January 31, 2006
On January 25th Honda Motor Company filed suit against Ford Motor Company, stating that the name for Lincoln's newest SUV, the MKX, is too close to that of the Acura MDX model designation for its SUV.
This means that as automakers migrate toward a more alpha and alphanumeric nomenclature for its luxury vehicles, it is more and more likely that potential conflicts will arise. Ford is arguing that it wants to refer to the new Lincoln MKX SUV as the “Mark X”, and thus confusion with the Acura MDX would be minimal. I’m sure Ford management is well aware that its sister brand Jaguar, first used the Mark X designation to refer to one of Britain’s finest exports.
I think that Ford is trying to have a dual-brand nomenclature for its new Lincoln SUV, which will only serve to dilute its branding efforts. Ford should decide on one naming approach and one only. That, I believe, would be in their best interest to strengthen the beleagured Lincoln nameplate.
No matter what Ford ends up with for its new Lincoln SUV nomenclature, I think it's clear that alpha and alphanumeric designations will likely conflict with existing auto brands.
I predict that the Acura-Lincoln alphabet conflict will be resolved out of court, as was the Nissan vs Audi “Q” conflict. In the latter, it was reported by Leftlane News that there was a gentleman’s agreement, with a likely financial settlement, that allows Audi to continue using the Q7 name and the Q-series nomenclature for future SUVs.
I believe that it is difficult to impossible for a brand to tie up a letter of the English alphabet. Can you think of any examples of a brand in any category with a trademarked letter or letters?
Read more commentary on the Acura vs Lincoln conflict at Autoblog.
January 30, 2006
I don't know when marketers first started to consider the emotional connection of a product name or service. I do know that I believe in the emotional bonding power of a name in most instances.
It's especially important for an aspirational brand such as a women's or men's fragrance, an upscale automobile, and sports shoes and apparel. Think NIKE Air Jordan.
That's why I'm not surprised that Taiwan is rejecting the gift of two panda bears whose names were selected by the Chinese government. "Tuan Tuan" and "Yuan Yuan", which were the winners among 10 pairs of names that 100 million Chinese voted on. The pair of words refers to the Chinese word tuanyuan, which means reunion, according to an article today in the Taipei Times.
It's also no surprise that the Taiwanese are adamantly rejecting the panda bear names Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, since the Taiwanese do not aspire to be reunited with China.
Since the panda offering was part of an effort to build support for uniting the island of Taiwan with the communist mainland, I wonder who the Chinese government was hoping the names would appeal to - the Taiwanese, or the Chinese?
January 27, 2006
If such a thing as a six star hotel were to exist, the Crillon is it, with its sumptuous decorations and its Michelin rated restaurants, it has been the favorite of everyone from presidents (Roosevelt, Hoover, Nixon) to rock stars (Madonna, Axl Rose).
On January 25 Starwood Capital Group announced the launch of the new luxury hotel brand “Crillon” through its Societe du Louvre affiliate. The flagship of this hotel brand is the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, which is named after the Count de Crillon whose family held the property until it was converted into the now famous hotel in until 1909. Read more about Starwood's plans at the Jetsetters Blog.
The Crillon name is a very strong one, full of the mystique and opulence of pre-Revolution Paris and this chain is sure to dominate the ultra-high end luxury hotel field. The brand name has a double blessing of not only the use of the famous Crillon name, but also the Tattinger name (James Bond’s favorite tipple), which will grace its bars. I think this is a good example of "buying" upmarket brand equity of a well-known brand name.
Not to be undone, two days before the Starwood announcement, Global Hyatt announced the brand name of its new luxury extended stay brand: The Hyatt Summerfield Suites, which came on the heels of its recent acquisition of the Summerfield Suites and a bevy of other hotels. Like Hilton, Hyatt has now bought itself into the upscale hotel market in one stroke, and while the Summerfield brand name does not carry the same cachet as The Crillon, Hyatt brings its brand equity to over 21 Summerfield hotels already in place and ready to be revamped, a nice addition to the 216 hotels (90,000) rooms it already controls worldwide.
I think it will be interesting to see which hotel makes the next move.
January 26, 2006
In an interesting turn of events, it seems that some enterprising reporters and bloggers have let loose the fact that Apple has recently trademarked the name Mobile Me to apply to products and services related to voice, email, instant messaging, wireless networking, digital music as well as video games, video, television, and web functions.
If Apple wants to repeat its smash success with iPod, then, it seems to me, this new device will be everything to everyone: a web ready, mp3 and video ready telephone that, like the iPod, is sui generis. Also, the Mobile Me trademark comes just as one executive must-have, Blackberry, has fallen upon hard times.
If Blackberry continues to have a legal cloud over its patent dispute with NTP, it would open a door, a wide door, for Apple to step in with a delicious offering of its own to line the pockets of everyone from Gen X, Gen Y, and some corporate types as well. Technophiles and I will just have to wait…
January 25, 2006
The philosophy of our blog is to accent the positive. It is very easy to take pot shots at what others are doing. Anybody can do that. Anybody can practice Schadenfreude.
I have, however, been bothered by the Ameriprise name, the new brand name for the spin-off of American Express Financial Advisors. Whenever I see the TV commercial or read the name, “prise” stands out. For me, it doesn’t convey enterprise, which is the root of “prise,” but it does suggest that I’m going to win some kind of prize in a contest or raffle.
What's more interesting is that if I were Ameriprise, I would worry about the many other companies that share the “Ameri” prefix. There are 2,598 federally-registered brands with that prefix in the category Ameriprise competes in.
One example is Ameriquest, the mortgage company that agreed this week to a whopping $325 million settlement for fraudulent business practice in 49 states. I think it is reasonable for one to assume that there is some confusion among the target market, that Ameriprise was involved with fraudulent business practices.
It is simply very risky to use a brand name that is close to another's that offers a similar service. If I had to guess, Ameriprise was selected more for internal considerations than marketplace considerations. We are all mature and seasoned enough to know that this happens.
Being based in Minneapolis as Ameriprise is, I am rooting for the success of a hometown company; it is just unfortunate that this new entity could not have started with a stronger, more distinctive name “from the eyes of the target market”.
Click on the following links to see what others are saying about Ameriprise:
- Minnesota Public Relations Blog
- Investment Get Info
- The Unofficial American Express and Ameriprise Blog
January 24, 2006
When you’ve done things one way your whole life, I feel it’s not easy to do them another way - especially if you don’t see a good reason to change.
This is one reason so many Dutch people object every time the Dutch Language Union publishes a new edition of Het Groene Boekje (Little Green Book), its guide to grammar, spelling, and vocabulary for Standard or Common Dutch. Whether it’s removing hyphens in some compound words, replacing diareses with hyphens in others, or converting grave to acute accents, it’s bound to be a nuisance, at the very least, for people accustomed to doing things the old way.
The changes are meant to make Dutch easier to read and write, particularly for non-European immigrants. In the short run, however, the changes make more work for newspapers, textbook printers, and others who are required to adopt the new spellings. Many Dutch TV stations and newspapers are flatly refusing to comply with the new rules.
This is the case even in English, which has no regulatory board to govern it. Compounds in English tend to drift from two words, to a hyphenated word, to a single word.
Even when both versions are considered correct, companies have to make sure their usage is consistent in all communications.
This year’s changes to Het Groene Boekje are minor in comparison to the wrath provoked when the Dutch Language Union decided to adopt phonetic spellings of French loan words. Suddenly department stores had new signs reading “Kado” competing with old signs for “Cadeau” (Gift).
Of course, anyone who has studied French, as I have, knows that it’s a nightmare where spelling and pronunciation are concerned, but the “updated” spelling severs the connection between the Dutch word and its European relatives. I'm concerned that it cuts Dutch off from its own linguistic history and etymology, and it makes reading the language confusing for anyone who grew up with, or even studied, the older spelling.
I can only imagine what would happen if English were converted to phonetic spelling overnight. It wud bee kompleet kaos for at leest a jenerashun.
And what’s with removing 14,000 words from the official Dutch language? What did those poor words do to deserve such a fate I wonder? Deliberately diminishing a people’s vocabulary smacks of 1984. Languages belong to the people who speak them, not to government bodies.
January 23, 2006
Hilton Hotel’s January 20, 2006 announcement that it would be launching a luxury brand name built upon the Waldorf-Astoria brand is sure to be a milestone in brand management.
Hilton will be taking a number of its high end resorts and marketing them as part of the “Waldorf-Astoria” collection. This is meant to create an instant exclusivity for properties ranging from Hawaii to Arizona, but it does make me wonder if Hilton isn’t going to have quite a challenge in getting people to disassociate “New York” from the Waldorf-Astoria brand name.
The Waldorf-Hotel is pretty much about as dyed in the wool as New York tradition as Yankee Stadium or the Empire State Building, which is actually built on the original site of the first Waldorf-Astoria. The brand masterminds behind the move are quick to say that they are not “over-promising" the original Waldorf experience, which is surely a unique one - how many hotels can say they had a movie starring Al Pacino filmed there (Scent of a Woman) or that Ginger Rogers danced there in a movie called Weekend at the Waldorf? For many, the Waldorf is so much more than exclusivity—I think it's the lavish heart of New York itself.
But because Hilton does not have strong luxury brand names in its chains, I feel this is a logical move, leveraging the century of tradition built into the Waldorf-Astoria name into the mix of high-end resorts that fall under the Hilton banner. And using a hoary old hotel brand name to jazz up the whole chain is not a new strategy these days: the St. Regis was acquired by Starwood in 1998, and since then 12 more have appeared. Even the Ritz-Carlton, which traces its linage back to 1927, has seen its name above the doors of 57 locations worldwide since its 1995 acquisition by Marriot.
Still, I think, there is something about one famous brand name being associated with one hotel.
January 20, 2006
I have to confess that I love chocolate. I really, really love chocolate.
Hershey’s is breaking with advertising for its new Hershey’s Kissables. This line extension is a miniature version of Kisses with a colorful candy coating. You guessed it — Kissables are intended to compete with M&Ms. Great strategy, by the way.
I was struck by the name Kissables since I’ve been thinking about candy and food product names that end in “ables.” What immediately comes to mind are Oscar Meyer’s Lunchables and Smucker's PB&J Uncrustables. There are 47 U.S. federal food and candy trademarks ending in “ables.”
I’d be interested in your thoughts about the Kissables brand name.
Whoever writes the most insightful commentary will receive a year’s supply of Kissables with my compliments.
January 19, 2006
As the beloved Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over until it’s over.” That’s an apt way to describe Starbucks' continued attempts to protect its name and logo in China, as I discussed in an earlier post.
China, a place notorious for ignoring copyright law with rampant piracy, is changing for the better. In December 2004, based on a 2001 law to protect international trademarks, the Chinese court ruled in favor of Starbucks and against an infringement by Xingbake Café. In Romanized Chinese, Xingbake translates to Starbucks (Xing = Star; Bake = Bucks).
Now back to Yogi Berra. Yesterday, Xingbake Café appealed the Chinese court ruling. All I can say is that it’s a good thing that Starbucks sells a gallon of coffee for $12.88, the most expensive “fuel” in the world. Personally, I’m glad Starbucks has the financial resources to defend one of the most recognized and valued brands in the world. Aren’t you, even if you pay more for a gallon of Starbucks than a gallon of Bud ($9.73) or a gallon of Evian Spring Water ($5.12)?
On my recent trip to Switzerland to spend time with friends and family, I was reminded of the importance of conducting a thorough global linguistic analysis of names for products or services that would be marketed internationally.
Everyone’s familiar with the Chevy Nova, which loosely translates to “No-go” in Spanish. Some of you may know that the Mitsubishi Pajero is slang for masturbation in Mexico. Buick had the same problem when they introduced the LaCrosse in Canada. LaCrosse is also slang for masturbation in French-Canadian. Do you see a trend here? I think it’s probably a coincidence.
Even less known is that in French, Travelocity translates into "City of Transsexuals", travelo being a derogatory term for transvestite. Without making any judgements on anyone’s sexual orientation, I think it was wise on the part of Travelocity to use a different name in France. If you type www.travelocity.fr, it takes you to www.odysia.fr. Odysia, although most likely a coined name, reminds me of odyssey, a more appropriate term for the travel industry.
When it comes to marketing a product or service internationally, I can’t help but think of what my mother taught me, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
January 17, 2006
I have found over the years that selecting a name is an extremely emotional decision. Often times, the decision maker, perhaps unknowingly, overlooks the naming criteria established.
This is compounded when an entrepreneur attempts to name his or her company. The entrepreneur must keep in mind that without a multi-million dollar marketing budget, a descriptive or suggestive name may be the way to go.
I convey these thoughts and others on the subject in a recent interview on CNN Headline News.
This fall, the beleaguered Lincoln car brand will discontinue their traditional car brand names in favor of alphabetical naming, following the lead of its closest American rival Cadillac, which slipped into an alphabetical naming convention close to a decade ago (much to the dismay of those of us who miss the Seville and the Coupe de Ville).
The change will be initiated by introducing the new Aviator, which has been renamed Lincoln MKX. Other car brands, like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Lexus have found that using an alphanumeric naming convention focuses the customer's attention on the brand and not the particular model, in other words, Lincoln doesn't want people driving Town Cars and Aviators anymore, they want them driving Lincolns.
For many car lovers, the demise of well-loved car brand names like Town Car and Navigator credits a nostalgic longing. But Lincoln is facing drooping sales precisely because the brand is seen as outdated. I think if you want to appeal to the entire spectrum of luxury car buyers, young and old, an alphabetical or alphanumeric nomenclature makes sense for Lincoln.
January 12, 2006
You may have seen Philip's new "Entertaible" product: it marries the technology of a computer with the format of a board game. The product is cool and the name is ... well, I'll leave this for you to decide. Entertaible is obviously a combination of “entertainment” and “table”. Perfectly logical and entirely appropriate.
The thing that puzzles me is why they insisted on spelling the name with an “i”. “Entertable” would have conveyed just as much information—probably more, in fact—without making people stare hard at the name before realizing its meaning and how to pronounce it.
A plague of lower-case “i's” has infested the world of technology products for some time, but they usually attack the beginning of the name. Philips appears to have suffered a more insidious infection, an “i”, plunged straight to the heart of the word rather than taking a head shot.
The Entertaible is barely past the prototype phase, but it may still be too late to operate.
It's worthwhile to read what other blogs have to say about the product:
January 11, 2006
Leave it to the Californians to put a positive sociological spin on what is clearly a major business blunder.
California-based company Colours in Motion recently selected the name Spazz to brand their new wheelchair offering - explaining that the name means, "wild and crazy."
I think that's an interesting observation, given that there are 11 Urban Dictionary definitions of Spazz, all of them negative and none of them remotely close to "wild and crazy." But to be fair, I took our research a step further and consulted two of the PhD linguists on the Strategic Name Development staff, and I drew another blank. Spazz, more often now means, "freaked out" or "irrational" in U.S. vernacular. To speakers of American English, Spazz is derogatory in every way.
And there's more. Spazz is being marketed internationally. That means in countries like Great Britain and New Zealand, the potential buyers may be the ones "freaked out" since in the Queen's English, Spazz is a derogatory word for a person with Cerebral Palsy.
Yet Colours in Motion's president, John Box, claims he wants to "provoke people to think differently." And although he admits that Spazz has a negative meaning in the U.S., he sees it as part of "moving the bar" and reclaiming negative language.
I, on the other hand, did not reach that conclusion during my interview with Radio New Zealand. Reclaiming language takes a generation or more. I've seen no evidence at all that spazz, spass or spastic is in that genre. The company simply acted in bad taste. Now they need to work on reclaiming that.
January 3, 2006
Question: What is a sure way for a company that has just acquired a competitor with a beloved name to immediately raise the ire of customers, journalists, employees and pretty much everyone else?
Answer: Do away with that beloved name. People around the world like, no make that love, certain names and won't take a name change.
Case in point? A dispute between the two soon-to-be-merged Korean Chohung and Shinhan banks turned ugly, with workers threatening a walkout if the Chohung name is chucked. The union says if the Chohung name, which is steeped in a century of Korean financial history, is scrapped they will demand the resignation of the chairman and will ask customers to stop using the bank. All this despite Shinhan's studies indicating that people preferred the Shinhan name to Chohung's.
Another example of a company name change due to merging is Marshall Field's and Macy's. Federated Department Stores' market researchers last year advised them to replace the newly acquired Marshall Field's with the Macy's moniker. People are still reeling. One reporter noted that when the announcement was made last September, Chicago "reacted as if it had been ordered to start putting ketchup on its hot dogs."
The lesson learned is that companies who acquire others should rename with care. Tamper with certain names at your own risk.
January 2, 2006
An Intel representative, Bill Calder, said of the slogan change, “We’re aligning our brand strategy with our platform strategy of providing technology for personal computers. We’re now targeting to become a part of today’s living room.”
Intel Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Eric B. Kim explained [Subscription Required] the Leap Ahead slogan by stating that, “Everything we [Intel] do is a leap ahead”.
That’s great for Intel, but what’s in it for the consumer? I think this is an example of a company talking to itself or the industry at best.
Take for example AT&T’s new slogan “Your World. Delivered.” I can relate to that as I think many consumers can. It says to me that they’re delivering everything that I’ll need.
My perception is consistent with what AT&T is saying they want the slogan to convey.
Wendy Clark, Vice President of Advertising for AT&T, states that the new slogan communicates, “What we’re saying is not only do we have a solution, we can deliver it.”
Shelley Almager, Director of Advertising, AT&T, remarks that the new slogan “…is attempting to convince customers that it can meet all their communication needs.”
Back to Intel. Their new logo, as reported in my New Year’s Eve post, raises the lowercase e, changes the font slightly, while maintaining the swoosh around the Intel name - modest change at best.
I think that the new Intel symbol that replaces Intel Inside is visually complex and has many elements competing for one’s attention.
For instance, “Core” is the name for the new Yonah mobile chips whose models are designated Duo, for dual processors, and Solo for a single processor.
Inside™ as you can see, is trademarked. I think this is an example of a “split the baby” decision, and is also a bridge, a good one at that, from the former Intel symbol to the new one.
Does the Intel logo change strike you as “clearing out the cobwebs”, or “dumping” the Intel Inside slogan? Or, has the new Intel logo changed enough to consider the former one “a relic”? Eric Kim, Intel’s Chief Marketing Officer, thinks so, as quoted in a recent BusinessWeek article.
I say no, no, and no again. The Intel logo change is subtle at best, keeps part of the Intel Inside slogan, and maintains the swoosh with imperceptible modifications.
In sum, I feel that AT&T has a better-conceived strategy and a slogan that speaks to the target market while the Leap Ahead Intel slogan is a classic example of a company talking to itself.
However, with the $2.5 billion that Intel plans to spend, almost any slogan, even if it doesn’t speak to the hearts and minds of consumers, will have meaning over time.
But, a marketing budget is a terrible thing to waste.