October 31, 2006
Naming: When Should Creativity Be Scary?
Where art and commerce meet there is a tendency to quantify creative ideas. It seems imagination isn’t justifiable so it isn’t enough. Nearly any name choice can be tucked into a logical reasoning when presented to the public. But do they really care?
My favorite car name is the Cobra. Cobra snakes aren’t fast, they’re deadly. Deadly is the last thing I want in a car. But the name is cool. It just is.
Names that hit you in the heart – our unquantifiable place for emotions – these are the names that speak to us. Being reasonable in our naming efforts has its place. But giving in to the magic of names, the impossible-to-utter reasons why names work, is more powerful than we can imagine.
The proliferation of branding books (a cursory search on Amazon.com provided nearly 2,000 titles) perpetuate the concept that there’s a formula, a proven route to powerful brand identities.
What is missing is poetry.
Many poets are of the thought that a poem is really a distilled play. Perhaps a great brand name is a distilled poem - one word that evokes a thousand pictures. This is evident in great coined names.
Language rests only on the icy tip of emotion and creating new words to express the experience of a product, company or service can make us all feel alive. Shakespeare would have said it hits me in my “heart of heart.” It’s widely believed that Shakespeare is responsible for giving the English language over 1700 new words – words that we use everyday. Words that stick.
Some of my favorite coined words attributed to Shakespeare are: "lonely,” ”courtship,” “moonbeam,” “eyeball,” "madcap,” “tranquil,” and "arouse.” Where did these words come from? They have lasted so long because they’re felt by us all – we understand them with or without the logic behind them.
Certainly putting together Mad and Cap doesn’t logically mean “a person acting without caring or stopping to think about possible consequences.” Yet this is the definition of the word – derived from it’s meaning in a play. If these words didn’t exist as they do now, what products could we name with them? Madcap could be a vodka, clothing line or the newest toy. Moonbeam could be anything from a telecom company to a line of candles or make-up.
What a beautiful compound word. Moonbeam.
In the crowded landscape of the Internet, with 50 million .com domain names registered, all of the two and three letter possible sequences are gone. Poetry is back in big way for branding.
Studying branding, advertising and business theory is important to successful branding efforts. On top of all of that savvy, we are creating. We are imagining new uses for language, new meaning, and even new language. So a re-mystification of the creative process of developing brand identity can be our strongest play.
After all, since Shakespeare coined the word “advertising,” and “marketable,” it’s safe to say he saw the poetry in it.
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