—Aaron Keller, Managing Principal at Capsule
Here’s something to rock the stereocilia on the inside of your ears for awhile. How do you pronounce this beer name? Utepils
You T Pills? Oot Er Pillss? Ute Pills? A tee pills? You Tee Piles? You T P ills? Any other possibilities?
The Minnesota brand has claimed it is Norwegian for “have a beer outside in the sun” though we have conflicting stories.
I have some Norwegian heritage, but rarely find myself using the language. I don’t live in Norway, nor do I travel there, but I like the country. They have recently become one of the richest countries in the region due to oil, not beer. I am certain they enjoy beer nearly as much as we do here in Minnesota. But what does it mean when we name a brand using unpronounceable words from other languages? Consider the fact that many of the IKEA products have names like Godis Skum (Candy Foam) and Pysslingar (Little People), this is translated from Google Translate. Does it matter if you can pronounce a name at first glance or not? Does it matter how many possible ways you could pronounce it? These are curious questions.
Though, you might be wondering what does Utepils translate to from Norwegian? Well, “al fresco drink”, which to me means a drink while you’re not wearing underwear but that’s for another day and perhaps another blog. And, you might wonder, does it really matter if a brand name can’t be pronounced? Does it change how you taste the beer? Perhaps if you name it after another IKEA gem, Fartfull, there might be an impact on taste, but in this case the answer is no. If the most important contribution a name can make is memorability, does the ability to pronounce a name make an impact on memorability?
When we were naming the SETU “Hindi for Bridge” chair for Herman Miller, we were asked to see if we could find a German word that fit their criteria (two syllables or less). We found an obscure village in Germany with a two syllable name and threw it into the mix of 30 potential names. The German design team said, “oh, yeah, that town is equivalent to your Detroit” so we moved on to the next name option. In the end, we, the German design team and Herman Miller landed on a name from another language (Setu) for an international trademark, which is hard to achieve for anyone considering the trademark laws in China.
I get the sense from the founder of Utepils that the beer is certainly memorable. So, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is the Shakespearean lens we can pull over this one and say, hey, if the beer is memorable, the name can by anything. And, once you know how to pronounce the name you’ve entered an exclusive “Norwegian” club where everyone looks at their feet and drinks god beer (god means good in Norwegian).
Should you be able to pronounce the name of your beer? Should it get easier as you drink the beer? Does it matter when you’re ordering a beer at a local establishment? What is your view?