Brand­ing

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A Las Ve­gas Ed­u­ca­tion

Vis­it­ing Las Ve­gas is like tak­ing a 72-hour, fully-im­mer­sive MBA. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Econ­o­mist re­port, the city is en­joy­ing record tourism and fast em­ploy­ment growth. It’s easy to see why.

Any Ops Di­rec­tor will be im­pressed by a 7a.m. walk around the gam­ing floors. A dust­less, smil­ing ef­fi­ciency 24 hours a day isn’t only pos­si­ble, it’s an ab­so­lute ne­ces­sity when you want peo­ple to spend money with you 24 hours a day.

If you want to know how to con­vert pas­sive ob­servers into ac­tive con­sumers, take a seat at Ve­gas’s en­try-level prod­uct in­no­va­tion, Casino War. There are ta­bles at each cor­ner where the walk­way hits the gam­ing floor. Play­ing it is as sim­ple as play­ing a game of Snap.

And if you’re a 52-year-old man, crum­pled and de­hy­drated af­ter a 12hour flight, step­ping into a ho­tel and be­ing greeted with, “Hey, hot stuff!”, it’s a re­minder that good mar­ket­ing is as much about the feel­ing you’re promis­ing as the prod­uct you’re of­fer­ing.

My ex­cuse for vis­it­ing Ve­gas was to be the Pres­i­dent of the first ever ad­ver­tis­ing awards jury to judge ver­bal brand­ing: end­lines, prod­uct nam­ing and prod­uct copy. We were pre­sented with the best ex­am­ples of how mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing busi­nesses around the world had used lan­guage in 2015. It was as

De­cem­ber 2016

Chris West, Ver­bal Iden­tity Jury Pres­i­dent at Lon­don In­ter­na­tional Awards (LIA) and Founder of Ver­bal Iden­tity Inc, on Amer­ica’s way with lan­guage and brand­ing.

much of an eye-opener as the rest of the town.

Amer­i­can busi­ness has a way with words be­cause Amer­i­can busi­ness has a way with think­ing. Un­abashed, fo­cussed.

It suc­cess­fully ap­plies a po­etry of blunt­ness to writ­ing.

The coun­try, which in­vented “Have a nice day!” and “You do the math”, also in­vented Snick­ers’ line, “You’re not you when you’re hun­gry.”

It’s not hard to work out what the “Tuff Shed” com­pany sells.

What was most in­ter­est­ing was how ad­vanced Amer­i­can busi­ness is at prod­uct nam­ing. In Britain, nam­ing is of­ten done for free, thrown in by the de­sign­ers who are do­ing the pack­ag­ing. In Amer­ica, it’s a stand­alone busi­ness. Quite sim­ply, you don’t plan a busi­ness, in­vest heav­ily in the R& D for a new prod­uct and then launch it with­out in­vest­ing in the R& D for its name.

I was de­lighted, as a busi­ness owner who has in­vested in lin­guis­tic skills on the team, to see that Amer­i­can busi­ness own­ers un­der­stand the im­por­tance of lin­guis­tics in craft­ing a name. De­spite the blunt­ness in other ar­eas of lan­guage, they make sure that sub­tle nu­ances of sound and mean­ing are in­cor­po­rated into names. There is also an aware­ness of the dif­fer­ent styles of names: De­fin­i­tive

In Britain, nam­ing is of­ten done for free, thrown in by the de­sign­ers who are do­ing the pack­ag­ing. In Amer­ica, it’s a stand­alone busi­ness.

(think Bri­tish Air­ways or, ahem, Ver­bal Iden­tity), Sug­ges­tive (Im­pos­si­ble Foods™), and Es­o­teric (Talix™).

The fee for creating a mem­o­rable, trade-mark­able name in Amer­ica ap­par­ently has a lot of 0s on the end of it and as a jury, we talked a lot about how lan­guage has an ac­count­able, fi­nan­cial value. We were joined on the panel by a Wall Street jour­nal­ist whose col­umn is ded­i­cated to the ver­bal as­sets of busi­nesses and he ex­plained the story be­hind Google’s nam­ing of its new phone, the Pixel.

The fi­nal re­minder of the value of the busi­ness of nam­ing came on the jour­ney back. Cur­rently, the TSA (Amer­ica’s air­ports safety au­thor­ity) is do­ing a good job at re­mind­ing ev­ery­one how im­por­tant it is to in­vest in creating dis­tinct and dif­fer­ent names for dif­fer­ent prod­uct ranges.

Above ev­ery check-in line was a sign, re­in­forced by an­nounce­ments both on the ground and when you take your seat in the plane, that Sam­sung’s Gal­axy Note 7 de­vices are to be fully dis­abled on the flight. Sam­sung’s value will take a hit but, un­like Black­berry whose mar­ket value never re­cov­ered, the dam­age will last only as long as it takes Sam­sung to in­vent a new name for the prod­uct range.

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