More than 3 million companies are registered in the English-speaking world each year. Most need a website, many need a social media presence, a significant number need a trademark. Given these pressures, it’s no surprise that neologisms are increasingly adopted as brand names.
A neologism is a newly coined word, created either by inventing a completely new term, or by manipulating one or more existing words.
Neologisms can arise as a result of technological advances or cultural trends, and are often used to describe new concepts or attitudes. Recently examples are Brexit, Selfie and Vaping.
Pure neologistic brand names, such as Axa®, Häagen-Dazs®, and Kodak®, are unusual but can be very effective,
After acquiring the Drouot Group in 1982, CEO Claude Bébéar wanted a short name that and could be pronounced the same way in every language. The result was Axa®.
In 1959, Häagen-Dazs® founders Reuben and Rose Mattus invented a name for their luxury ice cream that sounded Danish.
Kodak® founder George Eastman thought the letter K sounded strong, and wanted a name that was easy to say.
A more popular form of neologism is the portmanteau, originally meaning a type of luggage of two equal parts. Lewis Carroll is credited with first using the word portmanteau to describe two words blended together. In his poem Jabberwocky, he coins dozens of words in this way. Chuckle and snort are combined to make a chortle, and miserable and flimsy are combined to make mimsy.
Brand names influenced by Lewis Carroll are plentiful, representing 13% of our NameDek®. Example include Band-Aid®, Dulux® and Netflix®.
Band-Aid® is a portmanteau of bandage and first-aid. Invented in 1920, by Johnson & Johnson® employee Earle Dickson, and his wife Josephine, who frequently injured herself while cooking.
Introduced in 1931, Dulux® combines durability and luxury.
Launched in 1997 as an online DVD rental store, Netflix® is a portmanteau of Internet and the flicks, slang for cinema.
A simpler way of crafting a neologism is to deliberately misspell a word, or add a suffix. Misspelt brand names include Flickr®, Karrimor® and Vue®.
An observer described an early prototype as like the flickering of the metaverse. Flicker.com was not available, so co-founder Caterina Fake suggested they drop the e.
Founded in 1946, the company originally sold sadlebags and panniers. Karrimor® is an alternative spelling of carry more.
Founded in 1999 as Spean Bridge Cinemas, the name was changed to Vue®, an alternative spelling of View, in 2003.
Brands that take advantage of suffixes include Grammarly®, Shopify®, and Timex®.
Founded in 2009, the online software Grammarly® suggests context-specific spelling, punctuation and grammar improvements.
In 2004, Scott Lake, Tobias Lütke and Daniel Wein built an e-commerce site selling snowboarding equipment. Shortly afterwards, they shifted their focus from snowboards to e-commerce, launching Shopify® in 2006.
When Thomas Olsen brought the Waterbury Clock Company in 1941, he gave the company a more modern name inspired by Kleenex®.
Synthetic brand names are by definition unique and unconventional, and therefore carry a degree of risk. They grab our attention but can be confusing and difficult to pronounce. Neologisms are more likey to succeed if the misspelllings are obvious, and the string of letters combine to convey a degree of meaning. We’d take a chortle over a mimsy any day of the week.