Wordification – Creating new words to promote your product

Jabberwocky tribute cartoon by Doug SavageMaking up words to sell a product? That’s ridiculous! Or is it? Captain Morgan might say it’s ridiculicious?

After all, people make up words all the time. (Sadly some of these words do make it into dictionaries, but that’s another story.)

In advertising, creating a new word is perfectly acceptable. However, it better be good.

3 traits of a perfect advertising word

  1. Easily understood
  2. Meaningful in relation to the product
  3. Leaves a lasting positive impression

Easily understood

One new word you may be aware of is from Bud Light. They said their beer has “drinkability.” Bud Light took a lot of heat for this one (from me too), but the word itself wasn’t bad. So what went wrong?

Yes, drinkability is easily understood—you’re able to drink it. Okay. I hope we all see the problem here. Bud Light is a beer, which is a drink, so it is related to the product. But what does it really mean? Aren’t all beers drinkable? Is this really the best thing they have to say about their product?

Which sounds better: a beer that has drinkability or a drink (Captain Morgan) that is ridiculicious?

Meaningful in relation to the product

An oldie but a goodie comes from 7-up—the “uncola.” In six letters, they differentiated their product from the competition. Not a cola. All their advertising backs that up with words like: fresh, crisp, clear, natural.

7up Uncola Advertisement

Leaves a lasting positive impression

My personal favorite is Shopportunity from Marshalls. It perfectly suits what Marshalls is all about. (Ha! Excuse the pun.) Designer clothes at lower prices—that sounds like a shopportunity to me.

Marshalls sister company, TJ Maxx, engages in similar wordplay: “Give me a fashionista and I’ll make her a Maxxinista.” This tagline of their new commercial fits their purpose and brand. Love fashion? You’ll love TJ Maxx.

Target has even jumped in the game to promote clothing at their stores. Their new ads use  “Jeanius,” “Plaiditude,” and “Knitorious” in a commercial that is quite Gapilar…Gapaphoric…Gapogenic—okay, looks and sounds like a Gap ad.

So, you can see, the most success comes when you combine two easily recognizable words that have the three key traits. (Short version: Understandable, meaningful and positive.)

Have you had success with wordification? Or are you dying to refudiate me?


Picture credit goes to Doug Savage. Here’s a link to his Savage Chickens website. The ultimate master of making up words (following none of the above rules) is Lewis Carroll in his poem Jabberwocky. The Simpsons are pretty good at it too. I also found this fun blog you might enjoy, Fritinancy.

Don’t read my blog, please

Breastcancer.org circle ribbon logoDoing things a little differently this week in honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness month. I’m not going to talk about brand or marketing or copywriting. Instead, I’m asking you to read:

What Happens When One of the World’s Leading Breast Cancer Doctors Gets Breast Cancer?

This article by Robert Huber of Philadelphia Magazine is one of the best I’ve ever read. It profiles Breastcancer.org President and Founder Dr. Marisa Weiss as she talks about managing her own diagnosis with breast cancer.

Yes, it reveals the tremendous personal brand of Dr. Weiss, and it’s fantastic advertising for Lankenau and Pennsylvania Hospitals. But, I’m urging you to read it just to be inspired—to learn about an incredible woman.

And if you’re further inspired to donate to Breastcancer.org, even better.

So, go ahead. Read the article through the link above or the one right here.


This blog post is in memory of Bertha Mollo, Doris Fischer, Joan Walter and Ginger Luskin, and in honor of  Liz D’Angelo, Esta Ann Stearne and all the fabulous women out there facing their own diagnosis, fighting for their lives, or living the dream called survival.

4 lessons marketers can find in political ads

Yes, it’s that lovely time of year again. No, I’m not talking about the brilliant changing of the leaves. I’m talking about Election Day campaigning. Ugh. You’ve probably noticed the uptick in campaign commercials.

Anyway, let’s see what we can learn from them.

Try a personal approach

Christine O’Donnell is a Tea Party/Republican candidate with a decidedly soft approach in her recent ad.

Smart move to counter the loud public image of the Tea Party. The biggest problem is it goes a little too far with “I’m you.”

For someone who has a questionable reputation and an allegedly shaky relationship with the truth, she might not want to assume her audience welcomes being associated with that.

Lesson learned: Soft and personal can be great, but make sure you are sincere. And know your limits. Before you say “I’m you,” make sure there’s nothing in your history to make people not want to be you.

Use video: In their own words

Joe Sestak is using damning video of Pat Toomey to try and win the U.S. Senate seat for Pennsylvania.

A man in his own words can be very effective with the right message—positive or negative. Hearing Toomey say, “I think the solution is to eliminate corporate taxes altogether,” has a pretty big impact.

Lesson learned: Video testimonials from actual customers can be very powerful. The footage you capture should be brief and meaningful.

Third-party evidence

Both candidates for Pennsylvania governor (Tom Corbett and Dan Onorato) use newspaper clippings in at least one of their ads. Onorato’s pack more punch because the headlines mention Corbett. But Corbett shows clips in which the viewer is left to imply Onorato was responsible. You don’t want to leave your audience guessing.

Lesson learned: Third-party evidence can be quite convincing. But make sure the evidence is clear and leaves no questions or doubt about the truth. Also, stick with your strength. (Tom Corbett’s other ads are very strong, so I’m not sure why he aired this one.)

Know when to use a spokesperson

John Adler has so far run a pretty nasty campaign against Jon Runyan, a former pro football player. Runyan’s response was to come out with his own ads refuting what Adler says. The problem? While it’s hard to argue with what Runyan says, he sounds like a football player who may have taken too many hits. That could hurt him.

Lesson learned: Responding to your competition’s attacks, especially if untrue, can be a good idea. However, you’ll want to choose an approach that leaves an entirely positive impression. First step, choose a solid spokesperson.

An added note on involving the competition

Also, you should be careful how you involve the competition. If most of your images or words are spent on the competition, you must have a clear, strong message or you run the risk of accidentally advertising for your competitor.

Oh, and those flimsy campaign signs littering every inch of green space near the road? Lesson is pretty obvious there: Advertising shouldn’t litter, it should glitter.


Disclaimer: I am in no way trying to influence how you vote or put one candidate in a better light than another. This blog post is meant to be purely about marketing. However, the one thing I will say about voting is this: Get as many facts as you can and make up your own mind.

Timberland: A lean, mean, green machine

Bear, wolf & man from Timberland ad & websiteApparently, Timberland is sick of getting eaten up by the competition. They’re making a bold move in Nike’s advertising direction with an ad campaign that features:

  • Handheld camera work
  • Fast action with suspense thrown in
  • Loud, energetic music (“Don’t Give Up” by the Noisettes)
  • A catchy tagline – If you’re not fast, you’re food.

Showcasing their mountain athletic shoes, their ad, “Bait,” has a real shot at stealing some customers and eating up the competition. See what you think:

Even their tagline at the end of the ad, “Take it all on,” gives you the sense that Timberland is on a new path.

And advertising isn’t the only thing they’re doing well these days. As you can tell from their website, this company wants to lead the way in being “green.”

Click on “Go Faster” and you’ll see “Further. Faster. Lighter. Smarter…High-performance outdoor shoes made with the environment in mind.”

From trash piles to time trials.

Under “Go Green,” you’ll learn how they use recycled rubber to save money and save the earth. You can read even more taking the link to learn more on the Green Rubber site.

Be aware of what you put on your body

We hear all the time to be aware of what we put in our body. By changing one word—“in” to “on”—they have another slogan we can get behind. They link to their corporate site where you can learn more about their environmental efforts.

Back in 2007, they expressed a goal of being carbon neutral by 2010. They’re not quite there yet, but the efforts they’re making are quite impressive, including:

Now their goal is to be carbon neutral by 2015. After all they’ve done and learned along the way, Timberland is sure to meet that goal. It’s now our job as responsible consumers to support Timberland and companies like it.

Think about it. I learned all this just because their commercial intrigued me. It didn’t take much time at all to see what Timberland is doing to help the environment and be a more responsible company. And the best part about it is they’re making it fun—for their employees and consumers.

While their commercial has that “in your face” attitude, their environmental efforts are quietly setting an example for other manufacturers and retailers to follow.

People used to think companies so conscious about the environment were stodgy and boring. Timberland is changing that stereotype fast—and if others don’t keep up, they’ll be the food.


Here’s a list of carbon-neutral achievements and commitments from companies and one of my favorite environmental organizations The Nature Conservancy.