Writer, fiction author and occasional musician.
Writer, fiction author and occasional musician.
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What’s In a Name?

Airarcs (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Airarcs (CC BY-SA 3.0)

A lot of tech companies seem to have progressed beyond usefulness and are just inventing things for the sake of it. Do we need VR? Is wireless charging really going to change the world? Can you improve lives with video messages that vanish after five seconds? Even market leaders like Apple and Samsung may have gone beyond practicality as they seem to be just changing things because they can. Upgrading hardware feels relatively pointless, and that’s been the case for a few years now.

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Amongst all these whimsical former pioneers, however, is a company that appears to be increasingly dedicated to actually making things better, not just adding kitsch gadgets. They also seem to be following through on their pledge to improve the world by doing exactly that, instead of creating a social media monopoly and putting some spin on the press releases. I am talking, of course, about Tesla.

Nikola Tesla (Public Domain)
Nikola Tesla (Public Domain)
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Tesla Motors was named after Nikola Tesla, a Victorian-era engineer and inventor who has become a legend of stratospheric proportions, and rightly so. Without him we would not have Alternating Current, so to adopt his name is a fitting tribute.

It was announced last week that Tesla Motors has changed its name to, simply, Tesla. As the company is expanding from its roots as a car manufacturer to developing electric solutions, batteries, and solar power, this seems like a logical move. However, it did get me thinking about the effects of changing a name.

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When a company, charity, organisation, or group decides to change its name, even if that means just dropping one word from its moniker like Tesla has, there are obviously going to be ramifications. The former name is still associated with that body, and so needs to be maintained in some way; particularly in the internet age where any domain name is for sale and so many sites offer subdomains or profiles with custom URLs. Currently, if you go to teslamotors.com you are redirected to tesla.com – a fairly obvious result – and many other organisations have undertaken similar practices.

Tesla are still perhaps best known for their cars, although both the huge-battery-that-can-power-your-house and the roof-tiles-that-are-really-solar-panels caused significant stirs on social media. If you are not aware these new products, you really should watch this video:

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Changing their name not only opens Tesla’s horizons by removing the restriction of ‘Motors’ but also further solidifies the brand within the tech market. Keeping their old web address, apart from being an SEO habit many companies have developed over recent years to prevent dead links, reassures their existing customers and keeps their foothold within the often aggressive online world.

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In fact, a lot of companies purchase web domains that are similar to their own, either due to common misspellings, or because they are former names or brands. For example, amzaon.com sends you straight to the Amazon homepage. Colgate – which was founded as Colgate-Palmolive – own colgatepalmolive.com, but when you visit (at least from the UK) you are immediately sent to colgate.co.uk.

The point is that the former name is just as important as the current one, and what Tesla are doing is preserving their brand integrity. Hypothetically, if one of the original partners who helped build Tesla, but had since left, decided to launch their own electric car company, they could not call it “Tesla Motors.” Apart from the obvious legal consequences – where they would obviously not have a case, even if they had been part of the founding group – the fact that the website, social media, and so forth had been preserved by Tesla would surely cause them to understand that it was a futile and petty battle to engage in. But, under those circumstances, one would assume any rational person would look into all of that before embarking on such a route, and realising there was no possible way they could use said name, they would instead form their new company under a different title.

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It would be both incorrect and arrogant for anyone to accuse Tesla of cybersquatting teslamotors.com, as it would be to allege Colgate were doing the same with colgatepalmolive.com. Simply put, when an organisation changes their name they have every right to preserve their old one and use it to point visitors to their new web location.

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Changing a name can be a good thing. In the case of Tesla, the new title is simpler and clearer, and a more defined brand. Dropping that one word makes it stronger, and allows them to encompass more as an organisation. I doubt anyone would begrudge them the preservation of their heritage. They are an exciting and dynamic company with some highly interesting and potentially revolutionary ideas, yet the simplicity and elegance of the execution is what makes them most appealing. Whatever the politics of the individuals that run it, as an organisation Tesla is setting an outstanding example. I hope they do well under their new name, and wish them continued success.

 


Seb Reilly is a writer, fiction author and occasional musician.

sebreilly.com

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