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April 5, 2006

Northwest’s Compass: A Magnetic Product Name that Points in All Directions

NameI learned that Northwest Airlines recently announced the launch of a new regional carrier, Compass.

The airline says it hopes to have its new regional jet subsidiary in the air as early as June and could have as many as 36 small jets flying within five years.

Compass will begin flying between Washington Dulles and Minneapolis in June with one 50-seat airplane. The new subsidiary will eventually fly 76-seat airplanes during its first year, and plans to add at least 36 of the small jets within five years.

Magnetic CompassThere’s a lot to like about the product name, Compass.

  • Short – just two sweet syllables
  • Easy to pronounce, natural English
  • An excellent fit for the travel category
  • Nice tie to the parent brand (Northwest covers two points on a Compass)
  • Plenty of positive visual imagery to make it memorable
  • Perhaps even some emotional bonding (A compass keeps us from getting lost in the proverbial big bad woods)
  • It’s trademarkable – (Actually the registration is still pending, but Northwest’s legal team wouldn’t dare introduce a new brand name they couldn’t bank on, Right?)

There’s so much product name magnetism surrounding Northwest’s Compass, it almost seems to good to be true. But there is one big chink in the armor: differentiation. In other words, the Compass brand name really lacks an identity of its own.

Even though there are no other specific airlines named ‘Compass’ there are 83 other active marks for the exact same name in the U.S. Federal database.

For instance:

  • You can drive to the airport in your Jeep Compass
  • Next, check your Compass Luggage and go through the Compass metal detector at security.
  • (Hopefully you didn’t pack your Compass hunting knife)
  • Then board the Compass flight and take your seat (which has a Compass Life Jacket stored beneath)
  • Sit back and relax in your J.C. Penny Compass suit
  • And after take-off, order a glass of Compass Merlot

I could go on, but out of Compassion for you, dear reader, I will end it now.

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Posted by Diane Prange at April 5, 2006 2:08 PM
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1 Comment

Naming is such an important part of business, on par with the product or service. I have to agree that Compass is a great name for NorthWest's regional carrier. The two names I never liked for low cost carriers of major airlines are Ted and Song.

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