July 28, 2008

Spinning your wheels for the right name

It was the mid 1950s and the Ford Motor Company had a new mid-level car to name. They spared no expense, hiring an ad agency to produce over 6 thousand name possibilities, and engaging poet Marianne Moore to create several more.

But the developers of the car simply could not agree, and after all outside names were rejected, the family name Edsel was finally chosen.

The car went on to become one of the most remarkable commercial failures of its time. Of course, the name (which, according to market research, evoked words such as “weasel” and “dead cell”) wasn’t the soul reason for the brand’s downfall. Still, sometimes it pays to play it safe.

Here are some tried and true approaches to car naming:


    Some letters are surprisingly rich with meaning. Nissan’s use of X for their X-terra encourages associations with Gen-x , X-box, X-games and the like. And how many cars employ the letters S, E, or X in their model names?


    Power, speed, precision and beauty are all attributes linked to members of the animal kingdom, making animals natural metaphors for cars. Some of the most emotive animal names include the Corvette Stingray, the Jaguar, the Dodge Viper, and the Ford Mustang.

Current usage:

    Although the trademark class is crowded, it is still possible to find a perfectly good existing word that evokes just the right emotions. Recent success stories include the Saturn Sky, the Cadillac Escalade, and the Honda Element.

Contributed by: Maghan Cook

One Comment

  1. Flo   August 4, 2008 1:21 pm / Reply

    Maghan Cook is the smartest person alive!!

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