September 11-15, 2017

What’s in a name? The answer is: Quite a bit, actually.

It’s been a genuinely fun several weeks reading over all the different reactions to Dr Pepper Ten’s tongue-in-cheek ad campaign. If you haven’t seen it, one of the popular ones shows an adventurer racing through the jungle in his jeep, escaping villains á la Indiana Jones. The commercial ends with the tagline, “Dr Pepper Ten, It’s Not For Women!” It’s a funny and attention-getting ad, that I think works well. But for the purposes of this column, it’s not so much the commercial I want to talk about as it is the name of this new drink: Dr Pepper Ten.

Since this is our annual HIT list issue, I’ll tie this all in by saying I think the name of a product can go a long way in helping it become a Hit or a Miss.

Let’s face it, some names just work, and some don’t. And this doesn’t just go for beverages. It goes for anything. Movies—how many times has a quality movie been torpedoed by a really bad name? Celebrities—Lady Gaga just wouldn’t be the same if she went by her real name, Stefani. And even restaurants.

I personally find it annoying when a restaurant gives its different foods, hokey, cutesy names. And, unfortunately, it appears that this trend seems to be spreading. One Mexican food chain here in New York City has the cutesy gall to call its vegetarian burrito the “Art Vandelay,” the pseudonym George uses on “Seinfeld.” I have a hard time yelling over the counter, “One Art Vandelay please!” Funny on “Seinfeld.” Not so funny when ordering a burrito in a crowded restaurant.

But I digress.

I think Dr Pepper Ten is a perfectly fine name for a new soft drink that boasts just 10 calories. Studies have shown that men feel uncomfortable about drinking a soda with the word “diet” on it. Sure, maybe that’s a little shallow. But it’s also a fact. You can’t blame the powers that be at the company for listening to the latest research and trying to come up with a name for their low-cal drink that everyone would warm up to.

It’s just another example of the power of a name. Done well, it can really put your brand over the top. Done poorly, and it can doom your product to obscurity.

It’s my observation that the beverage business usually gets naming right. Beverage marketers excel at coming up with names that work. Just try to think of a beverage that was sunk by a bad name. It’s really hard to come up with one. Usually it’s the taste, or some other factor.

And then think of how many names have worked so well that it’s unthinkable they should ever be changed. Take Crush, for example, or Snapple, 7Up, Mountain Dew, Red Bull, Fanta, vitaminwater, Honest Tea. And the list goes on and on. So what’s in a name? For a beverage, it can be quite a lot.  

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