The Week: Best of the blogs - Familiarity breeds affinity

There used to be a beer called Courage Tavern. It had some great advertising, done mainly by John Webster. It won lots of awards. But the brand died because drinkers couldn't shorten the name.

Research showed that it's subliminally very important for a drinker to be able to show familiarity with his beer at the bar. For instance, no one would ask for "a pint of Double Diamond". That would be way too formal. They'd ask for "a pint of Diamond".

But you couldn't do that with Courage Tavern. To walk up to the bar and say "A pint of Courage Tavern" sounded way too middle class. And you couldn't shorten it to: "A pint of Tav."

So Courage changed the name to John Courage. People began asking for "a pint of JC". And sales took off really well. Even though the brown fizzy liquid was identical.

This shows the power of a mnemonic. In the mass market, especially among men, nicknames are important. In sport, it's a cliche that you're not really accepted as one of the lads until you've got a nickname. Fergy, Keano, Becks, Giggsy, Big Phil, Rafa the Gaffer, Drogs, Lamps.

Just look at The Sun. Nearly four million copies sold a day. Read by ten to 12 million people. If they can play with your name, for better or worse, you get much more coverage.

It's the same in advertising. If we can find a way to mobilise that natural instinct among millions of men, we can use it as free ?media

Those that insist on being addressed ?formally go the way of Courage Tavern.

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