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Consumer Brands: You’re Either In Or You’re Out

March 15, 2016 — Rachel Bernard

Last week in our series of 2016 predictions, we took a look at coming trends in life sciences. This week, we’re turning our attention to consumer brands—what’s in and what’s out when it comes naming and writing for consumer goods and services.

The first millennials turn 35 this year. They are coming of age as leaders of industries and heads of movements, and nearing their maximum earning potential. They are now the holders of the average household’s purse strings. Not surprisingly, the way consumer goods like apparel, food or personal care products are marketed has shifted dramatically to appeal to a generational demand for transparency, authenticity, and purpose. Here is our take on what will be in and what will be out for consumers in 2016.

OUT: Faux Founders
IN: Mascots
Creating a fictitious founder has long been a trick namers have pulled out of their magic naming hats as a shortcut to authenticity. Sadly, there is no Mrs. Paul cooking up fish sticks in a quaint seaside cottage. Betty Crocker? A figment of marketing imagination. Dr Pepper was never a real doctor, nor a real person, for that matter. This time-honored naming trope may have worked with Boomers and Gen Xers, but just doesn’t fly with Millennials. For them, there is no shortcut to heritage. So what’s a namer to do? This is where the mascot comes into play. Brands like Casper and Oscar use uncommon names as analogies that say, “If our brand were a person it would be this type of person.” The names paint a picture of the brand’s character without going as far as inventing a false identity. By the way, not all is lost. Sara Lee and Chef Boyardee? They’re real.

OUT: Crazy Coined Names
IN: Under-used real words
Nearly 400,000 new trademarks are filed every year in the US alone. Fitting into a trademark landscape that grows more and more crowded by the second takes creativity, and in some cases, an embrace of the absurd. This is what prompted the emergence of the crazy-coined-name boom born from the dot-com boom. Hallmarks of that era include naming gems like Razorfish, Flooz, Kazaa. All typify a reliance on coining and the liberal use of the letter “z”. Now, we are more likely to unearth a real word that perhaps hasn’t been in everyday use for a while. Take Gimlet Media – the name NPR’s Alex Blumberg selected this year for his new podcast media company. The name is a throwback to a Madmen era cocktail that fell from the mainstream decades ago. An old-fashioned name is refreshed in modern usage, signaling a new era in which sparkling conversation returns to media.

OUT: Heavy-Handed Brands
IN: Un-Brands
In the eighties and nineties consumers couldn’t get enough brand names. Every t-shirt, every purse, every box in the pantry had a big, impressive brand name or logo. The pendulum has most definitely swung. Enter the era of normcore, a fashion trend characterized by average and unpretentious style. The normcore lifestyle not only pervades the fashion world, but has seeped into all aspects of the consumer landscape. This year General Mills launched The Good Table, a straightforward, understated brand with a simple promise to put more good meals on the table. No pomp. No circumstance.

And with that, we close out our predictions for naming and writing this year. Until next year.

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