October 31, 2005
I previously discussed Sony’s BRAVIA product. I was interested to learn that Sony will start advertising its BRAVIA LCD TV with a new television commercial that will include 250,000 bouncing color balls on the streets of hilly San Francisco.
The color balls are intended to demonstrate the vivid colors that the BRAVIA LCD TV can produce.
It will be interesting to see how the consumer receives the BRAVIA brand name in advertising. Stay tuned!
The European Union's recent refusal to permit a French company to trademark the smell of fresh strawberries on the grounds stated "there is no generally accepted international classification of smells which would make it possible ... to identify an olfactory sign" is a reminder that non-traditional trademarks are still a thorny issue worldwide.
Marketers always must consider alternative advertising methods in an effort to quickly and effectively differentiate their brands from the competition's. I have always felt that smell is a very powerful mean of establishing an emotional connection to a product. Psychologists confirm "scents offer the strongest effects on memory, surpassing sight or sound." Yet trademarking a specific scent is very difficult. Scents are subjective. Could ten random people take a blind sniff test and unanimously identify a certain smell as that of "fresh" strawberries? I doubt it.
The US Patent and Trademark Office requires that a scent be "commonly known," "immediately intelligible to the majority of the public," and can only function as a source identifier "where it has no utilitarian function."
Smell is not the only difficult attribute of a brand to trademark. Other non-traditional trademarks include sounds, motions, tactile marks (one German brewery trademarked its name in Braille) and even holograms. Recently American legend Harley-Davidson abandoned a six-year quest to trademark the throaty roar of its motorcycles. It's not such a crazy idea. Other examples of sound marks include a duck quacking "Aflac" for American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus, a cat's meow for Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, and the chimed notes G, E, C for NBC. Nonetheless, only 58 out of 729,000 active trademarks in the United States are sound marks.
Laws around the world vary but as things stand, the law in Europe is very clear: a trademark must be able to be represented graphically and be "precise, self-contained, easily accessible, intelligible, durable and objective". I think for the time being, smells as well as sounds, will remain hard to protect.
October 25, 2005
Have you ever heard of Toyota Yaris? No? Well, apparently, Europe has never heard of the Toyota Echo. Instead, the Europeans have always had the Toyota Yaris. UK auto review site Honest John called the 2000 Yaris Verso a car "aimed squarely at the over-50s." Now Toyota of Canada is trying to catch the attention of the under-25s by introducing a promotion campaign called "Uncle Yaris" (who looks a bit young to be anyone's uncle) in an attempt to change the image of the Toyota Echo along with its name.
What's wrong with "Echo"? Well, Edmunds.com called the Echo a "clown's car," possibly after Echo the Clown. That might not make "Echo" the equivalent of "Bozo," but it does suggest that echo was a less than felicitous choice. The essential problem with an echo is that it can't say anything original.
Since "Yaris" doesn't mean anything in either English or any other European languages, it's immuned to those automatic negative connotations. What "Yaris" does have is a meaning by association, and the "Uncle Yaris" campaign shows that Toyota hopes "Yaris" will mean "European-and-therefore-cool" to prospective North American buyers.
I dont' agree with that, but time will tell.
October 24, 2005
I couldn't agree more with Duct Tape Marketing's view that HP's Vivera ink name is difficult to pronounce and understand in the radio spot.
In fact, in November of 2004, we conducted research among a national random sample of 414 consumers. Not surprisingly, only 15% of consumers selected the correct pronunciation of Vivera (vǝv âr'ǝ).
In sum, I think it's very important to consider how name candidates sound and if most consumers can pronounce them.
October 20, 2005
I came across an article published in the Denver Post that covered an interesting topic on brand names. Apparently, China is no longer satisfied with being the supplier of choice for many well-loved US brand names, they want to take over. Their strategy? Push their own brands, like Chery automobiles and Haier refrigerators, or else try to snap up well-loved USA and European brands like RCA, MG Rover and Maytag.
The Lenovo Group, China's biggest PC maker, has gone as far as to sponsor the Olympics and to take over the ThinkPad brand name from IBM -- along with the rest of its personal computer business. Consumer surveys have shown that we don't care where the product comes from, as long as it's inexpensive, and China plans to capitalize on that in reaction to the glut of foreign brands that dominate the Chinese marketplace.
Chinese mega brand TLC, the world's largest TV maker after its acquisition of Thomson in France and Great Wall Computer Group (could there be a more Chinese name?), plans to make its name "known across the world" according to the company's spokesman.
But the shortcut to world recognition still lays in foreign brand acquisition. At least one analyst has posited that China National Offshore Oil Corp's foiled $18.5 billion bid for Unocal in June is a proof that the country has recognized an undervalued USA export: global brands.
So, what's next? Should China Buy Wal-Mart? If so, I think they may call it Great Wal-Mart.
October 19, 2005
For decades, perhaps even centuries, English has been the indisputable lingua franca of commercialism, spouting unpremeditated creoles such as Spanglish, Chinglish, Konglish, Franglais and the lesser known, but emerging, Denglish (Deutsch and English).
The world of international trade has embraced English with open arms. English words are perceived as being cool, creative, technically savvy, and at least compared to some, short and punchy. It is, after all, easier to write an advertising copy around a Fileserver versus a Computer der Dateien im Netzwerk zur Verfügung stellt. Or wouldn't you rather promote a TV Network than a Fernsehgesellschaft?
Language purists and linguistic prescriptionists, however, are prompting a backlash against English language creep, with a call to arms in some European countries for protective measures or new policies.
In Russia, Lyudmilla Putin, the wife of President Vladimir Putin, is a leading opponent of Russian linguistic change. And, in Switzerland, where there are four official languages, the "Defense of French" foundation put up an impassioned plea recently arguing the Swiss had no need for English as a fifth official language.
Even more recently, Lufthansa, the German airline, made a bit of news when it changed its slogan from "There's No Better Way to Fly," in English, to the German "Alles für diesen Moment," or "Everything for This Moment."
As an English speaker, however, the flow of our language back to its roots is not a cause for concern. After all, English is first and foremost a "Germanic" language, and has "borrowed" words from more than 300 other languages over the last 1,000 years, including up to 60,000 French words following the Norman invasion of 1066.
Isn't it time we gave something back?
October 18, 2005
I came across the recent article in AutoWeek about Volkswagen wanting to return its Scirocco in 2008.
Volkswagen's Concept R coupe doesn't look at all like the Scirocco of the 1980s, which was a modestly sporty wedge-shaped hatchback. The Concept R looks, actually, like a knock-off of the Porsche Boxster or the BMW Z4, and therefore far more deserving of the name "Scirocco" than the earlier model.
What exactly is a scirocco, besides a once-and-future Volkswagen? It's an alternative spelling of "sirocco," which comes from the Arabic sharuq ("east") and means a hot desert wind out of the Sahara, which by the time it hits the Mediterranean and translates itself into polysyllabic Italian has also picked up plenty of moisture. As a wind, it can be oppressive, but as a name for a sports car, it's wonderful.
Of course, any Italian name rolls -- that's the beauty of a language where almost every word ends in a vowel. But "scirocco" is also onomatopoetic, with the initial "shhh" sound echoing the wind -- which in this case will be the wind of passage as the car whips past you on the Autobahn. It sounds fast.
The proposed alternate name for this car, Rivo, just doesn't have the romance, never mind the sexiness, of "Scirocco." I could imagine some play on the initial R, á la the Motorola ROKR and RAZR, if they were calling it the Rive (as in "arrive" or the Rive Gauche), but Rivo? Not in Francophone Canada, please: RIVO is the Réseau d'Intervention Auprès des Personnes Ayant Subi la Violence Organisée, and whatever claims one makes for a coupe, it's difficult to picture it as an agency designed to help the victims of organized crime. In Italian, Rivo means "stream," which conjures up a pleasant ambling along, except perhaps during snowmelt in the Alps.
The only positive aspect of the name Rivo for this car is that a stream is cooling and the wind off the desert is stifling. But if you were a sports car, which one would you rather be?
October 17, 2005
Next time you are in a restaurant, take a look at the wine called Yellow Tail, or else choose from an astonishingly quickly growing list of new wines guaranteed to tempt you: Goats Do Roam, Marilyn Merlot, Crocodile Chase, or Bored Doe to name a few.
I think these names make Red Bicyclette and Little Penguin seem downright conservative. Welcome to the new trend in wine names, where quirky, memorable names seem to sell over staid old unpronounceable ones.
Why order a bottle of Louis Jadot when you can order "House" wine, with a kid's drawing of a house on the label, or a bottle of Australian Ball Buster? Wine buyers at TGI Fridays officially favor irreverent wine brands in an age where wine is tied with beer as America's favorite adult beverage.
The introduction of the Fat Bastard wine, "took it to a new level." Cool wine names and funny wine labels may pique consumer interest, but it's the taste that keeps them coming back. I say it's good news for wine lovers everywhere.
Unveiled last week at the Inter Airport Europe Exhibition in Munich, Germany, the Tadar system promises a step forward in aviation security. More than a camera, it emits natural wavelengths able to detect non-metallic objects hidden under clothing.
Although security checks are helpful means to minimize terrorist threats, many passengers perceive them negatively as they are closely associated with longer check lines and “uncalled for” searches.
I find it somewhat disturbing, however, that the Tadar system was named, according to the Irish company that developed it, after a bat, the Brazilian Tadarida. Bats are scary vampire-like creatures that few of us would comfortably associate with protection and safety.
Bats are not the only animals to use high-frequency wave signals to locate objects in the dark--hedgehogs, dolphins and whales do, too. And they sound more friendly to me (especially the dolphin).
October 14, 2005
Available at Target stores nationwide beginning October 2005, the Choxie collection is Target's answer to the fast growing premium chocolate trend.
Choxie appears to be a combination of two natural English words, chocolate and moxie. Moxie, as defined by the Oxford English dictionary, stands for courage, audacity, spirit, enterprise. skill and shrewdness. These are certainly apt words to describe the discounter's move into upscale chocolates in exotic flavors such as Chile Limon Truffle Tiles, Chai Tea Truffle Temptations, Artisan Truffle Tiles, and Ancho Chile Chocolates.
But Moxie, is also the proprietary name for the first American mass-marketed soft drink manufactured in 1884. Moxie was originally sold as a patent medicine with the following promise on its label:
Contains not a drop of Medicine, Poison, Stimulant or Alcohol. ... has proved itself to be the only harmless nerve food known that can recover brain and nervous exhaustion, loss of manhood, imbecility and helplessness. It has recovered paralysis, softening of the brain, and insanity...
Moxie derives from a Native American word meaning "dark water." As for the word "chocolate," it hails from "xocolatl" meaning "bitter water" from Nahuatl, language of the Aztecs. Combined, the result is both a dark and bitter chocolate, without which, I contend, I would definitely lose my sanity.
October 13, 2005
I read a recent Wall Street Journal article that examines the problem faced by young Leonhard Matthias Grunkin-Paul in Germany: his name is illegal in that country because hyphenated last names are simply not allowed by the state authorities.
Leonhard is a German citizen born in Denmark, where naming laws are more in line with those in Europe and the rest of the world. All Germans are required to submit their names to the local Standesamt or registry, which can actually disallow certain names. Names like Lenin, McDonald, Schnucki and Bierstübl, which translates roughly as "little beer pub," have been rejected out of hand. Recently, the EU court in Luxemburg called the banning of hyphenated names "totally incompatible" with Leonhard's rights as an EU citizen.
English names, like the English language itself, are more fluid. The first author of the modern English dictionary, Dr. Samuel Johnson, remarked upon the end of his labors that codifying and limiting the language was simply impossible and that the art of lexicography was mainly one of keeping up with the language's evolution. I previously commented on the fluidity and ever-changing of the English language.
Of course, this means that many English speakers have taken Dr. Johnson at his word: we not only have hyphenated names, we also have some wild and woolly baby names, including Timberland, Xerox and Espn as well as Kal-el Coppola Cage and Apple, the names for, respectively, Nicholas Cage's son and Gwyneth Paltrow's daughter. Vive la différence!
October 12, 2005
Joomla! is the new CMS freeware program from a bevy of hardcore open source developers who recently split from Miro Corporation in Australia after a squabble over the Mambo application.
Joomla! is the phonetic spelling of a Swahili word meaning "all together." The Joomla! guys may want to express their solidarity with a funky African name but I think users download stuff without the corporate politics attached.
Recently, IP provider Voiceglo announced that it plans on changing its name to tglo. The company's president, Ed Cespedes, feels the Voiceglo's name is too limiting as their products "can handle any form of communication, not just voice." Yeah, but tglo, I think, means...um...nothing? What about Allglo? And why do their products "glo" in the first place?
Both wacky names, for what it's worth, violate basic English usage. Joomla! uses a phantom exclamation point, in the vein of Yahoo!, and tglo should be capitalized, but isn't.
Will prospective users search Google looking for Jumla, the original, easier to spell Swahili word? And speaking of mangled African words, tglo may be confused with the popular South African baby product Teegel, which, ironically, is for soothing teething pain - possibly not a cool name for a new product just cutting its teeth in the market.
October 11, 2005
This is a hotel chain designed to cater to a new niche of the ultra rich travelers, now being referred to in the industry as the Jetrosexuals. Jetrosexuals want the very finest in everything, whether it be the Dior pajamas on Air France or a ride in a Porsche out to your jet offered by Lufthansa.
Capella offers a series of boutique hotels: think small castles and beachfront estates with under a hundred rooms in Ireland and Mexico to begin with; smoking rooms, billiards and spas, and you get the picture. At least one observer has pointed out that Capella's major challenge will be getting around more well-known hotel chains like Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental.
According to corporate PR, the name comes from Capella, Alpha star of the constellation Auriga, the Charioteer. It is a binary star formation, and this is reflected in the double-star logo of the new brand. It is also a lyrical name, associated with different kinds of singing groups, from street corner to sacred a cappella.
I suppose that a binary star might be a good name for a two-star hotel, of course, and the company info does not mention that the word in ancient Latin means "she-goat". Interestingly, just south of the star is a triangle of smaller, fainter stars called the "kids", who as far as the Capella Hotel group is concerned, are probably not invited!
October 10, 2005
I was intrigued by the name of a recent post at Marketonomy, "Ning Bling."
Being in the naming business, it got me thinking about the origins of the word Bling. Bling-Bling, a 1999 hip-hop song by The B.G. popularized this term. It is thought to be derived from the sound effect used in cartoons to denote light glistening off jewels.
However, the Oxford English Dictionary, the arbitor of all words English, has not acknowledged the existence of the word Bling. Yet, that is.
In my recent post, "The Yin and Yang of Car Naming and Car Sales," I acknowledged the sharp fall off in SUV sales.
However, Andy Malinoski in his "Marketing Genius from Maple Creative" blog personalizes the recent decline of the SUV with a eulogy to the Jeep.
Starbucks appears to be learning the hard way about the difficulties around protecting one's trademark in China, The Seattle Times reports, where the burgeoning economy is prompting a flood of foreign trademark registrations: 588,000 applications in 2004 alone, a surge of 30% over 2003.
Starbucks is taking coffee-shop chain Shanghai Xingbake to court for appropriating Starbucks' fonts, logo and color scheme to provide Chinese coffee drinkers with a quasi-Starbucks experience, the name itself is a phonetic knockoff. (Xing, pronounced shin, means "star" in Chinese, while bake, pronounced bah-kuh, is the phonetic rendering of "bucks.")
Additionally, Japanese copycats sell Mount Rainier branded canned coffee using a logo that looks just like the Seattle original, a move made all the more painful given Starbucks proximity to the real mountain.
In November 2002, President Bush signed the international trademark treaty, the Madrid Protocol, which enables U.S.-based companies to cost-effectively protect their trademarks.
Nonetheless, I would like to stress, protecting your product name, logo and color scheme overseas is still expensive, and going global with your brand means factoring into your budget lawyers fees to protect yourself from pirates.
October 7, 2005
On Thursday, October 6th, Wal-Mart announced the launch of its new apparel line called Metro 7. The name Metro 7 reflects Wal-Mart's "urban" fashion positioning and 7 quite possibly refers to seven days of the week.
Metro 7 will stand alongside other Wal-Mart apparel names, all of which are suggestive -- Faded Glory, White Stag and No Boundaries.
The coined combination of Metro 7 represents the departure in Wal-Mart's naming convention. Understandably so, since the brand will be advertised in a four-page spread in the November issue of Vogue, as previously identified in the Laura Ries blog, alongside Polo, DKNY, Gn, and Tao .
Now I just have to convince myself that Wal-Mart clothes by any other name would wear well at all.
Taiwan continues to object to Google describing the country as a "province of China" as reported in a recent SearchEngineWatch blog post.
Talk to any one who has ever been involved in selecting a name for their newborn. I have. There is usually much debate between husband and wife, and often times the extended family gets involved.
I think it can never been overemphasized that selecting a name for a new product, service, or company is a very emotional and visceral one.
October 6, 2005
Neau (pronounced "no" in English) is the new Dutch anti-brand, and its target is the bloated bottled water industry. People worldwide drink over 89 billion litres of bottled water per year.
Bottled water is and has been the fasted growing segment of the beverage market, with various brands making more and more outlandish claims.
However, Neau reminds customers that water is still just water and no amount of fancy packaging is going to change that, whether we're talking about the eighties yuppie brands such as Perrier or Evian, which were famously and falsely accused of referring to their customers as 'naïve,' or the newer brands such as Pepsi's Aquafina or Coke's Dasani, which were recently exposed as being just regular old tap water. I have to admit, I am a daily user of bottled water.
Neau takes its cues from Big Red, and offers Dutch customers - wait for this - a plain old empty bottle that they fill from the faucet themselves. Revenues from the campaign are sent to third world water projects where clean water and expensive boutique water brands are not so common.
By drinking Neau, you and I not only poke fun at our friends quaffing so-called "pure" mineral waters from often fictional, and downright contaminated underground springs - we are also helping the poor.
The product name, which only co-incidentally looks like the French word 'l'eau', which means 'water', allows the company to use slogans like "Take Neau for an answer" and "Neau thirst". Customers who buy Neau water coolers get 25 Neau bottles they can keep on their desks to display their social responsibility.
Sounds cool to me!
October 5, 2005
Apparently, it doesn’t matter what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first and the last letter be in the right place. This is because the human mind does not read every letter by itself, but the word as a whole. I am sure the creators of FCUK were probably aware of this.
FCUK, which stands for French Connection UK, last week reported a year-end 69% plunge in pre-tax profits. The company has seen better days. When TBWA's Trevor Beattie, creator of the "Hello boys" campaign for Wonderbra, launched FCUK in 1998 he wanted it to be "the most talked-about fashion brand on the High street." One million lewd t-shirts later he succeeded. But by 2004, French Connection FCUK's wholesalers reported that they found the flagging teenage brand 'tired' and 'tacky,' and that it's 'time to move on.'
The FCUK brand name has long been the bête noire of the Advertising Standards Authority and target of an email campaign by OneMillionDads.com asking Marshall Field's to stop selling the brand and promoting slogans such as FCUK FASHION. Singaporeans also complained about the name when it appeared on the side of buses in that city.
Does the demise of FCUK signal a new trend in consumer morality? Probably not. Shock product naming is certainly here to stay, as evidenced in a recent risqué TV ad by Kimono Condoms. Shock brands get less shocking as they become mainstream and consumers look for the next in-your-face product name.
Further, what can begin as an edgy asset to a brand can quickly become an embarrassing liability...just ask the marketers who hired Kate Moss or Kobe Bryant.
October 4, 2005
LEGO management, for the most part, would be pleased with the Making Sense blog post on LEGO Factory, the company's new mass customization software.
Out of the ten times the brand, LEGO, is mentioned, only once is it spelled incorrectly, with a plural "s".
LEGO insists that the product be referred to as LEGO and not LEGOS. In fact, if you type in www.legos.com, the company gently instructs you on the proper use of its name before redirecting you to its official LEGO website.
James Jay Carafano, Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation thinks FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) should change its name to better reflect its mission.
He suggested a new name for FEMA, National Disaster Coordinating Agency.
What ideas do you have for renaming FEMA?
Today is a historic day. On October 4, 1957, exactly 48 years ago, the first artificial satellite Sputnik was placed in orbit. The launch of Sputnik marked the dawn of the Space Age.
Sputnik literally means the "traveling companion" in Russian, which seems to be appropriate since the following launch of the satellite carried a dog named Laika, the first living creature that went into Space.
By the way, did you know that the Sputnik launch also led to the creation of NASA?
Click here to hear the sounds of Sputnik.
I am sure you are all aware of the sharp fall off of SUV sales and the corresponding rise in subcompact sales due to rising gas prices.
The smaller vehicles include subcompact hatchbacks and sedans designed with an eye to accessibility of both the physical and financial variety: the Toyota Yaris, the Honda Fit, the Chevy Aveo, the Daewoo Kalos, the Suzuki Aerio, and now the Nissan Versa.
One of the interesting things about the Versa is that it appears to be similarly named after one of its competitors: Toyota's 2000 Yaris was called "Verso" in Europe and the UK. The Yaris won't be available in the US until 2006, but it seems a bit unlikely that Nissan was unaware of the Toyota Verso name.
Of course, emulation and cannibalization are the name of the game in the auto industry, for design and features as well as, it appears, brand names. Look at the way Honda's Odyssey minivan aimed to one-up Chrysler's Voyager with a more epic-sounding name, and so on, as other manufacturers picked up on the theme.
Toyota had a good idea calling its early Yaris "Verso." For one thing, "Yaris" doesn't mean much to English speakers, whereas "Verso" is a clue to the car's points of distinction. It's easy to get into. It's easy to get out of. You can fold the rear seats way out of the way to transport stuff. Hence no doubt the origin of "Fit" for Honda's model, because you can fit people and cargo into it.
This is definitely what Nissan had in mind when it chose "Versa" as the name of its new offering for the versatility of its six-foot-plus interior.
But what is versatility? Sure it implies the vehicle is versatile and can be used in many ways. I think it's ALSO interesting to consider that the original Latin word versatilis actually meant "revolving," from the verb versare, meaning to turn around or to ponder. A versus is a line or a row (from which we get our poetic "verse"). English "reverse" and "inverse" and "version" come the past participle of vertere, which means "to turn (over)," or "to exchange," "to translate," "to overthrow," or (in the passive)" to be engaged in."
As a clipped name, "Versa" is an improvement on "Verso," which is a real, if specialized, English word for the left-hand page or the back side of a coin. Surely the manufacturer wants its car to be the primary, not the secondary, attraction.
In Italian, however, versa means "he pays" or "pay up" or "pour out" or "spill," not good connotations at all. This may be why Nissan will market the Versa under the brand name "Tiida" in Mexico, where it's being built. I would recommend that they use "Tiida" in Italy, as well.
A brand name starting with the letter "V" is appropriate for the name of a car: not only is it the V of victory and velocity, but its sound is that of a revving engine - vroom! - and in fact its shape is that of many car engines as well. "Versa" is not as exciting a name as, say, "Vibe," which Pontiac picked for a similar model, but it rolls right along.
Why did I refer to this blog post as Yin and Yang? I predict that subcompact sales will decline and SUV sales will have a rebirth at some point in the future. It's the Chinese theory of Yin and Yang.
October 3, 2005
As pointed out in the Brand Noise blog, more and more advertising is depicting tongue flashing. Or I refer to it as speaking in tongues.
Some brand names can be difficult to pronounce. I am wondering if tongue piercing would affect name pronunciation as text messaging has influenced the spelling in our language by removing the vowels in brand names (RAZR, ROKR).
I discussed this phenomenon in my recent post.
A recent blog post on the success of Gatorade is worth the read at The Marketing Playbook.
As you may already know, the etymology of the Gatorade name is a result of Dr. Robert Cade developing the drink at the University of Florida, home of the "Gators."
Gatorade is a neologism combining "Gator," the clipping of Alligator, and adding "ade" to the name.
What is the first thing that comes to people's minds when they hear the name "Bombay?" I would suggest most immediately think of gin.
But, Bombay is much more than gin. In fact, try answering the following multiple-choice question.
If you selected all the choices in this question, you are right. The name Bombay has a very rich heritage, probably underappreciated by most people who drink Bombay & Tonic or have visited Mumbai, India, the capital of Maharashtra.