We had a mentor who admonished us to name our brand whatever we want, but to “put it in short grunts.” It’s only human nature to reduce names to the smallest number of syllables, or as he used to say, “grunts.” It was his way of telling us this shortcutting tendency had been going on since caveman times.
Let’s face it, we are an impatient society. We shorten every name we hear to one, two, or three syllables. If it doesn’t already have a 3 or less syllable nickname, it will soon get one. General Electric (6 grunts) became GE (2 grunts), Chevrolet (3 grunts) became Chevy (2 grunts). Coca-Cola (4 grunts) became Coke (1 grunt), Caterpillar (4 grunts) became Cat (1 grunt). And then there’s the Federal National Mortgage Association (13 grunts), which became simply Fannie Mae (3 grunts).
If your brand name has 4 or more grunts, it will most certainly get condensed. It’s best, that you plan for this when naming your company. Figure out what the market will naturally do with your brand name to get it down to 1, 2, or 3 syllables. “Short grunts” wins the test of time, the remembrance of the market, and the endearment of its namers.
Also give some thought to what your competition will do with your brand name. You want to think long and hard about how it will be truncated and what that reduction will imply. If it’s not a positive connotation, then consider going with a different brand name altogether. It’s best to choose a brand name that already has 3 or less syllables and choose a brand name that has a logical and positive reduced moniker. From iPad to YouTube, from Android to PC, and from Virgin to Tesla, many of today’s successful brands have 2 grunts.
Once you have your brand name down to short grunts, then take on your catchphrase. It too must be short and sweet, ideally under 10 syllables total, and the shorter the better. The market doesn’t have time for lists of features and benefits. It wants to know simply why it should buy your brand. Rhyme and meter can enhance the delivery and recollection of your message, but phrases over 10 syllables are less likely to be remembered at all.
Short slogans and jingles have replaced lists of benefits. We are bombarded with clever abbreviations, acronyms and contractions in every form of media. We seem to want everything fast. Even elections have been swayed by slogans, often rhyming. We want to boil everything down to its essence, its bottom line, and its shortest and simplest sound bite. Therefore, your catch phrase must maximize your message in a minimum length.
For Barefoot Wines, we chose “Get Barefoot and Have a Great Time.” It has a double meaning, is under 10 syllables, and put the reader in a fun mental image. It wasn’t our only catchphrase but it’s the one we were known for, and it satisfied several of our messaging goals.
When it comes to brand names and catchphrases, make them memorable and keep them down to short grunts!
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders