I think it was Neil Tennant who, when asked if he accepted that his band had a somewhat preposterous name, replied by saying that the thing with a band name is that they all sound ridiculous, but only the first time you hear them. Then you just accept that’s what the band is called and move on.
I remember seeing the wonderful Peter York give a talk once and during the Q&A, he was asked if there were any modern bands that he admired. ‘I’m afraid my musical portcullis came down years ago’ he replied. I love that phrase. ‘Musical portcullis.’
I live near to the Brixton Academy. My musical portcullis came down about two years before I was born, and now I find myself mainly listening to things by, or produced by, Brian Eno. As a result, I’m slightly out of touch with young people’s pop music. Generally, the first time I hear of a band is by walking past the Brixton Academy and seeing their name spelled out on the famous marquee. I remember the first time I saw the words ‘CATFISH AND THE BOTTLEMEN’ and laughing in the street at how stupid it sounded. Now, when I hear the name, I just accept that’s what the band is called and move on.
Naming things is difficult. Especially now, when there are so many things to name. The people at General Electric or General Motors had it easy.
It’s common for online brands and services to adopt unusual spellings in their names – removing an ‘e’ or adding an ‘r’ or whatever. This meant it was easy to search for them online as that particular spelling is unique to that particular brand. It works fine for print or online banner ads. You see word and click on the link.
But it doesn’t work when the word gets read out loud.
As podcasting has matured as a medium, various financial models have emerged: branded content, crowdsourcing, sponsorship.
Part of me winces – physically winces – when I listen to an advert at the beginning of a podcast and within the advert, the announcer literally spells out the name of the brand they are promoting. It just kills it. And I can see why they have to do it, but it just feels embarrassing.
Imagine all those iconic advertising slogans etched into your brain. Now imagine them repurposed for this brave new world.
‘For mash, get Smash (that’s S-M-A-S-H)’
‘A Mars (spelled M-A-R-S) a day helps you work, rest and play’
‘Have a break, have a Kit-Kat (that’s “kit” spelt like “kit” and then “cat” spelt like “cat” but with a “K” instead of a “C”)’