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February 6, 2006

Brand Architecture: Naming a Chicken Sandwich in Thirteen Syllables or Fewer

mcdonalds_sandwich.jpgOnce upon a time it was possible to drive up to McDonald's and order a meal without reading the menu. With names like Big Mac®, Quarter Pounder® McChicken® and Egg McMuffin®, my order literally rolled right off my tongue, into the speaker and up to the window. As long as I didn't ask to hold the pickle and the lettuce, I was back on the road in a Filet-O-Flash.

mcdonaldslogo.jpgEmotionally compelling coined names like Big Mac®, Sausage McGriddles® and Happy Meal® have a great reason for being. Because they're highly memorable, they serve as a colloquial short-hand that verbally strengthens the consumers' tie to the McDonald's brand. Personally, as a namer, I'm lovin' it.

So why has this mighty marketing machine changed its course and gone to a completely descriptive naming route with its chicken sandwich product line?

Today I mustered the courage (and the time) to drive right up to the McDonald's window to place an order for the new spicy chicken sandwich that's been hitting the airwaves. But placing an order wasn't easy, since McDonald's now has a total of seven descriptive chicken sandwiches all of which use four to six words and up to thirteen syllables in their "official name.*"

  • Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich
  • Premium Crispy Chicken Classic Sandwich
  • Premium Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich
  • Premium Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich
  • Premium Grilled Chicken Ranch BLT Sandwich
  • Premium Crispy Chicken Ranch BLT Sandwich
  • Premium Spicy Chicken Sandwich

Fortunately, for me and the four drivers behind me, only one of these sandwich names contains the word spicy. But I can see where the naming architecture is going and it won't be long before there's a Premium Spicy Crispy Chicken Ranch BLT Sandwich to throw me and countless other consumers off the QSR course. Perhaps the next step will be to reverse the strategy and create an alpha-numeric branding system (a la Value Meals).

I think I'll have a Mc'12 today, thank you.

*Note, in a recent study of the top 1000 most heavily advertised U.S. Brands, it was estimated that the average brand name is 3.5 syllables (contact Strategic Name Development for additional information).

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Posted by Diane Prange at February 6, 2006 5:03 PM
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1 Comment

Heh, that is a great post. If only the McMarketers would come to terms with your perspective. I suppose what happens is that Ron's Steakhouse was too successful in the past with simple names like Big Mac and such. Now, as they struggle to grow, there's always some new jack who wants to take his boss' place on the corporate lunch line. So, to get that corner office, what else is he to do but boldy suggest going against the brand... and somehow that will help the brand. I guess.

[Meanwhile, in eastern Europe they McLabel McEverything to McDeath. Pop in for a quick tour and you'll find McKetchup, McFries, McPlay (those plastic ball pools for kids), and McDrive (drive thru). It's McSilly.]

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