Using linguistics knowledge to help name products or write slogans is a given, but the discipline has a host of applications that are often overlooked, either because they are deemed too expensive and time consuming or because there is simply no experience on the part of the researcher. We could easily spend weeks and countless hours going through the various methods used to address the specific elements of language use and how they could be applied to a range of issues in marketing and product development, but we’ll look just briefly at naming strategies.
Why was the Apple iPod so popular while no one has heard of the Nokia E71x? One factor is that “iPod” is much catchier than a jumble of letters and numbers. E71x may look cool to the team shooting for something that sounds futuristic (look up THX3118 on IMDB), but it’s damn hard to recall. Why? Because people make associations with symbols and symbols have meaning, they have character. I won’t go down the path of discussion the relationship between signifier and sign (at least not today), but the point is that a name is more than a series of sounds.
By studying linguistics, you learn about and do research on:
- What sounds fit well with other sounds (phonology)
- What words best represent the product (semantics)
- What kind of words will people most likely to remember, share and build into the cultural fabric (sociolinguistics)
- What associations do people make with particular sounds and classes of sounds (pragmatics)
This is not the full range of linguistic elements that that go into understanding word construction, but they are essential to the seemingly simple task of developing a name. The point is that using a model for how language works helps create meaningful names and avoid language missteps.