Enertia: Can Brammo move product with this name?

Originally published Jul 14, 2009

Watch out! There’s a new electric motorcycle in town. It’s the Enertia, from Brammo. Yes, like the word inertia, but with an E, which The Name Inspector supposes stands for electric. So, electric inertia.

Inertia. Kind of an unusual word choice for a motorcycle, don’t you think? Inertia, as we all remember from physics class, is the tendency of a physical object to stay at rest or, if it’s in motion, to maintain direction and velocity until it’s acted upon by an external force. If you imagine a motorcycle in motion, you can think of inertia as a synonym for momentum: this thing will keep on going–just try to stop it! That seems to be what Brammo is going for. On the Enertia website they use the slogan “Enertia is Momentum for Change”.

The Name Inspector is willing to wager, however, that this is not the first idea that will pop into most people’s minds. They’ll think of the word inertia as it’s used in the everyday world, where it means, as the Merriam-Webster online dictionary puts it, “indisposition to motion, exertion, or change: INERTNESS”.

Inertia. Inertness. Stillness. Just sitting there. Not going anywhere. No energy or motivation. Lying on the couch, not doing what you’re supposed to be doing.

It’s actually hard to think of another name that so clearly communicates exactly the wrong message. Let’s face it, people are going to be skeptical about an electric motorcycle. They’re going to be concerned that it just won’t have enough oomph. Putting the word inertia in their minds isn’t going to help with that. The Name Inspector loves this quote from an otherwise rather positive review of the Enertia: “I cannot think of a more stupid name for a motorbike. I mean my bike cannot get over 35mph but because it is called the Ruckus I always feel something exciting might happen.”

Maybe the name Enertia is part of a daring, counterintuitive marketing concept. This is the motorcycle for people who don’t really like motorcycles! Or any form of transportation, or movement, really. Don’t worry, it’s electric. It only goes 51 mph, for Pete’s sake–just hop on! No, actually, get on carefully, holding on tight to the handlebars–but first make sure your helmet straps are properly adjusted. Now are you ready for the ride of your life? No? Good–don’t get too excited. This is really just a moped without the pedals–a noped. OK, ride carefully, and you’ll get there eventually if your battery doesn’t run out.

There. The Name Inspector just had to get that sarcastic little tirade out of his system. But it may not be far from the truth. In a 2007 interview for the Portland Tribune, Brammo design director Brian Wismann said the Enertia “was designed to appeal to somebody like me who has always loved motorcycles but perhaps was too intimidated to go out and buy one”. He also said it was made to be “really inviting to sit on”. Like a cool, zippy armchair!

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