By Alex Kelley with Erin Milnes
August 16, 2018
When I was young, I owned an off-road scooter that I got from a yard sale. It had an extra-wide board for your feet, no brakes, and chunky inflatable tires. I used to make race tracks in dirt piles in the yard and little jumps to try to catch some air. It was great fun.
It turns out the fun never ends — in fact, the fun may have only just begun. Today, there is a vicious race to establish which electric scooter sharing brand becomes king of the hill. Don’t turn to Catchword for the scoop on which scooters are the scootiest, but we’ll happily share with you what we think of their names.
right outside the Catchword office (e-scooters are everywhere in Oakland)
Bird, like many of the other players in this space, was founded last year. It and Lime received big funding from the get-go and became extremely visible (to the chagrin of city officials) on the sidewalks of cities like San Francisco.
Bird is not a particularly pretty or elegant word, but a perfectly logical name for a dockless e-scooter company.
Flight is easy, quick, and liberating, and birds fly. It’s a compact word, like the tiny vehicle the brand represents. And the scooter even looks a bit like an egret or blue heron, long neck extended. Using a simple, visual word helps with memorability as well as international expansion (the company is launching a pilot program in Paris).
The metaphor has also now been extended — “bird-hunting” has become the phrase for finding and returning Bird scooters to their “nests” (designated pickup spots) — which further concretizes the brand story.
So at first blush the name may seem a bit of an ugly duckling, but it quickly shows itself a swan.
Lime is a transport sharing company that offers bikes called LimeBikes, electric-assist bikes called Lime-E, and electric scooters called Lime-S.
We love the name Lime. It’s short and easy to say. The color is memorable, evocative and visual enough for rich branding, and is easy to spot on the side of the road. Plus, the cross-section of a lime looks like a bike tire. Like Bird, Lime has a presence in Europe and no doubt would like to expand further, so an international name is critical.
It’s worth noting that Lime started out as LimeBike and had to change the name after it evolved its business. Classic mistake. When developing a company brand name, always make sure you leave room for growth. (See Catchword Resources for more company naming advice.) Fortunately, in May of this year they realized the limitations of LimeBike and switched to Lime, which works much better as a company name.
Skip doesn’t have the market presence and media saturation of its competitors, and has only raised a fraction of the money (still millions, though). In terms of company name, it also lags far behind the top two in the space.
Skip evokes skipping the traffic, just a hop, skip, and a jump away, skip to my Lou… all carefree and fun, aspects that we like a lot.
The hangup is that skipping doesn’t connote the smooth motion of a scooter. There’s a locomotive disconnect that holds this name back. If it were the name of an app for transport sharing, it could be great, but applied to a wheeled vehicle, Skip takes a wrong turn.
Spin is another entrant in the scooter game that appeared fairly early on. As we know from the song “The Wheels on the Bus,” spin is what wheels do. And scooters have wheels.
This name falls into the same verb-name category as Skip, but is rather flat because of how directly related to scooting the name is. There’s no nuance here, no rich story to tell.
A perhaps even bigger problem is that Spin is so reminiscent of spin class, and a sweet scoot around town is really the opposite of laboriously spinning in place. (Also the name Spin reminds Alex of Susan Sarandon’s chain of table tennis bars SPiN, though he may perhaps be the only one who cares about that.)
A new player is GOAT, which unlike the others, is based on a peer-to-peer model — individuals buy and rent out their own electric, dockless scooter, which the company coordinates through its app, rather than the company owning its own fleet.
The name is short, easy to remember, lends itself to visual representation, and contains the word GO. So far so good.
The company says it is based on the acronym Greatest of All Time. “Every time you ride GOAT, we want it to lead you to the best the city has to offer, so each experience with GOAT has the opportunity to be the greatest of all time,” GOAT co-founder Jennie Whitaker said in a release. That’s a cute idea, but we’re not sure most customers will get it without a sports context or without the periods (as in the LL Cool J album G.O.A.T.).
The bigger issue, as with Skip, is the locomotive disconnect. Goats aren’t known for ease or smooth motion. They’re stubborn, tough little climbers. If this brand wants to distinguish itself as the scooter that never breaks and can take you safely up the steepest hill, then GOAT is a great name, but we don’t see that differentiation in the company’s marketing.
Today, there is a vicious race to establish which electric scooter sharing brand becomes king of the hill. Don’t turn to Catchword for the scoop on which scooters are the scootiest, but we’ll happily share with you what we think of their names.