September 12, 2023

Endings and Suffixes - How Can We Look at Names?

Many studies have been done regarding linguistics, either in general terms or specific languages/cultures. The same goes for the understanding and/or study of brands and branding. But there are limited ones of brand naming and what kind of names people prefer. We can only speculate as to why that is the case, but our first guess would be that naming is rather niche, and perhaps it’s also intertwined with linguistic studies, making it a subpart of communications.

So, how can we look at names? By our own admission, we have noticed a few strong markers throughout the years. They are not guaranteed to work each time, but there are very defined preferences when it comes to naming a new brand, product, or service, depending on the market segment. Mind you, we have never conducted any studies, so these are just plain observations, along with some testing.

There was a time when Skriptor was jokingly called “Skriptoria” by clients and friends. This was because many of the names that we created in that period ended with -ia – Telia, Poolia, Lernia, Previa, etc. It wasn’t so much about lack of creativity, but rather that we unintentionally created a trend. Companies and managements liked this suffix combination, as these names were considered strong, distinctive, connected with an activity, while still maintaining friendly features. Trends are always interesting to study; do they grow naturally as a result of a saturated market or is there a spearhead that makes the suffix trendy and appropriate to use?  We have seen this in the tech world with the suffix -fy – the most popular example being Spotify. They paved the way for a new generation of IT companies that wanted to stand out, companies that perhaps thought -ia was too old school. As with everything new, the tide has turned for -fy as well. What was once unique is now a saturated market. The inevitable paradox: this too has become old school.

In the Nordics, personal names are recycled every 60-120 years. The old guard is replaced by the new guard, which in turn becomes the old guard, ad infinitum. The name youngling named Gunnar might raise eyebrows today but will be trending in the future. Brand names work a little differently as you preferably want a trademark registration. Creating names becomes increasingly harder, as new names must be unique but still have a recognizable factor and have available domains.

But are all names created equal? We don’t believe so. For example, in most Western languages, the ending -a is more common than -i, as it’s used in many female personal names, but also in existing brands. Going back to the initial question, for a name ending in -i to become more common and maybe even a trend, what is really needed? In the fashion industry, you could say that (Giorgio) Armani, Fendi, Gucci, and Bulgari have done excellent jobs building their brands. But unless you want to feel extra Italian, perhaps -y or -ee are better alternatives. Although, Hitachi is Japanese, and Bacardi is Cuban.

If we were to dig slightly deeper, we can look at it from a masculine vs. feminine perspective. Names ending with -a tend to be feminine. They could be softer and convey warmth. Anova, Visa, Tesla. Names ending with -t tend to be masculine. Masculine names could be tougher and convey coolness. Tennet, Nudient, Microsoft. The two categories are very different, as you can both hear and feel the stress in each letter. From our observation, we have noticed that feminine names are preferred for products that are aimed to help or support you, maybe facilitate your life, whereas masculine names tend to be preferred when you want to get the job done, reliable and robust. From this, one might conclude that feminine names can’t have masculine characteristics, and masculine names can’t have feminine characteristics, but it’s not quite that easy. IKEA ends with -a, but the k is distinct and hard to miss. Another example of a brand with k is TikTok, which has ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ elements. The automotive company Toyota has not only one but two t’s, rounding it off with an -a. The list goes on with brands and products that combine both hard and soft sounds. The car industry is especially interesting when it comes to manufacturers and their car names, which we will elaborate on in another article.  

“Is Nestlé a Lady - The Feminine Brand Name Advantage" is a study published in 2021. It shows that feminine names are indeed softer and warmer than masculine names. The former is also preferred for hedonic products (e.g. candy or music) whereas the latter is preferred for utilitarian products (e.g. batteries, tools). It’s a great read that we suggest looking into if you are curious about this subject.

There will always exist exceptions to the rule, however, as we stated earlier, preferences do exist because you’d most likely want to wear a protective helmet called Savage A40 on a construction site and not Sivia Pure.

/Ignacio Valderas

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