Naming In The News

Research Study: New Brand Names Not Making Their Mark

Is Delta's Song a Perfume? Is Intel Getting Into the Pasta Business?

By Kenneth Hein Brandweek, May 2004

After Intel shelled out $300 million to tout its new mobile technology brand, consumers still thought Centrino was a brand of vitamins or perhaps a maker of pasta.

Meanwhile, Delta's new low-budget airline Song, despite a $75 million launch, was confused for a brand of perfume or a musical product, according to a new study conducted by the Minneapolis based Strategic Name Development.

Choosing a brand name for a new product is one of the toughest challenges a marketer must face, said Bill Lozito, president of SND, an agency specializing in naming research. "Our experience has been that [the] target market often has a different take on the name than the marketer does. Often we find that if a marketer likes a name, it probably means the target won't."

SND surveyed 800 consumers online about 20 new brand names this past August. More often than not, new names such as Coca-Cola's Swerve, Bulgari's Omnia and Hershey's Swoops met with confusion as consumers were unclear as to what the product was or had trouble remembering the name at all.

Only 11% of consumers, unaided, recognized Centrino as a technology product compared to the 22% who thought it referred to vitamins. Conversely, 11% of respondents said Omnia was a technology item, while only 3% of respondents correctly identified it as a perfume.

Swoops, which are slices of chocolate shaped like potato chips, was thought to be a cleaning product by 18% of consumers, 14% thought it was a dippable chip and as any WNBA fan might have guessed, 12% of respondents thought it had something to do with athletics. (The association may have come from Sheryl Swoopes, a basketball star for the Houston Comets.) Respondents also thought it might tie-in with Nike's swoosh. While the product is just now hitting shelves, 7% of consumers claimed they were already familiar with the brand name.

"It's important to determine the latent association a brand name has among its target audience," said Lozito. "If it's positive, you can build on it. If it's negative, you need to get a sense of what hurdles you are up against. Don't fall in love with a brand name too quickly."

Coca-Cola's new dairy product Swerve was thought to be a car or driving product. Dr Pepper/Seven Up's water brand Deja Blue received an equal number of people (17%) who thought it was a drink or a pair of blue jeans.

Meanwhile Volkswagen's Touareg sports utility vehicle scored well with about a quarter of respondents who recognized the name after seeing it once. However they used 23 different spelling variations and 52% of consumers could not pronounce it. Nissan's Murano was recognized as a car/SUV by 18% of respondents. It too, proved to a tongue twister: 27% of consumers had trouble pronouncing it.

Cruncheros, a new line of Mexican snack taquitos and burritos from Ruiz foods, has also hit a few brand name barriers. Introduced in May, the product only has 6% awareness and its memorability rate was a low 18%. Just over a quarter of respondents (26%) thought it was chips, 21% thought it was breakfast cereal and 15% identified it as a crunchy food. Only 8% knew it as Mexican food.

Jennifer Lopez has a new perfume named Still to go along with her initial offering Glo. Too bad 12% of consumers think it's a bottled water brand only 2% of respondents had ever heard of it.

"There are 80,000 words in the dictionary and more than 280,000 U.S. trademark applications annually," said Lozito. "It makes it a challenge to come up with a meaningful brand name."

Case in point: the Mirra office chair from Herman Miller. In the survey, 18% of respondents thought it was a mirror or glass product.