Naming Tips

Less is Not Always More

By June 14, 2017 May 26th, 2020 No Comments

I was reading the New Yorker and came across an intriguing article about a fashion blogger prodigy, Tavi. She’s a fourteen-year-old girl who lives in the suburbs of Chicago and has quickly risen to become one of the fashion-elite – all based on the fresh content, creative humor, and eerily encyclopedic knowledge of fashion history intertwined on her blog, Style Rookie.

By the way, her blog consistently gets 50,000 page views per day. Do I have your attention now?

She gave a speech at Idea City (the Canadian equivalent of the annual TED Conference held in the U.S.’s Silicon Valley) titled “How We Can Apply What We Learned from the Teen Girls of the ‘90s (More Specifically, Those Who Read/Interned at/Worked for Sassy Magazine) to Create a Good Magazine for Teen Girls Today, Also, This Is a Really Long Title.” The speech received a standing ovation. All I’ve got to say is it’s a good thing no marketer got a hold of that title.

Being relatively apathetic towards fashion, I don’t understand the implication of 90% of that title. However, the comedy behind “…Also, This Is a Really Long Title” is priceless. It provides context. It gives me an emotion I can recognize. It taps into the right side of my brain.

Sometimes we need more.

Branding Strategy Insider published an article this week about the advantages inherent in longer, emotional slogans because they appeal to the right side of our brains. Their shining example was Federal Express which, early in its history, spent 3 years losing $29 million trying to compete head-to-head with then air-cargo leader Emery Air Freight. FedEx finally decided to focus on the overnight piece of the air freight business, but not with a generic-sounding slogan like: “the overnight company.”  Rather, it went with something longer but much more compelling, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”  And, of course, the rest is history.

Sometimes, shorter taglines, and shorter more generic names for that matter, are less memorable and paint a hazier picture for potential customers. Take Ford’s “Drive one” or Hertz’s “Journey on” slogans for example. What do they urge me to do? They don’t forge a personal memory or connect with any of my past ones – they’re vague to the point of being dismissed and forgotten.

Countless studies address how names that tap into a storyline or address experiences that customers can relate to are powerful ways to build a meaningful brand. A study published at Yale in the field of cognitive psychology discusses the propensity humans have to “index prior experience.” It discusses how all people reason from experience, and that the difference between various reasoners depends on how they have subconsciously organized their previous experiences. Basically, we do not all think of the same things at the same time.

So, when dealing with disparate people who have unique experiences, as marketers, perhaps the best way we can build a brand is to give it more context – even if this means a 12 word tagline as opposed to a 2 word one. Take the Twisted Tea brand for example. Twisted Tea makes hard alcoholic beverages that taste like tea – from my perspective, when competing with common brands of liquor that people know they like, it takes a big leap of faith or a really good selling point to get people to use their disposable income to switch or try something new. The makers of Twisted Tea took the bull by the horns – on every bottle they print a picture of someone and the story of how much they enjoyed the drink. They also include details with both the people’s names and locations. This gives the brand a story – rather than relying on the salesperson at the local market to pitch the brand. They pitch the brand on the packaging. 100 words from customers sometimes make much more of an impact than a 2 or 3 word tagline or slogan.

The researchers from Yale and Northwestern wrote, “Inaccessible information is not information at all. Memory, in order to be effective, must contain both specific experiences and labels for those experiences” so we can find them again. Often, if we can’t remember the story, then the name, slogan and brand has missed the mark.

“When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight;” I can identify with that sentiment from Federal Express. How many times have I bitten my nails, unsure if work-related packages were going to arrive by their deadlines? The title of Tavi’s talk: incredibly longwinded (people won’t forget that) but she uses her final words to recognize that fact and make fun of it. When people remember your 12 word slogan or 4 word name because they elicit stronger emotions, you achieve more than a 1 or 2 syllable name ever could. More is sometimes just that – more.

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