In the Cracking the Lexical Code series we examined the subliminal messages hidden within brand names. In Part 1, we examined letters and phonemes, in Part 2 syllables. In this post, we look at the sum of the parts, words, specifically nouns.
Whilst nouns make up a third of all words in the dictionary, they make up two-thirds of brand names in our NameDek® database. These noun based names can be further broken down into three main groups, proper nouns, common nouns, and compound nouns, each with their own distinct qualities.
Of course every brand name becomes a proper noun, in the same way the title of a book, play, film, or song becomes a proper noun. However, existing proper nouns, often people, or places, real or imagined, are a rich source of inspiration for brand names.
Proper nouns come preloaded with a body of positive associations. Obvious examples are Amazon®, Nike® and Tesla®. Less obvious perhaps are Holiday Inn®, KitKat® and Miro®. As a result, they make great metaphoric names, giving brands a running start when it comes to brand messaging.
Common nouns have to work a bit harder. Examples include Apple®, Nest®, Square® and Target®. Some of these, like Nest®, have an obvious connection to the product. Others, like Apple®, Square® and Target® are more difficult to fathom. In the case of Apple®, Steve Jobs chose a name diametrically opposite to IBM® and ahead of Atari® in the phone book.
Square® and Target® are interesting, in that they are both gerunds. They can act as both nouns and verbs. In the case of Square®, the name conjours up the phrasal verb square up. Target® is short for target price.
Gerunds have the the descriptive advantages of a noun and the dynamic quality of a verb, making them a good choice for brand names.
Brands that commandeer common nouns ooze confidence. They have the audacity to take a familiar word and give it new meaning. But brand names based on common noun have to be prepared to put the work in. Brand building from the ground up requires deep pockets.
Brand names made from compound nouns are plentiful, Airbus®, Dreamworks®, MailChimp®, and Salesforce® for example. Two words for the price of one not only convey two messages at the same time, they offer the opportunity for wordplay, alliteration, rhyme, and a whole host of other qualities which we'll discuss in a separate post.
However, the real advantage of brand names based on compound nouns, is that despite the fact the ingredient words are familiar, the combination is likely to be unique. The result is the best of both worlds, names that are both easier to remember, conjuring a strong mental image in the mind of the consumer, and names that are easier to own, as their meaning is less imprinted in our minds. Two familiar words combined in a surprising way can be remarkably sticky.
In the next post, we'll examine adjectives, which make up the majority of the rest of the names in the NameDek.