November 28, 2005
I have intentionally avoided reading what any of us in the marketing and design community have opined about AT&T's new logo. Generally speaking, when there is a logo design change, it seems that many practice schadenfreude - taking pleasure in someone else's misfortune.
I would like to give my opinion on the new AT&T logo with a different twist. I will do my best to look at the new AT&T logo through the eyes of its customers.
First I would like to, once again, commend SBC's management on selecting the AT&T name over SBC or Cingular.
Back to the new logo through the eyes of its customers: I am guessing that this is much ado about nothing. To the typical consumer, the logo changes are subtle or evolutionary at best. The company has essentially maintained the same color scheme with a modified globe and lowercased text.
Having said that, I can't resist commenting as a marketing professional. The new globe image seems to overwhelm the lowercase AT&T name. Other than that, it is fine.
If you would like to see what others are saying about the new AT&T logo, please check out these other blogs:
November 27, 2005
Have you ever wanted to try your hand at naming? Here's your chance.
The Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia (KIAA) is sponsoring a contest to rename kangaroo meat. I think the KIAA’s website makes a valid point that “... afterall we don’t eat cow, it’s beef; we don’t eat pig, it’s pork; nor deer, we call it venison.”
The KIAA saw how Chinese gooseberry enjoyed wide acceptance after is was renamed kiwi fruit.
There are over 80 million kangaroos in Australia, four for every Australian vs. about 100 million cattle and calfs, or one for every two people in the U. S. (Source:USDA).
I’m also reminded of rape seed oil changing its name to canola oil, prunes to plumbs, and life insurance which is really death insurance, but that’s getting off the subject.
Toss your hat in the ring with entries for renaming kangaroo meat.
November 21, 2005
If there is any one point I would like to make, it's that Google is not invincible.
It's well known that many independent authors, The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers have filed lawsuits to prevent Google from scanning books.
To better position Google's effort, the name was changed from Google Print to Google Book Search in an attempt to appease, I feel, the writers' affirmation groups.
Jen Grant, Google Product Marketing Manager, has stated that the name change is to avoid giving an impression of a book being printed.
I'd like to end where I started: Google is not invincible, at least when it comes to product naming.
November 18, 2005
They accepted DISH's offer to re-name Clark, Texas to Dish, Texas in exchange for 10 years of free service for a town's 55 households.
I'd say that DISH Network is getting one heck of a deal. If one assumes that the value of the service is $75 per month per household times 120 months, this equals $495,000 in retail pricing. However, the true cost of this offer to DISH Network is likely half of that, or $247,500, if one assumes a 50% gross margin.
In comparison, the average 30-second commercial on the Survivor show is $350,000, so I think DISH Network struck quite a deal.
DISH Network will be getting free brand exposure over a decade for less than the price of one 30-second TV spot.
November 16, 2005
Remember Generation X? They were the ones that came of age watching Dallas and Cheers and dancing to Madonna's "Like a Virgin." Well, Gen Xers have grown up, gotten married and hit the road. Now hotels are scrambling to cater to this new crowd of post-boomers who, though getting more set in their ways, are still edgier than their parents.
According to Hotelier & Caterer, Gen Xers (people born between 1967 and 1974) are becoming the fastest growing segment of travelers today. As a result, Holiday Inn Select is bringing back the über-retro Holidomes (dome enclosed swimming pools) and offering its guests friendly high-tech accessories such as an online concierge, iHome clock radios and modernized sports facilities. In addition, Holiday Inn Select will be offering sport-themed restaurants in association with the Sporting News restaurant chain and water parks.
I think for a hotel that has long been a "family brand," Holiday Inn is a little too square for the cool crowd. Holidomes are almost a cliché in the hotel business. However, Gen Xers might gravitate towards the nearest Holiday Inn Select while traveling only because they can recall staying there while on road trips with their folks.
November 14, 2005
There's been a lot of press lately about the new Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs) available for Seniors. The promotional hoopla began in October, but the real test, identifying and signing up for the plans, begins this week.
What's interesting about this highly regulated release of new products is that all 76 of the PDP brand names were introduced simultaneously. It means that the insurance companies had no precedent or competitive set to use in their branding. Every one of them ran the risk of sounding dangerously familiar to another PDP on the market. And it shows.
Of the 76 unique Prescription Drug Plan brands, 36% contains the word Rx, 32% contains Medicare and 29% contains Plan. And a few like, AARP MedicareRx Plan, Blue Shield of California Medicare Rx Plan, manage to contain all three words.
Equally uncreative are the terms used to describe the different levels or sub brands for these new PDPs. The majority of plans relies on the traditional Gold and Silver or Option 1, Option 2 level differentiators.
But the lack of differentiation doesn't stop with the wording, it's also inherent in the architecture. Only two brands are one word in length, with the average brand running 3.1 words. Kudos for the shortest name goes to Pharmacy Insurance Corporation of America - PICA, whose moniker for the new plan is, simply, PICA.
But this refreshing brevity is in contrast with the conventionally longer names on the list. The most excruciatingly long brand name goes to Rocky Mountain Health Plans for its RMHP Defined Standard Medicare PDP Plan. Also noted are the series of 143 sub-brands offered by Prescription Pathways such as Prescription Pathway Platinum Plan Reg 14, Prescription Pathway Gold Plan Reg 29 and Prescription Pathway Bronze Plan Reg 2. ( I hate to state the obvious, but the target market for these products does not have the best memory for long-winded names.)
A few bright stars, however, emerge from this crowded sea of insurance traditionalism. Medica Health Solutions' YOURx Plan, Universal Health Care's Masterpiece Rx and Masterpiece Rx Choice use shorter, suggestive words combined with traditional drug symbolism to get the message across.
In the end, a brief and compelling name may very well be the best prescription for standing out among this crowded field of new insurance offerings.
November 10, 2005
In an earlier post I wrote about the emerging trend in wine naming that shifted away from hard-to-remember estate names towards the irreverent names like Yellow Tail and Fat Bastard.
Despite this trend, which seems to affect beer as well (witness the advent of "Bootie Beer" this month), Scotch Whisky product names still conjure up unpronounceable, romantic Gaelic words. Try Auchentoshan for instance, fine old single malt, that means, "corner of the field" in Old Scottish. Or how about Dalwhinnie, excellent single malt that comes from the highest distillery in Scotland? The name means, "meeting place" in Gaelic, but you knew that, didn't you? Other, better-known single malt whisky names, like The Glenlivet and Langavulin are actual places in Scotland.
But these names do not exactly roll off the tongue, do they? Nowadays, consumers want hip, easy to remember names. Spirit companies should consider them.
Compass Box Delicious Whisky Ltd. is on the forefront of creating great, high-end malt blends with funky labels and neat names that are sure to bring the enjoyment of fine whisky to the trendy set. I bet a glass of Asyla, Monster or Hedonism whisky would work.
But not as much as the bottle of Chivas Regal, one of the world's most popular premium scotches, which is sold worldwide every second of the day!
November 8, 2005
Almost every day I read in the business press that one major company or another lives in fear of what Google might do next. Be it Microsoft, ABC, NBC, CBS, or some other major corporation.
Perhaps, we all are giving Google too much credit. As good as they are, Google "stubs their toe," too.
Since introducing the Gmail brand name, Google has had to stop using it in both the UK and Germany.
- In the UK, Independent International Investment Research (IIIR) was successful in defending its Gmail trademark. Google's Gmail is now called GoogleMail in the UK.
- In Germany, Giersch Ventures successfully defended its GMail trademark, which is used for an email service. The German court declared that the Giersch Ventures' GMail service was registered and used long before Google's search engine.
It seems to me that Google should have done some "googling" on its proposed email name before trying to launch it internationally.
November 7, 2005
Whether or not you know a single word of any Scandinavian language, you've probably heard that "IKEA" is Swedish for "particle board."
Jokes aside*, however, the odd and sometimes unpronounceable names that IKEA gives its products are part of the IKEA experience. And while I have yet to hear an IKEA-lover cite names like "Tromso" or "Leskvik" as the primary reason for their devotion to the store, it wouldn't be IKEA without them. One Flickr user even posted a photo of her favorite IKEA product name: "Gorm" (without it, she was gormless).
I was fascinated by the recent BusinessWeek cover story on IKEA, which discussed IKEA's naming convention. Naming the 7,000 objects available in an IKEA store is a big job, but while IKEA employs 12 full-time and 80 freelance designers to create furnishings and accessories, the names are the responsibility of a single person.
One thing, which makes the naming job manageable, is the system behind it. Check out Margaret Marks Transblawg where she explains how IKEA names its products. Dining tables are named after places in northern Sweden. Rugs get Danish place-names. Bookcases are named after professions, while mathematical terms designate curtain rods. Desks and chairs get men's names, whereas anything meant for a bathroom is named after a body of water. If you know that, and have both an atlas and a Swedish dictionary handy, you'll probably do well at Cal Henderson's IKEA game, a multiple-choice quiz in which players are asked to match names to products.
IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad is dyslexic, so back when he was naming products himself, he wanted to keep them easy to pronounce and remember. Whether we can blame his dyslexia for the notable mistake of calling a child's bed "Gutvik," which in English is unremarkable but in German refers to an activity not suitable for children but results in children, I don't know. However, making sure no further mistakes of this nature occur again is now part of the job description for the woman in Aumhalt who maintains the vast IKEA product name database. She does, however, appear to have overlooked the infelicity of "Fartfull" to describe a computer desk so bizarre that mere words cannot do it justice.
* It is well-known that the IKEA name is an acronym derived from the first letters of the founder's name Ingvar Kamprad and the village where he grew up Elmtaryd Agunnaryd.
November 3, 2005
The November issue of Business 2.0 takes a good look at when and how an established company must change its most valuable asset.
Corporate name changes are up 12% over last year. Times change and business names change with them, whether it's Kodak dropping Ofoto in favor of Kodak EasyShare or beleaguered WorldCom returning to plain old MCI. We're also now seeing the post-bust demise of the ".com" company name. However, the article points out that the "leading trigger" for corporate name changes is mergers and acquisitions, which are way up nowadays (9,000 last year, up 50% from 2003).
When one company takes over another, you either have to settle on one of the old names, combine the two, or think up a new name. The key is to evaluate each M & A partner's brand. When I was asked by the writer of the article how this is accomplished, I said: "You do substantial quantitative research" using rigorous but subjective surveys. I suggested that the companies ask themselves "Can the brand be described as a leader or a follower? Does it feel young or old?"
Many times it is best to find a compromise, such as when Sprint acquired Nextel. Sprint's adoption of Nextel's yellow and black color scheme, along with the tagline, display what I felt is "the perfect example of co-branding" (see our September 6 post on the subject).
Some companies start with a fresh name, such as the name Novartis that grew from the merger of Swiss pharmaceutical giants Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz Laboratories. Sometimes, however, the new name is simply an awkward amalgamation of the two partners: think ConocoPhillips, DaimlerChrysler, ExxonMobil and, lamely, Konica Minolta.
Other companies either seem to rename themselves after their top product. Xerox was once boring Haloid; Relational Software is now called Oracle after its best selling database product; Motorola started as the name of a car radio produced by Galvin manufacturing in the 1930s.
Renaming a company usually involves hiring branding agency, which can do the hardcore research involved in finding new names and how they will appeal to customers. We often provide "demos" of how the new name will look on letterheads, corporate reports, the website and even on business cards. Then comes introducing the new name to workers, and finally, to the world.
Even the best laid plans can go awry thanks to mismanagement and corporate bungling that can make any new name go sour (think how hard it is to associate positive meanings with the name that resulted from the merger of Houston Natural Gas and Internorth: Enron). But change can bring growth. Since Kodak dropped the Ofoto name, the online service has grown from 18 million to 25 million users...good news for a well-known and loved brand name that's facing an uncertain future.
Posted by William Lozito at 3:29 PM
Posted to Automotive | Brand Naming | Branding | Company Naming | Consumer Electronics | Household Goods | Marketing | Naming | Pharmaceutical | Product Naming | Telecommunications
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November 1, 2005
The English language has a frighteningly large number of words in it, as anyone looking at the old-fashioned printed version of the Oxford English Dictionary can tell at a glance.
By virtue of the history of the occupation of the British Isles, English has a threefold linguistic history on top of its native Celtic roots: Latin, Germanic (Saxon) and Norman French. This means that English usually has at least two words for everything. To paraphrase Robert A. Heinlein, the choice is usually between the intestinal Latin word and the gutsy German one.
And still our hungry tongue is unsatisfied, and devours words from other languages when given the slightest excuse. As if this weren't enough, English speakers are devoted neologists, inventing new words at the drop of the proverbial hat.
Merriam-Webster OnLine received thousands of submissions when they invited vocabularians to send in their favorite non-dictionary words. Their selections are awesometastically funny.
If Merriam-Webster's offerings are insufficient to satisfy your verbivoracity, check out LangMaker's A-Z listing of neologisms.