all posts in copywriting

Three Rules of English that good copy frequently breaks (and why it’s necessary to do so)

You’ve heard the saying, You have to know the rules before you can break them.

It’s absolutely true when it comes to advertising copy.

Writing a good ad (or any marketing message) requires you to understand sentence structure, punctuation, grammar, etc.

You, know…all the stuff crotchety Mrs. Schneider drilled into your head in high school English class. Or tried to.

But readable copy often breaks Mrs. Schneider’s beloved rules.

In fact, for copy to be “conversational” in tone, breaking them is practically a requirement.

Why? Because people break the rules all the time when they speak.

So you’ll need to break some rules too…if you want your message to be perceived as one human speaking to another.

This doesn’t, however, give us license to butcher the king’s English. The rules we can break are limited to a mere three.

Here they are, along with justification for breaking them:

1. Never begin a sentence with a conjunction (such as “and,” “but” or “or.”).

Copywriters break this rule all the time. And with good reason. Conjunctions provide a connection between two thoughts. But in speech people don’t always connect those two thoughts in a single sentence. They often split them up. And since copywriters strive to write in a way that mirrors the way people talk, it’s natural to do the same in copy.

But that’s not the only reason for putting an “and” or “but” at the beginning of a sentence. Doing so also lets us chop long sentences into two shorter ones that are easier to read.

Take this one, for example:

Going to the movies is a favorite pastime of many Americans, but the price of seeing a movie, combined with their poor quality of late, has many people opting to stay home.

It’s not exactly a run-on. Still it can be made a little less daunting for the reader if it’s divided in two.

Going to the movies is a favorite pastime of many Americans. But the price of seeing a movie, combined with their poor quality of late, has many people opting to stay home.

It’s a minor change, yes, but it makes the copy just a little easier for the reader. And every little bit helps.

2. Write in complete sentences, not fragments.

Complete sentences are great for annual reports and college term papers, but adhering to this rule in copywriting can lead to stiff, unnatural-sounding copy and dull, run-on sentences, such as this example:

Established in 1911 by brothers Bob and Frank Widget, Widget Investments is a respected global player with holdings around the world, a stake in numerous established business enterprises, and assets totaling $100 billion, all driven by a philosophy that always keeps us striving to reach higher, acquire more and do better.

Who’d want to wade through all that? Shorter sentences and liberal use of fragments make the message more palatable:

Widget Investments was established in 1911 by brothers Bob and Frank Widget. Today it’s a respected global player. One with holdings around the world. A stake in numerous established business enterprises. And assets totaling $100 billion. All driven by a philosophy that keeps us striving. To reach higher. Acquire more. Do better.

Ah, that’s better. The spaces between sentences give the copy – and the reader – a chance to breathe. So unless your readers positively adore lengthy Dickensian prose, opt for shorter sentences and fragments as necessary.

3. Don’t use slang.

Use discretion when breaking this one. It’s true that copy directed toward a particular audience has to speak their language. And sometimes that means adopting their lingo. But be warned: Don’t attempt this unless you’re sure you can pull it off. Nothing kills credibility faster than getting caught trying to fake authenticity.

So let’s say you want to announce to an audience of tech-savvy 20-somethings that your company has just developed a new application for the iPhone. You’ll have to judge whether it’s wiser to 1) describe the features and benefits of this outstanding iPhone application or to 2) give ’em the 411 on this killer iPhone app.

Likewise, you can decide whether it’s better to tell a hip youth audience that you’re going to 1) offer them some free merchandise or that you’ll 2) hook them up with some freebie swag.

You feel me?

As in all cases of rule-breaking, good judgment should be used. The goal isn’t to see how many rules you can break, it’s to make the communication as effortless as possible. So take some creative license, just don’t abuse it.

Palette, Palate and Pallet

Hi. Dave here.Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 1.22.07 PM

As the agency’s proofreader, I’ve caught and corrected all kinds of mistakes.

Lately, I’ve seen one particular boo-boo zinging even super smart people (both here and elsewhere). So let’s kick it to the curb once and
for all.

Palette = an artist’s tool or an array of colors

Palate = the back of the roof of your mouth

Pallet = a wooden thing you put heavy stuff on

Okay, so how can we keep them straight?

“Palette” is kinda French-looking, so there’s an “artsy” sense to it.

“Palate” is only one letter different from “plate,” which ties into food and eating.

“Pallet” is pretty close to “mallet,” which you could find lying near a pallet in a warehouse.

Pretty easy, huh? Hope this helps.

(For a thorough list of avoidable word crimes like this one, check out this very entertaining video by “Weird Al” Yankovic.)

50 time-tested brand names, A to Z

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You’ll have to read all the way to the bottom to learn why we think this one is good.

Below are some of those well-known “household” names and a brief description of why they’ve stood the test of time, plus a couple of new ones that are exceptionally well done. (You may also want to check out our previous post on what goes into creating a successful brand name.) 

  1. Ajax: Even if you don’t know the mythology – Ajax was a Greek hero known for his size and strength – the name’s construction and sound still convey a sense of power and authority (hence the tagline that Ajax is “stronger than dirt”).
  2. Armor All: These two words flow like one when spoken, succinctly conveying the benefit this product offers: the ability to protect many items from dirt and deterioration.
  3. Axe: The epitome of brevity. A manly name with a youthful edge (pardon the pun).
  4. Brillo Pad: “Brillo” is a coined name that sounds like a combination of “bristle,” “brush” and “quill” (with an added “o” for energy and lift). Upon hearing the name, who could doubt its ability to scour away even the toughest guck?
  5. Cascade: A perfect name for dishwasher detergent, conjuring images of a crystal clear waterfall leaving everything it touches sparkling clean.
  6. Cheer: A product named Cheer brings a smile to the chore of laundry. It’s a “bright” word you automatically associate with brighter clothes.
  7. Clorox: Combining a root term (in this case a stylized spelling of “chlorine”) with an “x” suffix is a common tool for creating a word with a “scientifically formulated” flavor to it. (Windex and Tilex do it too.) It doesn’t hurt that “ox” sounds hardworking too.
  8. d-CON: It doesn’t matter if no one knows what this name actually stands for. It sounds scientific and just a little dangerous/intimidating. The no-nonsense nomenclature signals that this is serious stuff.
  9. Dove: The name hits just the right note for women. What could be softer, whiter, more beautiful or more soothing than a soap called Dove? (Of course, a male version would need to be called something like “Hawk.”)
  10. Downy: Like a baby bird’s feathers, this name is soft and fluffy too, which is how the maker hopes you’ll envision the product leaving your laundry.
  11. Drano: Like “Brillo,” this name gets forward momentum from the “o” (which could be symbolic of an unclogged pipe too). The name also serves as shorthand for “drain opener.”
  12. Duracell: Eveready and Energizer are solid names, but Duracell is unrivaled in creating an image of a power cell that lasts. Combined with the phrase “the coppertop battery” and the tagline “no other battery looks like it or lasts like it,” the moniker makes for a powerful sales message.
  13. Easy-Off: Easy to say too. The name credibly promises to make the hateful chore of oven-cleaning almost effortless.
  14. Fantastik: Changing the “c” on the word “fantastic” to a “k” transforms an over-the-top boast into a more playful coined term with a sense of “magick” and quickness.
  15. Formula 409: This scientific-sounding name implies that substantial research went into creating the cleaner. (Perhaps it took 408 failures before they finally perfected the solution.) Aided by the “For- and Four” repetitive device, it rolls smoothly off the tongue – much better than, say, a Formula 827 would – despite its six-syllable length.
  16. Fresh Step: A nicely conceived name that’s easy to say and remember, and instantly creates an image of the product benefit.
  17. Glade: This simple name subtly triggers the imagination. Fresh greenery, pleasing aromas, a natural setting…these are the images the company wants the name to create in the consumer’s subconscious mind.
  18. Goo Gone: Not the most artful name ever devised, but its straightforward communication of the product benefit can’t be questioned.
  19. Gorilla Glue: The repetitive G’s are fun to say and the imagery of a gorilla implies that this is strong stuff.
  20. Gumout: Like “Goo Gone,” this name tells you exactly what the product is going to do for you, plus it’s easy to say.
  21. Huggies: Parents want to feel their babies are cuddled in coziness at all times. This name conveys this pleasant notion – plus the more literal benefit of a gapless fit that keeps teeny little messes contained.
  22. Irish Spring: The adjacent “sh” and “sp” sounds are a little tough to say, but what other name could convey the notion of springlike freshness in such a merry manner?
  23. Ivory Snow: What could be cleaner, whiter, or more pure? This romantic, metaphorical name even sounds soft when spoken.
  24. Just For Men: This straightforward name successfully mitigates the self-consciousness older men may have about buying hair dye.
  25. Liquid Plumr: This name lends the product the personality it needs to stand out from the crowd. (One also wonders if Liquid Plumr is friends with Janitor In A Drum.)
  26. Method: The latest addition to this list of names. The “method” name is a stroke of inspired understatement that conveys “practical,” “modern” and “economical” with a simple sophistication and “green” implications. It is unlike other names on this list in that it is more abstract (doesn’t say what it is or does; doesn’t convey a benefit). Yet the thought of working with a “method” implies completing a task quickly and efficiently. And it doesn’t hurt that the packaging clearly reinforces this notion.
  27. Miracle Gro: This name instantly has gardeners envisioning “Jack & the Beanstalk” type results.
  28. Mop & Glo: The floor isn’t just clean or shiny; it actually glows. That’s quite a promise.
  29. Neutrogena: A nicely coined word with numerous word associations: “Neutro” is akin to “nutri,” conveying health and wholesomeness. The second half of the word, “-gena,” is feminine sounding, alludes to “genesis” (life) and imbues the name with clinical credibility (through similarity to words like collagen, estrogen, antigen, etc.). Is it any wonder the word “rejuvenating” springs immediately to mind when you hear the name?
  30. Off!: A perfect name for insect repellent. The exclamation point is a stroke of genius that makes the name active and energetic rather than merely descriptive.
  31. Oil of Olay: Oils are natural and moisturizing. Olay is exotic sounding. The two words sounds soothing together. According to Wikipedia, the name is a spin on the ingredient “lanolin.” And a clever one at that.
  32. Old English: “Old” implies enduring quality, timeless appeal and an air of gentility. “English” implies class and refinement. Together they evoke images of wood-paneled rooms in country estates. (Old Spice is another name that benefits from the “Old” moniker.)
  33. Palmolive: Combining the words “palm” and “olive” creates a single word that embodies soft, supple and organic. Even the way the two words blend together creates a sense of fluidity.
  34. Pampers: Your baby’s backside deserves all the pampering it can get.
  35. Quaker State: Like “Keystone State,” this name is a nickname for Pennsylvania, where the brand was long headquartered. The “long-a” sounds and the order of the consonants allow “Quaker State” to flow smoothly when spoken. (Try saying “Puritan State” instead and you’ll hear the difference.)
  36. Quikrete: Need concrete fast? This is the product for you.
  37. Resolve: This name assures the user that the product has the strength and tenacity to remove tough stains. Who could question that kind of resolve?
  38. Scotchgard: This name capitalizes on the equity of the Scotch brand. The stylized spelling of “guard” is a pleasing phonetic follow-up (much better than, say, “Scotchshield” would sound).
  39. Scrubbing Bubbles: A fun, rhyming name that says exactly what the product is and does. Cartoon “bubble” characters on the can and in the TV spots help reinforce the name too.
  40. Sea Breeze: This name sounds so refreshing you almost expect a gentle puff of cool wind to hit your face when you open the bottle. 
  41. Secret: There’s something about the word “secret” that appeals to women. (Right, Victoria?) Despite the advent of the internet and “Girls Gone Wild” videos, the vast majority of women gravitate to a name that alludes to modesty and feminine mystique.
  42. Slime: Hats off to the person or team who had the guts to approve this unconventional brand/product name. Their gamble has paid off. Who doesn’t love Slime?
  43. Shout: This product avoids the “me-too” naming pitfall by not trying to mimic its competitor Spray-N-Wash. Of course, shouting has absolutely nothing to do with stain removal, yet the tagline “Want a tough stain out? Shout it out!” has been effective. (The word “out” being a part of “shout” helps.)
  44. Slick 50: Like Formula 409, this name uses a word/number combination that slides smoothly off the tongue and indirectly conveys the product benefit. (Slick 49 wouldn’t be the same, would it?)
  45. Swiffer: This is a fun name that sounds lighthearted and promises to take the drudgery out of floorcare. Compared to sweeping, “swiffering” sounds effortless, perhaps because its “wiff” component conveys a light and airy feel. Ending the name with an “er” (as in worker, cleaner, scrubber) makes it sound like it’s doing the work, not you.
  46. Tilex/Windex: There’s no mistaking what these two products are used for. Like Clorox, they benefit from the “scientific X” suffix that connotes a lab-perfected formulation and clinical efficiency.
  47. Ultra Brite: On the brightness scale, ultra bright probably represents the highest end. This is a solid promise of dental dazzle conveyed in a fun-sounding name.
  48. Vigoro: This plant food brand name combines vigor with grow, and rhymes with “Figaro” so although it’s a coined term it isn’t unfamiliar sounding.
  49. Wisk: This name implies that, like a “whisk broom,” the product will remove dirt quickly, completely and without much effort from you.
  50. Zest: Despite the “Z” (typically associated with sleep) this product names implies a refreshing sensory awakening.

Naming, Part II: To create a name that’s on target, get ready and aim before you fire.

Firing Squad

Before you can develop an effective name for a brand or product, you need to do some homework. Rush headlong into the brainstorming process without asking some questions and setting some parameters, and you’re almost certain to be wasting your time. (We discussed the challenges of creating brand and product names in Part I of this series.)

Here is some information we request from our clients before we begin work on a name:

  1. Complete product description: what it does, how it works, what makes it different/superior, etc.
  2. Description of the person buying or using the product. What is important to them?
  3. Product attributes the name should convey (e.g., ease of use, speed, durability, the results it produces, etc.)
  4. Are there any client-imposed prohibitions (e.g., name can’t have the letter “X” or the word “green” in it, can’t have any military connotations, etc.)?
  5. Does the competition have a similar product? What is it called?
  6. What kind of tone should the name convey (e.g., aggressive, relaxing, friendly, reliable, etc.)?
  7. Does the parent brand have an established and recognizable image that the name should relate to?
  8. Does the name need to relate to other names in the product line (e.g., are all the products named after an animal)?
  9. Does it matter if the name is literal (Quarter-Pounder, Shop-Vac) or metaphorical (Whopper, Dirt Devil)?
  10. Are you open to having a coined name created, providing it conveys the appropriate attitude and imagery?

Asking these questions – and getting as many clear, definitive answers as possible – is crucial to creating a memorable, likable name that makes a positive connection to the customers.

Want to see 50 examples of great names?

 

Why having a great tagline is so important (and having a lame one is self-defeating)

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As a word guy I’ve always been intrigued by taglines…how a handful of words could encapsulate the essence of an entire brand.

Even as a kid I thought they were cool. I liked knowing that G.E. was where they would “bring good things to life.” That Pizza Hut was where you could “let yourself go.” That you could feel “The Heartbeat of America” in a Chevrolet. And I took comfort in knowing that “when it absolutely, positively had to be there overnight,” Federal Express was fueled and ready.

Such is the power of a well-crafted line of copy. (Of course, millions of dollars in advertising helps too.)

Sometimes that line of copy is a single word (Coke just used “Always” at one point). But typically it’s two to six. (Making a strong case for your brand with just one word can be a little dicey.)

So what are the guidelines for writing a tagline?

Great

At our agency we believe a tagline must be:

• Simple
• Concise
• Memorable
• Easy to say
• Appealing to the human being reading/hearing it
• An accurate representation of the brand promise

Beyond that, it’s wide open. Depending on the brand, a tagline can be stoic, straightforward, heartwarming, humorous, whimsical, sexy, provocative, inviting, dramatic, open-ended or specific.

A well-crafted tagline that resonates with an audience can anchor a brand’s marketing efforts for years, even decades.

Not great

Just for fun, see if you can name the brand these phrases go with:

  1. Think Outside the Bun
  2. Get the door. It’s ______.
  3. I’m lovin’ it.
  4. When you’re here, you’re family.
  5. Let’s Build Something Together
  6. More saving. More doing.
  7. It’s everywhere you want to be.
  8. Better ingredients. Better pizza.
  9. Eatin’ Good in the Neighborhood
  10. That was easy.

Okay, now for the lightning round. Here are some classics:

  1. Like a Rock.
  2. The quality goes in before the name goes on.
  3. Don’t leave home without it.
  4. Have it your way.
  5. Finger lickin’ good.

(If you’re stumped on any, the answers are below.)

How’d you do? Did you know the brand associated with the line? Or had you heard the line but couldn’t quite identify the brand it went with? Were any completely unfamiliar?

Although it’s not entirely fair to judge a tagline outside the context of an adjacent logo or brand environment, how well the taglines above resonated with you can give you at least some insight into their effectiveness.

Which ones above achieved any/some/most of the following?

• Made an emotional connection
• Encapsulated the user experience
• Differentiated the brand from others
• Reaffirmed the brand promise
• Conveyed smart thinking
• Staked out territory, category niche
• Described/clarified the product or service
• Acted as a call to action

Naturally, no phrase can do all of those. But good ones can do more than one.

Over the years, we’ve had the opportunity to work on a few tagline projects:

• “The Seal That Solves It” – for NAPA Gaskets by Fel-Pro
• “Made to Fit. Built to Last.” – for MTD Genuine Factory Parts
• “As Good As I.T. Gets” – for MRK Technologies (a local information technology company)

They use phonetic/mnemonic devices such as alliteration, parallel structure or just a slight twist of a familiar phrase to help them “stick” in the reader’s mind.

Two of them continue be used. The third had a run of several years. (All of which is great, because it means they did their job.)

Of course, there are plenty of taglines out there that don’t work. They leave no impression and are easily overlooked, forgotten or mistakenly associated with another brand.

It’s usually because they’re guilty of one or more of these mistakes:

• Blandness – no reason for anyone to remember it
• Boastfulness – off-putting self-aggrandizement
• Clunky – hard to say, no rhythm
• Triteness – saying what everyone else has said
• Silliness – misplaced or unfunny attempts at humor
• Stating the year founded (e.g., “Since 1910”) – says nothing except that you’ve managed to exist

Taglines that fall victim to the above will almost always fail to connect.

But when a tagline works it’s a powerful tool. One that can anchor a brand’s marketing efforts for years to come.

(This link will take you to a site where you’ll find dozens of well-known taglines and advertising slogans arranged in alphabetical order. Although it’s not particularly current, it’s still very enjoyable to peruse. And what it lacks in timeliness it more than makes up for in volume.)

Tagline quiz answers:

  1. Taco Bell
  2. Domino’s Pizza
  3. McDonald’s
  4. The Olive Garden
  5. Lowe’s
  6. The Home Depot
  7. Visa
  8. Papa John’s
  9. Applebee’s
  10. Staples

Classic tagline quiz answers:

  1. Chevy Trucks
  2. Zenith televisions
  3. American Express card
  4. Burger King
  5. Kentucky Fried Chicken

 

A lighthearted look at why some ads work and others don’t.

The cover of one of the best books I’ve ever read on advertising features a drawing of an oversized frog sitting atop a bright pink pig.

The pig is wearing snorkel gear and flippers.

It’s a silly visual meant to illustrate the absurd limits to which people might go for an “original” ad concept.

You can imagine a marketing manager being presented with it and exclaiming “That’s our new ad campaign…?”

Which just happens to be the title of the book.

“That’s our new ad campaign…?” by Dick Wasserman is a great resource, as the subtitle states, “for CEOs, Presidents, Ad Managers, Account Executives, Art Directors, Copywriters, Students, and Anybody Else Who Wants to Learn Howto Create Better Ads.”

(If you’re reading this, you’re at least one of those people, right?)

It’s a book that gets right down to the basics: What makes good ads good and bad ads bad; how to achieve the former and avoid the latter.

Although it’s a perfect primer for folks just starting out in the business, there’s plenty in this book for seasoned professionals too.

Here are three (of many) reasons you’ll want to read it:

1. You’ll learn useful stuff (or at least better ways to articulate what you already know).

Stuff like how to judge the merits of a creative concept. Why ads should be more like plays and less like speeches. And why what an ad implies – intentionally or otherwise – is as important as what it actually says.

Sure, some of this is fundamental. But let’s face it, many people working in advertising and marketing began their careers in a different area altogether; some of these lessons may be things they’ve never formally learned. They’re lessons well worth hearing.

2. You’ll enjoy reading it. (Again and again.)

Wasserman infuses his book with a lighthearted tone that makes it a pleasure to read. Even some of the chapter titles induce chuckles, most notably Chapter 9: To Arms, To Arms! Every Man Look Sharp! That Damn Agency Is Asking Us to Trust Its Intuition Again!

But just as fun as the writing style is the illumination the book provides, especially regarding the way consumers and advertisers respond to ads. Wasserman pulls back the curtain on the human mind, unveiling why ads with a sense of “drama” are so effective (pages 7–9). He delves just as deeply into the fear factor that makes advertisers reluctant to approve any idea deemed too “different” (page 42).

3. The chapter called “Some Good Examples of Bad Advertising” is alone worth the price of the book.

In this chapter the author has created a series of print ad concepts for a fictitious advertiser (“The Widget Group”). These funny little thumbnail sketches perfectly illustrate common mistakes advertisers can make – such as trying to say too much, lack of drama/tension, and failing to communicate on a personal level. By taking note of these examples, advertisers can avoid falling victim to trite, banal ad concepts. Agency folks will find this chapter a valuable resource for steering clients away from tired ideas.

Here are a few more pearls of wisdom from Wasserman’s pen:

On simplicity: “Making an ad try to say more than one simple thing at a time is like inviting two people to give a lost driver directions at the same time.”

On the hazards of “safe” advertising: “The risks involved in trusting (your agency’s) judgment are small when you consider the risks and economic waste involved in paying for advertising that nobody notices or remembers because it looks just like everybody else’s advertising.”

On agency account executives: “A good account executive…should be encouraging your firm to accept more innovative, provocative advertising. This means…he’s always going to be bugging you a bit. If he’s doing his job, you will sometimes find him irritating.”

I’m convinced that if everyone involved in creating and approving advertising would read this book, the quality of advertising in America would increase tenfold. So by all means give it a read. It’s as entertaining as it is enlightening.

(Although this little gem is currently out of print, it’s well worth the effort to find a copy – which you can do easily at your library or amazon.com).

 

 

 

Naming, Part I: It’s hard and all the easy ones are taken.

Occasionally our agency is asked to craft a name for a new brand or product.

It can be a fun project.

It’s also hard as heck.

That’s because most of the simple one-word names are already taken. If it’s a single, cool-sounding word, someone is probably using it.

Here’s a little brainstorming exercise that proves the point: Imagine an automaker in Detroit has asked you to come up with a name for a new car.

(Although in reality cars are marketed towards specific demographic groups, for the purposes of this discussion just imagine a “generic” vehicle and consumer.)

Where do you start?

You could run through a list of animals. You’d come up with Jaguar, Cougar, Eagle, Falcon, Skylark, Viper, Ram, Barracuda, Impala, Bronco and Mustang to name a few. (All kept shiny with Turtle Wax, no doubt.) Those names have all been used. Tiger? Lion? Panda?

Those just won’t work, will they?

So you try, let’s see…how about Zodiac signs? Taurus, Aries…crap, those are taken and the rest are kind of…out there.

Speaking of stars, does the universe offer a solution? Ford has a Galaxy, Mitsubishi an Eclipse. Mercury and Saturn are in use. Milky Way is fine for a candy bar, but not a car. Andromeda is too feminine. (And please don’t suggest Uranus.)

How about mythical names? Well, you’d think there’d be a lot there too, but other than Saturn, Mercury, Aurora and Thunderbird the pickings are pretty slim. You can’t exactly call a car Zeus or Thor.

And Puck is right out.

That leads us to Greek terms. Let’s see, there’s Delta (taken) and…um, not much else.

You move on to names of places: Several sound really great and conjure up cool imagery – Aspen, Daytona, Malibu, Sierra, Milan, Capri – but of course they’re taken. You try picking other cities – Pittsburgh, Flint, Kalamazoo – and quickly realize you should just keep moving on.

What about music? Hyundai has the Sonata. What else could we try? Melody and Harmony would be great if the car were a girl. Octave? Nocturne? A bit technical. Most of the other terms are incomprehensible to anyone who doesn’t speak Italian.

Becoming slightly desperate, you throw caution and political correctness to the wind and begin exploring the hunting grounds of Native American tribal names. Unfortunately, Jeep has beaten you to the punch and grabbed up Cherokee, Apache and Comanche. Dodge took Dakota, and GM has owned Pontiac since General Custer’s time (not to mentioned the misspelled Aztek). Mazda even took the Navajo. You’re left with Cree, Sioux and Hopi, and there’s not much you can do with those.

A-ha! Why not something with just letters and numbers, like Mazda RX-7, Audi A4, Pontiac GTO or Ford F-150? Trouble is, letters and numbers don’t mean much on their own (although some, such as A, V, X, Z and the number 1 have more personality than others). It usually takes a massive marketing campaign to imbue an alpha-numeric name with meaning.

It’s at this point that you realize that coming up with a name, while perhaps still fun, will not be easy.

Barring the use of an existing single word that’s exactly right for your product and audience (Pontiac nailed it with Vibe, Kia with Soul, Nissan with Cube), what we’re left with is essentially three options:

  1. Putting two words together: Grand Prix, Grand Am, Town & Country, Town Car, Fifth Avenue, Ramcharger, Sunfire, Range Rover, Crown Victoria, PT Cruiser (PT isn’t a word, but…)
  2. Putting a prefix in front of a word: Ford Econoline, Pontiac Trans Sport. (This is actually a better option for car parts than for an actual car. Think of Duralast batteries, ThermoQuiet brakes, AutoLite spark plugs.)
  3. Coining a new word.

Option 3 has become particularly popular these days. We’ll talk about the challenges of coining a new name in an upcoming post.

NEXT: Naming, Part II: To create a name that’s on target, get ready and aim before you fire.