Inside the Strange, Unlikely Battle for Clever Ticker Symbols
November 13, 2019 7:47 AM   Subscribe

 
I worked at Outpost.com, ticker symbol COOL (Cyberian Outpost On-Line). It... didn't work.
posted by steveminutillo at 7:56 AM on November 13, 2019 [2 favorites]


"Great news, hon, COCK is up 8.41% today."
posted by Wolfdog at 7:58 AM on November 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


"Great news, hon, COCK is up 8.41% today."

"Well that's a first."
posted by loquacious at 8:04 AM on November 13, 2019 [15 favorites]


Wolfdog: ""Great news, hon, COCK is up 8.41% today.""

Koc Holding is a real company. Its ticker symbol is the unremittingly dull KCHOL.

And it used to be run by its founder, Mustafa Koc.
posted by chavenet at 8:07 AM on November 13, 2019 [3 favorites]


Speaking as a prole, I file cutesy ticker symbols in the same drawer as "clever" yacht names.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:10 AM on November 13, 2019 [16 favorites]


If you ever needed proof that investment banking, capitalism and the whole damn market thing are just complete bullshit:

Studies have repeatedly demonstrated a positive correlation between memorable ticker symbols and stock market success. A paper released this September found that a portfolio of 82 “clever-ticker stocks” — everything from WOOF (veterinary company VCA) to MOO (agribusiness VanEck Vectors) to WIFI (Boingo Wireless) — “strongly outperformed” the market.
posted by Dysk at 8:10 AM on November 13, 2019 [12 favorites]


Studies have repeatedly demonstrated a positive correlation between memorable ticker symbols and stock market success.
Market efficiency in action. The more I learn about how business actually works -- as opposed to the common theories like efficient allocation, the more I'm convinced that it's a house of cards. How can anybody say with a straight face that the market works to efficiently allocate resources where they'll be most effective?
A now-bankrupt electronics vendor, Tweeter, saw an 1,800% stock jump following Twitter’s IPO, and software company Snap Interactive (now PeerStream) also earned a significant bounce after Snapchat went public.
I mean come on.
posted by dbx at 8:14 AM on November 13, 2019 [10 favorites]


"Great news, hon, COCK is up 8.41% today."

I dunno, I'm bear-ish on COCK. I hear it's facing stiff competition.
posted by Mayor West at 8:18 AM on November 13, 2019 [5 favorites]


This makes me really sad for those people buying "Tweeter." I mean who do you think those people are? They're people with a little money to invest and very little knowledge who don't have anyone advising them and who heard twitter is a big thing now and want to get in on that. So they pour their money into Tweeter and pin their hopes on this, and soon their money (at least those who bought during bubble) is gone. This is a lower-middle-class grandparent dreaming that one day they can retire and have a little security.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:20 AM on November 13, 2019 [10 favorites]


If you shop at antique malls, look at the price tag: there's probably a two or three letter 'code' on there, which is how the front desk knows whose item is being sold, to get them their money at the end of the month.

Like most people, originally we were lame and picked our own initials (KKC, our website domain abbreviated), until we ran across the code YES at a mall in Wisconsin; when we moved into a new antique mall a few years ago and decided to 'steal' that code for ourselves, which started an avalanche of cute codes among other dealers -- now there's a HAT and a SOX and an OMG and an ONLY (so all his prices are 'ONLY $#.##') and a TOY and a OLD and a DOG...

...There's also a SBD (abbreviation of her business name) and a BBC (the initials of the dealer and her husband), but we haven't been able to convince them to rethink their codes.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:23 AM on November 13, 2019 [5 favorites]


Just wait till the tickers support emoji. 🤷🏻‍♂️
posted by adamrice at 8:32 AM on November 13, 2019 [5 favorites]


This makes me really sad for those people buying "Tweeter." I mean who do you think those people are? They're people with a little money to invest and very little knowledge who don't have anyone advising them and who heard twitter is a big thing now and want to get in on that. So they pour their money into Tweeter and pin their hopes on this, and soon their money (at least those who bought during bubble) is gone. This is a lower-middle-class grandparent dreaming that one day they can retire and have a little security.

Alternatively it could be that traders are speculating that other traders are going to speculate that some greater fool is going to make this misidentification. It is musical chairs and you just have to be sitting when the music stops. This really is a strategy so maybe the number of suckers doesn't have to be that large. (Depending how you define sucker I guess.) I mean look at all the crypto stuff.
posted by Pembquist at 8:37 AM on November 13, 2019 [4 favorites]


traders are going to speculate that some greater fool is going to make this misidentification
That's precisely it. If there's one common trait to all traders, it's an unjustified sense of smug superiority.
posted by phooky at 8:58 AM on November 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


OMG THANK YOU. This is a question/process I've been wondering about since about five minutes after I ever learned what a ticker symbol was. So, about 45 years.
posted by rhizome at 9:04 AM on November 13, 2019


Studies have repeatedly demonstrated a positive correlation between memorable ticker symbols and stock market success.

Definitely shouldn't jump to the conclusion that it's causative. There's a certain type of company (tech "unicorns") that think it's important to have a cutesy stock-ticker name, and they are doing well right now.

It's pretty easy to take a basket of companies that are outperforming the market, find commonalities between them, and then believe you've found some sort of secret sauce. It's almost always wrong. It's just the modern equivalent of reading tea leaves.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:20 AM on November 13, 2019 [6 favorites]


[One comment deleted. Fondness for Monty Python chestnuts notwithstanding, making fun of people's names is one of those practices that ends up hurting people you don't mean to hurt; let's not go down that road. (See the new Guidelines for a bit more, under 'avoid common microaggressions'.)]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:25 AM on November 13, 2019 [5 favorites]


Nobody sane has said that markets are great or anything, just better in many ways than the other stuff we have tried for allocating production and gauging actual demand for goods. It's possible some techno-utopian scheme could work if it weren't ratfucked by the robber barons, but it's arguable whether previous attempts failed due to being ratfucked or for other reasons.

This is, of course, an entirely different conversation than who owns the factories and machines and such, though the ratfuckers do very much like to conflate the two. Indeed, they hate actual free markets because they aren't so great at generating windfall profits, but whinging about muh free markets generates sympathy that whinging about not getting their "fair" share doesn't.
posted by wierdo at 9:40 AM on November 13, 2019


It's pretty easy to take a basket of companies that are outperforming the market, find commonalities between them, and then believe you've found some sort of secret sauce. It's just the modern equivalent of reading tea leaves.

Not to derail, but isn't this the entire practice of Artificial Intelligence and Deep/Machine Learning? You may be pissing into the winds of causitivity.

I, for one, just can't wait for the McSweeney's run-down of ideal future stock symbols, because in real life I think this is a branding opportunity that will not be released. It's been under the radar until now, but once journalism points its lasers of interest in it, the jig is almost up.

Maybe the future will have something like Hollywood award shows do, campaigns around certain symbols. "For Your Consideration: SKIP..."
posted by rhizome at 9:41 AM on November 13, 2019


Not to detract from the overall point of the article and discussion, but I just wanted to comment on this specific aspect of it:

“People use heuristics to reduce the cognitive load,” she says. “Students usually choose the multiple-choice answer C, even though there’s no more likelihood of us using C than A.”

I've read studies that show that in hand-set multiple choice tests with four values, the correct answer is placed at either B or C significantly more than A or D. Not everything that seems like it could be random is actually random.

Maybe companies with cool stock symbols outperform the market because the market is stupid enough to care about stock symbols. Maybe companies with cool stock symbols outperform the market because they are the kind of companies that pay enough attention to detail that they selected a cool stock symbol. Maybe companies were given cool stock symbols because they were expected to outperform the market and then did, in fact, do so. Maybe companies with cool stock symbols outperform the market because the stock symbol itself becomes part of their marketing and branding and gives them greater visibility to consumers of their products or services through the constant reporting of stock prices.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:52 AM on November 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


The next crash is coming
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:54 AM on November 13, 2019


traders are going to speculate that some greater fool is going to make this misidentification
That's precisely it. If there's one common trait to all traders, it's an unjustified sense of smug superiority.


To add some more detail to this, I think a lot of it is high-frequency trading algorithms doing (their version of) natural language processing on the news and web content that mentions ticker symbols; if the article is "good" they buy the stock hoping to beat a bunch of other buyers by a few milliseconds. Clever ticker symbols that are also actual words generate false positives. I'm not at all sorry for people who trade this way.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 9:57 AM on November 13, 2019 [2 favorites]


I once worked in college radio in Texas. Apparently the original call sign for the University of North Texas was KUNT, which was short lived. My station, KTRU, got offers from Christian radio to transfer the call sign rights on a regular basis.

TL;DR people like funny words in all caps. TOOTBLAN me.
posted by q*ben at 10:33 AM on November 13, 2019


Not to derail, but isn't this the entire practice of Artificial Intelligence and Deep/Machine Learning?

Sort of. I mean just about anything involving a computer these days is probably being marketed by someone as "AI/ML" ... but you don't need (what I'd consider to be) a 'real' ML approach to find irrelevant correlations in, or otherwise overfit, a bunch of data. You can do it pretty easily in Excel or even ancient versions of SPSS. (And I admit that as an undergrad, I was probably guilty of the "oh fuck, our experiment didn't work... well, throw all the data in there and find whatever correlates, and we'll report on that" trick, without much technology to blame it on.)

But I'd absolutely believe that a naive ML approach would find and report similarities based on irrelevant correlations, and probably makes overfitting errors easier to make by burying them in a black box model.

It would be pretty funny if some I-banker's high tech "ML-based approach" to stock-picking ended up being nothing more than picking companies with funny ticker symbols, based on there being a lot of funny ticker symbols in their training dataset. Garbage in, garbage out.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:38 AM on November 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


Apparently the original call sign for the University of North Texas

No, the school was called North Texas State University when the station went live in 1969, and they kept and still use the original call sign KNTU. But yes, when I started there a couple years after the name change, everyone was still making the joke. (Cool oral history of the radio station including the call sign here, though it lists the name change incorrectly as 1981.)

As far as the stock market, it no longer even feels like a thing for real people anymore. It's like monopoly money for rich fucks to play harmful games with.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:24 AM on November 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


TL;DR people like funny words in all caps. TOOTBLAN me.

For all the non-baseball nerds out there, TOOTBLAN is: Thrown Out On The Basepath Like A Nincompoop. It's when the runner gets themself out by doing something incredibly stupid like attempting to steal an already occupied base.

I'm more partial to Fielder Allows Runner To Score Like A Moron (FARTSLAM), which is something like when a fielder starts arguing with an umpire when the play is still live and someone scores.
posted by sideshow at 11:29 AM on November 13, 2019 [4 favorites]


As far as the stock market, it no longer even feels like a thing for real people anymore. It's like monopoly money for rich fucks to play harmful games with.

Except all our retirement accounts are inextricably linked to all of this, so when Lego decides to make its ticker sign LOLBUTTS and Marlboro loses 10% of its market cap, we're all fucked, but some rich asshole who shorted it makes another million dollars to add to his Scrooge-McDuck-ish vault of doubloons.

In conclusion, capitalism is drowning and it's dragging us all under the waves with itself. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
posted by Mayor West at 11:56 AM on November 13, 2019 [7 favorites]


So what happened to the prestige of having a single-letter symbol?
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:18 PM on November 13, 2019


A TSX-listed company changed its ticker thusly a few years ago:

Copper Mountain Mining Corporation (TSX: CUM) (the "Company" or "Copper Mountain") announces the change of its TSX ticker symbol. Effective Tuesday, December 6, 2016, Copper Mountain Mining Corporation's new TSX symbol will be CMMC.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:06 PM on November 13, 2019


So what happened to the prestige of having a single-letter symbol?

It's nearly unsearchable.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:48 PM on November 13, 2019 [2 favorites]


Good point.
posted by JoeZydeco at 5:19 PM on November 13, 2019


Newell Brands, which owns Rubbermaid and a shit ton of other familiar midpriced household brands, uses the ticker NWL. Which I can't help but read as Nice White Lady.
posted by pernoctalian at 5:40 PM on November 13, 2019


« Older Megaflashes: Just How Long Can a Lightning...   |   Several Candidates He Spoke To Were Moved To Tears Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments