Side profile of the smart #1 undergoing wind tunnel testing
Side profile of the smart #1 undergoing wind tunnel testing. source: smart

Why smart’s naming strategy is awful for 2022 and beyond

From URLs to hashtags and just plain common sense…don’t use special characters in model names. smart #1; really?

This is about the # — the Octothorpe, number sign, pound (key), sharp, or hash. In marketing meetings and on social media, it denotes a hashtag. It’s also one of those pesky “special characters” that you’ve got to include in passwords.

Crucially, most software treats it differently from alphanumeric characters — 0-9 and A-Z. Differently?

Behind the scenes, it’s used in a lot of code and reserved for select functions. In URLs, for example, they’re used as fragments or for “hash bang” syntax (‘#!’) read by Google and other web crawlers. In Markdown, the technology behind this authoring system, putting a # in the wrong place can add a heading or affect where URLs point people.

Don't believe me? Next time you’re sending a bank transfer, add a #…anywhere…and see how that works for you. And so on.

As far as URLs are concerned, it’s not even #—our computers use %23.

Product names reflect on the company, not the product. You can name a vehicle 911, La Jamais Contente, Turbo Awesome World’s Best GT, smart #1, but those names are also products.

On social media platforms, typing only # will start to bring up possible hashtags, which we all know are informal ways to reference, talk about, share, and even use sarcastically.

No matter how determined a marketer you may be, you cannot escape certain laws of the universe: some characters are just born special.

#stillwithme? #no? #awesome!

“With combination of the “#” symbol followed by a number, smart has defined a recognizable family name for its new generation of all-electric vehicles.
Now often used to indicate the hottest topics in social media, the “#” symbol is evocative of trendsetting in the digital era - fitting, because ever since its first production car unveiling at IAA in 1997, smart has been striving for innovation and remained a trendsetter in the automotive industry.”

– smart

Oh, you’re really doing this?

Let’s run through it together. You’re launching a new model to appeal to The Youths…sorry…trendsetters.

Put yourself in The Youths’ shoes. Maybe you even own a pair. Having just left an inspiring meeting about why the new smart car should be called the #1, you pick up your phone and begin to type:


Wait…which app are you using? Because it’s not going to give you the same results. So you enter them separately, with a space:

#smart #1

You’re on Instagram? Can’t search for two hashtags at the same time. Just #1? More than 100,000,000 posts. Sports, y’all.


Some use #smart sarcastically. #1 is too short—it must be two characters. Include a space between #smart and #1…it’s random junk. Remove the space before the second hashtag (as you can see in my picture, look at the URL, it searches correctly).

Point is, calling a vehicle smart 1 would be boring, but fine. As a hashtag, it’d likely be best as #smart1. So maybe rename the whole company #smart, yeah?

I’m both a former smart fortwo owner (which I loved) and current marketer.

Like many of you who are in writing, the creative fields, automotive industry, or marketing: I consider car names as a form of currency.

Product names reflect on the company, not the product. You can name a vehicle 911, La Jamais Contente, Turbo Awesome World’s Best GT, smart #1, but those names are also products.

They reflect the internal vision, planning, design, engineering, marketing and sheer struggle in creating a new anything.

As a marketer, what are your impressions of a team who comes up with the name #1? Do you think they’re all on the same page, excited to tell their family and friends they worked on that new “hashtag car”?

As a customer, do you feel like a trendsetter because # is in the name? I’d feel more than a bit embarrassed—I work with #, I don’t want to drive a #.

I write this with the deepest respect for those who worked on the naming process—naming products, especially vehicles, is notoriously difficult and full of hidden pitfalls. I also write this with respect to those who pour their heart and soul into products sunk by bad names and marketing.

I’d love for this new smart car, a compact electric hatchback, to succeed. I also want to jump on a Zoom call and pitch a few names of my own.


sources: smart (release), (short explainer on # in URLs if you're unclear)

*Note: within an hour of this announcement and before writing this, I voiced my concerns semi-publicly to a high-ranking member of the smart team. I’ve withheld the name, but here’s what I shared in the moment.