Quartz was announced today as the name for Atlantic Monthly’s forthcoming online business news platform. In an article discussing the decision with Atlantic’s editor and chief, Kevin Delaney, Forbes framed the decision as counterintuitive. While we agree that the name is category-atypical, the underlying strategy presented by the decision-maker helps the name feel quite fitting.

In fact, the language used in the article by Kevin Delaney in the article is in many ways a template for how a name should be introduced: with tactical rationale, with messaging foresight, and, most vitally, with confidence.

CONSUMER IMPACT: 4/5 (Creates Advantage)

Quartz is familiar in the sense that we know what it is; it’s used by brands in other categories, and it’s easy to say and spell. But unlike more descriptive competitors (from Businessweek to the Wall Street Journal) and heritage-named pubs (Forbes, Bloomberg, Barron’s) it uses a suggestive concept to define the brand. As such, we agree with Mr. Delaney that the name does take a road less traveled, though it may not

have the breakthrough element of “surprise” he suggests. Nevertheless, the brevity, the attractiveness of the word and the image it evokes – and the complementary URL that further accentuates its use of atypical Q and Z letters – does create an alluring name that promises memorability and social friendliness. It will be interesting to watch how the connection from Quartz to QZ.com is articulated – be it graphically or with written explanation. (Oddly, the current twitter and tumblr icons are a simple ‘Q’ – sans ‘Z’.) There may be some concern about reverse linking QZ to Quartz (instead of the more likely Quiz.) But this is the type of learning that comes quickly to the average

consumer, and – once understood – the convenient mnemonic will greatly benefit the brand which benefits from being born in an age when shortened URLs were relevant (a transition that Overstock, for example, struggled to make mid-life.) Other likely associations of timekeeping and/or crystal (suggesting both clarity and transparency and prismatic color) are all positive.

BRAND ARTICULATION: 4/5 (Creates Advantage)

Here’s a great example of the importance of a vision. On the surface, Quartz can seem out of left field. It does not readily harken back to the name “Atlantic” in any thematic or structural way. It does not embody any surface-level meaning that we associate with the Atlantic brand either. What it does do, however, is tell a more sophisticated story that helps to advance brand values, especially in the way it’s presented as “… a metaphor for our intent to cover obsessively the tectonic shifts in the global economy.” No, this wont be the first association of a passive reader, but it embodies a brand vision that one would expect will carry through the visual and tonal spirit – and actions – of the brand. When launched with purpose and vision, names have the capacity to rally these types of ambitions: self-fulfilling prophesies that create built-in benchmarks for “is this in the spirit of the brand we’re building?” at every juncture. Quartz could just be a unique, pretty name, but when attached to a vision statement of this nature, it becomes something more meaningful: a brand-empowering concept.

COMPETITIVE DIFFERENTIATION: 5/5 (Leader)

When thinking about the broad and cluttered competitive field of online journalism, Quartz clearly claims a very unique space in tone and meaning. Slate comes to mind as a similarly short, simple (and mineral) name, though its secondary associations are relevant for very different reasons. Salon (which sounds so nice to say when followed with “dot com”) is another noteworthy name in the online news space – with a name that’s brief and category-differentiated. But in the same way Quartz can come to define a brand spirit internally, it clearly has the potential to carve a distinct competitive position as well in its uniqueness.

In short, Quartz is a nice example of how an abstract name – when chosen for smart reasons – can quickly come to embody something strong and memorable.

NAMEGRADE: 13/15 (A-)

How are NAME GRADES calculated? Read about our 3 axes of evaluation here.