bikini2It was a hot Saturday afternoon and my wife and I had been working all day on clearing out the garage.  After ten years in the house there were piles of stuff everywhere; half used paint pots, off-cuts of timber, old lighting fixtures, strange oddly shaped pieces of metal that we had no idea what use they were and all those little bits and pieces we’d spent hours searching for over the last few years before finally buying anew.

“Hello there” called a voice from the top of the drive.  Dirty and sweaty we were in no state to greet the passing local gentry, but glad of a rest we looked up.

“That looks like good work” said an elderly neighbour, “yes” we replied, “but very satisfying”.

She limped down our drive leaning heavily on her walking stick.  A lovely, friendly woman, who was always welcoming and kind to us and our children, age had not been kind to her.  Now in her 80s she was short, somewhat overweight and twisted by the rigours of life.

We chatted away for a few minutes about the heat and satisfaction of sorting things out.  Inspired by this idea she then said: “well I’m going back home now to put on my oldest bikini and work up a good sweat in the garden”.

Eek!  The image of her in any bikini flashed through my mind.  Much as I like the woman I did not need that image, that graphic and disturbing image, implanting too concretely and permanently in my mind.

Strangely I can find no word for the concept and those much more literary folks I know (such as my wife) could not think of one either, but it surely needs a name doesn’t it?  There is a great worm in German for the auditory equivelant.  An ohrworm (literally translated as ear worm) is a tune that you hear and then can’t get out of your mind.

So we made one up over dinner with a friendly wordsmith.  To invideate shall mean to insert a graphic image into someone else’s mind unexpectedly and against their will.  A friendly professor of classics corrected the spelling (I thought it was my word!) so now we are just waiting for insertion in the OED.

So can we use the power of invideation in product marketing?  The idea, or mental image, needs to meet some basic criteria if it is to be successful:

  • Sufficiently new not to be filed with all the other skateboarding parrots and other dross
  • Arresting, not necessarily shocking, but have enough impact to stop us in our tracks with an “Eek”, “Ooh” or “Aah”
  • Have some direct association or meaning for the target individual.  It is not just an old lady in a bikini, it is an old lady I know, and like, in a bikini

That’s all it takes.  Go on: invideate your product into your target customers minds!

Have you got an invideation story?  Why not share it here?

With special thanks to Julie Summers, Graham Ives and Steve Harrison

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6 Responses to Invideate

  1. Peter says:

    Very interesting and amusing subject. I read with great pleasure.

  2. Graham says:

    Although I have to declare an interest (as the aforementioned wordsmith who was consulted on this worthy task of neologism), I still feel entitled to lodge an objection to the unilateral orthographical diktat that has altered the original spelling (invidiate). I don’t want to come over all Frank Muir about this, but one of the attractions of the word was its enticing (if fundamentally artificial) relationship to the adjective “invidious”, so I would like a philologically convincing explanation of why this change has been made. And if I’m not swayed, I shall invidiate my own spell-check onto every computer in the world to ensure that I get my way.

    • Chris says:

      Well, Graham, I’m sorry about that but I really can’t enter a debate about spelling between you (literary and linguistic genius) and Steve (literary and classics genius).
      I’ll just have to go and mother my inferiority complex in a corner … here kitty, kitty …

  3. I thought about this article when I heard a woman talking on radio 4 about her brother. He is an author and she heard that he had written a book about love and lust. ‘Ugh!’ she exclaimed, ‘pass me the mind bleach.’ I know how she must feel but luckily my brother does not write books, he just makes inappropriate jokes. I’ll keep the bleach to hand to counter invideation.

    • Chris says:

      Love it!
      “Mind Bleach” is just the thing you need after being “invideated” – kills 99% of all known graphic images…

  4. Chris says:

    I’ve just discovered that the right word to describe the act of creating new words or new meanings for existing words is “neologize”.

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