Final Analysis: Embrace the Ampersand


Ran into my hipster friend Blue Denim the other day. He was so excited to see me he almost fell off his fixed-gear bike.

“What’s up, broster?” I asked.

“Dude!” exclaimed Denim. “I just had the best idea!”

I looked at his T-shirt — the one with the PBR blue ribbon emblem exclaiming, “Hipsters Ruin Everything” — and said, “Let me guess. You’ve invented a straw fedora that has its own set of Wayfarers attached.”

“Nice idea,” he said. “But no. Even better. I’ve decided that all our local companies need hipster names.”

“Come again?”

“Think about it,” he continued. “You know how the best new companies have these cool-sounding retro names like Shoelace & Cuticle or Spearmint & Hubcap or Grass Stain & Light Bulb?”

“Well, I have noticed a few restaurants with names like that,” I offered.

“Exactly!” Denim grinned. “It’s time for our big companies to embrace their inner hipster.”

“But why would a company like, say, Boeing want to change a name that’s worked pretty well for a century?” I asked.

“What does Boeing do?” Denim countered.

“It makes airplanes.”

“True,” said Denim. “But it also bullies employees and lawmakers to make sure it gets whatever it wants.”

“So you think its name should reflect that?”

“Absolutely. Something like Aileron & Coercion. Or maybe Wingtip & Blackmail.”

“Isn’t that a bit more revealing than a company might want to be?”

“Perhaps, but transparency is important in hipster culture.”

“I thought hipsters were more into irony,” I said. “You know, saying one thing but meaning something else.”

“That’s the point. Wouldn’t it be ironic if big companies actually had precious names that suggested what they’re all about?”

“I know a few corporate counsels who would disagree,” I replied. “But just for yuks, what would Amazon’s hipster name be?”

Denim stroked his beard. “I’ve thought about that one for some time. I have a lot of friends over there. Personally, I like Page & Kneecap. ‘Page’ obviously alludes to Amazon’s origins as a bookseller. And ‘Kneecap’ suggests that some guy named Vinnie the Tuna will be stopping by later to shatter your patella if you don’t play by Amazon’s rules.”

“It does have a certain cachet,” I agreed, warming to the possibilities. “How about Starbucks?”

“I would want something that conveys upscale coffee and ubiquity,” Denim said. “Maybe Bean & Universe. Or something really simple like Spendy & Trendy.”

“I like it. How about Nordstrom?”

“That’s a tough one,” Denim said. “It’s an old-line fashion retailer trying to make it in an online world. I’m toying with Placket & Web. But I also like Hemline & Click.”

“And then there’s Microsoft. Any ideas?”

“Well,” said Denim, stroking his luxurious beard again, “you have a software company that wants to be a hardware company. I’d go with something like Code & Tablet. Or Digital & Tactile.”

“Not sure about that last one,” I said. “Sounds like a urology clinic.”

“Good point. Say, have you eaten yet? There’s a new place in Georgetown called Rack & Pinion. It has 417 ciders on tap and the best hand-forged fried pickles.”

“Better than the ones at Mortise & Tenon?” I asked. “That’s still my favorite joint.” 

John Levesque is the managing editor of Seattle Business magazine.

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