Fellow namers and word nerds, have Christmas and Hanukkah come early? Merriam-Webster, America’s “leading provider of language information,” recently announced its top 10 words of 2022.
Observations (& Inspirations)
Ahh, the cozy, inviting scents that fill our homes over the holidays — cinnamon, gingerbread, spruce, cedar, and…broken rosary, or old books?
Believe it or not, these are some of the holiday candle scents available this season. What does a broken rosary smell like, you ask? Apparently, it’s woody and floral (with a hint of Catholic guilt?), and it can be yours for $44.
Within recent years, scented candle names took a distinctly evocative turn. They went from being merely descriptive to evoking emotions, memories, and experiences. And as the holiday shopping season approaches, they’ll be everywhere. Traditional ones, like Yankee Candle’s basalm & cedar or peppermint pinwheels, are still around, of course. But Zinzin’s finely tuned naming noses sniffed out some doozies. So, let’s follow the holiday scented trail of this candle naming trend — will it wax or wane?
We delight in the challenge of distilling a message or emotion into one or two words that truly evoke a brand position. So, it’s only natural we love the original lover of words: Philitas of Cos, or simply, Philitas.
‘Tis the season of giving, so we turn our naming spotlight on the one, the only, the legend: Robin Hood. This name is immediately synonymous with a heroic outlaw who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Aside from his affinity for Lincoln green tights, what Zinzin finds most extraordinary is how this character from ancient English folklore has endured in company and product naming well into modern times.
To keep the creative juices flowing in our naming hearts and minds, we here at Zinzin like to explore topics tangential to our task at hand — creating powerful, evocative names to help brands build positive, emotional connections with audiences. While it’s well known today that the strongest brands make emotional connections, I think artists figured this out a long time ago. Namely, one of the most influential American abstract painters of the 20th century: Agnes Martin.
Famous for her grid paintings born from an ordered process approaching science in its rigor, Martin’s goal was to evoke emotional states that connect with the viewer. What’s awesome, Zinzin friends, is that we use a similar approach to naming.
Moreover, Martin had specific opinions about naming (giving titles to) her paintings. So, let’s explore some of the work of the infinitely fascinating Agnes Martin, draw inspiration from it, and see what naming lessons we can learn.
Zinzin believes that language is alive and on the move. It’s like a living, breathing organism – always changing, morphing, evolving. Cultures change too, and names come and go over time. But some don’t. Why has one naming practice, in particular — brands named after different Indigenous cultures — lasted so long in America? And how is it changing? Let’s take a look at some American brand names derived from Indigenous peoples and cultures.
Every once in a while, Zinzin comes across a name that turns our heads. Usually, it’s because the name sounds, looks, or otherwise seems unusual or interesting — like marine algae Heterosigma Akashiwo, paint color Dead Salmon, or eyewear brand Warby Parker. This time it’s the slime mold Physarum Polycephalum, otherwise known as The Blob.
The World Series is here! This namer is a big fan of Major League Baseball (MLB), and Zinzin always loves to explore worlds outside of its own to find naming inspiration. So, let’s look at the rich naming traditions in the world of baseball, where the use of nicknames, in particular, is as fun and fascinating as the sport itself. More specifically, let’s look at the team naming history and current (active roster) player nicknames of the two teams in the 2022 World Series: the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Your company or product name is the first and most elemental point of audience contact with your brand. In many respects, your name is the brand. It sets the tone. It’s the handshake, the introduction, the first impression (formed within a matter of seconds) for everything your brand is about.
Your name is the cornerstone of your entire brand identity to follow — logo, tagline, advertising, website, etc. That’s why it’s vital to get it right. And in our experience, evocative names pack the most powerful brand punch.
Imagine a software company that makes a sophisticated and complex product. Presumably, it has a marketing department and an engineering department. Now imagine the employees of each department giving each other specific advice on how to perform their jobs. Having trouble imagining that one? Yup, us too.
The employees in the marketing department would never dream of telling the engineers how to program the company’s software, and the engineers don’t meddle in the company’s marketing business.
However, when a company decides to name (or rename) itself, dynamics can change quickly. Seemingly everybody, from the CEO to the security guard’s second cousin, wants to weigh-in, haggle, argue, condemn, and second-guess the company naming process and proposed names.
You could say that naming is the shortest form of writing there is. Maybe that’s why I’ve always found inspiration in the process and advice of great authors.
Way back in 2012, I read a wonderful opinion piece in The New York Times called My Life’s Sentences by the author Jhumpa Lahiri. She wrote about the art and craft of writing sentences, and the role they play in her own writing. To this day, her opinion makes me think about our own naming process and continues to inspire creativity here at Zinzin. Lahiri begins,
Everyone has nostalgia now and then — that warm and fuzzy feeling of fondness often from a familiar aspect of our past. Maybe it’s inspired by a specific place, a song, or even a scent. But what about brands and brand names? Can they evoke nostalgic feelings? The answer is a resounding yes, judging by pop culture trends, cycles, loops, and pendulums. (The Nostalgia Pendulum — it’s a thing; more on that later.)
The business of nostalgia is big, and we here at Zinzin are curious about it. For instance, is “the nostalgia loop” (it’s a thing too) a 20, 30, or 40-year cycle? There seems to be arguments for each scenario, so imagine this blog post is an Oldsmobile station wagon … climb in “the way back,” and join me on a road trip to discover more about nostalgia and naming. (Cheesy? You bet. But if you’re feeling nostalgic all of the sudden, we’re probably in the same decade of life. And perhaps you also geeked out over the Netflix original series Stranger Things.)
Plato, you saucy philosopher, you really get us namers, don’t you? We don’t usually wax Socratic here at Zinzin, but it warms our creative hearts to know that way back in 375 BC a great thinker understood the connection between creative invention and great need. In his famous dialogue, The Republic, Plato wrote, “Our need will be the real creator” — a proverb more widely known today as “Necessity is the mother of invention”…or of invented brand names, as this case may be.
What’s an invented name?
An invented name falls under the category of brand names that includes purely made-up, morphemic mash-up, unknown foreign words, and abstract names with no inherent meaning. Some call them fabricated or newly coined. At their best, invented names can be poetic, rhythmic, and ripe for investing with the soul of a brand (think Google). On the other hand, bad invented names, often suffering from “morpheme addiction,” litter the cultural landscape, and should serve as a cautionary tale when going this route.
In savage economic times, a company’s bottom line is on the line. External factors beyond a company’s control affect its performance, including customer buying habits. However, one thing that is within a company’s control is branding. And we’ve noticed that more and more top brass realize how important it is to get branding right. Usually, it all starts with a great name.
So, in naming, how does a company stay competitive and connected with customers in an economic environment that seems so unreal?
The answer, it seems to many, is to “get real” — really real, as in using the word “real” in a company name to communicate authenticity, which leaves Zinzin reeling. As we see it, to be truly authentic, a brand name must demonstrate, not explain its realness.
Check out this very real naming trend we call the “Get Real” movement and why it’s really gotta go.
Naming agencies like Zinzin are a relatively new breed. We exist as a specialized creative service within the realm of branding, tucked within the wider world of marketing. However, back in the day (post-WWII, let’s say), it was more common for company or product naming to land on the desk of a copywriter at an advertising agency.
While naming is a unique creative process unto itself, this professional lineage makes sense. Arguably, naming is the shortest form of copywriting there is. Both practices require the ability distill big picture concepts into bite-sized bits of information that connect with people in a blink, to put it simply. But “simple” is what some copywriters love best.