Classical mythology provides (or at least, when more of the general public was aware of it, once provided) a deep well of shared meaning from which marketers can draw. Think of NASA’s naming conventions for its space programs in the 60s: would the Apollo missions have sounded quite so noble without the moniker of the god of science and light? But as a former mythologist who now works in marketing and communications, I have a plea for my fellow marketeers: please, please, do your research first. It seems like every other week I encounter a product or service whose mythological name might sound cool, but provides exactly the wrong message to anyone actually familiar with the story being referenced. Just three of the most egregious examples:
- Technology can be scary, especially if it’s a new type technology with which people are unfamiliar. So maybe it’s not the best idea to name your new music streaming technology after the woman who opened a box to let all of the sickness and evils into the world.
- Most car companies, including Volkswagen, value being perceived as safe and reliable. So why exactly you would choose to name a car model after the son of the sun god who stole his father’s chariot, lost control of it, and nearly destroyed the earth before being put down by a bolt of lightning from Zeus, is rather beyond me.
- Consumers of fast food usually want just a few things out of their meal: speed, flavor, and convenience. Oh, and to know they’re not eating babies. So why name your gyro company after a god whose favorite snack is his own children?