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  • Writer's pictureLucas Bergmans

Why nicknames are nothing like brand names.

I started writing this by thinking of the ways that brand names are like nicknames. But as I wrote it, I came to the realisation that that isn’t true. Brand names are not like nicknames at all.

I’ll explain why at the end but first I’m going to tell you about me, my cycling buddies and the nicknames we have given each other.

I go cycling every year with four mates (actually four and a 'Half'. I’ll explain why) We’ve done it every year for about the last eight years. It’s one of the big highlights of the year and we love it. We go to a different place each year, cycle for 3 days, unwind and have fun. We’re like the Avengers Assemble of middle-aged amateur cycling (without the muscle definition).


Why is this in any way interesting?

Well, we all have nicknames.

Actually, that’s not strictly true. Only 3 of us have nicknames. Proper ones that stand the test of time.


This is because a true, proper nickname MUST meet three key criteria:

1.    It must be related to our shared experience of our cycling trips

2.    It must be true to the character or the behaviour of the individual in question

3.    It must be ‘endearingly insulting’ – not too complimentary, not too mean.


Let me explain with three examples.


One of us never trains before we go. Ever.

This isn’t the Tour de France, but we do usually cover about 200 miles over 3 days often up some big old mountains. With plenty of stops for coffee and strawberry tarts. Which means some training before we arrive is highly recommended. The rest of us do this.


Not for this guy. Instead, this is how his trip goes, every time:

Day 1: He absolutely kills himself. He’s not as fit as rest of us at this stage but he’s got serious grit. He’ll keep going until he’s on the verge of death.

Day 2: He’s now pretty fit. He’s come back to life. He’s keeping up with the pack!

Day 3: He’s the fittest guy on tour! He’s out front all day! He’s unstoppable! Training’s for losers!


His nickname?

Lazarus

Laz, for short.


Another one is our leader. He’s the strongest cyclist by some distance. He has enormous thighs. He has the route on his Garmin and he leads the way out front all day long. Occasionally, he’ll go off by himself to tackle an extra mountain just to burn off some more energy.


As a result, he burns way more calories than the rest of us. Which means at the end of a long day in the saddle, he’s very hungry. And he can’t wait for the rest of us for get back and go out for dinner. He needs an extra dinner right away, before he joins us for dinner later.


His nickname?

Double Dinners.

(Dinners for short)


The third guy joined our crew more recently.

On his first trip with us, we climbed to the top of the legendary Col du Tourmalet in the Pyrenees one morning before bombing down the other side for lunch and more cycling in the afternoon.


Not this guy, though. At the top of the Tourmalet, he decided that was enough so went back down the same way to the hotel while the rest of us spent the rest of the day clocking up the miles.


He has only done this once.

But that day he earned himself a nickname that will be his forever.


He is now ‘Half Day’

Half, for short.


What about the rest of us? Don’t we have nicknames?


Well we kind of do, but they don’t really stick. They tend to change and they don’t really work. This is because they don’t meet THE CRITERIA.

I’ve tried out these for myself but they didn’t last long:

·     Stuntman (too complimentary)

·     Spreadsheet (not complimentary enough)


The other two have at various times been known as: Dangry, Colin Hunt, Killer. But if we’re honest, none of these have landed. Maybe one day we will earn ourselves a proper nickname and we can be more like Dinners, Laz and Half.


So why might nicknames be like brand names?

·     They are distinctive assets. They let you bring the person to mind quickly and easily. (aka ‘mental availability’).

·     They are linked to memories. Events and actions that communicate a set of characteristics.


But they’re also NOT like brand names because:

·     The names themselves have an intrinsic meaning.

·     They are earned, at an unspecified time. And sometimes they are not earned at all.


Some (usually older) brands are actually surnames, eg:


  • Heineken

  • Heinz

  • Tesla



But I think brand names are more like given names (aka Christian names)


  • They are applied at ‘launch’ (or a week late in my son’s case) and don’t usually change thereafter.

  • They tend to have no intrinsic meaning.

  • Memories and associations are attached to them over time.

  • The more effective ones are short and memorable and easy to spell.



So there you have it. Brand names are more like given names than nicknames. And with any luck by the time I get back from Land’s End this weekend I will have a great new nickname that will stand the test of time!

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