February 28, 2006
It’s official: today’s man wants good skin and is willing to pay for it. I see increased use of cleansers, moisturizers, eye creams and gentle sunscreens. Not just for male models anymore, they have been embraced by football stars and movie stars with aplomb.
In fact, men’s skin care product sales have surged over 68% in recent years and their demand for hair conditioners has become much healthier while the demand for the same products aimed at women has plateaued. L’Oreal has a new line called Men Expert, which is essentially a DIY skin care kit. Avon now sells a whole men’s range, including products such as Prosport and Proextreme - Avon uses sportsmen to sell their products, like pitcher Tim Wakefield, or quarterback Chad Pennington.
I think the naming lesson is clear. When it comes to skincare products, men want to be “pros” and “experts” and want to get “extreme”. Women, on the other hand, seem to want “Crazy Moments”, “Hope in a Bottle”, “Cashmere” or just plain “Happy”.
The difference? Men want affirmation of their expert, pro status from their skin products. Women, on the other hand, want to wear an emotion. Or is this an over-simplification?
February 27, 2006
I reported last week on technology companies' love for the word "live".
As you may know, Advanced Micro Devices uses the word for AMD LIVE!, Intel uses Viiv for its dual core chip (the name rhymes with "live"), and Microsoft is now offering betas of Windows Live and Office Live, which are online versions of their operating system and productivity software, respectively.
Apparently, Microsoft is really in love with "live". Its new anti-virus, anti-spamming service is called Windows OneCare Live.
As I asked in my earlier post, is this too much of a good thing?
February 24, 2006
In the next few days, Houston will be changing the ill starred name of its Major League soccer franchise from "1836" to "The Houston Lone Stars", according to some reports. The 1836 name has only been with us for less than a month, making it possibly the shortest ever official name for a sports team. It has been deemed offensive by Houston’s considerable Mexican population as it hearkens back to the 1836 liberation of Texas from Mexico and the foundation of the short lived Republic of Texas, which existed from 1836-1845. The club apparently knew that a certain percentage of its fans would be offended by the name but went ahead and used it anyway.
I think it's easy to see why people of Mexican descent in Texas (self named “Tejanos”) are sensitive about this date. 1836 signalled years of Mexican conflict with the USA that culminated in the vicious Mexican-American war, which most Mexicans believe, rightly, ended with the outright theft of half of their country and the annexation of thousands of Mexican families into the US. Many Texans love the 1836 date of course, not only because it signals the short lived independence of the state but also because it was the date of the famous Battle of the Alamo.
People of Mexican ancestry make up roughly 20% of Texas’s population of just over 20 million. It should be noted that there are more Hispanics in the USA than Canadians in Canada. Obviously, their cultural concerns should be noted by any naming company worth its salt. Using such an inflammatory date in naming a sports team, especially a soccer team, a sport which has a huge following in Mexico and Latin America, is simply idiotic.
Also, who the heck wants to root for a number?
You might also find this interesting. Hispanic Trending, A Latino Marketing and Advertising blog, posted about the Houston 1836 name change and one reader commented that the name change is a backwards move in terms of building the Houston Soccer brand.
February 23, 2006
Naming a movie doesn’t follow the same rules as naming a product or company.
In Hollywood, "fit to concept", "brevity", and "trademarkability" count much less than the quest for names with cinematic flair and pure evocativeness.
Successful movie names are, as the Oscar nominations demonstrate, eminently suggestive. They don’t have to fit. Rather, I think they tease, they entice, they even confuse. The recent Crash, Collateral, Brokeback Mountain and The Constant Gardener fall in this category – all employing metaphors, similes, personifications or abstractions to draw in their audience.
And since brevity is not the soul of a hit, I find that a good number of successful film names don’t skimp on syllables; as a result, they can be highly descriptive. Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory make it on the marquee, but wouldn’t fit on a product package.
Which brings me to Disney’s successful new movie release. Eight Below could easily have taken the descriptive naming route, resulting in the expository title: Eight Sled Dogs Below the Antarctic Circle.
Instead, the film's marketers liberally dissected the sentence and left us with an adjective and preposition minus the noun and the prepositional object that support them. The resulting Eight Below is so suggestive that I think it literally falls off the map.
Does Eight Below stand for...
- Eight Degrees Below Zero? (I live in Minnesota and the film was released in February)
- Eight Feet Below the Surface? (A potential sequel to HBO’s 6 Feet Under)
- Eight Degrees Below the Antarctic Circle? (I checked a map and this seems feasible)
- Eight IQ Points Below Average? (Paul Walker may be a hunk, but he isn’t the sharpest blade on the sled)
So, you see by going the suggestive naming route, Disney has broadened its youthful target audience to include Minnesotans, HBO subscribers, Rugged Explorers and Paul Walker fans (the movie even finds a way for Walker to shed his shirt).
And there’s more. Because “eight” is a homonym for “ate” (the past tense of “eat”) this is the first movie name in years that has the ear of my two omnivorous Siberian Huskies, Chomksy and Pushkin.
Unfortunately, Chomsky and Pushkin have not been allowed inside the theatre to see the film for themselves. This has resulted in a howlingly sad scenario which I call Two Loving Siberians Waiting for Their Master in the Cold Outside a No Pets Allowed Movie Theatre or, more provocatively, Two Outside.
To read more about the marketing of movies, check out these blogs:
To read more about Eight Below and what others are saying about it, check out:
February 22, 2006
Yesterday, I noticed that Toshiba announced a new global brand name for its flat panel LCD and Plasma TVs: REGZA.
This announcement comes after the company’s decision to scrap production of CRT (cathode ray tube) sets and analog LCD (liquid crystal display) sets, and throw all its effort into digital flat screens.
I think this is a good move. Last year, flat panel TV sales surpassed CRTs for the first time, and experts see this trend continuing due to improved quality and declining prices.
REGZA was created from the German “Regsam”, which connotes “vibrant and dynamic” qualities. It also appears that Real Expression Guaranteed by amaZing Architecture can be derived from the REGZA global brand name, which refers to the superlative picture quality.
I've noticed that the major flat panel TV manufacturers have two things in common with their latest flat panel brand names.
- A unified global brand for both flat panel LCD and plasma TVs
- The brand names are coined or neologisms
- Last year, Sony launched a similar worldwide LCD brand name called Bravia, which I wrote about in a September '05 blog post. Bravia is an acronym for Best Resolution Audio Visual Integrated Architecture. One could also point out Bravia's closeness to the Italian "bravo", which means well done.
- Sharp has been selling LCD sets with the Aquos brand name. Aquos is derived from the Latin word “aqua”, meaning “water”, a good association for a liquid crystal television.
- Matsushita (Panasonic) sells LCD sets in some markets, including Japan, under the “Viera” brand name, a hybrid of the Latin word “veritas” meaning ‘truth” or “accuracy”. Viera is also a common Italian last name.
Since there's a shortage of natural-language words that have enough global branding power, neologisms are becoming more prevalent. REGZA is the latest example.
February 21, 2006
What is this romance that technology companies have with the word "live"?
As you may know, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is introducing a new chip and logo that is licensed to appear on hardware and software that meets its specifications. It's called "ADM Live!"
This is response to Intel's VIIV, a dual core chip that works with the yet to be released Windows Vista OS.
It's interesting to note that Intel says that VIIV rhymes with "live". A great example of the adage imitation is a sincerest form of flattery.
But wait, Microsoft just introduced Microsoft Live, which has nothing to do with computer chips or Windows Vista Operating System. It's Microsoft's attempt to offer web-based software services to blunt the Google threat, among others.
I can think of another technology name with "live" in it - Adobe Go Live, web development software.
I found this post confusing to write and my guess is consumers will find the ADM-Intel-Microsoft Live brand names confusing, too.
It's too much of a good thing, I think.
February 17, 2006
One of their most important products is their GridLogik software which spruces up large documents in Excel, taking out blank pages and working in unwieldy images.
I consider the move to a new logo and web site is a good one for this company, and pairing that with a grand opening of a high tech office is especially intelligent.
Why “Logik” with a “k”? The idea isn’t original to Logik Systems. There are at least two companies called Logik Solutions a medical accounting company and a web design/hosting company. Of course the word “Logik” is a real one...in German...but these aren’t German companies. The “k” is not just there to make the name stand out against the hundreds of “Logic such-and-such” tech names, but to emphasize the pronunciation of the name. Plosives like “P” “T” and “K” convey forcefulness, because of the energy required to pronounce them. Go ahead, try pronouncing them.
The new name looks good in the graph-like logo which itself hearkens back to the brain game “logic” played by mathematicians. I see this as a fresh start for a strong brand that seems to be nicely leveraging its name and visual branding with a logo, color scheme and fonts.
To me, it all seems very, well, logikal.
February 16, 2006
As a naming firm, from time to time, we are asked why is a name important? Sometimes this question is asked in jest, and other times seriously.
Regardless, we answer not surprisingly, that a name is very important. So are other elements of the marketing mix - product, price, promotion, and place.
But let me focus on naming. You may have noticed recently that the medical device industry is lobbying the FDA to drop the word "recall" in place of "field corrective action." Why should the medical device industry be treated any differently that other product recalls for food products, toys, household or outdoor products, or autos? It shouldn't.
At its core, what the medical device industry is attempting to do is to re-position recalls in the minds of the public, especially the target market of patients who have implanted devices such as pacemakers.
This effort reminds me of another classic case of the industry positioning a product line for the opposite of what it is. If you think about it, life insurance is really death insurance.
A Medtronic representative, Susan Alpert, is quoted saying that the word "recall" "gets in the way". In my opinion the only thing that gets in the way is not telling it as it is. A recall is a recall is a recall.
Back to naming. If we look closely at these two instances, we can see that the name of an activity has the potential to redefine how we perceive the situation. That is exactly the function of a brand name. And that's why I feel a name is a very important element of the marketing mix.
February 15, 2006
Lotus has just introduced the new Exige S, a head turning, pint-sized monster that some owners claim can outrun a Ferrari. Exige means “demanding” in French (possibly an odd choice for an English car company), and it may be the quickest “real” world production car out there. I think the name makes more sense when one considers that the Exige follows the similar sounding Lotus Elise (released a decade ago), a name adopted from former company chairman Romano Artioli's grand-daughter.
The Exige range copies Elise in form appearance and driving platform but brings more power to the table - the Exige is for the muscle car enthusiast. I like the two car names together, Elise and Exige, which lends an air of sophistication to the brand, not least because of their similar appearance and word length. I find it interesting that there are currently no plans to market this car to Americans, which is probably a good thing, as almost anything associated with the French has a difficult time with many US buyers these days.
February 14, 2006
This is a quiz.
In ten seconds or less can you tell me which northern Italian city is hosting this winter’s Olympic games? Is it Torino or Turin?
If you’re watching it on NBC, the answer is Torino.
If you’re reading about it on Google News, The San Francisco Chronicle or The Wall Street Journal, it’s Turin.
Go to the official Olympic site and you’ll see both Torino and Turin.
This is the kind of question that begs a descriptivist answer – especially if you want to watch the Olympics and read about them too.
But let’s face it, America, we really do have some unwritten rules for translating foreign city names. I, for one, think it’s important to review them right here and now before we loose our oral compass.
Rule #1. Drop the flamboyant vowel ending. It may sound appetizing, but you can save a whole syllable by eliminating one letter:
- Roma = Rome
- Milano = Milan
- Turino = Turin
- Napoli = Naples
Rule #2. This is an exception to Rule #1. If the city belongs to a meat food group, retain the vowel ending. That’s because it does sound appetizing and looks good on a menu:
- Bologna = Bologna
Rule #3. Lose the complex fibrous fricatives. They may roll off the tongue for Italians, but they tend to produce excess spittle in the mouths of Americans. As a result:
- Firenze = Florence
- Venezia = Venice
Rule #4. Lose the umlaut (¨). That’s because most of us don’t know where to find it on our keyboard. So, Köln becomes Cologne and München becomes Munich.
It should be noted that both Frankfurt and Hamburg have no umlauts over their second-syllable ‘u’, but even if they did, it would be retained in the anglicized version as both belong to a meat food group (see the exception to Italy’s rule #1)
Eastern European Cities
Rule #5. Drop the complex cacophonic consonant clusters. In Russia and other Eastern European countries the rule is pronunciation driven. English drops the complex cacophonic consonant clusters resulting in a name that’s much easier to pronounce – that makes it much easier to ask for directions especially when the signage is in undecipherable Cyrillic script.
- Moskva = Moscow
- Warszawa = Warsaw
- Karlovy Vary = Carlsbad
- Sankt Peterburg = Saint Petersburg
Rule #6. Changing French city spelling is forbidden. Although we Americans manage to thoroughly butcher their pronunciation, we do not, as a rule, intentionally change the spelling or phonetics of French city names. That’s because the French Government does not permit it.
February 13, 2006
The slang use of the word “cool”, I feel, has been with us so long that we hardly think of it as slang. Children hear their parents, their teachers; even their grandparents say “cool” as an all-purpose term of approbation. Unlike “awesome,” “tubular,” or “gnarly". "Cool” isn’t limited to one generation or one geographic region—or even to North America. Britain, Australia, and South Africa are all conversant with the meaning of “cool.”
First popularized in jazz clubs in the late 1940s, cool came to represent “attitude without anger” in the 1960s. Unlike other words popular among hippies, however, it wasn’t a new invention or a symbol of the generation gap, so it didn’t fade out along with “groovy” and “hey man.”
I expect that “Cool” is likely to endure through several more decades, but that doesn’t mean that each new generation won’t find its own words. Teenagers need to have a language that shuts out their parents. I know that from personal experience, when they grow up, they go back to saying “cool", and they accept much of the advice we as parents offered our childeren during their teen years.
If you're interested in learning more about the history of the word cool, check out Wikipedia's entry for cool. You can even add to it.
February 8, 2006
I always found it interesting to see how a niche product goes mainstream. There was the Kashi brand cereal sold in health food stores that went mainstream in supermarkets with the help of Kellogg's(r) who acquired it. How about bottled water, which is hard to even imagine that at one time it was a niche product, pioneered by Perrier in upscale bars and health clubs.
Now young and emerging cosmetics company, Only You, Inc., plans to take organic cosmetics mainstream by appealing to "teens and the middle class consumer" with affordable pricing.
With over 5,700 Wal-Mart stores (Discount, Super Centers and Warehouse) and Target's 1,300 plus stores, I could see not only teens but even preschoolers, not that I agree with this, using the My Girl organic cosmetics line consisting of "nail polish removers, lipsticks, body lotions, and fragrances."
What do I think of the My Girl brand name? To be honest, I find it hard to put myself in the shoes of a teen, but I'd like to think of myself as middle class. From a teen perspective, I can't imagine the relevance of the Temptations "My Girl" song that was popular in 1965.
Given that "My Girl" song was popular 40 years ago, it would likely be someone if their 50s that would emotionally connect with the song and the brand name. The number of 55-64 year olds is projected to grow 42%, to 40 million by 2007.
But wait, the strategy for My Girl is to price to appeal to mainstream consumers. But, the "My Girl" generation of 50-64 year olds can afford to spend to indulge themselves.
You know what? I don't particularly like the name My Girl, but I like the strategy of My Girl even less. It just doesn't hold water.
February 7, 2006
The other day I got a warning about the Kama Sutra virus. Frankly, it didn’t seem like much of a cause for alarm. Don’t people know not to open funny attachments yet?
But imagine opening your inbox and finding a host of different warnings: one for Kama Sutra, one for Nyxem, one for Blackworm, one for MyWife, one for Kapser. How many people would even realize this was the same virus, rather than a massive bombardment?
Everyone from the virus’ creator to the anti-virus companies to the media seems to come up with its own name for every new threat. That’s where the Common Malware Enumeration Initiative comes in. The idea is simple: one virus, one name—at least for use by the computer security industry.
Unlike luxury autos (Audi Q7, for instance,) no one seems to want to call this virus “CME-24,” any more than they want to use the name that the virus creator came up with for the program. Despite allegedly backing the initiative, companies like Symantec, McAfee, Grisoft, and F-Secure continue to use their own names for the virus on their websites and when speaking to the media.
I think you'll agree there’s no denying that “Kama Sutra” and “Blackworm” are much more likely to attract reader eyeballs than “CME-24,” so it was never very likely that either the press or the public would go for CME nomenclature. But what about the software makers? Do they use their own names instead of the CME designation because they own those names in a way that they don’t own “CME-24,” or is something else going on here?
Are A-V software makers trying to make their products look better by choosing dangerous-sounding names for viruses? Or are they afraid of the competition? After all, as Joe Stewart of LURHQ Corp says, if everyone used the same name, it would be much easier for consumers to see which company responds fastest to new threats.
I feel whatever the cause, there’s no avoiding the conclusion that CME is fighting an uphill battle so far, and emulating the luxury auto brand nomenclature has not yet gained acceptance.
February 6, 2006
Once upon a time it was possible to drive up to McDonald's and order a meal without reading the menu. With names like Big Mac®, Quarter Pounder® McChicken® and Egg McMuffin®, my order literally rolled right off my tongue, into the speaker and up to the window. As long as I didn't ask to hold the pickle and the lettuce, I was back on the road in a Filet-O-Flash.
Emotionally compelling coined names like Big Mac®, Sausage McGriddles® and Happy Meal® have a great reason for being. Because they're highly memorable, they serve as a colloquial short-hand that verbally strengthens the consumers' tie to the McDonald's brand. Personally, as a namer, I'm lovin' it.
So why has this mighty marketing machine changed its course and gone to a completely descriptive naming route with its chicken sandwich product line?
Today I mustered the courage (and the time) to drive right up to the McDonald's window to place an order for the new spicy chicken sandwich that's been hitting the airwaves. But placing an order wasn't easy, since McDonald's now has a total of seven descriptive chicken sandwiches all of which use four to six words and up to thirteen syllables in their "official name.*"
- Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich
- Premium Crispy Chicken Classic Sandwich
- Premium Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich
- Premium Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich
- Premium Grilled Chicken Ranch BLT Sandwich
- Premium Crispy Chicken Ranch BLT Sandwich
- Premium Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Fortunately, for me and the four drivers behind me, only one of these sandwich names contains the word spicy. But I can see where the naming architecture is going and it won't be long before there's a Premium Spicy Crispy Chicken Ranch BLT Sandwich to throw me and countless other consumers off the QSR course. Perhaps the next step will be to reverse the strategy and create an alpha-numeric branding system (a la Value Meals).
I think I'll have a Mc'12 today, thank you.
*Note, in a recent study of the top 1000 most heavily advertised U.S. Brands, it was estimated that the average brand name is 3.5 syllables (contact Strategic Name Development for additional information).
February 3, 2006
The GB Sports Car Co, production partner of MG Rover's owners Nanjing Automotive, recently announced it was going to introduce a reincarnation of the legendary Austin Healey after its absence for over 35 years.
Or, maybe not…
It turns out that the Healey name is actually controlled by the Healey family, and they have never granted GB Sports Car Co the rights to the name. Instead, The Healeys have sold their marquee to an Anglo-American company, HFI Automotive for about $2 million.
This company, with the blessing and participation of Healey founder Donald Healey’s daughter-in-law Margot and her daughters Cecilia and Kate, plan to introduce a new car at the London Motor Show under the Healey 3000 nameplate. And the car will be built by the British in Warwickshire, Britain.
The moral of the story is when it comes to a classic brand name, ask first before trying to trade on it.
February 2, 2006
Marrying identifiable brands with social initiatives is not new in American consumer culture. The Live Strong bracelets are an excellent example that ties together the Lance Armstrong brand, the fight against cancer, and the color yellow that makes the bracelets stand out.
The organizers behind the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria have just announced the new brand name Red, which they plan to use to co-brand with identifiable products from Gap, Converse, American Express, and Giorgio Armani. Portions of the profits would go to the Global Fund. For instance, shirts, shoes, and credit cards would have a Red mark attached to the brand, much like a trademark symbol.
I think the campaign to associate the Red brand name with the Global Fund will be successful and that Red was a good choice of names for two reasons. First, the word red, in the medical community, symbolizes urgency and attention, think Red Cross. Red also represents AIDS awareness in many people’s minds since red ribbons have been used as symbols for that cause.
February 1, 2006
The Marconi plc brand name is no more, having been recently acquired by Swedish Electronics giant Ericsson. They have already renamed a segment of the takeover “telent” (note the lowercase “t”) and apparently have not decided what to do with the Marconi trademark. It is ironic because Marconi plc is, ultimately, the brainchild of electronics inventor Guglielmo Marconi, whose Marconi Company started life as the Wireless and Signal Company in 1897 and after a series of takeovers and mergers, found life once again as Marconi plc in 1999.
Every schoolchild can remember the Marconi name—indeed it is just about as important as Alexander Graham Bell’s in the history of communication. Titanic buffs know that help came to the stricken liner’s passengers because of frantic messages sent over the “Marconi Wireless”. And while the Ericsson brand is very strong, in my opinion it does not have the same historical resonance as Marconi. For that reason, I think they should use the Marconi brand name, but I wouldn't be surprised if Ericsson decides to give the death blow to the Marconi name once and for all.
Bon viaggio, Marconi…
If you'd like to learn more on this subject, check out these other blog posts I found interesting:
We have been tracking company name changes in the U.S. and you might find it interesting to know that there were more than 750 company name changes in 2005.
As you can imagine, changing a company name is a wrenching experience as there are often strategic, linguistic and emotional considerations. That latter consideration, I have found, is the most challenging for a company to deal with. We tend to get attached to the known and this is especially so for a name – company, brand, service or otherwise.
To learn more about this subject, you can go to a Crain’s Chicago Business article where my thoughts are included.