—Karl Schweikart & Susan Hopp, both of 45 Degrees/Minneapolis

We all know that branding is about managing expectations – what a person’s expectations are for a brand experience, and whether they are met or not. Pretty simple.

When you see the name Git ‘N Split on a sign outside a gas and convenience store in Nebraska you have a pretty good idea of the experience that awaits you: Hot coffee from a Bunn machine, coolers full of refreshments, and some microwaveable sandwich offerings. Quick with no hassle.

What’s the tip-off? It’s the silly name, with the ’N and misspelled word Git. The convenience store world is filled with similar style names: Loaf ‘N Jug, Stop-n-Go, Food-N-Fuel, etc. Our teenage son finds these names hilarious. Fittingly, the source of the pathogen that turns the world into a freak-fest in the movie Zombieland came from a store named Gas N’ Gulp.

The broader landscape of brand names is also full of intentionally incorrect spelling. The list is endless. The Beatles. Loktite. Krispy Kreme. Froot Loops. Toys ‘R’ Us. “Funny spelling” is a long-time trend in brand naming, providing differentiation and uniqueness, though not necessarily distinctiveness in the legal sense. The key is that it’s a deliberate breaking of the rules rather than illiterate ignorance.

Most funny spellings represent sounds of speech in one way or another. It’s all possible because of a quirk of the English language – there’s no one-to-one relationship between sound and letterforms. (This isn’t the case in Italian, Spanish or Turkish, for example.) Due to its history as a blend of many source languages, in English, many sounds may be represented by different letters or combinations of letters. Individual letters can substitute for syllables or entire words and still maintain sound and meaning when read or heard. Barbeque can be written Bar-B-Q. Taystee instead of tasty. It’s an illustration of how complex the English language is and how cleverly that complexity can be exploited.

The reduction of and to n’ – and its variants: n’,‘n, ‘N’, -N-, and just n – has become a go-to device for casual or low-brow names. It says “not too serious” and “quick.” It can also connote “rebelliousness.” Think Guns N’ Roses, or it’s just Rock ‘n’ Roll.

A name is often the first introduction a person has to a brand. It sets up expectations. Git ’N Split works for its audience – no one would name it Get and Split. Just like no one would name a certain law firm Winthrop ‘n Weinstine.

Photo credit: Sharyn Morrow