What makes some movie titles work and others fall flat?

Read this interesting interview with movie marketing specialist, Matthew Cohen, and you’ll discover a lot of common ground with traits that make brand names powerful.

Emotional trigger: Cohen cites Black Swan as “a concept that plays with your perceptions.” A powerful brand name triggers an emotional reaction, which causes the brain to pay attention and commit the name more durably to memory.

Focused Positioning: Love, Actually was unabashedly targeted at women. “By declaring it loudly and proudly like that,” Cohen says, “you’re shoring up your base.” Similarly, Apocalypse Now “was sold (to men) as an epic movie with a ton of action.” The word “apocalypse” signals a wide scope of destruction, while “now” gives the concept a sense of urgency.

Depth: Cohen likes the multiple meanings in Lost in Translation, saying that “it helps if your movie title echoes in a number of different directions.” We feel the same way about multiple meanings in a brand name.

Sound: The pleasing rhythm of When Harry Met Sally and alliterative S’s of Sleepless in Seattle create a pattern that helps those titles stick in your brain.

Shape: And of course, a title has to fit well on a movie poster, just as a brand name should not be so long that people start abbreviating it.

It should come as no surprise that what works in a brand name also works in a movie title. That’s because the human brain processes information the same way, regardless of industry. Jane the movie-goer has the same brain as Jane the grocery-shopper and Jane the executive decision-maker.

Yet too often, brand creation is restricted by artificially constructed silos, and marketers believe that brands in certain industries must have a certain type of name.

Packaged goods have one type of brand name. Nonprofit organizations have another. Law firms have their own prevailing naming convention. And B-to-B services have yet another.

Certainly there will variations in tone and personality, depending upon audience makeup in these various industries. But the broad concepts of what makes a name powerful hold true across all of them.

Why? Because only in the movies do people have more than one brain.