How Fun Nicknames Can Seriously Elevate Your Employer Branding

March 18, 2021

Photo of Toast employee looking through a cardboard cutout in the shape of a piece of toast

 From Amazonians to Zapponians, Accenturions to Zyngites, employee nicknames have flourished in recent years as companies make a more concerted effort to build cohesive cultures. It seems you can’t have team spirit these days without a team nickname. (See the poem at the end of this post for an overview of some notable names.)

There is something coldly utilitarian about referring to the people who work for you as workers, employees, or human resources, though all are better than serfs, the name attached to some of the earliest workforces. None of those labels resonates like, well, Resonators (the nickname at First Resonance, a manufacturing software company). Nor do they gleam like Sparklers or exude fun like Hulugans, Intercomrades, or Parse.ly’s Sprigs.

Some of this nominal employer branding has been done by companies; much has been done by employees themselves.

Which is the case at Toast, a Boston-based restaurant technology company, whose employees have dubbed themselves Toasters. “That name came about organically,” says Michael Powers, the director of employee experience and engagement at Toast. “We are an extremely punny company.”

As evidence, Michael notes that children of employees are called Croutons and their pets, Biscuits. The resource group for Jewish employees is called Challah, and the one for the LBGTQIA+ community is Multigrain. They host a monthly podcast for employees called The Jam, and have a spotlight magazine appropriately named The Slice. Clearly, Toast is a company fixated on making a lot of dough.

A team name can serve as the glue that holds employees together

Sports franchises the world over figured out the importance of nicknames long ago. The sports world wouldn’t be the same without Les Bleus (not IBM, but the national soccer team of France), the Springboks (the national rugby team of South Africa), or the UConn Huskies (a U.S. college basketball team).

Michael says that sports teams know exactly what they’re doing. “At the end of the day, you want to build raving fans,” he says, “and your employees, similarly to sports fans, are your brand ambassadors.”

It’s easier for Cheeseheads to rally around the Packers than to get fired up about Green Bay. So maybe it’s also easier to be energized by being a Toaster, rather than simply a worker at Toast.

“Community is so important to us at Toast,” Michael says. “There’s an identity piece here. When we think of what it means to be a Toaster, it comes down to having a strong sense of belonging, being a part of this amazing community, and driving our mission forward in everything we do. That element of identity is a real strength for the company, and having it as part of our DNA has allowed us to maintain this strong sense of community as we scale.” 

Not every company is as willing to seize the nomenclative moment. Alas, employees of Slack are not Slackers and those at Sprint are not Sprinters (in fact, they’re now T-Mobilers). Analysts at Goldman Sachs are not Goldbricks and, sigh, CPAs at H&R Block are not Blockheads.

On the other hand, some companies have not only embraced a nickname for their employees, they’ve developed tags for recruits, alumni, or even ride-sharing workers. The Google workforce is made up of Googlers. And new hires are Nooglers, alumni are Xooglers, and commuting employees are Carpooglers.

At Pinterest, employees are Pinployees. Summer help comes from Pinterns. At Twitter, employees are Tweeps; boomerangs are ReTweeps.

It’s all fun — with a serious purpose.

“When you have a naming convention around who your employees are,” Michael says, “you’re giving people a greater sense of belonging, a greater sense of home, and a feeling of loyalty. It elevates the feeling of it just being a job, it’s like you are part of something bigger.”

Employee Branding: A Poem

Googlers, Globers, Xeroids, Snoos.

Hubbers, Peakons, Leveroos.

Britelings, Boxers, Boschlers, Tweeps.

Splunkers, Hutchies, Ultipeeps.
 

Fastronauts, Monzonauts, Optinauts, Bees.

Shopifolks, Microsofties, Pinployees.

Kingsters, Fools, Wisers, Toasters.

Brainy Bainies? They’re not boasters.
 

’Badgers, Sharks, Pandas, Lyfters.

Tabloids, Squares, Whammies, Drifters.
 

Quorans, Cyborgs, Resonators.

Phantoms, Mobsters, Cladiators.
 

Flipsters, Gigsters, Jivers, Owls.

Citrites, Trussels, Chimers, Gauls.
 

FlyMates, LimeMates, Figmates, Xeros.

Hulugans? All corp’rate heroes.
 

[Here are the companies, in order of appearance, whose nicknames appear above: Google, Globant, Xerox, Reddit, GitHub, Peakon, Lever, Eventbrite, Box, Bosch, Twitter, Splunk, Hutch, Ultimate Software (now UKG), Fast, Monzo Bank, Optimizely, CloudBees, Shopify, Microsoft, Pinterest, King, The Motley Fool, Wise (formerly TransferWise), Toast, Bain & Co., Honeybadger, DigitalOcean, PandaScore, Lyft, Tableau, Square, Wonolo, Drift, Quora, Cybrilla, First Resonance, Phantom, Mobiquity, Ironclad, Flipkart, Gigster, Jive Software, Hootsuite, Citrix, Truss, Chime, Exotel, Flywire, Limeade, Figma, Xero, Hulu]

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