Whatever happened to warm milk? Name review of Som sleep drink


A lot of people have trouble sleeping. Some count sheep. Others get medical marijuana cards. A new option? Som.

Som is a berry-flavored drink that includes vitamins, minerals, and melatonin (a hormone) to help you relax and support healthy sleep patterns.

From www.GetSom.com

The company’s marketing team has done a good job leveraging the simple English word the name clearly recalls: some. “Can’t sleep? Get Som.” Note, this slogan suggests we are to pronounce the name to rhyme with tum and slumber (no coincidence there), not tome or Tom.

With the name Som, the company also certainly had in mind the Latin somnus, which means (you guessed it) sleep. You can see that root at work in these sleepy Latin-derived gems: somnambulate (sleepwalk), somnolent (drowsy), and somnific (sleep inducing).

Credit goes to the Romans for how the sound of Som perfectly captures the process of falling asleep. Sibilants (like “s”) tend to convey smooth movement; the “ah,” “oh,” or “uh” vowel tends to evoke depth; and the “m” sound that ends with a decrescendo closing of the lips suggests calm (think ohm). The word is short, yet lingers as long as we want with that humming “m,” a soothing, centering vibration (think ohm again).

You may also recognize in the name the Ancient Greek root soma, which means body and is found in the English words soma (the body of an organism) and somatic (relating to the body). Falling asleep is profoundly physical. Even the metaphor we use for it suggests a body, one in descent.

But what you may not know is that soma also refers to an intoxicating juice from ancient India used as an offering to the gods and as a drink of immortality. (Immortality sounds like a pretty nice benefit for a health supplement.) Now, the makers of Som have made very clear that the beverage is not alcohol or a medication, and don’t recommend mixing it with either. But calmly drifting off is rather akin to intoxication (the mellow kind, not the Red Bull-fueled raging variety).

The name is short and lends itself well to graphic presentation, which is desirable in package design and overall marketing, and helps with memorability.

We are very glad the company wasn’t tempted to go the Zzzom route, which is not only an extremely tired construction, but also suggests zonked out rather than lulled to gentle sleep.

Another thing to note about the name Som is how utterly non-medical it sounds.

Let us give a little context. With prescription drugs, which this is not, names have to follow strict rules. In general, for a drug name to be approved by the FDA, it can’t sound or look too similar to an existing drug, lest someone filling a prescription over the phone choose the wrong medication or a doctor’s sloppy handwriting leave a pharmacist confused. Since there are so many drugs already, that means the pattern of letters, vowels, ascenders, and descenders of any new drug name must be unusual.

All of this has resulted in rather wackadoodle names for prescription drugs, and the acceptance—even trust—by the public of those strange names. Som sounds nothing like those and is clearly identifying itself as a non-pharmaceutical, natural sleep aid. (Note that energy drinks, sleep aids, and other supplements are not controlled or tested by the FDA.)

Our only critique of Som is that the desired pronunciation of the vowel is unclear. The English sleep words (somnolent, etc.) have “ah.” Some and slumber have “uh.” And soma has “oh.” In general, it’s best if your customers know exactly how to say your product’s name, when they order it or tell their friends about it, but also in their own heads. However, that’s a tiny disturbance in what is otherwise a branding dream.

We don’t need to sleep on it to know that Som is no yawn—meaningful, memorable, and fresh with a rich story to tell.

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