The Best Portmanteaus in Marketing

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The marketing industry is rife with creativity, and the new techniques and phenomena marketers invent require new names and terms we can use to refer to them by.

Portmanteaus enter our lexicon in an effort to explain a new idea using already existing terms and names by combining them into a single word. Some, such as smog (smoke + fog) or brunch (breakfast + lunch), have been around so long it’s easy to forget that they were once two entirely separate ideas. Others, particularly ones that were recently coined or those that describe an outright ridiculous concept, sound just plain funny to our ears.

In the rapidly-evolving world of marketing, these kinds of outlandish portmanteaus abound. Here are a few of the best (and funniest) found in marketing today:

Thighvertising = Thighs + Advertising

Big in Japan, “thighvertising” refers to using the human body (well, specifically, the upper thighs) to advertise a product. Under the scheme, advertisers can use premium billboard space (AKA, a woman’s legs) to showcase their brand name or logo all around town.

A similar guerrilla advertising technique was used by New Zealand retailer Superette – in order to promote a sale on shorty shorts, the boutique put indented plates onto public benches and bus stops. When people sat down, the message was imprinted onto the back of their thighs, effectively turning them into walking advertisements for the store.

Badvertising = Bad + Advertising 

The word may be new but the idea behind it sure isn’t. See a particularly obnoxious, flashy or offensive ad? Must be a product of badvertising. Some are insensitive, some are annoying, and many are just plain bad. They may succeed in getting your attention, but it’s for all the wrong reasons.

Cocacolonization = Coca-Cola + Colonization

This little portmanteau sure is a tongue-twister. Cocacolonization refers to the globalization of a brand, and can be used for any act of cultural colonization of goods and products. This term is actually not at all new: It’s been around since the 1950s and gained steam during the Cold War. Today it’s come to refer to the process of westernization in general, not just the spread of Coca-Cola (which, it should be noted, has been pretty successful; Coke is currently sold in all but two countries worldwide).

Advertainment = Advertisement + Entertainment

These days, it’s no longer enough for an ad just to hold our attention. As consumers, we have to be engaged, encouraged and, above all, entertained. Enter the concept of advertainment. Remember when millions of people watched in awe as Felix Baumgartner broke the sound barrier while skydiving from the stratosphere? That was advertainment, made possible by Red Bull.

In a similar vein, since the early 2000s, BMW has put out several 10-minute long videos that combine plot and product placement, which a result that feels more like a mini film than an advertisement. It’s too plot-driven t be an ad, too commercial to be a movie – in a word, it’s advertainment.

Subvertising = Subversive + Advertising

Political statements masked as ads, often satirical in nature, can be referred to as subvertising. Also known as a meme hack, the best subvertisements look at first glance like a normal ad, but the caption or image makes viewers do a double-take. This type of cognitive dissonance (expecting to see one thing and being confronted with another) is an effective way of getting a strong message across, so it’s not surprising that subvertisements tend to convey a powerful, controversial idea, often satirizing the same company they’re mimicking.