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Is marketing value hiding in your family name?


Urban Bellwether Gallery

Marketing’s feature vs. benefit lens is older than you think. It’s positively medieval. In Medieval Pet Names, explores how people in the courts and monasteries applied different naming conventions to cats vs. dogs.  It got me to wonder: Is marketing value hiding in family names—mine or yours? I’m not talking value by association, e.g., Rockefeller, but value linked to attributes or achievements.  (Read on or click for the visual story.)

Dog food with value proposition

Engaging dog brand name

Names describing benefits and value

Dogs, the author claims, regularly merit a value-based name (i.e., benefit). “Nosewise” and “Holdfast” are two names mentioned in the article. These originally appeared in a fifteenth century hunting manual. Medieval dog names describe the dog’s value to the owner. Think forward a few centuries and you hear and see it all around you.

Consider Nutro® Natural Choice® dog food, for example. The name hearkens to valued relationships in every direction—dog to owner, owner to dog, with the right food sealing the deal.

Endearing features drive cat food brand names

Cat food brands call to mind endearing features

Names that recall best features

Conversely, notes that cat names express the cat’s most endearing features or activities. My favorite mentioned by the author is “Meone,” a ninth century name for “little meow”. Just try to tell me that Meow Mix didn’t come to mind!

Family names can express benefits or features

Many of my family names follow the same conventions. The Shotwells (read benefit) were named by the king, the story goes, for their keen eye at the court’s sporting field. The Sculls, ship carpenters of much simpler origin, were named for the distinctive shape of their heads (read feature).

All of which leads to a simple conclusion. As 2013 marketers and UX experts, we think we are on to a special science or higher level in our efforts to get attention, differentiate and build relationships. Only, we find that as really good marketers, we do what we’ve always done for centuries.

  • Describe and name the how of something working, i.e., feature.
  • Describe and name the value, i.e., why, to help us remember one animal, family or product over another, i.e., benefit.

Here are two family names that show up in brand names. Let’s demonstrate how brand names also take different approaches to clearly establish identity.

Features and benefits in brand names

Skullcandy logo

Skullcandy logo by Atila Network

Skullcandy earbuds, headphones and headsets make great use of a feature/benefit naming convention. In a 2009 company profile, Skullcandy feeds your head, David Burger writes:

Skullcandy – with its unique name and menacing skull logo – is cool.

— Utah Local News – Salt Lake City Tribune (April 16, 2009, 6:00 PM)

There are few places where a catchy reference to skull would have appeal while selling a unique product experience. Sweet. But this is a hip-hop skateboard and young audience that lives outside the mold.

Shotwell, from the Yorba Foundation, is an open-source photo organizer. The name describes features, benefits and added advantage. That’s a delightful digital spin on my Shotwell ancestral name. Well done!  If you’re  a Shotwell user, please comment about your experience.

Dogs, cats, features and benefits, hip-hop and family names. Is it the heat or does it all make sense that we brand products and services the same way we’ve been naming ourselves and the animals so dear and near to us.

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