Dishing up some really bad names…

When I grow up, I want to get a job as the guy who names products for Dish Network. In other words, a job at which it is impossible to fail. Because seriously: What company is as shitty as Dish Network when it comes to naming things?

Latest example: “The Hopper.” I can’t even type it without laughing. In fact, I just re-read that sentence and laughed again. The “Hopper” (titter) is the name for a whole-home DVR product that slings (a pretty good verb) video from the living room to the bedroom to the basement in a nice little video-ricochet roundabout that’s cool, and emblematic of what’s going on in the multichannel space at large. “Sling” or “Slinger” would have been a better name, although only slightly better, and its absence is all the more puzzling because Dish Network’s corporate sibling EchoStar Technologies Corp. actually owns the Slingbox brand and platform from which the Hopper (titter) is derived.

I think the Hopper (titter) is a poor choice because it violates two well-wrought rules of name-making:

Rule 1: Name things based on the experiences they confer, not what they are. “The Hopper” describes a product function, rather than an end benefit or experience. This is a common, mechanistic approach among companies that lack naming imagination. “Hey, we just invented a cool new kinda wrench that automatically adjusts to grip whatever sized bolt you’re wrestling with. I think we should call it ‘The Wrench that Automatically Grips Bolts of Whatever Size You’re Wrestling with.” Instead of, you know, “The Liberator.”

Rule 2: Never name anything “The Hopper.”

Television, in particular, doesn’t “hop.” Nobody sits around saying, “You know, honey, we’ve had our ups and downs, but in the end, I think we’ve done pretty well. Except I just can’t abide this realization that our television channels don’t hop terribly well.”

Compare “The Hopper” (And now, having regained composure, I’m stifling the laugh) with the elegantly named “HBO GO.” HBO GO is one of those names that instantly tells you a ton of information in appealing way, in just two words. It’s HBO, but it’s HBO you can enjoy anywhere. I get that: it’s cool, it’s confident, it’s respectful of the customer in an allusion-ist sort of way. It’s also nice that it uses a verb, “go,” which suggests action, reward, experience.

But really. How much is to be expected from a company whose very brand identity harkens to the hardened aluminum of its core technology? “Dish Network?” Wait! I get it: It’s a network, but it uses a satellite dish. So it’s…a Dish Network!

Still, my all-time favorite from Dish Network was the description with which it saddled its core video packages years ago: “America’s Top CD.”

I will pause to let that sink in. “America’s Top CD.” For a pay-TV service. You know, it’s television. ESPN, MTV et al. So it was only natural to brand it with the two-letter acronym known popularly as a representation of the compact-disc, which was a successor to the vinyl album, which was a vessel for, umm, music. Not television. Music.

In semi-fairness, I believe the idea here was to associate Dish Network’s television packages with the recognized fidelity of the “digital” media space at large. But I also suspect that of the millions of consumer impressions realized through the advertising of the “America’s Top CD” package, there was one guy (in suburban Atlanta, maybe) who actually got it. He’ll probably call up Dish Network today and order a Hopper.