If your name is different for the sake of being different, then it’s likely doomed. The most powerful names are those that best support the brand positioning, no matter what. Depending on the circumstances, a name might be “extreme” or it might not. If your name is trying too hard to be different just in order to stand out, it won’t. It will blend in with all the other names that are also trying too hard, and failing, to stand out.
In good company
That is a long-held tenet in Zinzin’s naming manifesto. That’s why we were thrilled to see Lana Tlemat’s March 2023 article in Fast Company. It’s called “What do Lyft and Krispy Kreme have in common? This– and consumers hate it. Here’s a hint: Tumblr is another one.”
Here’s the article in full (1-minute read):
We’ve long seen that certain companies like to innovate with the English language by misspelling brand names—arriving at names like Lyft and Tumblr. But new research published in the Journal of Marketing finds that consumers are actually less likely to choose brands with cleverly misspelled names.
“Consumers perceive unconventionally spelled names as a persuasion tactic or a marketing gimmick, leading them to view the brand as less sincere,” lead researcher John Costello told Notre Dame News.
Studying nearly 3,000 participants in eight studies, they found that consumers generally dis-preferred products with misspelled brand names. In one study, stadium goers were offered free samples of one seltzer with a misspelled brand name, and one without. They were 14% less likely to choose the one with the unconventionally spelled name.
The study focused specifically on brand names that mimic real words, but are unconventionally spelled, like Lyft, and not brands whose names are completely made up.
While an unusual spelling may make it easier to get a domain name or trademark, the researchers want to caution new brands from misspelling names in an attempt to seem young or trendy. They suggest that brand names should be misspelled only if it is relevant to the brand’s origin.
The article ends with this thought: “…researchers want to caution new brands from misspelling names in an attempt to seem young or trendy.”
With many thanks to recent market researchers, we’ve also cautioned against misspelling names since the dawn of Zinzin time. There’s even an appropriately scary-sounding name for this syndrome: Disemvoweling. Has it been done out there in the world? You bet it has, and how. Does it mean it should be done? We say proceed with caution, lest you end up among this gathrng of brnds:
Brands must proceed with caution
While we generally caution against it, Zinzin does believe the misspelled name must support the brand positioning. For instance, take “Playskool” in the list below. It works because it’s a brand for young kids, and young kids often misspell words when they’re first learning how to write and read. That’s part of what makes the name memorable and cute.
Here are some other familiar brands that invented a new spelling of an existing word by changing or dropping letters:
- Froot Loops
- Krispy Kreme
- Mortal Kombat
Authenticity in naming
Zinzin believes in powerful, authentic brand names that tell a story, because authenticity is a hallmark of great naming and branding. That includes authentic spelling of real words. When it comes to your company or product’s name and primary messaging, keeping it real – including “real” spelling – is a must. It’s something you just can’t fake.
Misspelled names vs invented brand names
As the Fast Company article above points out, the study focused specifically on brand names that mimic real words, but are unconventionally spelled. This doesn’t include brands whose names are completely made up. In the naming business, these are often called made-up, coined, or invented brand names.
However, even invented names come with a warning label. Invented names made from morphemic mashups are often praised for being “completely unique, unlike anything else that is out there.” While this might be technically true, such names are often only unique in the way that every snowflake is unique.
In a blizzard, however, the uniqueness of an individual snowflake disappears. The same thing happens when “unique” mashup names join the real world brand blizzard – they vanish from sight, indistinguishable from one another. Since your name is the face of your brand, names that tell stories are more powerful than names that don’t.
Should purposeful misspellings of brand names never ever exist? We wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but we always support the idea that it must make 100% sense to the brand. In other words, the name — and even the way it’s spelled — must always support the brand positioning.
Remember, if your name is trying too hard to be different just in order to stand out, it won’t. It will blend in with all the other names that are also trying too hard, and failing, to stand out.
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