A new REI new bike line called Co-op? Seriously?

The Co-op story

The Co-op story

I love REI. I was just in my local REI this weekend buying a Thule hitch rack. Been a customer forever, love their business model, their store design, their people.

However, I question the name Co-Op for their big new launch into their own branded bicycles. They kicked out Novara which customers said didn’t measure up to what they expected from REI and now there is Co-Op. A terrible name and when I say terrible, I’m speaking from a position of expertise and experience.

I’ve spend the last three years in a branding agency and one of my main jobs is, what for it, naming. In fact, I’m on a naming assignment right now for a software product and just taking a mid afternoon break to knock out this post. C0-Op, bad idea.

Nice type, bad idea

Nice type, bad idea

Ohh, I get the strategy behind this name — a historical shout-out that leverages deep REI values as a co-op. That’s a nice story and a good argument but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a totally lame name. Remember, this is a new, technologically dailed-in bike, not a hippie’s 15 pound bag of brown rice

I could, as a naming professional, let this go if it was just one bike model, say an REI cargo bike. That might even have been a sweet little name for one utility bike but not a whopping 32 model flagship bike line name.

If you read the REI copy below the photo, you can see the vibe they’re working on.  Words and expressions like “no hype” and “gimmicks,” “eclectic crew” and “simple promise” fall right in line with the REI heritage.

I get that, it’s smart, keep the brand values alive, keep finding new ways to bring emotion and dimension to what makes your story distinctive. All that doesn’t change the fact that C0-Op is a terrible name for their entire REI bike line. This sounds like the bikes they sell out of the REI basement.

Even simplicity and no frills need a bit of flash. If I’m buying a $2,299 Co-Op road bike, I’m not feeling good about showing up at the next group ride when everybody else has a cool Trek or Specialized or Cannondale model. In that setting, Co-Op says budget and cheap.

If, on the other hand, the hardcore, high price crowd isn’t the audience, then who in the “no hype” and “simple promise” group is spending three grand? The name is a mismatch either way you go, demographics-wise.

In my humble opinion, the naming strategy was probably headed in the right direction but the winning name is too flat and simply doesn’t work for any bike over a grand in price. I am a regular REI shopper and I love bikes but I’d never buy one named Co-Op even if it was for my teen kids. I love my kids too much to saddle them with a bike with a big decal that shouts “Co-op.”

Take this name down to the REI basement and leave it there. Then get back to the naming blackboard.

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