Allusive brand names. Get it?

[Cache – #17]

By Roma Chopra, Research Associate

When naming, there are two broad categories of name types to arrive at:  descriptive and allusive.

The descriptive name, as its title states, affirms some quality by which a brand wishes to be known. Further, descriptive names can also associate a brand with a cause, source or lineage.  Well-known examples of this name type include Old El Paso, American Airlines, Trump Hotels and Dell.

Allusive names, alternatively, only hint at or suggest the brand or its main benefit.  Such names entice the brain to operate with insinuations of metaphor and simile, along with cultural references.

Allusive names make us think.  Our minds intrinsically try to unveil the true meaning or meanings behind the name in question, laying the groundwork to lock that name into our memories.

This type of naming can also help achieve the goal of brand differentiation.  Car companies are well-known for adopting this naming tactic when distinguishing different lines of vehicles. Take for example the name Corolla as part of Toyota’s naming tradition of using the name Crown for primary models:  the Corona, for example, gets its name from the Latin for crown; Corolla is Latin for small crown,  and Camry is an Anglicized pronunciation of the Japanese for crown, “kanmuri”.

Here are some other allusive brand names you’ll recognize:

Nike Swoo...

Nike – By far one of the most successful and influential brands of recent history.  Its legendary “swoosh” logo accompanied by the unforgettable Just Do It slogan created a brand image that has driven untold billions in revenue.

The word Nike derives from Greek mythology:  Nike, the goddess who personified victory, (also known as the Winged Goddess of Victory) assumed the role of the divine charioteer – as she is often portrayed in classical Greek art.  Nike flew around battlefields rewarding the victors with glory and fame.

Nike has strategically mirrored its own definition of victory through its famous ad campaigns, celebrating athletic champions including Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.


apple logo

Apple – Known for an aesthetically appealing and simple-to-use lineup of products and services, Apple has created a technological revolution led by its core product lines:  Mac, iPod, iPhone and iPad.  Formerly known as Apple Computers Inc., CEO Steve Jobs announced in 2007 that the company would change its name to Apple Inc., emphasizing that computers were only one part of the company and that the change reflected the focus on mobile electronic devices.

Apple proves to be an allusive name here since the symbolism of an apple suggests knowledge – the bite from the Apple logo portraying the quest for that knowledge.

yahoo logo

Yahoo! – The word “yahoo” was first recorded in dictionaries in the 1970s as an exclamation of joy and excitement.  Just over two decades later, founders Jerry Yang and David Filo created an internet portal as a Stanford University thesis project, at first calling it “David and Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web” (talk about a descriptive name).  Unsatisfied with that less-than-appealing moniker, they searched the dictionary for words that began with “ya” – the universal computing acronym for “yet another” – when they stumbled upon yahoo.   As the Yahoo! website tells us, “the name Yahoo! is an acronym for ‘Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle,’ but Filo and Yang insist they selected the name because they liked the general definition of a yahoo:  ‘rude, unsophisticated, uncouth.’ “

What are some of your favourite allusive brand names?  What do they connote to you?


Lightning fast signup for Cache:


Follow us on Twitter:


Recent posts:

What we can learn from SlutWalk –

How do you feel about ballet? –

Think you have good service? –

Share this: