When a new model arrives at Porsche, among all the external intrigue and internal excitement, pity the poor the marketing department that has to work out what to call it.
Model names in Zuffenahusen today aim to establish a connection between the various series while championing their unique characteristics. ‘Boxster’ came about by combining its roadster styling with that all-important boxer engine, while the Cayman was so named for its ferocity and agility. The Cayenne added a hint of exotic spice with its go-anywhere ability. The Macan, meanwhile, went a step further, using the Indonesian word for tiger to suggest poise and power. Not to be out done, the Panamera, with its GT credentials and sporting heritage, referenced the infamous Carrera Panamericana road race.
So when it came to the first fruits of our all-electric Mission E programme, there was an awful lot to consider. A product without precedent at Porsche. A sports car, still, but one unlike anything we have made before. The name had to be distinctive, attention-grabbing and full of the potency expected of a new generation of sports cars. And while it needed to highlight the importance of this new venture, it must also cement its place in the Porsche family.
It’s a tough task then, finding a name that unites tradition, modernity, and the future. One that reflects the character of the car in question and melds unmistakably with the brand. But it seems Kjell Gruner, director of marketing at Porsche, relishes the prospect: “Honestly, it’s hard to imagine a more exciting challenge. Pure expression. Letters and a meaning that find their place in the history of Porsche and the history of the automobile.”
Upping the ante for Gruner when the project team first meets, it hasn’t even been decided how the finished car will look. So designers, engineers working on the car, specialists from marketing and sales, in-house and external lawyers, and brand and brand-law experts must all come together. “All aspects of the name determination process are covered: automobile-related, creative, technical, legal and linguistic,” says Michael Reichert, project manager for the naming process. “A name for a car is ultimately an emotional decision” Gruner adds, “but one that should be based on facts and arguments. That requires a systematic approach and a lot of attention to detail.”
It all starts with one key question: what distinguishes the new car—what impression does it make on the observer, the potential customer? Because an engine block in the conventional sense isn’t required for Mission E, one of the first car’s principle features is an exceptionally low front end. The body looks unusually aerodynamic, creating a powerful impression of dynamism and speed. Could terms from the worlds of hydro- and aerodynamics be a good starting point then? The team inches forward, discussing, experimenting, favouring something, discarding it, and rethinking. First in a small group, then in a continually expanding process involving more and more people. In total, the assembled experts develop an astonishing six hundred ideas, which they then gradually whittle down to just a few firm favourites.
Once the shortlist is ready, the next step factors in Porsche’s international clientele. Pairs of native speakers representing 23 languages consider the sound and meaning of potential model names to rule out unpleasant or unsuitable associations from the outset. Lawyers must then deliberate every conceivable risk of trademark violation, inspect databases around the world containing millions of registered trademarks, revise names, and locate rights holders. It’s a truly Herculean task that ultimately lasts a year and a half.
On the final stretch, the marketing experts select their definitive list, to be presented to the board at Porsche in the autumn of 2017. And on the very day that the 356 celebrates its 70th anniversary, the decision of that last, critical meeting is unveiled to the world by CEO Oliver Blume. And the word is ‘Taycan’.
It’s a name that fulfils every phonetic, legal, creative, strategic, and model-specific requirement. Composed of two terms of Turkic origin, it can be roughly translated as ‘soul of a spirited young horse’. And, give or take a few minor details of biology, that’s exactly what the first fully electric Porsche will be: lively, impetuous, vigorous, light-footed, inexhaustible and free-spirited. The name reflects both the source and the future of the brand: the horse on the Porsche crest, the expression of its soul, on its way into an exciting new era. Taycan also has positive associations in many of the world’s languages: in Japanese, for instance, ‘taikan’ means roughly ‘physical experience’.
After months of painstaking expert analysis, individual vision and collective creativity, the perfect name eventually emerged, succinctly encapsulated by the slogan of the accompanying ad campaign: “Soul, electrified.”