The Cultural Power of Brand Names Semantic, sonic & metaphorical superpowers
The consumer need for seamless convenience and instant access is growing in response to our changed lives – where routines are in flux, working is hybrid and the home is fluid.
How are brand names across Food Delivery and Cloud Health spaces using linguistic techniques to communicate that their services are the answer to this need?
INSTANT FOOD DELIVERY SERVICES
From Fast Function…
Dominant brands blend functional semantic meaning and widely known connotations to communicate their services. Deliveroo, for example, is a portmanteau name blending the function of food ‘delivery’ with the hopping dynamism associated with kangaroos. Ocado evokes the freshness of ‘avocado’ whilst liberating the brand from any limiting links to the vegetable itself by shortening the origin word to its unique word ending.
Newer services’ naming conventions reflect their ability to deliver goods at an even faster rate. For example, Jiffy reinvigorates the quintessentially British, but dated, expression ‘in a jiffy’, re-embedding it into the modern context of in-app grocery experiences. Similarly, Beelivery’s portmanteau blends busy ‘bees’ with ‘delivery’ but pushes it further with the ‘beeli-’ construction connoting the word ‘beeline’ – the quickest, most direct route between two points. The name operates on three levels of meaning to collectively code an active and efficient service.
…to Curious Creativity
Newer brands’ naming conventions move away from emphasising the increasingly expected ‘fast delivery’ function, towards adventurous names which generate curiosity. Weezy uses a neologism – a newly created word – relying entirely on sonic connotations for meaning. Rhyming with the word ‘easy’, and with related expressions like ‘easy, peasy, lemon squeezy’, imbues the coined word with meanings of ease, simplicity and accessibility.
Gorillas also takes an indirect approach to meaning – the name does not directly connote speed but communicates size and power. This is dialled up by bold visual design – akin to streetwear brands like Supreme – and assertive claims that it is “faster than you”. These elements unlock connotations with synonym ‘guerilla’ – overall suggesting a fierce, radical brand that does things differently.
Pushing beyond English, Getir’s brand name is the Turkish verb for ‘to bring’. However, in a semiotically enjoyable crossover, the name takes on a new and coincidentally relevant meaning in English. When said aloud, the name sounds synonymous to ‘get here’, especially with the quintessentially English dropped ‘H’. A delicious example of a linguistic coincidence gone right, made possible by sonic connotation.
From Professional Urgency…
The need for instantaneous access has also seen the rise of cloud health apps and services. Medical support on-demand, these services use naming conventions that communicate a sense of proximity between healthcare practitioners and people – wherein healthcare practitioners are framed as the saviour.
Apps like NowGP and Push Doc blend the language of urgency with the references to a doctor persona, communicating a sense of instant proximity to the doctor directly. Similarly, the words ‘zoom’ and ‘hero’ in Zoom Doc and Health Hero use comic book-style language to draw on the superfast qualities of cloud health experiences and ultimately create a metaphor where the doctor and service is framed as having supernatural powers. However, this emphasis on the role of the doctor suggests the promotion of professional authority as more important than the everyday people whose needs they serve. Nonetheless, those very people do rely on these kind of services for speedy digital medical support from reliable experts.
…to Human Connection
Shifting away from emphasising speed, Livi – providing 24/7 GP access via video call – draws on the double meaning of ‘live’. Whilst it communicates the service’s tech-enabled, real-time nature, the ‘-i’ ending also connotes the present-continuous tense – ‘living’. This foregrounding of ‘life’, paired with the rhyming repetitive bounce of ‘li / vi’ codes uplifting, positive vitality and centres human lives.
Human spirit is also communicated through names like Medloop and Echo. The infinite interrelatedness of ‘loop’ and the reciprocal nature of an ‘echo’ both convey a sense of connection and intercommunication. Overall, this language codes services that keep people informed and in harmony with their healthcare, rather than a hierarchy of professional GPs and patients.
3 key takeouts for brands
- As tech-enabled convenience become the ubiquitous norm, brands must communicate more than speed and efficiency to gain a competitive edge.
- Brand names hold cultural power and their meanings can operate on multiple levels – semantic, sonic, metaphorical – often simultaneously.
- A Semiotic and Language Analysis can identify these meanings to ensure cultural relevance, even across several markets – so that you can intentionally embrace your Getir-esque linguistic coincidences!
Lailah Choudhry, Semiotician