We Aussies are a pretty casual lot, and we love to shorten words and create nicknames. They are a sign of affection for our mates, or a cutting insult to our enemies. We all get the shorthand, and it makes our language unique, colourful and fun.
If we have a particular affection for a place, we give it a nickname. We don’t say Brisbane, we say – Brissie, BrisVegas, Brisneyland. For years we have been travelling to the Goldie (The Gold Coast), Straddie (Stradbroke Island), The Gong (Wollongong), Freo (Fremantle) or Lonnie (Launceston).
When it comes to brands – a nickname is very powerful. But truly organic nicknames are very rare. They speak to a bond between brand and a consumer that usually takes years to develop. Nicknames for brands can become part of our cultural fabric. McDonalds recognised this when it started incorporating ‘Maccas’ into its marketing programme. As did Target when it adopted the commonly used ‘Tar-zhay’ into its marketing.
It is never a good idea to fight a nickname born of affection or nostalgia for a brand. When General Motors tried to create brand consistency by dictating the use of ‘Chevrolet’ rather than ‘Chevy’ a few years ago, there was a huge outcry from the public.
So can a brand manufacture a nickname and make it stick through the weight of massive media spend? In the past week I have cringed every time the ads for Mitsubishi have crossed my screen. “It’s a Mitsi, it’s a Mitsi” proclaim the actors ad nauseum. Really? Do they think that if they say it often enough in the ads, we will walk down the street gleefully shouting “It’s a Mitsi” whenever we see the car?
Brand nicknames are a gift from consumers built on authentic connection. You can’t create a nickname and make it stick with a multi-million dollar ad campaign – it doesn’t work that way. So a note to Mitsubishi – you are wasting your money and really annoying me (and no doubt countless others) with your latest campaign. If you want to be loved, do something real to add value to your customers’ lives. Then if you are really lucky, they may bestow upon you the ultimate compliment of a brand nickname.
What do you think about brand nicknames?
Jo Stone is Director of Strategy at BCM