Strategy. Innovation. Brand.

Branding: How to Name a Sports Car

Tarin or Parin?

You’ve just designed a spectacular, high-performance sports car. It’s beautiful. It handles like a dream. It turns heads. And it’s faster than anything else on the road. Now what do you name it?

Let’s assume that you want to emphasize the car’s speed in the name. Which name sounds faster to you: Tarin or Parin? Think about it for a moment and then read on.

According to researchers at Lexicon, a naming company in California, Tarin implies speed but less luxury. Parin, on the other hand, implies luxury rather than speed. The differences have to do with the pronunciation of the first letter. The initial “t” in Tarin is easy to pronounce — it’s quick like a fast car. The “p” in Parin requires more effort to build — like a luxury car.

“Fine”, you may say, “that works in English but the world is globalizing, so what about other languages?” Funny you should ask. The Lexicon researchers also studied the names in Japanese, Polish, Spanish, and Dutch and got essentially the same result. Pronouncing a “t” is easy and fast regardless of your native language.

This example comes from “Famous Names”, a terrific article by John Colapinto that appeared in The New Yorker. (click here). Unlike the old days, naming has become much more of a science. Linguists are studying how sounds evoke emotions and how those sounds might vary across cultures. Some tidbits from the article:

  • Short brand names are better than long ones.
  • Pronounceability is important. An unpronounceable name simply puts off prospective buyers. The easiest words to pronounce follow a consonant-vowel-consonant pattern like Amazon or Lipitor or Lexicon.
  • Alliteration and assonance help a name sound more likable.
  • The letters “c”, “v”, and “p” imply vigor and well-being. This is why the Lexicon researchers love the name of Honda’s Civic.
  • The letter “b” is the most “reliable” in virtually any language. Hence the BlackBerry (which Lexicon named).
  • The name shouldn’t focus on the product features but rather the story you want to tell about the product.

So here’s a fun game: take these guidelines and start inventing your own names. I often do this when I’m out for a walk. I just play with different letter combinations and, when I come up with something that sounds interesting, I write it down. I now have about 80 names on my “potentially useful” list. Some day, they may come in handy.


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