This post is an interview I did for Eric Antonow's podcast Gastroetymology Today:
After publishing my recent apple etymologies infographic, I was pleasantly surprised to be contacted by David Lyall, the marketer who was directly responsible for naming the Jazz and Envy apple varieties. I personally found the process very interesting, and wanted to share his fascinating insights.
Q) What do you do at your job, and why is there a need for it?
Naming proprietary things is (sometimes!) a subset of branding strategy and that’s my day job, has been for years. It tends to operate in two key areas – name my product, or name my company. In the product naming space, people are typically wanting you to give them the next magic product name that will become as ubiquitous as say, Hoover or Sellotape. Good luck to them! Jazz (and Envy) were examples of product naming, in that the rights-holding company understood that they had an apple cultivar with excellent commercial potential. Apples as a subcategory of fruit are highly branded, as your very interesting chart laid out – with a long history of names of some origin or other.
Q) What happens before names are assigned?
The apple cultivars that eventually became Jazz and Envy basically had a numerical designator, not unlike Stormtrooper clones or software version numbers. They also had a distinct set of attributes (Jazz – crunch, taste, juiciness, sweetness), and an idea of the target market that that apple would really suit (kids – and therefore commercially, targeting parents buying apples for kids). The rightsholder dumps that group of information on the branding company, and we break all the components apart intellectually and try to form an overall idea of how we should treat this thing in terms of a concept or a creative idea.
Q) What happens during the naming process?
Every project will have a number of phases where various different ideas are thrown around – A name, with its own cohesive set of attributes – a creative idea, a bit of an idea of what the personality of the brand and marketing would be, some initial design and visual thoughts. A marketing taster basically. The naming strategy will often create territories (one territory might be portmanteaus, another might be colour-based names, the third could be flavour-based, the fourth might be a catch-all abstract set of names). This will be tested with the client across the criteria they have (ideally what the know of the consumer and of names likely to work – but often actually just what they personally like or not). There is then a second subsequent phase – which names are most likely to get legal protection in the markets the product is likely to enter. This one is about the least creative part for me, but often the lawyers can be surprisingly creative in suggesting close-to options that are more legally protectable... from there, the marketing material, taglines, design system, logo and all of those things are created. It’s been redesigned once or twice since the original work but the name remains the same. It’s hard to explain how it all works very simply, but I hope that is somewhat clear.
Q) How was Jazz named?
In the case of the Jazz apple, we eventually decided (this is not satire) that we would focus on the noise of the apple when you bite into it, and the taste/juiciness of it, which we wanted to express as an energy. The name was inspired by Jazz music – with the rationale being that, as an allegory – Jazz has percussive crunch, its brand would be free and expressive, with a real zing of taste (we talked about this as having a real energy), that ended up surprisingly sweet. Now that may seem tenuous but so are most names that aren’t specifically appearance based!
Q) How was Envy named?
Envy is quite interesting in comparison because it illustrates the different results naming can have - because the creative job was for the same client as Jazz. Envy had a different collection of attributes - in particular a deep red colouring, and flesh that stayed white for longer after being cut. It had great flavour and was very sweet but it was also more difficult to grow, and in the eyes of the client was clearly a more premium apple. They needed a positioning that would enable them to gain a greater return, to make the apple worth the extra effort. The winning creative idea, was to embrace the idea of making this particular apple an object to desire - hence the name Envy - and to really dial in on the colours red and white in the original design materials.
Q) What else is important to keep in mind?
Firstly, easy of pronunciation - this is a global product, and people will not ask for something they feel embarrassed to pronounce, or fear they are pronouncing wrong (You can see this psychological behaviour in restaurant customers too - wines & dishes that are hard to say will get ordered measurably less as some people will opt instead for something they feel confident saying aloud). So in naming an apple, you want to avoid things that cause confusion in non-native english speakers. Jazz and Envy both pass this test, in particular avoiding the letters L and -tion constructions. And secondly, they are short words - one and two (simple) syllables. Which means that they have increased likelihood of being remembered, and have maximum possible recall when you are searching your brain for "that apple you really liked, what was it called again?" It is often the more theoretical points like these that are the most convincing when you are presenting names to clients, and it's why naming tends to be both art and science in equal measure.
A big thanks to David for reaching out and agreeing to be featured here. It's such a privilege to get to see how the sausage (or in this case the apple) gets made!
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a sophomore studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.