Several professional brand namers — the naming industry has exploded from a handful of specialty shops in the 1980s to thousands of outfits — said that using “plus” could end up stifling growth. Mr. Carr pointed to financial institutions that struggle to differentiate between new credit card offerings and must resort to assigning colors such as silver, gold, platinum and black.
“I can’t say how many times I’ve seen this happen — there’s always a next generation, a version 3.0 or 4.0,” Mr. Carr said. “So does it become Paramount Plus Plus? Paramount Plus Plus Plus?”
Last year new streaming services like NBCUniversal’s Peacock platform and AT&T’s HBO Max managed to resist the fad. But with so many others relying on the symbol, the early adopters “are probably now feeling kind of irritated that everybody copied them,” said Julie Doughty, who runs the Naming & Verbal Identity practice at the branding company Landor & Fitch.
Now the plus sign may end up becoming shorthand for streaming itself, “in the same way the pound sign became the hashtag,” Ms. Doughty said.
Executives at naming companies said that ViacomCBS and Disney most likely went through months of debates and focus groups, as well as trademark and foreign language checks, before approving the plus-sign brands.
“It’s not that ‘plus’ is the best name,” said Steve Manning, a founder of the Igor Naming Agency. “It’s the one that survives, because everything else is eviscerated. It’s the least objectionable choice to a massive audience.”
Mr. Manning, whose firm turned Court TV into truTV, likened the task of name selection to choosing a pizza by committee.