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Not So Fast: Pumagility Product Name Review

By Beth Gerber

December 8, 2011

When it comes to wordplay, I’m as big a fan of the portmanteau as the next person. (For those of you who don’t know, a portmanteau is a word formed by squishing parts of two other words together.) Snapple (snap + apple), smog (smoke + fog), jeggings (jeans + leggings): I love how elegantly these coined words telegraphed a new idea.

Now there’s Pumagility: a cool-looking style of running shoe brought to you by the athletic brand Puma.  But while it’s certainly a portmanteau—and a reasonably clever one—I can’t say I’m crazy about it.

Yes, it’s a fitting name for a lightweight trainer that’s all about ease of movement. (And I like the tagline it’s been paired with: Get a move on.) And yes, the meaning is clear enough—heck, it’s practically a mission statement. But there lies the rub.

As portmanteaus go, it’s flat-footed.

What makes most portmanteaus so cool is their multidimensionality: the way they blend two disparate concepts to create a third. But the word puma already evokes agility—which is why it works so well as a stand-alone brand name. Pumagility is redundant. It practically bludgeons you with its message.

There are also naming architecture issues. Why does this running shoe, and almost no other in the Puma portfolio, get to piggyback on the mother brand? It would be one thing if Puma adopted a naming convention where the brand name was always combined with another word. But Pumagility is one of only two naming examples that I see in their running shoe portfolio that uses the word puma (the other being Pumafox).

Fact is, Puma’s running shoe portfolio is already overrun with a thicket of diverse names. (To give you just a tiny smattering, they include:  Faas 300, Voltaic III, Cell Vetara NM, OSU NM, Osuran, Volt, Complete Ventis II, Cell Turin, and H-Street Plus.) What’s needed are some simple, consistent naming conventions—rather than more invention.

Besides, Pumagility is a bit of a mouthful. And there’s something counter-intuitive about a name that’s trying to communicate speed and takes so darn long to say.

Overall Grade: B-

Grade:
B-
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