By Harry McCracken | Monday, September 19, 2011 at 3:21 am
The best-known name in the business of renting DVDs by mail is, of course, Netflix–a brand that’s been with us since 1998, and which is as synonymous with its category as any American company ever has been. But now it’s reserving the name “Netflix” for its streaming business and redubbing the snail-mail portion as “Qwikster.” By doing so, it’s dumping a great brand and beginning all over again with one that starts with absolutely no value whatsoever.
Already, people are amused by the fact that there’s a @qwikster account on Twitter that has nothing to do with Qwikster. But that could be just the start of the confusion. You see, it’s not instantly obvious how to spell “Qwikster”–I’ve forgotten repeatedly already–and there’s a fascinating roster of existing products and services that have similar names.
Let’s run through them, shall we?
Quixtar is the name that Amway, the venerable seller of personal-care products, home-case items, and other goods once gave to its Internet business–but it’s phased it out now, reducing the chances of any confusion. (Full disclosure, not that it matters: Amway sometimes advertises on Technologizer.)
QuickStar is the name of a company that makes fax software and other utilities for Windows and long-defunct models of HP palmtops (assuming it’s still with us–I can’t tell from its Web site, which was last updated in 2004 and was awfully quaint even then, and which touts compatibility with Windows 98).
Kwikster is an OK Cupid member from Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He’s outgoing, fun, and adventurous; likes cooking, bicycling, and all kinds of movies from gory slashers to chick flicks; leans towards the rock spectrum of music; and dislikes mushrooms and most seafood. Oh, and he’s a Taurus.
Quickster is a “revolutionary” collapsible portable net, useful for a variety of sports–lacrosse apparently being one of them–which you can dismantle, fold up, and put in a bag. It features a Tension-Tite(tm) frame and looks like a lot of fun!
Kwik Star is a name used by some locations in a chain of 350 convenience stores in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa that’s been around since 1965. In words that Reed Hastings might agree with, its owners say they’re “mindful of the past, but don’t live in it.” It also goes under the name Kwik Trip (which, just to muddle matters further, is no relation to another, larger convenience store chain called QuikTrip–thankfully, it doesn’t also go by QuikStar).
Quik-Star is a brand of compact lapping unit manufactured by a company called Poly-Metric instruments, who says “We invite you to compare and see if any other small lapping unit can add up the following advantages for a grand total of efficient performance to the user.” I think it’s used in polishing gemstones, but I could be wrong.
Kickstar is a “hard rockin’ trio” from North Central Montana–Peaches, Jimi, and Eric. They “can handle outdoor gigs, festivals, or large indoor halls” and appear to have fans in Europe as well as stateside.
The Quik star is the famed spokesrabbit who’s been shilling for a popular powdered chocolate drink mix manufactured by an international food-product conglomerate since 1973–although I guess he prefers to be called the Nesquik star these days. (And having just checked the Nesquik site, I see he’s missing!)
The folks at Netflix are smart cookies. I suspect that they’re aware that Kwikster may get misspelled, has a retro, Web 1.5 sound to it, and just isn’t as clear and appealing as “Netflix.” I even wonder if they intentionally chose a name that’s not all that great because they’re not all that excited about the business they’re saddling it with. (If they’d called themselves Qwikster when they founded the company back in 1997, it might have meaningfully hurt their chances at success.)
There’s one simple way to avoid confusing Qwikster with similarly-named foldable nets, lapping units, convenience stores, and other items. I plan to use it myself, and I bet I’m not alone: Just continue to think of it as…Netflix.