What's in a name?

Gooder GrammarWhile Shakespeare and Romeo may have been onto something sweet with, “what’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.” (Romeo and Juliet, II, ii, 1-2), renaming things and creating new words doesn’t always work for a brand.

While the jury is still out on KFC’s Goodification campaign, it has created a bit of controversy for itself with their YouTube ‘What is Goodification’ clip and well the creative licence taken with the English language throughout the campaign.

Here’s what I’m talking about(1):

While researching what the Big G had to say on the topic, I came across this blog(2). The blogger is a linguist and provides (for English nerds like me) an amusing analysis of the creative license taken with gooder, gooderist, engooden, goodify, goodification (and I’m sure there were other derivatives used in the campaign). I particularly liked this comment he made:

“As for ‘goodification’: obviously they’re sticking with the catchphrase ‘So Good’, but a process of ‘goodification’ seems on the surface to mean “to make good”, that is, that it wasn’t good to start with. (I’m purposefully avoiding commenting here on my personal tastes…) But I don’t think it makes you react that way. Good in this context seems to me to be closer to the meaning of ‘good for you’ rather than ‘good tasting’, probably because of the comparative used prior in the advert. In fact, if they’d have just said, ‘the process of goodification’, I would argue that the meaning “to make not-shit” would have been more salient than the process of “making good for you” (I can’t say healthy here, either, because I’m not sure KFC has ever had the balls to lie that outright in their propaganda).”

…then there were the comments on social media—a vast majority of which were less than kind. Wizzley with their ‘Appreciate gooder grammar now, KFC?’ made me laugh, probably a little too hard. As children we learn the word good and how to associate with things. I was promptly corrected if I tried creative derivatives like ‘gooder’ or ‘gooderist’. Personally the wording in the campaign turns me off. It erks me that children are running around with the idea that ‘gooder’ is a word. Social media comments suggest that I’m not the only person it grates on. Have Ogilvy made too much of a mockery of the English language?

I’m not saying that uniquely naming products, processes or services doesn’t work. In fact it’s something that I would typically recommend wherever practical and is something that has caused numerous brands to create significant definition from their competitors and dominate their market. There are hundreds of case studies on this one. An example which always makes me giggle is ‘google’. Pre-Google days one would never say “I’m going to yahoo that”. Since 1998 ‘google’ has become a proper noun and a verb and as a friend of my recently told me has even made its way into a published dictionary as a proper noun and verb—I’m not talking about urbandictionary.com and I don’t remember which one it is, I think it was Macquarie?! Don’t quote me on this one.

At the end of the day it comes down to interesting and clever use of words, quality product and great brand positioning. Will KFC do this with ‘goodification’? That remains to be seen… it always comes down to test, measure, refine.

And because this post is being graded as part of my assessment, the reference list (opposed to just hyperlinking blogger love):


Lesleigh Ross

Over the last decade Lesleigh Ross has been leading project and change teams in complex delivery environments and transformation projects across public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Leigh is highly skilled in industry best practice methodologies and frameworks which is demonstrated through her ability to deliver quality business outcomes across ‘green fields’ and recovery projects and programmes. As a ‘digital native’ Leigh believes delivering innovation in business is only possible through collaborative project design where the business and technical teams work hand in hand. A geek in her own right Leigh is able to “degeek the geek” and facilitate effective engagement through all stages of project delivery. Outside of work with Valiente, Leigh is a founder and member of the Round Table at the Change Community Hub, and proud member of the Australian Institute of Project Management and the International Centre of Complex Project Management. She is active in her local chapters and national interest groups which are focused on improving the professionalism, diversity and inclusion within the project management community.

2 thoughts on “What's in a name?”

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  2. Pingback: But it’s the latest trend!? | Across Communications

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