Our brand and what it says about us

Addressing the Xenomorph in the room

Max Deeley, CMO, Nuke From Orbit

Date: 6th November 2023

“In the current climate, is the brand problematic?”

That was the first thing I said to James (our fearless leader) when he told me about his idea. The older you get, the more risk-averse you become, and conscious of what’s happening elsewhere in the world right now, I worried about the kind of backlash we might get from anyone who thought we were making light of nuclear weapons. If I was going to come on board as CMO, then selfishly, the brand’s reputation was also mine. Building a marketing and communications strategy from scratch, I wanted to control the controllables. At this early stage in the company’s development, it felt like that was the brand first and foremost.

The nuclear option

The Nuclear Option

But was I being overly sensitive? I loved the concept, and who doesn’t love Aliens (spoiler alert, that’s the inspiration for our brand)? And anyway, ‘the nuclear option’ has become a common parlance. In the United States Senate, for example, the nuclear option is “…a parliamentary procedure that allows the Senate to override a standing rule by a simple majority, avoiding the two-thirds supermajority normally required to invoke cloture on a resolution to amend Senate rules”. What a mouthful. But you get the point.

But more broadly, the nuclear option is the most drastic or extreme response possible to a particular situation. The more I thought about it, the more I thought, “That’s exactly what we are!” So, was I creating more work for myself by trying to unpick the one item on a very long to-do list that was already ticked off when, truthfully, I’d struggle to come up with something as apt?

Embrace the chaos

Then, the feedback started to roll in. In the early days, people we spoke to knew our brand name but not what we did. One former colleague told me, “Possibly the greatest name for a tech biz since WebSideStory?” James was getting similar feedback. “BTW, I think Nuke From Orbit is one of the best names for an app I’ve seen. Assume inspiration from Aliens movie? I’d love to know what it does.”

And suddenly, all of my fears washed away. No matter how big your marketing budget is, you can’t buy that kind of reaction to a brand. So, it was time to pull on my big boy pants and embrace the chaos.

A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. But then would it not be better to do away with them entirely?”

Ronald Regan, 26th January 1984

This article’s theme might as well be if it ‘ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ And that’s how I feel about this quote from the former President of the United States because it perfectly encapsulates what we at Nuke From Orbit think about nuclear weapons. We don’t like them, and we believe they should remain the preserve of science fiction. Our company, mission and technology are deadly serious, but our brand? Well, that’s satire. And we live in a world where satire has never been more important to hold those in power responsible.

Cautionary tails from the future

I’m not going to pretend we’re the first to recognise the incredible power of film and television to send a warning sign or hold up a mirror to society. But if we’d go so far as to name a company after a quote from our favourite sci-fi film, then gosh darn it, we’re going to dissect it. Aliens satirises several relevant themes that inform our decisions today and the kind of business we want to be.

Now, a bit of reverse engineering has gone on here. We didn’t think about these themes and then build the business based on that, but the more we dug into the symbolism, the more we recognised the film’s importance. Spoilers ahead.

Corporate greed:
The Weyland-Yutani Corporation (W-YC) is willing to sacrifice human lives to protect its profits. “Our profits are your life” is a motto that tells you everything you need to know about the corporation’s priorities. It sends a team of inexperienced marines to LV-426, even though they know the planet is infested with Xenomorphs. Then, W-YC refuses to evacuate the marines when they are in danger because they don’t want to lose the valuable data that they have collected.

Nuke customers can rest easy knowing we will never use their data to make a quick buck by selling it to third parties. It undermines what we’re trying to achieve and makes the whole concept less secure. It also means you’ll always pay a fair price for our product. We know that, like insurance, you don’t want to pay for this. But unfortunately, instances of fraud involving stolen devices are all too common.

But just because we’ve come up with a solution that helps reduce the impact of theft doesn’t mean we think you should pay through the nose for it. When we launch, our service will be free for the first year, and we’ll look to control the cost for you, the consumer, from there.

Worker exploitation:
The Colonial Marines in Aliens are paid very little and treated as disposable commodities. They have inadequate training and equipment, putting them at a severe disadvantage when fighting the Xenomorphs. W-YC CEO, Carter Burke, is a ruthless and manipulative douchebag willing to do anything to protect the corporation’s profits. He even betrays the Marines and tries to steal the Xenomorph Queen for himself. Burke by name, berk by nature, amirite?

That doesn’t mean a whole lot for you as a consumer, but as an employee of Nuke From Orbit, I can say that not only do I get paid a fair wage, I get the flexibility I need to have a life outside of work, and the tools I need to do my job to the best of my ability.

The dangers of technology:
Aliens’ depiction of the Xenomorph as a product of technological experimentation warns about the dangers of unchecked scientific progress. The Xenomorph is a powerful and deadly creature resulting from human hubris.

Back in the real world, it is a reminder that technology can be dangerous if not used responsibly. Our smartphones have completely changed how we interact with the world, creating more convenient ways to pay for goods and services, manage our finances, build communities, apply for jobs, etc. But with so much of our data now accessible through a single device, it means we’re at risk in ways that probably weren’t envisaged by technology creators at the time.

Nuke From Orbit is a check against vulnerabilities in the software and hardware that are central to our everyday lives, and you can find out more about how it works here.

Gender roles:
Ellen Ripley is the OG strong female protagonist, subverts traditional gender roles by taking charge and kicking arse. She is a powerful symbol of female empowerment, and her role in the film garnered praise through the years for challenging stereotypes about women’s abilities.

At the time of writing, our team is a whopping four strong, and… we’re all men. We’re not all white men, at least, but we know that it would be pretty disingenuous for us to bang on about the gender pay gap, female representation in technology and senior leadership roles.

But as we grow, we’re committed to change because diversity isn’t about ticking a box or going after B-Corp status to make ourselves feel good. It’s about diversity of thought and perspectives to help us build a product accessible to everyone.

In the meantime, we’ve partnered with a load of female-led businesses to help with our market research (KAM Insights), our content creation (Buff Motion), and even the website you’re reading this on (Inca Creative). And our Freelance Graphic Designer, Zoë Moncaster, is doing fantastic work on the app design!

So there you have it. It’s a catchy and possibly controversial name, but one we’re very proud of. Nuke From Orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.