Many critics have undoubtedly spoken before me, but I need to add my name to the chorus. Renaming a corporation is probably the hardest thing to do in the world of branding, but that is not an excuse for a poorly constructed name, like XFinity.
Let’s begin with the facts.
- The Comcast brand has been a lightning rod for ill will as well as the butt of jokes (thanks to the infamous YouTube video of the sleeping Comcast installer)
- The recent acquisition of NBC from GE is the kind of event that merits a full examination of the corporate brand, in order to determine the potential “stretch” of the acquiring company into a new category
- Research may have shown that the current name is too strongly linked with cable and internet, and that newer offerings, such as pay-per-view, are unduly overshadowed. For example, did you know that Comcast owns Fandango and Daily Candy…or the Philadelphia 76ers?
In my opinion, there is pretty strong justification for considering a name change. But how they got to Xfinity, I do not know. Then again, maybe I do. If the Marketing executives at Comcast spoke to the major corporate identity firms, they probably learned that naming is a time consuming, expensive business and a legal nightmare to boot. Or maybe they retained a firm that was unable to come up with a name that everyone liked, or could be legally cleared without significant expense. (I always warn my clients that naming will break your heart. The best name is virtually always taken.)
The clock was ticking, and Comcast wanted to make a statement and an event about the addition of the NBC properties to its portfolio. As it so happened, the name XFinity was already owned by Comcast–due to the beta launch of something called “Fancast Xfinity”.
Three aspects of this name are seriously troublesome. First, it is awkward to say. Anything that begins with an X is daunting.
Second, X is often a shorthand for pornography, or sexually explicit material.
Third, to anyone who spends time on linguistic matters, the symbolism of the letter x is quite negative. To wit:
- To remove or invalidate by or as if by running a line through or wiping clean. annul, blot (out),cancel, cross (off or out), delete, efface, erase, expunge, obliterate, rub (out), scratch (out), strike (out), undo, wipe (out). Law vacate. See continue/stop/pause. Source: Thesaurus
So if “Finity” is supposed to represent the concept of “infinity”, then the X cancels it out. If “finity” is supposed to mean “finite”, then the x cancels out the finite and I guess it becomes “infinity”. It’s essentially a double negative.
A new name has to work hard enough as it is without having to counteract hard-wired negative dimensions. If you throw enough money at it, I guess it will become less obnoxious with time, but it’s going to be one of those names that will always rub me the wrong way–like SYFY.