At-home delivery services feel like the prince of commerce—youthful, up and coming yet not quite ready for a prime-time, Kingly role. What used to be reserved for Valentine's bouquets and Friday night pizza is now the standard for everything from groceries to entire wardrobes, much of it in the form of subscription services. Netflix was one of the first to kick off the trend with movies, and you’ve likely heard of Blue Apron for dinners and Trunk Club or StitchFix for clothes.

Like many startups, the naming process for companies can become an afterthought when so much goes into the idea itself. With the rapid growth of subscription business models and an increasingly competitive market, a distinctive, thoughtful name can fuel early customer acquisition tactics. With that in mind, meet Firstleaf.

Company Overview

Firstleaf is a wine subscription service aiming to minimize the steps a bottle takes from vineyard to consumer. Members choose to receive boxes 4, 6 or 12 times a year with each box consisting of 6 curated wines based on preferences and past orders. Firstleaf began as a subsidiary of Food and Wine Magazine, although their site currently bares no reference to the connection.

Naming Technique

Firstleaf uses a conventional compound structure method of combining two common, short and single syllable words to create a new name. This technique can be found across multiple markets, including other subscription boxes with names like Birchbox and Pourmore, as well as in the food and beverage space with brands like SodaStream or KitchenAid. 

Competitor Names

Ordering direct from vineyards or joining a “wine of the month” club is certainly not a new idea, but the trend of subscription services continues to grow and so does Firstleaf’s competition. Winc (formerly Club W), Glassful, Tasting Room, Bright Cellars and Plonk Wine Club are just a handful of businesses with similar business models.

Firstleaf Rating System Scorecard 01

Rating & Analysis - 2.5 Stars

Strategy: In his statement on the company website, Founder and CEO of Firstleaf, Philip James, says, “We’re challenging the status quo and minimizing the number of steps between great vineyards and you” and that their goal is to “revolutionize the wine industry!” Ambitious, but not very original. The concept is one wine consumers will appreciate and easily embrace, but the name does not totally add up with what the company promises.

There is little about Firstleaf that helps gain brand recognition or credibility in a progressively crowded space. Other than maybe being “first” to bring a more curated approach to a wine subscription, the name does not spark curiosity or make any connection to a “wine revolution."  Firstleaf doesn't offer clues as to what the company provides and misses an opportunity to take advantage of using a wine term or play on words that is more instantly recognizable to potential customers.

Concept: Part of the issue with Firstleaf’s name lies in its ambiguity. When asking people unfamiliar with the brand what they thought it may be, answers ranged from lawn care to a plant nursery to marijuana. No mentions of wine. Sure, grapevines that create wine do have leaves. And they are important when it comes to health of the vines and seasonal protection. However, this is not something that the average American wine consumer knows or cares about.

Firstleaf also has a problem with this backstory in the fact that wine culture has no tradition or significance around the first leaf on a vine. Additionally, this story is not told on the website or literature and can only be found in press releases from the company launch. There is a fine line that separates sincerity and shallowness to be observed when creating a backstory. This one falls on the wrong side.

Look: Another unfortunate choice in the naming of Firstleaf is the combination of two words without the distinction of capitalizing “leaf” or just keeping the two separate. Combining two words can, and often does work in naming (Facebook is a notable compounded named example), but that’s not to say every two-word combination looks good together. It’s hard to tell at first glance if you should recognize the word as already existing, or if there is something you’re missing. Firstleaf does take advantage of beautiful branding and design. Their visual identity is modern, clean and elegant. But we’re looking at the name and that’s where opportunity was left behind.

The current logo consists of an elegant serifed font that creatively turns the “i” into a number 1, but this takes some time to recognize and does not change the fact that the word feels unnatural to read.

Sound: Even more so than reading the word, Firstleaf is hard to say and understand. Since the two words are pushed into one, the inclination is to say them without a break which naturally comes out as “fur stleaf." It confuses the mouth and ears, which is never a plus for recognition or sharing. In the wine subscription market, Plonk stands out as a name that works on an appreciated level of cleverness. It sounds odd at first, but after revisiting the name and saying it out loud, one realizes it’s an onomatopoeia for a bottle being uncorked. Firstleaf misses the mark on sound.

Distinction: Firstleaf is a distinctive name when placed next to the competition, but not for positive reasons. The idea of being the “first” to source and curate custom boxes for customers is a good start. It creates a feeling of confidence and originality around the brand. But it’s almost as if the second part of the word was picked at random. There are simply too many things that come to mind around the word “leaf” before wine. 

The name is distinctive because the other brands make use of wine terms, references or, at a minimum, the letter “W." Firstleaf stands out in the crowd, just not in the way it should.

Overall, Firstleaf has a lot of potential but comes up short of greatness. The concept is excellent. The branding is beautiful. The website is user friendly. With a change in name, an updated and thoughtful backstory, and a more consistent tone this business could establish themselves as experts and leaders in the marketplace. 

Britt Stromberg

Strategy Director

Britt Stromberg is the Co-Founder of States of Matter and our Director of Strategy. When you put your business and brand in her hands, she will think crazy carefully, listen to her gut, sleep on it—then do the research to be certain.

Filed under: What's in a Name?

Tagged with: Naming, Branding, Firstleaf