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July 22, 2011

Product Naming, Nomenclature and Euphemisms

PreOwnedCarSigns.pngI was laughing today over an article by Mark Ellsworth, a person who is not in the naming business, but who seems to have a pretty good idea of how names are sometimes used to hide the ugly reality.

He uses the example of "used cars." These have been called "pre-owned" and "previously owned" and now we get "certified pre-owned cars."

But when he talks about the difference between "franchised distributors" and "authorized distributors" he really makes me laugh; "Using this logic, a person who decides to open a hamburger stand not affiliated with the majors (Mickey D's et. al.) is in effect selling unauthorized beef."

So true.

The fact is, we need to use names to describe things, hide things, and explain things. Twitter doesn't advertise, for example, it has "promoted tweets."

The word "price" has almost been eradicated from most marketing speak as simply too painful. We might refer to a "price adjustment" over a "price increase" or maybe talk about the "price tag" but "price" by itself is like "cost"... ouch.

And, going back to cars, automakers tried to find new names for "hatchbacks," such as "fastbacks, five-doors, liftbacks," but they are starting to call them "hatchbacks" again.

In the world of marketing we really can go overboard. One cold-caller alumnus has a blog post about how some companies are giving cold-calling names such as, "profiling" (like, in the FBI) or "Canvassing, appointment-making, prospect research, pipeline building and I've even heard of warm calling."

Warm calling? Really?

The fact is, euphemisms destroy credibility, especially given the educated and savvy consumer we have to deal with daily.

Good product nomenclature aims for clarity and attractiveness. Too many euphemisms in any kind of communication leads to a kind of cynicism on the part of the buyer.

It's just bad business... but it is indeed funny business, too.

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Posted by William Lozito at July 22, 2011 8:33 AM
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