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Love it or Leave it: Nissan LEAF

Posted by ipelton on: September 8th, 2010

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Nissan’s LEAF electric car will be available in the next few months. Expect a lot of publicity and media coverage. I previously blogged here about the Chevy VOLT which will also be coming to market soon as a partially electric powered automobile. I indicated that I liked the VOLT name – it is suggestive of the electric function, and it sound fast and strong – good qualities for a car.

Car names are a huge feature of the car’s marketing and certainly much time and money is spent developing the brand names. Names like Mustang, Explorer, Xterra, Continental, Odyssey, Outback, Viper and Corvette help form the image the marketers seek in advertising the car. Ideally, they help communicate with consumers about the brand.

So, what about LEAF? LEAF is certainly suggestive of nature and environment, and for that reason the name is likeable. For the market which the car will attract – people interested in reducing gas consumption and their impact on the environment, I think the name is great.  It is highly suggestive of the key feature of the car – its environmental impact. And LEAF is clean and quick sounding. I can envision some ad imagery featuring leaves falling and floating, or leaves changing colors. The one shortfall is that the name does not convey anything about how the car performs or drives, and that may be the trickiest part of the marketing campaign – what will an electric car feel like, how fast will is accelarate, etc. But a one word name can only do so much, it cannot capture everything about the car.

Cars are no longer just  about muscle or speed or luxury. And LEAF captures what the car is all about. In short, I love the name.

Nissan’s LEAF U.S. trademark application is here. Nissan has also applied to register the logo for “Zero Emission” which is part of the LEAF marketing campaign.

Lesson: Suggestive names are very powerful. They are strong and protectable, yet they communicate a message to the consumer about the product or service.

Extra: Some great lines in the review of the LEAF in the Wall Street Journal last weekend by Dan Neil here. Choice excerpts:

  • “To spend time in the Leaf is to appreciate how vivid and sensual a conventional automobile is, with its furious cylinder detonations, spinning cams, fisted gear-packs and lashing steel driveline. Compared with the Leaf, driving a Ferrari is like ingesting mescaline.”
  • The headlamps “emerge like huge watery blisters from the front fenders. These headlamp casements are designed to channel streaming air away from the side mirrors, to reduce aero drag and wind noise. But still, yikes. Dogs won’t chase this thing.”

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