February 11, 2007
U-Boat Worx Company Name - A Nazi Name Runs Deep
As a professional naming consultant, I think the fledgling industry of personal submarines needs some naming help. There is a specialist engineering company out there that offers a well named product called the Aquarius, which is more like an underwater sports car, priced at a cool $1,500,000. But the company's name is "Subeo," a name that sounds, I think, like a night club in Miami.
However, the new, cheaper personal submarine on the market for the less well heeled is the C-Quester. I’m of the opinion that the use of sound alike names using consonants is pretty much dead, and really not a great idea for brand names where people's lives depend on the product's functionality. Perhaps the irreverent sub names stem from the Beatles song "Yellow Submarine."
But the company that makes this product gets the Strategic Name Development door prize for most poorly thought out corporate name in the last ten years: U-Boat Worx. Never mind the overuse of the consonants, we actually have a peacetime company trying to sell Europeans and Americans their own personal U-boats.
I’m sure very few of us have forgotten that the term "U-boat" (note that the historical name has the lowercase "b") was what the German navy called their submarines during WW I and II. It was a U-boat that sunk the passenger liner Lusitania, promoting the entrance of the USA into WW I, for goodness sakes. And probably no other nautical term is so closely associated with the Nazis, who used their U-boats to sink millions of tons of shipping, killing thousands of sailors, in an attempt to strangle Britain.
The company tells us that "U-Boat" means "underwater boat," which also happens to be the meaning of the "U-boat" — the abbreviation of the word Unterseeboot (under sea boat) in German.
Maybe, just maybe, the company could have said it means "The Boat For You," but nein, this is Third Reich naming at its best. It should be noted that 60% of the real "U-boats" were sunk, so naming your new sub the "U-Boat" is sort of like calling your new new ultra-light line the "Zero," after the doomed kamikaze fighter plane of WWII Japan (a legendary brand name that it’s maker, Mitsubishi, would probably rather we forgot).
Jokes aside, I simply cannot think of a more despised military name coming out of twentieth century history. I might also add that this company is based in the Netherlands, a country that was invaded and occupied by the Nazis. These guys should know better.
As if the term "U-boat" isn’t bad enough, the word "Worx" reminds me of the German word "Werke," or "company." And ending any corporate name with a sound-alike to the word "work" puts you clearly in German naming territory (think BMW: Bayerische Motoren Werke). Frankly, it would not be inconceivable that Hitler had a factory called U-Boot (German for U-boat) Werke (he didn’t).
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