A neologism, or new word, is a word that is invented. Kodak® is a neologism. So are Exxon®, Xerox®, Novartis®, Kleenex®, and Viagra®. Neologisms can work very well without meaning anything at all when first introduced. They tend to be more distinctive and globally friendly, and run into fewer trademark difficulties due to their distinctive and non-descriptive nature. Products and companies that represent innovative ideas can make their names synonymous with the newly created product class or industry itself, leaving others who follow to be viewed as "me too". However, neologisms typically require more initial marketing spend to become recognized. A name that does not speak to the product's key benefit can mean a missed opportunity to position the brand via the name and make it a preemptive strike in the battle for recognition. For each successful neologism that became the gold standard in its category, there are legions that fail.
Current Usage Words
These are words that already have an established meaning. Apple®, Time®, Orange®, Oracle®, Mars®, Always®, Omega®, and Rites of Passage® are current usage names. All send messages about the company, product or service to which they are affixed. While possessing an element of description, they all trigger something more in the minds of their target audience. They should be descriptive enough to inform, but remote enough to distinctively evoke positive images. The name Fortune® refers to a business magazine, but also suggests success and independence. Current usage words work extremely well, conveying messages to the target market with far less of a marketing effort. However, a name being too descriptive may lead to the inability to trademark it. It may also trigger negative or inappropriate connotations, be it cultural slang or a different meaning in another language, of which the owner was unaware when making his choice.
Names like Swissair®, Swisscom®, Microsoft®, ThinkPad®, Nice & Easy®, Band-Aid®, Brand Doctor®, and NameSpector™ are hybrids, combinations of current usage words or recognizable syllables. Like current usage words, hybrids can send the right messages with the name, and with the combination of words one can highlight several attributes and benefits. Like neologisms, legal availability may not be as big of a problem either, since hybrids are not as likely to infringe another mark. Like current usage words, hybrids must communicate positive contents only.
Acronyms, words formed from the initial letters of other words, and other new coinages are distinctive, indispensable features of modern speech: CD-ROM, DVD, WWW, URL, radar, sonar, quasar, and laser, for example. Acronyms are predominantly used for corporate names. A meaningless mix of letters on a product may leave the customer confused and indifferent. Also, successful company names like IBM®, GE®, and BMW®, only became acronyms after each company had made its mark. And acronyms like ABB® and UBS® resulted from the need to name the new entity created by the merger of two previously well-known companies.
'Dances with Wolves' - The Magic of Names and Marks
How an Indian got his name
Indian names were a language unto themselves, laden with descriptive, allusive or even magical meaning. An Indian baby was named soon after birth – usually by a medicine man or a paternal relation – and the entire village participated in the occasion. The infant might be named for an animal, for a physical phenomenon such as thunder that occurred on the day of birth or even for a brave deed that once had been performed by the giver of the name. A woman generally kept the name she received at birth, but a man often replaced his original name with a new one that celebrated a personal act of valor, recalled a encounter with an unusual animal or perhaps was inspired by a dream. However, a man who had a handicap or some other distinguishing characteristic was forever known by an apposite nickname, such as Hump or Big Hand. Because Indian names almost always were based on something objective, they could easily be rendered as pictographs – frequently with a line connecting visual representations of the name and a human head to signify ownership.
Benjamin Capps, The Indians, 1973
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