When Brand Naming Meets the Metaverse
William Gibson, the author of Neuromancer who is known as the father of Cyberpunk, once said: " The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed." And in his science fiction novel Snow Crash published in 1992, the so-called already-arrived future--the metaverse, was born.
However, the mysterious “metaverse” was not circulated among the public immediately after its birth. Instead, the “virtual digital world” concept in a broader sense gained familiarity, and has been widely used in many science fiction movies, such as The Matrix, Ready Player One, etc. All these images formed the general public's early perception of the metaverse.
It was not until Facebook rebranded itself as「Meta」, that the metaverse concept has gained the public’s attention. After unleashing this new name, the seemingly mysterious metaverse concept has spread among the whole public and drawn the wide attention of big companies.
While before diving into the torrent of the metaverse, a good name is the first step towards success. As in the case of the social media conglomerate「Meta」, with the new name, it naturally unfolds its future strategic focus and direction.
The heat of the metaverse has not only captured the attention of many tech companies, propelling them to transform or upgrade their existing businesses, but also brands from other industries are joining the game and gaining benefits.
Next, let’s take a look at the logic of corporate and brand naming in the metaverse field, as well as the verbal trends in relevant areas.
I）The Hard-Core Players: A Glance at the Metaverse-Related Naming Conventions from Elementary to Profound
（1）Zoom in on the root of the Metaverse: A Safe card that doesn’t go wrong
Naming a company or brand directly from the word Metaverse is a safe yet sensible choice. The prefix meta- is derived from the Greek preposition, meaning "after", "beyond", "above", and by extension, "changed", "beyond the general limit". 「Meta」, the former Facebook, directly used this term, which is straightforward and highly extendable.
Furthermore, the -verse in Metaverse is also very popular as the abbreviation of Universe. For example, the pan-entertainment virtual life community「Honnverse」and the one-stop platform for content production and consumption「Xverse」 both contain -verse in their names. These strong and straightforward names show their ambition: "There is a place for me in the future metaverse business world!".
Some space-related words are also very popular in game and social platform brand naming as they reflect the universe concept in a compressed way. Such as 「Decentraland」 which combines Decentralized and Land, and「Rec Room」which means the Recreation room.
In this way, brands not only preserve the spaciousness of the metaverse, but also stimulate consumer engagement and belonging. Words like Land, Home, Utopia, Oasis, etc. also frequently appear in this naming typology. In a nutshell, it is indeed a safe card that doesn’t go wrong.
2）Romance of Symbolism: A poetic filter for your brand
Some brands choose symbolic names to infuse literary color and rich imagination. In this way, they give their brand name a deeper meaning and leave room for consumers to feel the aftertaste. At the same time, the intriguing romantic touch often renders brand names a more profound cultural connotation.
Meta's virtual social platform「Horizon World」and the virtual office platform「Horizon Workroom」both introduced the concept of the horizon in their name. The geographical horizon is the meeting point between the sky and the earth, symbolizing the encounter between the known and the unknown. As from the inner side of the horizon that we can observe, to the outer side that carries many illusions and mysteries, horizon serves as a link. So as these virtual platforms are meant to connect and blend the virtual and the reality world.
In addition to this rather literary name, Meta's VR glasses「Cambria」launched this year derived from the Cambrian, a key period of species explosion in biological history. This name demonstrates the prosperity of the social media giant’s technology and diversity.
By these examples above, Meta, the pioneer in metaverse related industry, is indeed well versed in this type of naming using a symbolic approach.
If we broaden our views to other companies, we find the name「Fortnite」(a famous game) quite interesting. It is a variant of Fortnight, which means 14 days.
In astronomical terms, a fortnight is a half-moon. It corresponds to the average period between a full moon and a new moon, equal to 14.77 days. And this periodic phenomenon has a mysterious meaning of absorbing knowledge and understanding oneself as well as the cosmic operation in Western culture.
Hence, from astronomy to biology, geography to mysterious legend, words and concepts with positive symbolic meanings are great resources for naming inspiration. With this approach, it’s a lot easier to create a connotative and storytelling name.
3) Boundless Creativity: Word Games Played by Tech Companies
As businesses devote themselves to building the future, there is no doubt that metaverse brands need to display a techy image. From tech giants to startups, many have visions beyond the conventional. They break rules and make the impossible possible. They strive to do things differently, which is precisely reflected in the naming trends.
To start with, Epic Games’ gaming platform「Unreal Engine」and Chinese AR startup「Nreal」both reflect the goal of creating the ultimate virtual experience. 「Nreal」abbreviates “un” to N, much like how the famous AI computing company「NVIDIA」abbreviates the Latin "en" in envidia to N. Both of them showcase a perfect pronunciation replacement.
Speaking of names applying abbreviation approach,「Qury」, a search engine launched in 2021, is worth the mention. The name simplifies the spelling by leaving out the “e” in “query”. Furthermore, the change of pronunciation evokes association to “curious”. Both “query” and "curious" closely fit the search engine’s role in problem-solving and feed our curiosity.
Another example, the New Zealand virtual human creation platform’s name 「UneeQ」 is derived from the word “unique”, leveraging the less often used letter “Q” to convey the distinctiveness of its brand and products.
Chinese VR startup「NOLO」takes a different approach by using dictionary word. At first glance, NOLO seems to be a coined name. However, it is taken from four letters within Technology, which reflects that the brand regards technology as its core strength and focus. On the other hand, 「Com2Verse」, a metaverse platform under development by Korean gaming company「Com2uS」, places "to" with the number "2"which appears distinctive and cool.
Names are not only spoken, but also visual. A perfect example of such interplay would be Chinese headset brand「EM3」. The name is coined by abbreviating three key concepts of virtual reality starting with "M": Man, Machine and Mind, and then rotating respectively to form E and 3. This bold move in naming not only reflects the brand's pioneering technology, but also its vision for life transformation. Likewise, media platform 「Meooota」 separates "meta" with three “O”s, resembling lenses that highlight its in-depth insights into the metaverse trends.
Whether visual or sound, the “word games” are made to serve the purpose of paving the way to brand’s core concept. Just a month ago, ByteDance created virtual fashion community platform「沸寂(fèi jì)」, the two characters respectively meaning “boiling” and “silence”. It juxtaposes two opposing concepts, using the strong contradiction as a rhetorical device to achieve a striking effect.
II) Crossover Trend Players: To Amplify Playfulness in Brand Naming
The concept of the metaverse is not at all limited to the field of technology, but has long penetrated into FMCG, automobile, luxury etc. Due to its popularity, increasingly more capital and companies are entering this field with a blossoming of virtual products, online shows, and digital experience platforms.
Attaching a “metaverse-like component” to names is the most common practice for the brands that are entering this trendy game, such as Nike’s 「Nikeland」 and Budweiser’s 「Budverse」etc. The advantage is that the change is small and simple, yet it immediately and greatly captures people’s attention. And in addition, there are many more names that go out of the box and deliver more emotional values to their customers.
1）Virtual Commodities: Fun Twists of Names and Words
First of all, most virtual goods would utilize fixed phrases with explicit meanings or fun twists to depict a vivid user experience as they are directly facing consumers.
In the catering industry, McDonald’s took the lead early last year by launching 「McDoNFT」, a collection of virtual food artworks that includes virtual fries and Big Macs. The “n” in Mcdonald’s is connected to “NFT”, describing the nature of the collection, and forms a coherent and amusing message that “McDonald’s also does NFT”. Moreover, much like the virtual reality restaurant named 「McMetaverse」launched a year later, the “Mc” prefix as the signature instantly sheds light on the product’s origin.
Pizza Hut’s「1 Byte Favorites」pixel pizza, also a virtual food product, is purely inventive: “byte” sounds identical to “bite”, and even though you would not be able to take a real bite, the pixel pizza is not at all less enjoyable.
Speaking of which, it is also worth mentioning people’s love for the “pixel style”. Words like “byte””pixel””bit””block ”and other words expressing the concept of “smallest unit” that have been popping up all over the world of the metaverse.
Coca-Cola has also launched its first “pixel-flavored” virtual cola under the name「Zero Sugar Byte」on its limited sales platform「Coca Cola Creations」, using a similar approach to connect the visual and taste experience. It is not the first product inspired by outer space that Coca-Cola has launched. The recent limited series called「Starlight」is full of romance, and the lightness of the name very closely portrays the ideal consumer experience.
2) Online Ecosystems: Adding a Gaming Touch to the Experience
Shifting our focus from commodities to experience platforms and online ecosystems, brands often apply sci-fi and gaming in their names to bring a sense of colorful experiences.
Compared to Louis Vuitton’s plain-spoken「Louis: The Game」, Balenciaga’s avant-garde 「Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow」comes with a much stronger post-apocalyptic sense of gaming.
A number of clothing brands have launched virtual spaces, including Gucci's flash shopping store「Garden Experience」in Roblox, Ralph Lauren's virtual try-on platform「Winter Escape」, and Timberland’s immersive site「TimbsTrails」and so on.
Incorporating expressions such as「Garden」,「Escape」, and「Trails」into their names, all these names depict vivid scenes to offer consumers a truly immersive metaverse techy experience.
Automobile brands, too, demonstrate much sense of gamification. Hyundai's 「Mobility Adventure」portrays an exciting journey, while the aforementioned BMW's 「Joytopia」serves as a metaphor for an ideal future. The platform「Stone Valley」and its twin digital space「Crypto Space-time」both have dramatic storytelling and gamified appearances. 「Holoride」, which combines navigation and car data with AR to transform everyday journeys, is based on “hologram” (similar to 「HoloLens」), demonstrating a sense of ultra-immersive experience.
With the explosion of the metaverse concept, countless brands have shown their brilliance and have created a number of splendid cases of name creation.
Many emerging players started from the word「metaverse」itself or related concepts, showing the sense of immersion and symbolic meaning brought by the elements of location/space in the brand name. While these names can quickly establish a connection to the industry, they are now ubiquitous. Due to fierce competition, trademark registration from a legal standpoint is becoming increasingly difficult. This has led some brands to be more unconventional, using juxtaposition, splicing, combo, and even visual alterations to achieve a striking effect.
As for the naming of products from other industries that cross over to the metaverse, most tend to depict specific imageries or use fixed expressions with direct messages to establish a more engaging and gamified communication.
Every naming strategy has cases that stand out, but even the most successful ones have their trade-offs. And it is difficult for a single name to cover all the aspects of any brand.
In such an industry where demand is spurting and competition is strong, creating a satisfactory brand name is indeed a challenge. Instead of relying on trendy buzzwords, only by applying a naming strategy to a clear and unique vision combined with its true strengths can brands harvest an identity that fits their own image.