“This name is good, but isn’t it the name of a car already?”
“Everything is a car name.”
– Conversation we have with clients once a month
Of course, the reason there are so many car names is that there are so many cars! And it seems like car manufacturers, while continuing to refresh mainstay brands like Ford Mustang and Toyota Corolla, like to introduce new names whenever possible. Sometimes they’re fun, like ZAP (electric cars) and sometimes they make you scratch your head, like Volkswagen’s Touareg (named for Berber nomads in Africa). Recently Fiat, the Italian manufacturer of fast, fun cars, well-designed for running over tourists in the winding streets of Rome, has revitalized their Fiat 500 line with three new models, named for their trim levels: Pop, Lounge, and Sport.
First, these are the cutest cars you’ve ever seen – even more adorable than Mini Coopers. They look like typical smart cars, but they have a (small) back seat and interior styling that is at once retro and yet modern. Apparently they drive well, too, which is no surprise given their maker. But what I like most about the cars is their names – specifically, Pop. Lounge and Sport are OK, although “sport” is pretty much standard in auto packages, and “lounge” is different enough to be interesting.
But it’s Pop that really caught my attention. I happened to be walking past a Fiat 500 Pop and took a moment to admire it, all shiny and red and cute, and when I saw the name on the back, I thought, “That is the perfect name for this car!”
First, the word is short – only three letters. It begins and ends with a plosive “p”, a sound that gets used in lots of onomatopoeic words for small, bouncy things (peep, ping, pitter, patter, and of course the word “pop” itself). It connotes positive cultural touchpoints, like pop music, popcorn, popping the question, popping in for a visit, soda pop, etc. And it is really fun to say! Like the Pringles commercial says, once you “pop”, you just can’t stop.
There are lots of things called “pop” in the world already – and now there’s a car. Does that mean the word “pop” can’t be used to name other things? Certainly not. In fact, the phrase “pop-top” was already something associated with cars – it’s been slang for convertible for many years. Fiat apparently decided that using it wouldn’t cause confusion among consumers and make them think this was a convertible smart car (which gives me a mental image of those sardine cans where you roll back the top with a key). And the trademark is for Fiat 500 Pop; they’re not trying to own the word “pop” outright.
So don’t worry, clients, you can still use the word “pop” to name your exercise equipment or mp3 player or what-have-you. I promise it’ll be OK. And maybe the next Fiat models will be Snap and Crackle…
Overall Grade: A