What’s in a name? The power of the right word

Oct 03, 2016

This week Snapchat relaunched as ‘Snap’. Snapchat is already the app of the moment, but by simplifying its name, it hopes to reflect its diversifying portfolio of services and capabilities. Along with the launch of its new Snap Spectacles, an affordable pair of sunglasses with built in cameras and the ability to post images straight to Snapchat stories, the change of name signifies the next chapter in the brand’s evolution. GDR Innovation Researcher Lamorna Byford explores how different brands are using the power of words… 

As Snapchat clearly knows, names are important. The age-old debate over linguistic determinism, i.e. whether our thoughts determine our language choices or whether the words we choose limit or determine our thoughts, is unlikely to be resolved any time soon. What is clear, however, is that the semantic connotations of a name can make a consumer look at your brand or product in an entirely different way. Astute shifts in nomenclature can be a simple, relatively cheap and effective way of recasting something as novel and exciting.

Take, for instance, the ‘Wedding University programme’ at the Four Seasons hotel in Macau, China. Caroline Lemos, Director or Catering and Conference Services at the hotel said, “We are excited to bring Wedding University back with more comprehensive information and tips than ever, providing couples with the key components of luxury wedding planning. In addition to covering budgeting, action plans, timelines, banquet menu design and wine pairing, and venue selection, students can learn more from first-hand interaction with seasoned wedding planning professionals.”

Clearly, the Wedding University is a wedding fair of the kind that many hotels run. By recasting the event in the language of learning, however, Four Seasons has amplified the brand’s authority on weddings, as well as claiming that attendees will gain valuable knowledge that they didn’t have before.

Face Gym applies the language of exercise to facial beauty

Face Gym applies the language of exercise to facial beauty

Borrowing semantics from another category that’s meaningful to your consumer can create mental associations that help persuade them that your product fits with their cultural preferences and tastes. Face Gym, a beauty ‘facial studio’ applies the language of gym culture and body fitness to facial beauty. Based in the beauty department of London department store Selfridges, customers can book a ‘workout’ with a ‘personal face trainer’ which breaks up into four sections; warm-up, cardio, sculpt and cool down.

These workouts don’t require any actual physical exertion on the part of the customer, but instead involves the therapist manipulating their face. They are essentially receiving a facial massage that claims to tighten and tone facial muscles. By using words like ‘workout’, the regime is given greater credibility, couched in the shared consensus that exercise equals toned attractiveness.

Retailers are also realising the potential benefits of recasting their spaces not as stores, but as something new and disruptive. When British furniture retailer Loaf created a new store, it named it a ‘Slowroom’, reflecting the laidback, relaxing atmosphere it has created in the space. Dyson called its first British retail space the ‘Dyson Demo’, while Apple was mildly ridiculed in the press for dropping the ‘store’ from its spaces, which are now just called ‘Apple’. Animal specialist PetSmart opened a ‘Pet Spa Store’ this year in Oceanside, NY in an attempt to “focus on the pet lifestyle experience”.

Whether or not these attempts to push their retail stores into new conceptual spaces will be successful with all customers remains to be seen. What is really interesting about these examples is the brands’ understanding that through simple semantic strategies, which associate your proposition with other aspects of your target consumer’s cultural schema, you can transform and strengthen your product.

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