The Burning Ears 2018

By Liam Humble
November 20, 2018
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Filed under Naming

For the second year in a row, the team at A Hundred Monkeys put our heads together for the Burning Ears—our annual look at the best and worst in company and product names.

Last year’s Burning Ears was a product of Creative Director, Eli Altman’s naming workbook “Don’t Call it That” and his call to the masses to submit names that stick out like a sore thumb in the commercial landscape.

This year, we decided to focus our collective energy on specific industries

Some of the A Hundred Monkeys team researched names in categories that are near and dear to their personal tastes, while others explored burgeoning industries or spaces where they frequently find naming “offenders.” We developed lists of soccer teams, alcoholic beverages, cannabis brands, startups, record labels, baby brands, and skin care lines. Then we narrowed those lists down to 10 “glorious” and 10 “ridiculous” names to represent each category. Finally, we gathered with some folks in San Francisco’s Mission District to get their votes on this year’s Burning Ears.

Soccer teams
Glorious: Stubborn Youth
Ridiculous: Flannagan’s Onions

Creative Director, Eli Altman surveyed club soccer names from every corner of the world to find the right starting lineup. There were teams from North Korea to Swaziland and everywhere in between. When the dust settled Stubborn Youth — a club from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines — came out on top, while Flannagan’s Onions — a club from Bermuda — found themselves at the bottom of the naming table. Burning Ears voters liked to have some rebellion brewed into their team, but wanted to keep onions out of the recipe.

Drink names
Glorious: Unencumbered Antelope and Field Recordings (tie)
Ridiculous: Poizin, Sharecropper’s, and VSCRL (tie)

Director of Client Services, Rose Linke — who doubles as our resident sommelier — explored the notes and names of alcoholic beverages with a nose for wines and unusual beers. In the end, there was a tie for the Glorious with Unencumbered Antelope (a cucumber and cantaloupe Saison) and Field Recordings (a winery) sharing the honors. On the other end of the list were Poizin (predictably a Zinfandel), Sharecropper’s (a series of wines), and VSCRL (a mixed fermentation Saison). It seemed the attendees at the Burning Ears didn’t like the idea of drinking poison (no matter how you spell it), parsing a bit of a classist historical reference, or tolerating vowel abduction when it came to their drinks.

Cannabis brands
Glorious: Electric Lettuce
Ridiculous: Donkey Dick Ranch

Ben Weis, Director of Strategy, turned his attention to an industry that is growing rapidly throughout the United States: cannabis. In expanding industries like cannabis, consumers are likely to find many half-baked names while companies, farms, and entrepreneurs make a land grab for your attention. Luckily, some pretty clever people tend to live in the cannabis space as well, which is how we found our glorious “strain”: Electric Lettuce. A recreational cannabis dispensary in Oregon, Electric Lettuce was one of the most popular names at this year’s Burning Ears — in conversation it was revealed that many people liked that it felt like a playful, vintage term for the plant. Conversely, voters couldn’t hitch their wagon to Donkey Dick Ranch, even though they are growers that hail from the fabled “Emerald Triangle” region of Northern California. Can you blame them?

Startup names
Glorious: Sunrise and Layer (tie)
Ridiculous: eggXYt and Cre8tor.App (f.k.a. RecordGram) (tie)

Liam Humble, Creative Lead looked to the startup landscape and exclusively pulled from TechCrunch “Startup Battlefield” competitors. Tied for the Glory were Sunrise, a text message-based, group therapy service, and Layer, software for customer ticket and conversation tracking. There was a tie amongst the less-favored startup names as well with eggXYt, a chicken embryo sex detection system, and Cre8tor.App, a mobile music and video recording app. Both of these names were found to be a little ridiculous because each name would have to come with a multiple-sentence explanation for how to spell them. Interestingly, Cre8tor.App had changed names during the course of Liam’s Burning Ears research — when he had originally sourced his list the company was named RecordGram, voters apparently didn’t think the second name was much of an improvement.

Record labels
Glorious: Secretly Canadian
Ridiculous: N-Coded Music

Creative Lead, Patrick Keenan has an ear for exceptional music and an eye for interesting names in the musical realm. His lists contained record label names that spanned the U.S. and Western Europe. The clear favorite at the Burning Ears was an eclectic label from Bloomington, Indiana called Secretly Canadian. On the other end of the dial was New York’s N-Coded Music, which felt dated and a bit confusing compared with the humorously forthright implication of Secretly Canadian.

Baby brands
Glorious: Hatch and Tantrum (tie)
Ridiculous: Milk Snob

Creative Lead, Nora Trice brought baby brands to the party kicking and screaming. Of the better-behaved bunch were Hatch and Tantrum, a maternity clothing brand and children’s toy store, respectively, which tied for the fan favorite. A brand of nursing and car seat baby covers, Milk Snob was a naming nuisance and one the least favorite names at the event, leaving voters evidently rebuffed by its slightly conceited lactations.

Skin care lines
Glorious: Glossier
Ridiculous: Dr. Jart

Writer, Carolyn McDermott and the attendees at Burning Ears 2018 were very opinionated and decisive about skin care brands — with submissions in this category dominating both ends of the naming spectrum. Glossier, a brand that claims it is “inspired by real life,” motivated enough people to make it the luminous victor of skin care lines. While Dr. Jart — you guessed it, a doctor-developed cosmetic line — definitely did not get board certified by our attendees and was deemed the most ridiculous name of the night. When it comes to rubbing something into your skin, it makes some phonetic sense that people would prefer it to be something Glossier and not a dollop of Jart.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the Burning Ears this year and thoughtfully joined in some naming discourse. Stay tuned for future articles on our website and Field Notes on Medium in the coming weeks. We’ll break down each category from this year’s Burning Ears with greater detail, and offer some perspective and history on the full list of names that made the lists.

Remember to use #dontcallithat on Twitter and Instagram if you want to bring our attention to some glory-deserving or simply ridiculous names in our world — you can even tag or follow us @ahundredmonkeys. Naming isn’t easy and if you want to learn more about the nuances of naming you should check out some of our other resources.