Brand names should be kept to "short grunts" or syllables.Short Grunts for Brand Names

We had a mentor who admonished us to name our brand whatever we want, but to “put it in short grunts.” It’s only human nature to reduce names to the smallest number of syllables, or as he used to say, “grunts.” It was his way of telling us this shortcutting tendency had been going on since caveman times.

Nicknaming Your Brand

Let’s face it, we are an impatient society. We shorten every name we hear to one, two, or three syllables. If it doesn’t already have a 3 or less syllable nickname, it will soon get one. General Electric (6 grunts) became GE (2 grunts), Chevrolet (3 grunts) became Chevy (2 grunts). Coca-Cola (4 grunts) became Coke (1 grunt), Caterpillar (4 grunts) became Cat (1 grunt). And then there’s the Federal National Mortgage Association (13 grunts), which became simply Fannie Mae (3 grunts).

If your brand name has 4 or more grunts, it will most certainly get condensed. It’s best, that you plan for this when naming your company. Figure out what the market will naturally do with your brand name to get it down to 1, 2, or 3 syllables. “Short grunts” wins the test of time, the remembrance of the market, and the endearment of its namers.

Also give some thought to what your competition will do with your brand name. You want to think long and hard about how it will be truncated and what that reduction will imply. If it’s not a positive connotation, then consider going with a different brand name altogether. It’s best to choose a brand name that already has 3 or less syllables and choose a brand name that has a logical and positive reduced moniker. From iPad to YouTube, from Android to PC, and from Virgin to Tesla, many of today’s successful brands have 2 grunts.

Short & Sweet Catchphrases

Once you have your brand name down to short grunts, then take on your catchphrase. It too must be short and sweet, ideally under 10 syllables total, and the shorter the better. The market doesn’t have time for lists of features and benefits. It wants to know simply why it should buy your brand. Rhyme and meter can enhance the delivery and recollection of your message, but phrases over 10 syllables are less likely to be remembered at all.

Short slogans and jingles have replaced lists of benefits. We are bombarded with clever abbreviations, acronyms and contractions in every form of media. We seem to want everything fast. Even elections have been swayed by slogans, often rhyming. We want to boil everything down to its essence, its bottom line, and its shortest and simplest sound bite. Therefore, your catchphrase must maximize your message in a minimum length.

For Barefoot Wines, we chose “Get Barefoot and Have a Great Time.” It has a double meaning, is under 10 syllables, and put the reader in a fun mental image. It wasn’t our only catchphrase but it’s the one we were known for, and it satisfied several of our messaging goals.

When it comes to brand names and catchphrases, make them memorable and keep them down to short grunts!










Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) & Shelf Smarts courses to help consumer product brand builders achieve success. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular business site at

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