Famous brand names with negative connotations


One important request when you have to name a new brand is the following: “Free of negative connotations”. This request involves vulgar or sexual connotations but also the link with anything that can cause a negative feeling for the potential clients. Of course, in most of the cases, we find this request justified, we respect it and our naming proposals are protected of any bad meanings.

But what if we tell you now that sometimes…only sometimes, a name with negative connotations can become a famous brand and the decision of choosing such a name is a real jackpot?

In this article you will read some examples of brands that had the courage to embrace the “dark side”. Also, you will receive some important advice about the recommended cases when you may take this risk into consideration.

  1. Pandora

Means "all gifts", derived from a combination of Greek παν (pan) "all" and δωρον (doron) "gift". In Greek mythology Pandora was the first mortal woman. Zeus gave her a jar containing all the troubles and ills that mankind now knows and told her not to open it. Unfortunately, her curiosity got the best of her and she opened it, unleashing the evil spirits into the world.

Pandora has a negative connotation around the word. It makes us think about greed, lust, bad curiosity and troubles.

We can find three positive similarities between the myth and the famous brand: Pandora from the myth was made from the god of craftmanship, he made her out of the Earth and water. Pandora Jewelry is handmade by a Danish talented artist. A second link is that both have to do with gifts. The last similarity is that both were the first. Pandora was the first woman on Earth and Pandora Jewelry was the first Jewelry online store.

Promiscuous, bold and risky.

  1. Hotwire

The real meaning of this expression is to steal a car. So why choosing for travel booking website such a negative name?

It was used as a metaphor for this new concept. Hotwiring a car is a shortcut to have a desired vehicle. This travel website is about shortcutting positions to find the cheapest accommodation or the best price for your holiday.

  1. Urban Decay

If you are a beauty junkie, we are sure that you’ve encountered with a Naked Palette from Urban Decay. But have you ever wondered where the name comes from? The official statement of the company is the following. They’ve wanted a name that must contain the word “urban”. Someone thought about “Decay”. They have really resonated with this association, not only because it was catchy, different and shocking, but also because it was reflecting the company’s vision: Unexpected, unusual, finding inspiration in the iridescent rainbow sheen of an oil slick.

It’s not always about fitting with the industry’s notions. Sometimes it’s about new fresh “blood” for the industry.

We have many other examples of famous brand names with negative connotations: Slack, Fossil, Virgin, Poison, Gap and many other more.

When do we recommend you have the gut of choosing this kind of name?

  • The brand's positioning matters more than the name. In this case. 

When you decide to go for a name that has a negative connotation is mandatory to establish with lots of details all the brand’s positioning. As you may see in the examples from this article, it is not just a negative name. Each of the names has a storyline related to the positive part from the negative myth. You can not choose a negative name just because it sounds good. It may become very dangerous for your future brand.

Only when the brand’s positioning is very well connected to the risky name, only in this case the name becomes interesting and starts to have a strong personality. You will prove a lot of courage, originality and confidence to your public. Changing the initial negative purpose in a good way is what changes the customer’s perception about the brand.

  • The age matters

Younger people will accept and appreciate more provocative names. It is in their nature to be early adopters and sometimes a risky name makes them feel cool, innovative and different of their friends. So, if you are about to launch a new brand dedicated to young people, especially in the lifestyle area (fashion, beauty, cosmetics, food and beverage, gadgets), you may feel free to explore the shocking naming options too.

  • The context is the king

Many words have more than one meaning. Always the most powerful one is the one that evokes the most emotional imagine. Or the one that is the most used by all the people. An important rule in this case is the following: Never choose the negative meaning of a word in the same context used by the all people. For example, the word “Virgin” has sexual connotations. But Richard Branson did not use the name “Virgin” to name a sexual toy. The word “Poison” is not a good choice for a new soda brand but it was a very nice option for a fragrance brand.

A name with negative connotations can become a famous brand if you follow these basic rules. Be provocative, be memorable, but always…be careful. If you want to take a risk with a “different” name but you are a little afraid of the result, just drop us a line about your future brand and we will help you to find the next wonderful “Pandora”.

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