Magazine article Marketing

Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - Should Companies Embrace Slang Names for Their Brands?

Magazine article Marketing

Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - Should Companies Embrace Slang Names for Their Brands?

Article excerpt

McDonald's has attracted a lot of attention following its application to register its popular nickname, MaccyD's, as a trademark, raising the question of whether this brand strategy could work for others.


To rename something suggests ownership: when the English conquered the Dutch territories in the US they renamed New Amsterdam New York.

This statement of 'co-ownership' by consumers is a brand's dream Unprompted, active engagement shows how important the brand is in people's lives.

To rename something, particularly when it makes it feel closer and friendlier, shows real affection and implies the brand identity is so strong that the real name is unnecessary.

However, Marks & Spencer is probably right not to use 'Marks & Sparks' Instead, the brand sits astride 'Marks & Spencer' and 'M&S', retaining its prestige, and connection with traditional middle-class shoppers who view it as a social distinction. So the key is whether the nickname supports brand identity.

Maccy D's is affectionate and informal, suggesting McDonald's close relationship with customers.

If I were Primark, I'd do the same with 'Primarni' - the nickname my teenage daughter uses that reinforces its low-budget, high-fashion status.


We hear all too often that the explosion of the digital world means consumers are more in control of brands than ever.

The reality is they've always been in control. Everything we do is based on their needs and wants. That doesn't mean I ask them to redesign the packaging, but it does mean I want to know what they think.

The same applies to slang names; often affectionate diminutives, they show the brand is deeply embedded in the cultural consciousness of everyday life. I want to understand it, but it's wrong to try to own it.

Hearing a brand referring to its own nickname makes my skin crawl, in the same way as my teachers trying to be 'cool'. It's a boundary that shouldn't be crossed and brands need to be careful about the same (over)familiarity.

The Kentucky Fried Chicken switch to KFC was an intelligent repositioning exercise, taking the brand beyond fried chicken. …

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