Thereâ€™s a concept I believe S.I. Hayakawa, the modern father of linguistics, introduced back in the 1960â€™s. At least thatâ€™s when I first learned about it in a copy-writing seminar Marstellar Advertising conducted for its staff.
Ever hear of the abstraction ladder?
Itâ€™s easier to cite an example than to define it.
Picture a ladder and perched on the top rung is a person who declares, â€œI have assetsâ€. When you ask him, â€œwhat do you mean by thatâ€, he steps down a rung and states, â€œI have agricultural holdingsâ€. You ask again for a more explicit description and he steps down another rung as he declares, â€œI raise livestockâ€. Once again you ask for clarification. He again descends another rung and says, â€œIâ€™m in the cattle business.â€ You want more specifics and he goes to the next lower rung and pronounces that, â€œIâ€™m partial to dairy cowsâ€. You ask what kind of dairy cow and he steps on the next rung down to exclaim he â€œlikes Guernsey cowsâ€. Finally as he leaves the bottom rung and plants his feet squarely on the loam he confesses, â€œI own a cow named Bessieâ€.
Thatâ€™s the abstraction ladder.
Each rung represents another level of abstraction, and the higher you go the more abstract becomes your phraseology.
Keep this in mind as you attempt to name a business. When you use the abstract words from the top rungs, your images and impact are limited. Thus, names like the following â€“ all real names owned by members of the INC500 fastest growing companies list â€“ will have less impact than will solid, low-rung names that people can actually visualize and identify with.
- Associated Business Systems
Advanced Technologies & Science
Enterprise Development Services
Advanced Technologies Group
Innovative Technical Systems
Advanced Solutions Engineering
Universal Systems & Technology
Integrated Science Solutions
Honest. Those are actual names of companies that grew fast during the last ten years â€“ IN SPITE OF TERRIBLE NAMES. Might they have enjoyed even more and continued success if they had been introduced to the abstraction ladder?
Just to be on the safe side, Iâ€™d stay on the lower rungs where specific, action-based concrete words resonate with market members.
Just one more reminder: Monday, June 11,Â I’ll be blogging on a single branding case study with eleven other branding and marketing “pundits”. I think you’ll find my perspective, and the others you’ll find through http://brandingwire.com to be well worth your attention.