First there was e.
Then got here i.
Now it’s +.
With the proliferation of streaming platforms, the plus signal has turn into an all-purpose marker that alerts limitless hours of on-demand exhibits.
Plus-sign streaming providers embrace ESPN+ (began in 2018), Apple TV+ (2019), Disney+ (2019), BET+ (2019), AMC+ (2020) and Discovery+ (2021). On Wednesday, streaming entered peak plus with ViacomCBS’s rebranding of CBS All Entry. The corporate has determined to name it Paramount+.
Tacking on the plus signal to the identify of a widely known film studio could be a really efficient method to inform prospects that the platform presents films and one thing further. Or it could possibly be “a catastrophe,” mentioned Mike Carr, the co-founder of the branding firm NameStormers.
“The plus is a good concept short-term and a horrible concept long-term,” mentioned Mr. Carr, who has helped give you names for hundreds of shoppers, together with CarMax, the used automotive firm, and Offended Orchard, the onerous cider label.
“It’s cool and hip now,” Mr. Carr continued, “however you’ll be able to’t personal or outline a generic time period like ‘plus,’ as a result of your entire rivals are on the market doing the identical factor.”
The streaming platform Hulu used it in 2010, when it began the Hulu Plus subscription service. In 2015, the corporate subtracted the plus and the identify grew to become simply plain Hulu. “We’ve had a blast with our previous good friend Plus,” Hulu mentioned when it introduced the change, “however it’s time to maneuver on.”
The plus pattern got here alongside after the craze for dot-com period names — eBay, Esurance and Eharmony — that seized on the ‘e,’ for digital, as a signifier of on-line leisure and purchasing. Apple famously popularized the lowercase ‘i,’ adopted by iGoogle, iHeartMedia and iZotope. Ampersands additionally flourished, because of a slew of fashion labels resembling Me & You, Me&Ro, Stella & Haas and Stella & Dot.
The plus signal has turn into such a streaming-industry commonplace that the film star and entrepreneur Ryan Reynolds mocked the pattern in a business for his Mint Cellular wi-fi provider. His parody promoted Mint Mobile Plus, a fictional streaming service.
A number of professional brand namers — the naming industry has exploded from a handful of specialty outlets within the 1980s to hundreds of outfits — mentioned that utilizing “plus” may find yourself stifling progress. Mr. Carr pointed to monetary establishments that battle to distinguish between new bank card choices and should resort to assigning colours resembling silver, gold, platinum and black.
“I can’t say what number of occasions I’ve seen this occur — there’s at all times a subsequent era, a model 3.Zero or 4.0,” Mr. Carr mentioned. “So does it turn into Paramount Plus Plus? Paramount Plus Plus Plus?”
Final 12 months new streaming providers like NBCUniversal’s Peacock platform and AT&T’s HBO Max managed to withstand the fad. However with so many others counting on the image, the early adopters “are most likely now feeling sort of irritated that everyone copied them,” mentioned Julie Doughty, who runs the Naming & Verbal Id apply on the branding firm Landor & Fitch.
Now the plus signal could find yourself turning into shorthand for streaming itself, “in the identical means the pound signal grew to become the hashtag,” Ms. Doughty mentioned.
Executives at naming firms mentioned that ViacomCBS and Disney more than likely went by months of debates and focus teams, in addition to trademark and overseas language checks, earlier than approving the plus-sign manufacturers.
“It’s not that ‘plus’ is the most effective identify,” mentioned Steve Manning, a founding father of the Igor Naming Company. “It’s the one which survives, as a result of all the pieces else is eviscerated. It’s the least objectionable alternative to an enormous viewers.”
Mr. Manning, whose agency turned Courtroom TV into truTV, likened the duty of identify choice to picking a pizza by committee.
“Any person’s going to be lactose illiberal, any individual’s not going to eat meat,” he mentioned. “You’ll be fortunate in case you’re consuming something greater than only a gluten-free crust with cheese on an excellent day.”
Alexandra Watkins, whose branding agency Eat My Phrases got here up with Smitten for a California ice cream enterprise and Neato for a robotic vacuum, mentioned she tried to keep away from names “that seem like somebody got drunk and played Scrabble.” She acknowledged having as soon as offered a shopper on a reputation that included “plus” — and was stunned to earn $30,000 for it.
With so many streaming firms having adopted the image, she mentioned ViacomCBS “utterly missed a possibility” by naming its platform Paramount+, moderately than going with one thing extra imaginative.
“Plus is the bottom frequent denominator,” she mentioned. “It’s lazy, and the straightforward means out.”