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?

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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.

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2 comments

  1. Christine Marie · October 28, 2010

    I love this trend in advertising. I do agree, though, it has to be done right. Drinkability was a bust, but ridiculicious is a definite win. Maybe one more step in the process would be to add a touch of silly. It might sound trite, but making up a word that has a fun element to it seems to be more successful every time. And even though “uncola” is not necessarily silly, the man delivering the message has plenty of character to carry the word.

    • ctmarcom · October 28, 2010

      Right. And it has to be right for your audience and for what you’re selling. What I like about “uncola” is that it’s so simple yet, especially at the time it came out, said so much. Now we have plenty more alternatives to cola so it’s not as relevant. No matter what though, I do like seeing what people come up with.

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