How Not To Name Your Brand: 8 Amazing Branding Fails


Ah, the sacrificial lamb: No indulgence is quite as cruelly pleasing as watching some other guy mess up first. When it comes to business, sniggering in the corner as another company launches a terribly misconstrued, way-off-target branding campaign is, well, just part of the game.

With this in mind, here is our list of the 8 most awful, baffling, and downright funny branding fails online, from bizarre Twitter etiquette to unpronounceable app names . Take a look, and take note: your own branding strategy is not as safe as you might think.


Lays’ “Do Us A Flavour” Challenge

Ah, the social marketing campaign fail. Every year, Lays potato chips hosts a competition to come up with a new, novel flavor. The competition is, by all accounts, an enormous success, drawing entries from thousands of chip lovers from all over the country. Successful, that is, until bloggers started picking up on all the rejected chip flavor suggestions…

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A “gimp” is defined as either a form of rope (usually braided or for fishing), a physically disabled person, or more insultingly, an annoying or contemptible person. Gimp is also the name of a very good open source photo-editing software who just happened to pick a strangely insulting name for themselves.


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Incuby made a splash some years back as an online community for inventors. Things started off well, with plenty of press in big magazines TechCrunch – but something was off.

According to this article by Inc magazine, the elephant in the room was probably their name. Difficult to pronounce (“In-cubby?” “In-cube-eee”?) and sounding vaguely like Incubus, the “demon from Medieval folklore that rapes women in their sleep”, Incuby’s fall from grace (their domain is still up for sale) is a warning tale for all those who want to pick a cute but baffling name for their otherwise clever startup.



This one comes from AdWeek’s “25 Biggest Brand Fails of 2013”. Following complaints from neighbors, Portland, Oregon radio station KXL-FM removed their otherwise well-designed advertisement, seen below, from a prominent downtown location. According to AdWeek, they promptly changed the billboard to a tagline that, thankfully, had nothing to do with Vietnam War prostitution.

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PCMag’s Senior Editor Carol Mangis chose this one as part of their “10 Worst App Names” slideshow: Eefoof could be an onomatopoeia for any number of things, from the sound of a woman in labor to a rusty tricycle. In this context, though, Eefoof is (or rather, was) a media-sharing site that paid users for uploading content. Sounds great, but really, why on earth would you name your company Eefoof? Back in 2006, Mashable’s Pete Cashmore wrote a review of the service that doomed it to failure, though he diplomatically stuck to content ownership issues over their horrendous name.



As a rule, double i’d names for startups tend to be a fairly misguided idea. Like “Incuby”, Diigo – a reading annotation and organization tool – has a name that makes it almost impossible to pronounce aloud (“Have you tried ‘dig-oh’? Or wait, is it ‘dee-go’?). According to some users, the appearance of its name also draws up subconscious images of sex toys.


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Fries King

Here’s another classic story from AdWeek: As part of a bizarre marketing campaign geared toward promoting their fries, Burger King announced on Twitter and other social media outlets that they had changed their name to “Fries King”, even replacing signs on some of their restaurants to drive home the point (or lack of one). Baffled, Twitter followers assumed that Burger King – an multinational fast food chain with 1000’s of locations all over the world – had suddenly experienced the kind of identity meltdown usually reserved for a handful of pop superstars.


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Image Credits

Paris Tuileries Garden Facepalm statue at Wikipedia Commons


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