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How ‘Zoom’ became the ‘Kleenex’ of video calling

What’s in a name? For Zoom, it’s quite a lot.

One of the reasons why Zoom became so popular, and the reference point for virtual meetings and video conferences amid a yearlong pandemic, is because the brand name itself is a strong selling point. It’s helped Zoom become the “BandAid” of pandemic life.

An early pioneer in the video conferencing market, Zoom employs the sound symbolism onomatopoeiawhich is when a word describes a sound by imitating the actual sound. According to the field of linguistics, sound symbolism is a theory which hypothesizes that there is a relationship between sound and meaning in multiple forms.

By definition, zoom means: (for a person/thing) to move or travel very quickly, (2) (of a camera or user) to change smoothly from a long shot to a close-up or vice versa, or (3) to express sudden fast movement. Hence, the word itself takes on the meaning of “fast” and “sudden” and lends itself to the action of changing the focus of a camera. The brand name directly connects with the meaning of the word. Plus, brands with names that symbolically fit their purpose—like through onomatopoeia—are more memorable, according to a 2017 study by Colby College psychology researchers Melissa A. Preziosi and Jennifer H. Coane.

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