There used to be a brand of beer called Courage Tavern.

It had some great advertising, done mainly by John Webster.

“Courage Tavern. It’s what your right arm’s for.”

It won lots of awards.

But the brand died because there was no way drinkers could shorten the name.

Research showed that it’s subliminally very important for a drinker to be able to show familiarity with his beer at the bar.

For instance, no one would ask for, “A pint of Double Diamond”.

That would be way too formal.

They’d asked for, “A pint of Diamond.”

Or, “A pint of DD.”

This flags that they’re a regular drinker, and a normal bloke.

But you couldn’t do that with Courage Tavern.

To walk up to the bar and say, “A pint of Courage Tavern” sounded way too middle class.

As if you should add, “My good man” or “Innkeeper” at the end.

No one was going to walk up to the bar and say that.

And you couldn’t shorten it to, “A pint of Tav.”

So the brand died because no one could show familiarity with the name.

So Courage changed the name, from Tavern, to John Courage.

People began asking for, “A pint of JC.”

And sales took off really well.

Even though the brown fizzy liquid was identical.

This shows the power of a mnemonic.

In the mass market, especially amongst men, nicknames are really important.

They show a lack of formality and a willingness to have fun.

In sport, it’s a cliché that you’re not really accepted as one of the lads  until you’ve got a nickname.

Fergy, Keano, Becks, Giggsy, Big Phil, Rafa the Gaffer, Drogs, Lamps.

It’s a way of saying we like you, you’re one of us.

Just look at the Sun.

Nearly 4 million copies sold a day.

Read by 10 to 12 million people.

If they can play with your name, for better or worse, you get much more coverage.

It’s the same in advertising.

If we can find a way to mobilise that natural instinct amongst millions of men, we can use it as free media.

That’s what a mnemonic is.

A way to play with the name in order to get it remembered.

Those that insist on being addressed formally go the way of Courage Tavern.