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July 18, 2006

Brand Naming: Students Know Technology Not Branding

Every year the collects some 1200 high school students in San Jose for an intensive series of site visits, seminars, workshops, labs, and presentations by representatives from major technology companies and universities.

And every year the students are divided into teams to work on Future Solutions projects to solve real-world dilemmas “through the creative use of existing or future technology.” Yesterday, judges from the likes of Microsoft, Google, and HP convened to award prizes in categories such as “Best Business Solution,” “Greatest Global Impact,” and “Best Expansion of Existing Technology,” with one overall winner out of the eleven category winners.

All of the projects were good, but some had better names than others. “Sewergy” and “LugEx” show a better grasp of the importance of branding in today's marketplace than “Implementation of Nanosensors in Regards to Insulin Control.”

The two top contenders for overall winner were both renewable energy solutions. Runner-up TerMight used termites and yard waste to create high-grade ethanol to fuel cars, while the winning project harvested wind power by putting turbines on floating frames tethered to oil derricks.

The name of this project? S.O.R.E.

That stands for Solutions of Renewable Energy, and with the gull-like logo the students drew, it was clear they wanted people to think of the homophone for their acronym: “soar.”

Unfortunately, if the judges are anything to go by, that wasn’t what came to mind. There were numerous “don’t get sore if we don’t vote for your project” remarks from the judges on other teams when it came time to choose the overall winner. If S.O.R.E. had been a real company, its name would have been a serious liability.

They would have done better just to call the project “Soar,” making up a new acronym if they felt they had to. (Acronyms are not the best choice for names, but are pretty common for non-profit and research institutions: think of SETI, or of NYLF for that matter.)

Fortunately for Team S.O.R.E., the project’s name was not one of the criteria the judges used to determine the best project.

These students understood the technology of what they submitted, but like many companies, they overlooked the importance of an appropriate brand name.

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Posted by Diane Prange at July 18, 2006 10:38 AM
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What a great anecdotal approach to making some important points.

While the students can be excused for their inexperience, this example certainly underscores the importance of companies taking a disciplined approach to branding, which includes an understanding of the target audience, and testing to ensure that the message that is intended is the message that is received. It is, unfortunately, all too common that brand names have more meaning to the internal constituency than to the target audience. Regards, Anne

Hello, I am a member of the Sewergy Project. I would like to thank you for taking time out of your day to come and judge at NYLF. The Future Solutions project was a major part of the forum which I extremely enjoyed. While walking around in the Imperial Ball room I was astounded at some of the solutions brought forth by the brightest minds in the country. Unfortunately, NYLF will not continue the tech forum next year.

As Vice President of Sewergy Enterprises, I am delighted to see that you considered our project to have a better grasp over marketing, rather then much of the other projects that other teams had assembled.

As of currently the members of Sewergy Enterprises are staying in communication at the website if you wish to examine what we have there.

From conversations between our C.E.O. and Co-Founder Nick Fishman, our Head of Technology Slava Merkeyev, and myself we plan to actually institute the use of Sewergy and possibly solving the world's renewable energy source.

Again, thank you for mentioning us in your article, and on behalf of Sewergy Enterprises, we look forward to seeing more of your publishings.

Chase A. Cardoza -Vice President of Sewergy Enterprises

Mrs. Prange, it was a pleasant surprise to see you mention NYLF here. Many of the scholars at the Forum (including me) were shocked at the high level of industry involvement at the Future Solutions Exposition.

I had the pleasure of being the project leader of Sewergy; it was exciting and rewarding. We had a great group that surged with creativity. We still keep in touch at The Exposition, along with a multitude of other activities, made the Forum an unforgettable experience.

Unfortunately, there will be no Forum on Technology next year, and many alumni doubt that there will ever be one again. I'll try to stay hopeful and keep my fingers crossed. Thanks for visiting us! -Nick

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