Lillie Ubeid
by Lillie Ubeid
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Monkey see, monkey do

You know when you’re tackling a really complex project or task at work and it’s so difficult that you would rather investigate why so many tech companies have ‘monkey’ or monkey synonyms in their names? No? Well, at Volcanic curiosity is rewarded so we made like George and went investigating, and it would seem that there is more to the story than monkey see, monkey do!

So why has tech gone ape over this branding phenomenon?

According to top naming and branding business, A Hundred Monkeys (I kid you not), it may be because of a trend called wordsmashing. Essentially, you smash two disparate words together - one emotional, the other descriptive, and voila, you get massively successful brands like Zendesk, Spoonrocket, Deliveroo and Boxbee. Get it?

Well let’s apply the theory, Zendesk conjures the notion that their software brings calm to the chaos of a typical customer service desk.  Spoonrocket should tell you instantly that it’s a very fast food delivery service (that sadly failed) and Boxbee; storage solutions for people that are as busy as bees. Deliveroo is all about the ‘safe’ delivery of your food. You know, how a roo protects its joey!

Monkey business

So back to monkeys, we looked at SurveyMonkey, MailChimp, MonkeyMedia and MobileMonkey to discover if the wordsmash theory works.

At first glance it does - think of all the characteristics of a monkey; quick, intelligent, agile, eloquent, flexible and fun. You get the idea. Then add the descriptor - mail, survey, media and mobile. Mobile being more vague, because this SaaS offers messenger marketing for Facebook, so it’s a bit of a stretch.

But when you take another look, there is a bit more to this story. Starting with SurveyMonkey, it absolutely does what it says on the tin - a survey tool for those people curious to find out information and who need an agile, fun tool to get the job done. What’s interesting about this branding story, however, is how the name of the company actually had the unintended consequence of shaping SurveyMonkey’s culture. Curiosity is now central to the company culture and is highly recognised and rewarded by the CEO, Zander Lurie. And according to Lurie, not being curious is bad for all businesses. This steered the company to work on a feature update and rebrand, which emphasised the value of corporate curiosity including its catchphrase ‘Power to the Curious’.

MailChimp also evidences the wordsmash methodology, but the real reason for having a chimp as their icon, was essentially the same reason why Twitter had its fail whale. When things went south, Ben Chestnut thought chimps, being cute like kittens, would make a great addition to their ‘sorry’ notifications. Freddy, the name of said chimp, continues to embody this marketing platform, that incidentally started out as ChimpMail until it was discovered that this domain name was not available.

Throwing a monkey wrench in the works

We didn’t find out the ‘official’ branding story behind MonkeyMedia or MobileMonkey and why they went with a primate central to their branding. But we did discover a concept called blanding that throws a proverbial monkey wrench in the works. It might just be that these cheeky newcomers have embraced the branding methodology. Coined by Thierry Brunfaut and Tom Greenwood, blanding is when a company “starts with a made-up-word name. Puts it in a sans-serif typeface. Makes it clean and readable, with just the right amount of white space. Uses a direct tone of voice. Ignores the need for a logo. Maybe throws in some cheerful illustrations. Uses vibrant colors, with bonus points given for purple and turquoise.”

So rather than taking the time discovering and developing the characteristics and the brand narrative, a business just follows this simple formula. Seen as a reaction to Uber, Airbnb, Apple and other brands that share the same visual language, companies, particularly tech, have created a cookie-cutter process that they believe will deliver the same clean, fresh brand message of these tech giants. This move to blanding is supported by the need to translate a new brand online and offline. Will it support omnichannel marketing? Will it scale up and down? And more importantly, do we have the time and money to invest in this marketing malarky? Blanding, unfortunately seems to work in all instances.

So the moral of the story - it’s not really about the name or even the logo - branding is something so much more than figuring out about the monkeys. It’s about everything that touches a business and the emotion that is sparked at these points. It matters that you obsess about the kerning of the font, because this is likely to mean that you obsess about the service or the tech that you offer your clients It matters because every call that a consultant makes, every job alert that a candidate receives and every email sent to a client, reveals the nature of your business. Culture is defined by this attention to detail and the reasons why perfection is sought.

We want to support all our clients in understanding how to make the small changes around their brand communications that will make a big difference to their business goals. So if you would like to join Alison Dwyer on a pragmatic webinar on Friday 3rd May, that will demonstrate why and how to refine your website; either with notifications, job descriptions, tag management or meta titles and descriptions then book a place here for the first of our lunch and learn series.


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