Embrace the Weird
My name is Aylin, a perfectly normal name in Türkiye, where I grew up. In Turkish, it means “lights surrounding the moon.” The name that I really liked growing up suddenly turned into something “odd” about me when I came to the US. It went from being elegant to being easily forgotten, unpronounceable in coffee shops, and a name that people shied away from saying out loud in meetings.
I still experience some of this today, but instead of getting frustrated, I decided to take on a different approach. I started to embrace the fact that my name has a unique spelling for those who are not from Türkiye and that this can be a catalyst for an interesting conversation with someone about my name and my heritage. Suddenly, singing the chorus of “C’mon, Eileen” became the usual way of introducing myself, thus making an odd name stick.
Owning the weirdness in my name and associating with a beloved American song enabled me to feel like I belonged in a culture that didn’t feel familiar at all 12 years ago.
So, what does my name have to do with branding?
Let me tell you: Names are important and it’s okay to have a weird name as long as you embrace it.
You don’t have to look far to see that some of the most loved brands (according to BrandAsset® Valuator, the largest and longest-running study of brands globally) in fact have ‘weird’ names. Google isn’t even a real word, but we use googling so much that it was officially added as a verb into the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 20061. Verizon is a word that created from the combination of veritas and horizon2. IKEA is named after the initials of its founder, the farm where he grew up, and the nearby village3. The list goes on and on.
A weird name doesn’t sound so bad now, right? Sometimes the weirder the name, the stickier it can be – which can create a distinctive asset for your brand. So, think hard about the name of your next brand, product, slogan. You can take a page from the book of beloved brands with weird names as, despite their unusualness, they were able to carve out a strong presence in people’s minds, daily conversations and truly belong in culture.
- "Google Added to Merriam-Webster Dictionary.”, www.CIO.com, July 07, 2006, https://bit.ly/3pR8X4t
- "Verizon Selected as New Name for Combination of Bell Atlantic and GTE”, Verizon, April 03, 2000 https://bit.ly/3MyZY0C
- “The History of IKEA”, about.ikea.com, https://bit.ly/3BAeTRT
Opinion Party (Vol 1): Belonging
This article is from the first issue of "Opinion Party" from BAV Group, a collection of points of view that focused on embracing the unknown, trusting ourselves and others, and ultimately a body of work that helps us all to connect around topics that unite us rather than divide us. Explore this, and the rest of the articles, to see how our authors have taken their unique experiences and written informative and timely pieces on the intersection of brands and belonging in today’s culture.
Aylin Yasa is a Director of Strategy within BAV Group, where she creates brand narratives through data. She lives in New York and sometimes guest lectures at NYU.