American essayist and writer Adam Gopnik said, “Wit and puns aren’t just decor in the mind; they’re essential signs that the mind knows it’s on. . .” Coming up with a pun is a gamble. People recall a great pun. They’ll also remember bad puns, but probably not in the way the aspiring comedian wants them to. Crafting a good pun requires the right words, the right place, and the right audience. Getting this combination correctly is already difficult during a conversation, but how about if someone wants to incorporate witty wordplay into the name of a product or a business?
The Power of Words and Names
The name of a business is so important to its marketing strategy that there are companies dedicated to coming up with the right words. A good name can help a company stand out from the crowd, giving it an advantage over its competitors. A memorable and appropriate name can sway potential customers to try out a business’s services and get people talking about the brand.
It also sets the tone of the company and can affect the public’s perception. After all, a commercial printing services will be putting it on everything the company wants them to produce, from newsletters to outdoors signs.
Puns are a bit of a mixed blessing when used in the names of commercial establishments. Unlike a witty remark dropped during dinner, a business owner has no control over his audience. Like all jokes, puns will be funnier to some segments of the public while being incomprehensible to some. If a company wants to be accessible to a large audience, puns may not be the way to go. Businesses can also encounter problems if they use puns the wrong way.
The Wrong Ways to Use Puns
A lot can go wrong when a company tries to be witty in coming up with a name. The best a business can hope for if they make a mistake with wordplay is that people don’t get the joke. Otherwise, they could end up the target of mockery or outrage.
So what should a business owner avoid when trying to be funny?
- Don’t be juvenile. Unless a business specifically wants to cultivate that image, puns that could have been invented by teenagers should have no place on the company letterhead.
- Don’t be crude. This can overlap with the previous entry. Jokes about flatulence and the like can be a little entertaining, but people and other businesses can have a hard time taking a company with a crude pun in its name seriously.
- Don’t be dated. A company should aim to stay in business for a long time, or at least keep their name for a long time. Making dated references may be jarring in the future, when a business name that used to evoke smiles elicits a shrug and a confused expression from customers instead.
- Don’t be offensive. Incorporating wordplay that involves sexism, homophobia, racism, and the like can sink a business if it’s small enough.
The use of puns in a commercial capacity is a gamble. So an entrepreneur should take every precaution to make sure that it works in their favor. Use them wrong, and a company can end up a laughing stock.