Linguistic Branding and Nicknames.

While ranting about company nicknames in my previous two posts, I remembered something I’d seen on the web site of Lexicon Branding several years ago.


Lexicon is one of the premier sources of powerful brand names in the world, branding products as diverse as Swiffer, BlackBerry, Ridgeline and Evista.

Lexicon relies heavily on linguistic constructions and analysis of name candidates. An example they present on their web site was the syllable structure, consonant-vowel, consonant-vowel. This four letter, two syllable structure they claim to be “the uCVCV linguistic structureniversally preferred shape for words in all languages”. So many of the names created by Lexicon take that shape. (As an aside, Lexicon also likes to begin names with “Z”, a plosive letter combined with the vowel to produce an initial stressed syllable: Zima, Zeba, Zire, and the latest for Microsoft, Zume.) They acknowledge that the CVCV structure “already sounds like a nickname”.

So is it any wonder that the nicknames chosen by Washington Mutual (WaMu) and Southern Comfort (SoCo) take the CVCV form. Yet, neither of those nicknames are linguistically powerful, even though there is a rhythm and balance to SoCo, and a “natural flow” to WaMu.

So if you’re planing a do-it-yourself naming project, or if you’re naming a product or company for a client, you might want to investigate the CVCV structure. If you can also be fortunate enough to have those four letters produce a positive image or association, i.e. Visa or Bali, so much the better.

But my point remains: the adoption of a nickname once you’ve established a “formal” name can cause confusion and dilute the brand’s equity.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

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