Car Brand Naming is a Tricky Category

Car Brand Naming is a Tricky Category

Have you ever thought of how a car gets their name (for example: Mercedes-Benz C-Class, or the new Lincoln Aviator)? For car manufacturers, brand naming is a critical decision with multiple considerations, and potentially millions at stake. Let’s take a “drive by” this interesting topic.

it is a difficult time to decide on what their new car will be named. The name must stick to their brand, but also grab the audience’s attention.

In “How Do Car Companies Name Their Car,” by HuffPost, it was stated that the things car manufacturers have to think about when naming a car include trademarks, foreign language considerations, and slang.

In “Lincoln Is Proving That Car Names Can Still Work,” by Autotrader, shows how luxury car brands name their cars. Many luxury cars believe that a car should not have a name, but instead have letters and some numbers, relevant to the car’s positioning in their overall lineup. Mercedes-Benz does not name their cars, instead going by classes – C-Class, E-Class, S-Class. BMW emulates Mercedes via its naming protocol of 7 Series, 3 Series, 5 Series. Audi used “A” to stand for “Audi” and “Q” to stand for Quattro.” Infiniti and Cadillac have done the same naming technique as these three companies.

Lincoln on the other hand uses letters and numbers for naming, but has also tried to name their cars, such as Continental sedan and the Lincoln Aviator. Lincoln has switched the MKX to Lincoln Nautilus. As the luxury brands keep the letters and numbers for their naming, Lincoln has done a new image and a refreshing change to the market.

As for Mazda, naming their cars has been a struggle, stated in “Mazda’s CX-30 Is Just the Right Size for an SUV” by Wall Street Journal. When it came to a compact crossover dimensionally between Mazda’s CX-3 subcompact and its midsize CX-5 – would seem to beg for the name CX-4. Mazda already sells a vehicle by the name of CX-4 in China, and apparently Mrs. Rosenbaum was taken. So, Mazda they had to call it CX-30. The thing with this name is that it starts with a tempting price and an intriguing proposition.

A car brand naming “drive by” would not be complete without considering car brand naming failures. The “poster child” Chevy Nova failed in Latin America with the unfortunate translation of “No Go”. More recently, who likes the Volkswagen Tiguan? The winner of a naming contest by a German car magazine is the combination of “tiger” and “iguana” in German, which is both irrelevant and hard to say and spell.

Effective Car Branding is Not Easy

No question, car brand naming is one of the most complex undertakings due to trademark and website domain saturation, international translation, master and sub-brand considerations, along with the need for consumer testing and research to avoid costly mistakes. Because a car brand name involves substantial investment in advertising, and production tooling, it is costly to reverse a brand name implementation.  

Additional Naming Resources:

Breakthrough Branding: Brand Naming Tips and Trade Secrets (Neil Brown)

Choosing a Business Name is Hard. Here is How to Make It Easier (INC.)

Branding 101 (IDeas BIG)

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