reed: "No, Qwikster. Flixster is another company in the movie business. We're Qwikster."
Dinner Party Rando: "Qwixter... you spell that with an 'X' or something, right?"
Reed: "No, with a 'W and a 'K'. Q-w-i-k-s-t-e-r."

But Reed is going to have it even worse. The conversation won't end there. DPR will have a flash of remembrance after the spelling of the name: "Oh, that's right! Qwikster was a partially brain dead stoner on Twitter. That was hilarious."

So what on earth possessed Netflix to make such an obviously atrocious branding decision? I have 3 hypotheses. Let me know in the comments if you can come up with a better explanation.

  1. Netflix is intentionally trying to destroy the DVD business because it's competing with the core business of their future, streaming content. In this scenario, the marketing team probably had a competition to come up with the dorkiest Web 2.0 sounding name they could think of. The decision makers at Netflix have fun at work, and when someone threw up @Qwikster on a projector in the conference room, Qwikster's fate was sealed. This hypothesis is consistent with Mark Suster's explanation for why splitting the business was a great decision, which I agree with (modulo the branding decision).
  2. An epic publicity stunt. If they had named Qwikster something sensible, like, say, "Mailflix" (not saying that's great, but it doesn't take much to beat Qwikster), I wouldn't be writing this blog post. People would have stopped talking about Netflix at 10am and switched to talking about more exciting news, like the story that Justin Bieber is about to become an angel investor. Again, this theory gives Netflix executives for having a great sense of humor and foresight to understand the making of a viral meme.
  3. The branding team at Netflix Qwikster should be fired.

p.s. I misspelled Qwixter Qwikster at least once during the writing of this blog post.

If you read this far, you should probably follow me on Twitter.

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