WILLIAM Shakespeare once pondered, “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” No, no it wouldn’t. If you changed the word for ‘roses’ to ‘turd-giblets’ you can bet sales on Valentines Day would drop off sharpish. “Here you are, my love, a bunch of turd-giblets.” SLAP. No nookie for you, mister, as the sales rep for tulips quietly passes an envelope filled with cash to the dictionary publisher.
Names matter. Which is the true genius of the forthcoming Ferrari 812 Superfast.
Yes, there’s cleverness to admire in the shape of a 6.5-litre V12 with roughly the same energy output as the sun; and doing nought to 100 in less than three seconds is not to be sniffed at.
But calling it the Superfast is what really eclipses the F12 Berlinetta (which sounds like an ice cream cake), and is what will put one of these in the driveway of every NBA player on the planet. “I think you’ll find it’s a reference to the 1964 500 Superfast which replaced the 400 Superamerica” huffs the Ferrari purist. Sure, but they could also have named it after the 250 Export or the Boano, which would also carry the revered weight of history, but would make it sound like a can of beer or a Disney movie. It’s not called the Superfast to appeal to connoisseurs of vintage Ferraris. It’s called the Superfast for the same reason Nike has a shoe called the Hyperdunk, and Sega made the Mega Drive, and obstetricians perform ultrasounds.
Because an epic-sounding name shifts more units than a lamesounding name, Shakespeare be damned.
Ask Volkswagen. VW named its new seven-seater Atlas, but it was going to be called the Teramont, in keeping with the other T-named SUVs – the Tiguan, the Touareg, the Tugboat, the Trigonometry. But then the PR department remembered they were hoping to sell some to Americans, and that Teramont sounds like a bad guy from the Power Rangers. So they’ve gone with Atlas, which is a pretty cool name – just not for a crossover that is built more for carrying half a dozen kids all called Addison and Sloane, than for crossing mountains. (Though they’ve missed out on the chance to have Toni Collette as spokesman saying, “You’re Teramont, Muriel”.)
Or for that matter, ask Mercedes-Benz, whose model names used to be easily decipherable into body style and engine size, as befits the work of Teutonic efficiencybots. But then they discovered they could make the engines smaller but the numbers bigger, and everyone was just as happy. C63? More like a C40. In fact, since Benz’s internal model codes mostly start with W (for ‘wagen’), if you’re in a C63, you might logically be driving a WD40. No wonder the hinges don’t squeak.
Don’t judge a book by its cover, nanas worldwide used to advise. But that was before marketing experts took over. Now if you see a book with a shirtless Fabio on the cover, perhaps being gripped around the thigh by an adoring maiden in an easily rippable bodice, you can be fairly confident it’s not a crime thriller. Now if you hear of a car called the Superamerica, you might think it’s a three-tonne pickup truck with 15 cupholders M and black-coal exhaust stacks. With a wall built around it. If you want to let people know that it’s a low-slung sexmobile and it’s super-fast… well, you know what you need to do.