Calm Down, The Name "Oath" Ain't That Bad

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People are very upset with the new company name, Oath. 

Oath is what the Verizon-owned AOL and Yahoo will be known as going forward. That was the news of the day, and “whoa!” are people pelting rocks at this announcement. There’s not a lot of love for it… at all. Candidly, I’m not sure why? It seems like a cool name to me (am I getting old?).

What’s an oath?

Genrally, this is what people want to know. The pure definition (thanks to Wikipedia) is: “either a statement of fact or a promise with wording relating to something considered sacred as a sign of verity. A common legal substitute for those who conscientiously object to making sacred oaths is to give an affirmation instead.” So, a sacred commitment or promise. Seems strong. Seems bold.

It’s really not about the word “Oath” at all… it’s about how humans react to anything new.

On Facebook, one of my coveted marketing professional friends stated that Oath is a dumb name for a search engine (and that it was a weird one too). Does anyone else remember the days of yore, when people said, “what’s a Google?” and “why would you ever call a company, Yahoo!?” Those names were considered dumb ones too. This does not mean that I am defending the name change to Oath. It does mean that what was once seen as dumb, often becomes commonplace and we tend to forget just how silly it seemed at first blush. The argument, of course, is that a lot of the silly names didn’t have any true meaning, but the word “oath” already has meaning and connotations attached to it. With that, it’s hard to argue that words like “apple,” “amazon” and “yahoo” did not, in fact, already have meaning before they also became commonly known as technology, retail and search engine giants. 

Time will tell if a brand name clicks. It’s never that obvious.

Verizon is a smart company. Tim Armstrong (CEO of AOL since 2009 and now Oath) is also someone that I have seen in action (since his early days at Google). This was a strategic move, and my only advice when it comes to branding and new nomenclature is this: give it time. Twist Image became Mirum a little over two years ago, and it’s still something that we are all working on. Many people do not understand what the word “mirum” even means (it’s latin for “wonder” and “amazement”), many people think that it’s “Mirium” or “Miriam” (no, not a female name), and even more people still think of us as “Twist Image.” A rebrand takes time. A rebrand of AOL and Yahoo proportions will not only take time to sink in, but will be scrutinized from day one… by everyone. This also has to do with how these individuals brands are perceived (legacy Internet companies that have struggled to remain relevant and fresh).

Still, it’s not a bad name… not by a long shot.

Oath is a brand that will house over one billion consumers with over twenty brands that Verizon owns, and it will launch this coming summer. It’s a brand that is serious, wants to be taken seriously and will push hard to make and keep their promises… to their consumers, advertisers and partners. Showing strength in a world where Google and Facebook (primarily) dominate the digital media landscape is not that wrong of a positioning. It’s always easy to be a market of one. It’s easy to hear a new brand name and give it a quick thumb’s up or thumb’s down. It’s easy to take to Twitter… or Facebook… or Snapchat and take those potshots. Still, it’s a brand… and a strong brand takes time to build.

The future will tell if Oath is a good brand or not. Personally, I don’t think it’s all that bad. Do you?