I heard it on the radio the other day when I was driving: a commercial touting something called a “Yourgage.” Whaaa? Without any context, my immediate associations were of yurts and yogurt. I didn’t have a clue what the announcer was talking about. And then, as it became clear that this was a plug for Quicken Loans, I figured out that a yourgage must have some relation to a mortgage, and that its marketers were trying to communicate that this was a mortgage customized to you, the consumer. A YOURgage. Oh. Okay. I guess.
In the world of brand naming terminology, a YOURgage is somewhere between a portmanteau (when you smush parts of two different words together, as in Snapple, Wikipedia or Brangelina), and a compound name (when you join two whole words together, as in Radiohead, Timberland or Microsoft). In construction, YOURgage reminds me of a brand name we developed for another financial institution, Wells Fargo. The name was vSafe, and we created it for an online “safe” for important documents (a pretty new concept at the time it was introduced). Like YOURgage, the brand name vSafe is a combination of a word part (in this case “v,” to telegraph virtual) and an actual word.
All of these naming constructions can be a neat way to telegraph a new concept by merging two old ones. And when these constructions capture a viral new idea or phenom deftly, they can become an indelible part of the lexicon. Think smog (smoke + fog), brunch (breakfast + lunch), sitcom (situation + comedy), expressway (express + way), lifetime (life + time), baseball … you get the idea.
I don’t think YOURgage is destined for that kind of immortality. For one thing, it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. And unless you hear it first, when you see the name in print the most intuitive way to pronounce it is YOUR-gayj, which misses the point entirely.
But these are quibbles. No, the biggest problem with YOURgage is that it sounds silly. And when you’re signing on for a debt that’s going to eat up a serious chunk of your income for longer than it takes for your kids to grow up, a little gravitas is in order. Honestly: would you feel comfortable telling a friend you just got a YOURgage?
On the plus side, the naming messaging is right on target. It highlights the YOURgage’s primary distinction, which is that it offers more customized terms than typical mortgages. (A lot more customized, in fact: you can set the term of the loan for anywhere from 8 to 30 years.) But when you’re brand naming, you need to pay attention to more than semantics. Tonality is important as well.
So enough with the goofy wordplays, Quicken. What’s next—a Smortgagebord?
Overall Grade: C+