Why, Hightail?

The very popular file sharing service, formerly known as YouSendIt, has now changed their name to Hightail.  No, keep reading…I’m serious.

This is what their homepage takeover message looks like:


So the obvious question is…why?  And let me qualify that question with some color.

Why, if you’re a file sharing service, a service that allows YOU to take a large file and SEND IT to someone else (for free on the basic plan, I might add) change your name from YouSendIt to, well, anything else?

Why, if you’ve invested all this time and money for nine years in the back end cloud storage virtualized pool infrastructure, and invested in acquisitions and technological upgrades, and invested in marketing and advertising, would you change your name from YouSendIt to, well, anything else?

Why, even if you’re announcing broadening your offering from file sharing into digital file collaboration services, would you change your name from YouSendIt to, well, anything else?

Why, when there’s nine years of brand equity built up, when you’ve outlasted some pretty high profile would-be competitors, (including the flailing DropBox,) when you’ve gotten 4 out of 5 stars from PC Magazine, when you’re finally turning a profit on the premium services, when you’ve become the generic term for Internet file sharing services (literally, people verb-ize file sharing as “I’ll YouSendIt to you later,”) would you change your name from YouSendIt to, well, anything else?

It could be a number of things.  It could be new CEO Brand Garlinghouse (formerly of Yahoo!) putting his fingerprint on the company he’s been appointed to run.

It could be that YouSendIt doesn’t sound sexy or silly enough, and they wanted to sound more like Yahoo!, or Hulu, or Etsy or whatever.

YouSendIt could have done a lot of things to refresh – which they’ve done with Hightail.  New, HTML5-coded website.  New features.  New look and feel.  Heck, they could have updated the logo.

And the folks at Hightail know the name thing is an issue.  It merits above-the-fold position on their homepage with a message that says “watch this short video to learn why we changed our name.”  Yes.  Let’s:

Okay, but still, the new name thing confounds me.  In the video, you hear some of the talking heads saying things like “the name YouSendIt constrained us in terms of our vision.”  [Tell THAT to Google.]  And “we don’t want a name that holds us back.”  And my favorite “we finally have a second chance to make a first impression.”  And that’s the quote that really stands out for me.

Because here’s the dirty little secret about branding that nobody teaches you in b-school.  You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.  You only get one chance to make one impression to one prospect at a time.  And in my opinion, Hightail doesn’t make a bad impression.  It does something far worse.  It makes no impression at all.  It confuses rather than clarifies.

Don’t get me wrong.  I get “hightail” as a verb.  “I’ll hightail it over to you.”  Or “you hightail it over to me.”  But we’re not talking about meetings here.  [Really, “I’ll hightail it over to you” means “I’ll be right there.”  Not “I’ll get you that large file right away.”  So there’s even a semantics issue. Ugh.] Plus, it’s such a hipster-cum-corporate-acceptable piece of jargon. I wonder if they’re now headquartered in Dumbo?

From a pure brand perspective, the truth is that YouSendIt was a GREAT name for a brand.  It was functional.  It was short and sweet.  But mostly, and bestly (?) it conveyed a promise (You.  Send.  It. ) which, after all, is the heavy lifting of a brand.

Let’s watch and see what happens together.

10 thoughts on “Why, Hightail?

  1. Joe sacco July 19, 2013 / 4:09 am

    Outstanding rant! Now, don’t get me wrong… I don’t mean rant in a negative way. I mean rant in a GOOD way, as in “we need more people who are willing to rant for what is right, and smart, and strategic.”

    Another fine example is the online “everything” store (or collection of online stores) that WAS appropriately called “NetShops.” It’s right there in black and white, we’re on the interNET (or “the net”), we are a collection of shops, and a place for people to shop… on the INTERNET! You have the PERFECT name for what you do, you build equity in your brand, you own NetShops.com for Chrissake! What brilliant move comes next? You change your name… to Hayneedle… Hay-WHAT?! I know, I know, it’s like “finding a needle in a haystack.” It’s a bargain you can’t get anywhere else. Well, guess what? You can get those products somewhere else, and you can get them A LOT CHEAPER somewhere else! So, your real brand equity was in the fact that you were the most top-of-mind place to buy from a shop on the internet. Nothing more complicated than that.

    But enter some fancy-schmancy branding firm and new management from Wal-Mart and Google and God-knows-where-else… and suddenly NetShops is not (to quote Mr. Ashway) silly enough. I think there is a confluence of some misguided sill-equity out there who thinks that your name has to be silly enough to be radically different enough to be memorable enough to get you to your next round of VC funding. It’s survival of the silliest.

    And that a silly way to market your brand.


    • Nader Ashway July 19, 2013 / 3:02 pm

      Excellent rant your own self, Joe! It’s confounding how these things happen. I think you hit it on the head when you said “enter fancy-schmancy branding firm and new management…” That always seems to be the trigger mechanism sequence for the mid-life brand crisis. Kind of like a brand buying a Corvette!


  2. jsacco99 July 19, 2013 / 5:58 pm

    And if some net firm bought Corvette they might be enticed to change that name to something like “RoadRocket!”


    • Nader Ashway July 19, 2013 / 8:20 pm

      “RoadRocket” actually makes sense, in much the same way that YouSendIt or NetShops make sense. Fancy-schmancy branding firm would rebrand Corvette as “pixie” or “vetsy” or “chickshack” or “cha-ching-a” or “buddy-bumper” or…wait…MAYBE I SHOULD BE A FANCY-SCHMANCY BRANDING FIRM!


  3. Wayne July 19, 2013 / 9:59 pm

    Horrible name. It must be the new CEO’s doing. Idiot.


  4. Josh August 5, 2013 / 6:33 pm

    How disappointing. I could understand a name change if you want to break away from a stigma, but please get something that is much more descriptive and functional. I love this piece on “Why, Hightail?” because it’s exactly how I reacted when I saw the new name for the first time.

    I’m all for change when goals are not being achieved, however, brand recognition is something so valuable that when it’s achieved, and YouSendIt had achieved it, you stick with it through thick and thin. It’s like Staples. Is that the only thing they sell? Of course not…

    When a person or animal is “hightailing” it’s because in many cases they’re fleeing from danger. Was YouSendIt in any kind of branding danger? I don’t think so. I’ve been using their services for several years now and was always telling people how reliable it was to use it instead of the other “boxy” services.

    Well, that’s the end of my rant.


  5. Fleagle Beagle September 11, 2013 / 2:13 pm

    This is a subject I’ve been obsessed with for the past several months… and you described my feelings perfectly. A company whose name has become the industry standard for that particular service suddenly decides to change the name. Its pretty obvious that Garlinghouse is like every other inflated suit I’ve known throughout my career… they are bored, thoughtless egomanics trying desperately to become the latest rockstar with their “genius” ideas.

    Hightail is sure doing a lot of eblast promotion to save its dying ass. But its a lost cause. Might as well close the coffin and throw on some dirt.

    I’ve already moved onto Box. Simple, lightning fast and effective.

    Goodbye, YouSendIt. I will miss the friendly little paper airplane.


  6. markkolier September 15, 2015 / 2:19 pm

    Two years later and every time I get an email from Hightail (and I am NOT a subscriber or user) I wonder – ‘what’s this?’. Branding experts have this as a poster child of what not to do.


  7. jsacco99 September 15, 2015 / 4:10 pm

    After a long, long time it finally dawned on me… Hightail, as in “hightail it out of here” which, of course, is a colloquialism for “really fast!” So, I had the “duh” moment, but it still didn’t resonate with me as a brand. In fact, it’s still brand-confusing, albeit a fantastic service.


  8. jsacco99 September 15, 2015 / 4:12 pm

    And don’t forget Netflix = Qwikster… what in God’s name were they thinking?!


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