They say what’s in a name. Well, the answer lies in the fact that so many brand names have become verbs! We Xerox but we don’t photocopy. We Google but we don’t Bing. How has Velcro ‘fastened’ and ‘looped’ itself so easily as a brand into the minds of consumers across ages? Well, the story is interesting. And that’s why we say, a lot’s in a name. When many brands compete in the consumer’s mind space, his mind becomes a battleground of names. Whichever he remembers the most, wins.
When I was a kid, I used to love dogs. I remember calling all of them Fluffy. Then, when we moved into a new house, our neighbor had a huge dog with very large, brooding eyes. He used to bark continuously, and whenever I would go near him, he would growl at me. Soon, the definition of a ‘dog’ changed from fluffy to fear. Well, it’s quite true, and science tells us that as humans, we cultivate positive or negative connotations to words, based on how we feel. And this plays a huge role in how we perceive words and things around us. We keep evolving and so does the way in which we relate with certain words.
As our vocabulary grows, our mind is no longer a blank slate it used to be when we were younger. Research says, an average English-speaking adult’s vocabulary is around 30,000 words, or even more! Slowly, the connotations we associate with them also become pretty solid as we grow older. That’s why it is a challenge for brands to get into a consumer’s mind-space, and moreover, to be remembered. Then how or why do certain brands become successful? Let’s explore!
“The dictionary of our mind is filled with words that have negative or positive emotions tied to them. The challenge for a brand name is to create its own mind-space. Stay there. And evoke positive emotions.”
Names strike an emotional chord
Imagine a brand to be a nice, exotic curry. A lot goes into its making. After all the water evaporates, the thick, delicious essence that’s left behind is what leaves an unforgettable after-taste. It is this essence that makes you want to remember the brand. It evokes a certain positive feeling within you. The mere mention of it, and that is – the name. With the name, a brand becomes a person, a living, breathing entity that evokes either positive or negative emotions in us. There is a story behind everything we savour or detest. A good illustration would be the brand name Victoria’s Secret. The name instantly strikes a mysterious, sophisticated note, making it much more likely to remember. Thus, making it the most spoken about brand after its first store was launched in 2012 in America. The sales went up to $6.12 billion, and today it is the largest American retailer of women’s lingerie.
“With the name, a brand becomes a person, a living, breathing entity that evokes either positive or negative emotions in us.”
Often, it’s just love-at-first-sound!
A brand name is a capsule that is filled with emotional and intellectual content. It carries the unique meaning of your product and its story with itself wherever it is used. Let’s look at the name Google. Today it is hard to imagine a life without this name. If we are stuck with anything, all we say is ‘Google it’. Not only is it a brand name that became a verb for searching online, it also became synonymous to a solution provider! In an era when search engines had already become popular (Yahoo!), Google made a mark with its odd, but easily pronounceable name. A twist on the word googol, Google made something techie sound really ‘familiar’ and ‘lively’.
“A name carries with itself the personality of its brand, what sounds nice registers better, and that is why the consumer falls in love with it at first sound, remembering it over a competitor’s product!”
The global linguistics challenge
With a unique name that is easy to spell and fun to say, comes the next challenge. And that’s being sure it doesn’t have any negative connotations in another language. If the brand is being launched on a global platform, consulting native speakers becomes important. Ensuring the brand name isn’t associated with any slang and other negative cultural perceptions, prevents embarrassing situations later! In 1971, when the Ford Pinto was launched, the translation of the word ‘Pinto’ in other languages was ignored. It turned out ‘Pinto’ was a slang term in Portuguese for male genitals. With the tagline “The little carefree car” Ford tried to cover-up for the name-blunder, but due to some technical vehicle defects, the car stayed synonymous to its unfortunate translation!
Two familiar words, one original name!
The birth of an original brand name is often achieved by putting two simple words together. And it has worked wonders for brands! What better example, than Post-it. Today, the challenge is not just having a space in the consumer’s mind, or having an excellent recall value. It goes much beyond that. Many brand names are already trademarked and have registered domains. Making compound words is thus, a great idea to overcome this challenge. Another excellent example is PhotoShop, as it communicates the purpose of the product very effectively. Two familiar words put together to create a meaningful, harmonious effect.
“Often we see so much creativity and inspiration with quirky brand names all around us. All we need is the creative eye for it. The inspiration to create something different and original by giving simple words a twist”
Just verb it!
“When people use your brand name as a verb, it’s remarkable.”
CEO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
We don’t YouTube, but we do Skype. Names that suggest application, are easily used as verbs. Over a period of time, Skype has achieved this glory. It has transformed into a verb today, but the name had the ability to be used as a verb. It was so synonymous to the activity, that it became the activity itself! This is called ‘verbifying’, but it can be dangerous too, as the brand becomes popular but suffers from ‘genericide,’ meaning losing the legal power of a trademark! Well, it certainly does become a part of people’s daily lives, which is remarkable.
Putting the pieces together
Serious or quirky, distinctive or funny, brand names that work the most are imaginative and evoke positive emotions in the consumer’s mind. Today is the era of coining words; take for instance Gatorade, Doritos, Tostitos, and many more. So do names always need to mean something? Well, not necessarily as the name will soon become synonymous to your business. It may not exist in the dictionary, but it can make an unforgettable mark in the consumer’s-dictionary.
What’s important is that the naming approach must be in tune with the graphical representation of the name. That way we achieve two things – the emotional perspective of a brand name is in perfect rhythm with its visual identity, and it looks good in writing! Recently I visited a unique place in Kothrud, Pune, called Yolkshire. Apart from the interesting name, this outlet serves all types of egg dishes. So apt! The name and visual interpretation are in perfect sync with the quirky ideology of the brand’s offering.
“Getting as imaginative as you can be with the name is key. The name may not exist in the dictionary, but it can make an unforgettable mark in the consumer’s dictionary.”
After the brand has acquired its own personality, it will truly appeal to the masses. And maybe then, we can say that the brand has won the battle for space in the consumer’s mind, because now he/she is interacting with a person and not a company, just like the King of Advertising said it!
“The public is more interested in personalities than in corporations”
– David Ogilvy
Devangini Karkhanis, an MBA in advertising, embarked on a journey to become a copywriter 6 years ago. With a vision to put her passion for words and mind full of ideas to good use, she believes her work has taught her a lot over the years. Working in the creative field has been an enjoyable and enriching experience, and it has given her the opportunity to go beyond writing, and become a good communicator, strategist, and an artist too!
Devangini is an English Copywriter at Setu Advertising.