A Copywriter’s Blog
Nomenclature Ben Levy 31, May

I think the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do as an advertising copywriter is name something.

In ancient times, names were powerful things. To name something was to be it’s master. People also believed that to know the true name of a person or thing was to have absolute power over it. And whether you buy into magic or not, I think we can all agree that in our attention-span dwindling, keyword-crawling society, names are key.

My problem with naming things is that a name means everything and nothing all at once. iPod? If we’re judging it on name alone, I would assume an “iPod” to be some sort of prefabricated bachelor pad. Of course, with Apple’s multi-billion dollar marketing campaign, everyone knows what an iPod is. In fact, the name became so powerful that it’s lowercase prefix became the de facto signature of the Apple brand.

But the point is that if you had asked me to name this little solid-state memory music device, “iPod” would have been at the bottom of my list. Right behind “Inedible Musical Broccoli” and “Tiny Player Thingy”.

Names are also tricky because if you call anything the same name long enough, it becomes it’s new name by default. This is a real danger when working on unnamed projects. Because if everyone refers to that blue web site as “the blue website” for a few months, sooner or later it changes to The Blue Website. And then you’re left standing on your desk screaming about why you can’t call it The Blue Website just because you’ve gotten used to calling it that, and everyone is looking at you incredulously asking “Why not? It’s blue.”

And so the question becomes what you’re hoping to achieve with the name. For example, when a brand of premium ice-cream wanted to appeal to adults, they picked a name that meant nothing but sounded European and expensive: “Haagen-Dazs”.

I think the truth is that Shakespeare was right: a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, as long as the marketing campaign it was launched with still focused on it’s aromatic properties. But there’s no arguing that a good name can do wonders for your product. If you get it right, a product’s name becomes introduction and sales pitch all at once. At least, that’s my opinion.

Ben Levy is the author of the book “I Have A Dick. Now What?” a title which he feels is an introduction and a sales pitch all at once. He is also a jackass who thinks this is a terribly clever way to finish this post. It is not.

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