THE saying “the Greeks had a word for it” is getting a Madison Avenue makeover as marketers serve up more words of their own in place of real ones.
Campaigns featuring coined and made-up words are increasingly prevalent on television, in print, online and in social media. Some even make imaginary words their foundations, among them “framily,” a compression of “friends” and “family,” from Sprint, and “turketarian,” a mash-up of “turkey” and “vegetarian,” from Butterball.
Advertising has long used imaginary words like “Wessonality,” from Wesson oil; “Krogering,” for Kroger supermarkets; and the “Uncola,” from 7Up. But the trend seems to be accelerating as evidenced by a skein of examples: “Topsiding,” for Sperry Top-Sider shoes; ads for Robitussin cough medicine that warn, “Don’t suffer the coughequences”; “super-proteinful” and “home-grownerific,” for Post cereals; “Caymankind,” for the Cayman Islands; “runnovation,” for New Balance running shoes; and “investigetters,” combining “investors” and “go-getters,” for TD Ameritrade.
A reader paging through the May issue of HGTV Magazine can find a half-dozen instances, like an entreaty to “crunchstart your day,” from Quaker Warm and Crunchy granola; an ad for CoverGirl Pastels cosmetics proclaiming, “Everything’s gone pastelicious”; and an ad for new Rachael Ray Nutrish natural cat food, celebrating felines with “purrsonality.”
A plausible explanation is the outpouring of coinages in the technology realm, from now-familiar terms like “selfie” and “sexting” to words like “listicle,” an article based on a list; “twibel,” a libelous post on Twitter; and “platisher,” a publisher that is also a platform.
“Text messages and status updates are changing the way we write,” said Tor Myhren, worldwide creative officer of Grey and president of Grey New York. “When you only get 140 characters, we’re trying to say as much as we can in as little real estate as possible.”
“So when you think about how expensive media is to buy, it sort of makes sense for advertisers,” he added. “Why write two words when you can combine them into one?”
Mick McCabe, chief strategy officer of Leo Burnett USA in Chicago, said: “What’s different is the speed and velocity of the cultural uptake of language. Social and digital platforms provide the ability for something to become a widespread cultural phenomenon very quickly. It’s a feeding frenzy for material that the world of technology provides.”
Richard Kirshenbaum, chief executive at NSG/SWAT in New York, attributed the increase to how much more “challenging it has become to trademark names” and find web addresses that are not already taken.
“The more misspelled and different, the better,” he said, recalling a 2008 commercial from his previous agency, Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners, for Wendy’s: “We came up with a term, ‘meatatarian,’ that fit because Wendy’s offers beef that’s fresh, not frozen. These words break through because when people see something they haven’t seen before, but plays on something they know, it creates a dialogue.”
Butterball introduced its “turketarian” campaign, by Y&R Chicago, last June. “The idea was derived from a business need, for a platform to communicate that Butterball has great products for holiday and every day,” including burgers and bacon in addition to whole turkeys, said Bill Klump, senior vice president for corporate marketing at Butterball in Garner, N.C.
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Research identified “a group of core consumers who adopted turkey as a primary protein and had a lot of passion,” he added, “and that enthusiasm needed a handle to pull them together. ‘Turketarian’ doesn’t need a lot of explanation, and it’s tongue in cheek, fun, and our brand is about fun, so it fits with the brand DNA.”
Jeff Hallock, chief marketing officer at Sprint in Overland Park, Kan., said that he sought a concept that would be “fun, enjoyable,” because “we’re about the joy of connecting people,” yet also convey that Sprint has “cracked the code to put family and friends together” in a calling plan.
“This one was right in front of us,” Mr. Hallock said of “framily,” which echoes “entertainment couples like ‘Bennifer’ and ‘Brangelina,’ and dogs’ names like labradoodle, and gets people to do a double take: ‘You didn’t say family.’ It interests and intrigues.”
A drawback to coined words is their ability to bother consumers, even fictional ones. In the March 12 installment of the Blondie comic strip, Blondie and her husband, Dagwood, sat in front of a TV set that blared a commercial urging, “Experience our rejuvenality with added luxuriation and true vacationality.” Dagwood asked, “What’s the deal with people randomly making up words these days?” Blondie replied, “Oh, it’s just an advertising gimmick, dear.” Dagwood responded, “Well, it’s really adding to my annoyification!”
Frances Webster, managing director of Walrus, a New York agency, acknowledged that consumers could recognize a made-up word “for what it is, marketing-ese.”
“Advertisers have been butchering the English language for years,” she said, citing “Manwich, Swiffer, Jazzercise and Renuzit.”
Mr. Kirshenbaum echoed her. “The public is used to advertising people being silly,” he said, adding: “We all are. We might as well enjoy it.”
Nonetheless, Mr. Hallock said Sprint’s “framily” campaign, by Figliulo & Partners in New York, has “gotten a good response so far, with a great reaction in social and digital.”
And according to Mr. Klump, the Butterball “turketarian” campaign — in print, radio and social media — “is working so well that we’re expanding into TV spots, starting next month.”
Stuart Elliott, The New York Times. April 15, 2014
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