March 16, 2010

some nouns make better verbs than others

The investment company Vanguard is trying to make itself into a verb -- because, you know, the benchmark for a successful brand name is how long it takes for the name to become a verb.
Any bets on how successful this particular effort is going to be? For starters, where's the demand for such a verb?
COMPUTER users searching online for information say they are “Googling.” Commercials running in states like Michigan and Ohio suggest that shoppers go “Krogering.” But what will investors make of a campaign that proposes they start “Vanguarding”? The campaign, scheduled to begin this week, turns the Vanguard brand name into a verb, the better to help potential customers remember the company’s mutual funds and other investment products.

“Reacting to the stock market is just investing,” a print advertisement asserts. “Taking stock in the long term is Vanguarding.”

Banner ads on Web sites will declare, “Vanguarding is getting the financial picture you want with less distraction.” To dramatize that, some ads will be virtually blank; the white space is meant to symbolize how Vanguard can reduce the “distractions” that confront investors.

In short, the campaign seeks “to verb up” the Vanguard name, to borrow a phrase from Steve Ballmer, chief executive of Microsoft. He used those words in an interview with The New York Times in discussing the new Microsoft search engine, Bing. Someday, he said, he hoped people would “Bing” a restaurant to find its address.

I'm sure the name Bing was picked because it makes a good English verb (better than "to yahoo" or "to altavista," for sure). However, there's already "to google" and I don't see any linguistic competetion from Bing any time soon. A campaign can't just make a noun a verb. Only people can.

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