NBC and Fox cause naming Hulu-balooSeptember 1st, 2007 | Posted by in brand
It’s been in the works for quite a while, but the long awaited YouTube-challenging, online-video joint venture between NBC Universal and News Corp finally has a name. And that name is Hulu.
Missing the original launch date of summer 2007, Hulu is expected to offer clips and even full episodes of NBC and Fox programming such as “Saturday Night Live” and “The Simpsons.” And the new venture already has deals inked with AOL, CNET, Comcast, MSN, MySpace, and Yahoo, with GM, Intel, Cisco, and Cadbury Schweppes signed up as advertisers.
New York brand-design consultancy Sterling Brands was tapped for the naming gig. As Hulu CEO, Jason Kilar, explains: “Objectively, Hulu is short, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and rhymes with itself. Subjectively, Hulu strikes us as an inherently fun name, one that captures the spirit of the service we’re building.”
Hulu sounds Hawaiian and roughly means “feather” or “plumage” in the island language—a plus from the peacock network’s perspective. But, in Indonesia, it means “butt,” and in Swahili, it means “cease and desist.” I can’t help but wonder if “hula hula hula” could mean “stop putting that feather on my ass.”
As a dowser for neologisms myself, I know the difficulty of finding a short, catchy, memorable name that is still available as a “.com” And that’s why so many names seem silly. “Google” can certainly be called a silly name. It is derived from the mathematical term googol, which lovable geeks like Larry and Sergey saw meaning in. Add in either a typo or the need to find a spelling that wasn’t taken on Network Solutions, and you get Google—which to most people around the world just means “to search.”
Finding a .com domain certainly complicates matters today, but strange names date back to pre-transistor days. “Kodak” is a silly name that doesn’t mean anything. It started with a “K” because George Eastman insisted on it—he felt “K’ is a strong letter. And “Coca-Cola” would never be taken seriously in a boardroom pitch meeting today.
So, even though I’m not the only one to point out that Hulu means “butt” twelve time zones away, Hulu is a name as good as many and better than most. After all, a brand is far more than a name. It’s the amalgam of everything the company does—if services or products are better than competitors, if customer service is helpful or rude, and many other factors.
So the Hulu brand will succeed or fail chiefly on how good their service is. Good luck guys—I’m ready to download some 30 Rock and House episodes.