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Power Naming: Evocative Words Work Wonders


Give a mundane product an evocative name, and you will dramatically increase its appeal.

Humans are uniquely gifted to attach complex meanings to sounds. Some of these sounds are musical; pitch, key, tempo, rhythm, interval, and contour. But much more specific in their meanings are phonemes, the building blocks of words.

Cat and kite begin with the same sound. Ignore, for a moment, that C and K are different letters. The phoneme is the sound, not the letter. The sound represented by the letters ch in chirp, cherry, and cheerful is another phoneme.

There are only 40 phonemes in the English language. If you want to get fussy, you can count the unvoiced th sound in with as a different phoneme than the voiced th in the. If you continue down that road, you can find as many as 44 different phonemes. But thats all.

Forty-four sounds allow you and I to know each others thoughts.

The Bible opens and closes with stories about the importance of names. Genesis tells us that Adams first task was to name all the animals. In the Revelation of John we read, I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

Names are important. This is a fact that all the worlds cognitive neuroscientists agree upon.

Nouns originate and are interpreted in a region of the brain just behind your left ear known as Wernickes area, connected by the arcuate fasciculus a high-bandwidth bundle of nerves to another region slightly forward of your left ear known as Brocas area, where we attach the sounds we call verbs to the actions we need to name. Brocas area then coordinates the diaphragm, larynx, lips, and tongue so that we can form the rapid succession of phonemes in a positively human display called speech.

Yes, humans are uniquely gifted to attach complex meanings to sounds. And we are uniquely gifted to make those sounds as well.

Phonemes and music are two of the 12 languages of the mind. Shape and color are another two.

Visual artists send emotional messages in the languages of shape and color. Painters use paint. Fashion designers use cloth. Jewelers use metals and gemstones. And these artists often expect their work to speak for itself.

But it cant.

Shapes and colors can communicate feelings and ideas, but they lack the detailed specificity of words.

Words conjure images, but words are never visual. The written word has no meaning until it has been translated into the spoken word it represents. Phonemes are sounds, remember? They are not letters of the alphabet.

Music and color and shape speak, but not specifically.

But if you will add to these languages of emotion the power of an evocative name, the listener your customer will create a personal and private story around it.

A well-chosen name sharply focuses and accelerates the talent of the visual artist and gives that talent greater impact.

A designer and a poet, holding hands, could take over the world.

Heres an example of evocative naming.

SARAH: Christmas is coming!
SEAN: And what could be better
SARAH: than designer diamond earrings!
SEAN: Youve never seen ANYTHING like these.
SARAH: From diamond Hugs and Kisses
SEAN: two-hundred-ninety-nine dollars
SARAH: to the fabulous hoops of the
Renaissance Queen.
SEAN: Twenty-five-hundred-thirty-nine dollars.
SARAH: See them on our website.
SEAN: The Diamond-Studded SUPERSTAR.
SARAH: The Summer of Love.
SEAN: Cinnamon Roll earrings!
SARAH: Fairy Tale hoops.
SEAN: Forever THIN.
SARAH: Sparkling Springtime!
SARAH: and Captured Hearts
SEAN: Buried TREASURE hoops
SARAH: [sexy] and the Diamond Negligee.
SEAN: The Ocean Journey
SARAH: and the Embassy Ball.
SEAN: We have Splish-Splash earrings
SARAH: and Drop-Drops!
SEAN: Diamond Sunflowers
SARAH: and the Four Seasons of Vivaldi
SEAN: Did you mention Snuggles and the
Colors of Light?
SARAH: No, you did.
SEAN: When?
SARAH: Just now.
SARAH: Designer diamond earrings start at just
two-hundred-ninety-nine dollars
SEAN: at Spence.
SARAH: and Spence Diamonds dot-com.
SEAN: Do we need to give them the address?
SARAH: No, they can find us.

Do you want to see these earrings?

Of course you do.

Youre human.

Roy H. Williams is president of Wizard of Ads Inc. E-mail:

(12/2/2013 1:30:56 AM)
One could make the argument, Roy, that the greatest majority of language used on the radio was determined and demonstrated by someone suffering from a milder form of Broca's aphasia. Then, somehow, it all got locked in.

Still, thanks to you for demonstrating some of the linguistic distinctions that could be made for the benefit of broadcasters and the enjoyment and interest of audiences. Plus, further benefits for advertisers may also be available....someday...maybe.

- Ronald T. Robinson

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