WTF? What's Wrong With That Name?

WTF was the name of one of Wisconsin's main tourism organizations. What the ef? The Wisconsin Tourism Federation was tired of sharing its acronym with the R-rated exclamation that's moved from online shorthand to everyday speech. So now you can refer to the federation as TFW — for the Tourism Federation of Wisconsin. The name change made us wonder what other unfortunate company names are out there. Guest host Jacki Lyden speaks to Eli Altman, who works for the naming company A Hundred Monkeys.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

JACKI LYDEN, host:

WTF - that was the name of one of Wisconsin's main tourism organizations. But there was a problem - what the F? The Wisconsin Tourism Federation was tired of sharing its acronym with the R-rated exclamation that's moved from online shorthand to, unfortunately, everyday speech. So now you can refer to the federation as TFW, for The Tourism Federation of Wisconsin.

The name change made us wonder what other regrettable company names are out there. We've asked Eli Altman to give us his thoughts on the issue. He works for the branding and naming company A Hundred Monkeys, and he joins us from the studios of Sports Byline in San Francisco. Eli, thanks for being with us.

Mr. ELI ALTMAN (A Hundred Monkeys): Hey, Jacki. Thanks for having me.

LYDEN: Well, we know that branding is of major importance to virtually every company now. What are some of the other unfortunate company names you've come across?

Mr. ALTMAN: You know, I guess it all depends on who you ask. But one thing which really comes to mind is when Northwest Airlines decided to go with an acronym and call themselves NWA. Didn't seem like they really had any idea about the rap group from the early '90s when they went ahead and switched their name and had some sort of a Target-like logo.

LYDEN: And then N, of course, was the regrettable N-word?

Mr. ALTMAN: Yes.

LYDEN: Well, that would be a low. What else?

Mr. ALTMAN: You know, there's plenty of unfortunate names, I guess. I mean, you know, the interesting thing being there's a lot of reasons people migrate to acronyms. Either, you know, their name isn't really pronounceable, like FIAT, for example. FIAT's Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino - not really too pronounceable for audiences outside of Italy. So, you know, FIAT seems to make a lot more sense.

LYDEN: Yeah.

Mr. ALTMAN: Kentucky Fried Chicken would be another example. It went to, you know, KFC. What the F stand for? You know, not fried - it's friendly or something else but sort of using that as a way to deflect some negative attributes of their brand.

LYDEN: Yeah. I have to say, it's a little wordy - Tourism Federation of Wisconsin. I thought they were going to go something with, like, where's the cheese?

Mr. ALTMAN: Right. I mean, you know, picking something which would sort of stand or be a lot, you know, a lot more unique might be a really good way to go. I mean, personally, I thought WTF was a reasonable name for, you know, for the group. You know, 'cause you could, there's all sorts of stuff you can do with it, you know. Like, WTF should I do in Wisconsin? WTF should I eat in Wisconsin? I mean, if they wanted to sort of adopt it and play with it, there's a lot they can do.

LYDEN: Yeah. Well, I guess they didn't consult you though.

Mr. ALTMAN: No.

LYDEN: Eli Altman is director of strategy for the naming firm A Hundred Monkeys - that's a pretty good one. Thanks for being with us, Eli.

Mr. ALTMAN: Thanks for having me.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.