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August 31, 2006

Company Naming: A Chorus of Admiration

MDSERVE logoI was interested to read about the undergone by MDSERVE, Inc. which was announced earlier this week.

From here on in, the company name will be Chorus with the tagline “Working Together”. I note this name change for numerous reasons, not least because the new name is far more resonant than the old, virtually meaningless one, and also because it is the result of a merger.

Mergers and acquisitions are the most frequest reasons companies change their names, responsible for 33% of the company name changes in 2006. In this case, a private company (MDSERVE) was bought by Practice Management Ventures, LLC ("PMV") and simultaneously formed a link with the National Association of Community Health Centers ("NACHC"), making it the very first software development firm to be owned by community health centers.

This means a totally new direction for MDSERVE and the name change nicely reflects that direction.

Chorus logoIt seems to me that companies and their customers should always be “working together”, and yet so often - especially in the medical and pharmaceutical industry - there is the that this is not the case.

The name MDSERVE, from a brand strategy perspective, puts the focus on the service the company could provide for doctors. Chorus is a much friendlier, holistic company name that includes the patients those doctors depend upon, and incorporates the expanded scope of the company.

Healthcare in the United States is constantly getting knocked for being too greedy, too corporate, and too impersonal, as evidenced and at least entitled “”.

It seems to me that one way in which healthcare brands can change their image is to focus on “working together” with patients. I hope that company name changes like this reflect a shift in the healthcare business toward a more friendly, cooperative dynamic between doctor and patient.

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Posted by William Lozito at 11:38 AM

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Links Du Jour 8-31-06

Are You Gellin?Will Dr. Scholl’s put a sock in it? - It seems that one of the this month in the ad business is “Are you gellin’? Like Magellan?” .

I think that Dr. Scholl’s might have made an error with this particular slogan, and this has to have an effect on the future of the Massaging Gel insoles they sell. Yes, promoting a “gel” brand name is difficult, but shaving gel makers have been doing it for years. The word “gel” in a product name can be a blessing and pitfall: just .

Half.com CityWhat ever happened to Half.com, Oregon? - I have an interest in . I’ve explored the marketing strategy in some earlier blog posts. and are a couple examples.

Half.Com in Oregon has the distinction of being the first town that was dot-commed. The Boing Boing blog investigates what happens when geographic place-names become rebranded as product names.

MySpace logoFake MySpace Pages by Advertisers Are Totally Lame - Using fake MySpace pages to promote your brand name can be . BL Ochman offers some interesting alternatives to how companies can get their product names associated with social networking services without raising the ire of the target market.

Creating fake pages may not only hurt the advertisers’ credibility, but might also hurt the reputation of the MySpace and FaceBook brand names.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:42 AM

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August 30, 2006

Links Du Jour 8-30-06

Sign StoreyIn-store ads sway opinions - Yes, those little ads you see when you walk down the aisle do work.

Albertsons and Pathmark have found great success using the SignStorey video network in 1300 stores. Of those surveyed by Nielsen, 68% said they would be influenced by such ads, while 44% they would actually swap a product because of an in-store ad.

I think this is yet another means of promoting your brand name at the point of sale - or pretty darn close to it. The nice thing is that stores that use SignStorey products have received positive feedback from their customers who seem to perceive the store as more modern.

PlutoWhy care about Pluto? - Seth Godin seems to share my and in in general, as do the .

Seth also feels that a great marketing strategy would be for the planetary powers that be to allow marketers to sell the naming rights to lesser known planets - and for the resultant funds to be used for education. Not a bad idea for those who might like to align their brand name with science and education.

OLPC LaptopOne Laptop Per Marketing Executive - yet another new name for OLPC computer - It's official! The One Laptop Per Child computer is to be called the Children's Machine One, or CM1. Oh, no; sorry. It's official. The CM1 is to be called the 2B1.

It is a very interesting machine that seems to have had a few name changes, but the official product name, for now, is 2B1. It was briefly dubbed the CM1 and the OLPC (one Laptop Per Child) machine. 2B1 might or might not be the most effective name. What's your opinion? Nevertheless, Engadget , and I love the concept of a cheap, reliable computer for every child.

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Product Naming: Beware of Faux Amis

Eiffel TowerThe French have a term for words that look like cognates but aren’t: faux amis, or “.”

These words trip up language students - and sometimes marketers, as well.

  • Préservatif is French, not for “preservative,” but for “condom.”
  • Jalousie means “Venetian blind,” not “jealousy,” in German.
  • Parker PensEmbarazada means “pregnant” in Spanish - not "embarassed", although Parker Pens quite famously embarrassed itself with with the tagline, "Won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant."

Before you name your product or company, check to see whether your name candidate has another meaning in a foreign language. (A good place to do this is the ).

Microsoft ZuneCoining your own name doesn’t necessarily protect you, either - over whether “Zune” does or does not mean something rude in Hebrew. It was also that Zune may have been French-Canadian slang to describe parts of the male anatomy.

Faux amis don’t just make it difficult to learn a foreign language. In this era of globalization and Internet searches, they make it harder to come up with a brand name that won’t embarass you...or make you pregnant.

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August 29, 2006

Watch Brand Names and Mobile Devices

Today the debate is raging over the future of the humble watch. To wit: is the watch dead, to be replaced by the cell phone? A proclaims that watch sales are down by almost 5% due to the fact that cell phones are taking over.

This has prompted high end brands like Swatch, which owns Tissot and Omega, to push their offerings towards luxury watches, because wristwatches are now more “fashion statement” than useful tool. PDAs and cell phones are the way we tell time now, it seems. In fact, one blog about pocket watches noted that some feel cell phones are the “pocket watch of the future.”

Timex IndigloLast year the people at with a flat out: no way. Cell phones were making a mark, they argued, but wristwatches were still cheaper, more convenient, and were offering more and more add-ons like heart meters, altimeters and timers.

I am reminded of a blog that presents a mock up of a ”” that might bring watch makers some joy, and an that predicted the end of the cellphone/PDA as we know it, which was also blogged about at the blog.

Cell Phone TimeGizmodo went out and how they tell the time and found that people who use the “cell phone only “ to tell the time indeed make up the vast majority of respondents (53.3% vs. a measly 13.3% for “watch only”). But then again, I would imagine most of the people who read Gizmodo are mostly guys. That skews the field: as Reuters points out, women are still devotees of the wristwatch.

I for one doubt that the wristwatch is dead and think that strong, mid-range brands from Timex (Indiglo - ) and Casio (G-shock) are here to stay.

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Links Du Jour 8-29-06

RIM LogoRIM could learn from Apple - I recently the dispute between Creative and Apple that led to Apple’s payout of $100 million to Creative for patent and trademark infringements.

The Blackberry Cool blog led me to a great article on TheStreet.com that explains exactly why that $100 million was worth every penny: it saves Apple from a messy fight that could hurt their brand name - and leaves the door open for future licensing agreements between the two companies.

Companies can quite easily come to that can help them avoid mutual destruction.

Infiniti LogoNot Much to "Experience" at Infiniti.com - I’m a big fan of Kelly Mooney and loved her book The Ten Demandments, as well as its very catchy title. So I read with interest her rant against Infiniti for putting out such a lame site to sell a high end product. Web sites are the means through which customers get beyond the brand name. If the site is slow loading or filled with boring copy, it does not offer customers much of a positive experience.

Coincidentally, Guy Kawasaki , saying that the people who are most likely to spread your company name or brand via word of mouth are the new customers like Ms. Mooney, who are already jazzed up about their new product and want to spread the word. In this case, Infiniti lost out.

BW podcast on personal brand-building ignores blogs - and podcasts - Stephen Baker of BusinessWeek points us to an interesting podcast on building your personal brand identity. It’s a great way to spend 18 minutes, but seems to ignore blogging – and podcasting - as personal branding activities.

It’s a good blog to read in conjunction with on the tradeoffs between building a flashy brand that sells off the shelf and one that goes the distance.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:46 AM

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August 28, 2006

Branding: Strategic Name Development Goes Hollywood

People Magazine Hollywood DailyAs you may know, the 58th Emmy Awards program, based in Hollywood, was on TV last evening.

In a special Hollywood edition of People magazine, I was asked to , a merger of CBS’s UPN and Warner Bros.' WB Network.

You may find this article an interesting read since CW’s Executive VP of Marketing and Brand Strategy, Rick Haskins, also comments on the CW Network brand name.

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Links Du Jour 8-28-06

Heineken Premium LightHeineken Wages Fierce Battle vs. New Rival – Itself - Looks like the new Heineken Premium Light brand is doing better than expected, but at the cost of its sister brand, Amstel Light.

Amstel LightI was to see the Heineken Premium Light brand name introduced (the company’s first line extension in 133 years, !), but they may have misjudged their target market as being predominately female.

Amstel Light may be a guys’ beer brand, but so is Heineken. And I think was clearly a move to help the brand appeal to men.

The CounterOprah's Favorite Burger? - It's served at an eatery called The Counter, which is now looking at franchising thanks to her thumbs up. The problem is, of course, that the unique, authenticity of the brand name is at risk here - its very coolness is at stake, as it goes from being a neighborhood eatery to a chain.

I wrote about what it takes to last Thursday, August 24th, and two of the comments to that post, from Rajan Sodhi, and Tate Linden, respectively, pointed out that coolness is both hard to define and ephemeral.

Google Apps for Your DomainGoogle Makes Its Move: Office 2.0 - Google appears to be taking on Microsoft Office, but they sure are with an odd product name: . Love Office or hate it, it is a very easy name to remember.

The blog post mentions an InformationWeek article that explains Google's new move, and also lists of Office wannabes from yesteryear whose brand names are ready for the nostalgia bin (WordPerfect, Lotus Symphony and StarOffice.)

iPodWhy I Shouldn't Have Named My iPod "Unicorn Princess" - You can go to iPodnames.com and register the name of your iPod for a dollar. This is an interesting way for consumers to create their own brand name, and its a naming service that utilizes the interest consumers have in product personalization. Plus, it has the added benefit of enhancing the consumer's emotional connection with the iPod brand.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:38 AM

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August 27, 2006

Links du Jour 08-27-06

VW RabbitVW Aims at Nostalgia Niche - And so does GM. The , Scirocco, Camaro, and Dodge Challenger are all coming back. These are great car names from the past that deserve a second life. I must say I like the new implementation of the Rabbit logo, and agree with Third Way: the Rabbit brand name still has more cache than Golf. Go figure.

fruit-guys.jpgFruity Goodness - Here’s a blast from the past with a very interesting update: the guys are back, online, on a that allows you to download Fruit of the Loom songs like You Can’t Overlove your Underwear. What can I say? These are brand icons that have a very long shelf life and have built a strong brand name. Catchy tune, too.

digg20logo.jpgDigg sends C&D to DiggGames? - This is an interesting post because it speaks to the strategy behind protecting a trademark name. If you want to legally do so, you have to be perceived by the court as aggressively taking action to protect your trademark from use by both competitors and even by fans who want to set up complementary web sites using your brand name. did not take steps like these until it was too late, and does not want to make the same mistake in protecting its mark.

Making Promises. Meeting Expectations. - Nice post and link for those of us in the brand naming business who might need a jump start in the creative process, whether thinking up a company name, slogan, logo or pretty much anything else.

secret.jpgShare Your Secret - I have to agree with Holly Buchanan: the for Secret Deodorant is making women look like tattletales or worse. Her post is mild compared to the one on , which slams the campaign for being aimed at “vapid, narcissistic soccer moms.” Ouch! The “Secret” in the “Secret” product name should be presented as something more interesting than a recipe for pecan pie, but I am not sure if the site should go the way of yet — a little too intense for me, but point taken.

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Posted by William Lozito at 1:45 PM

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August 26, 2006

Links du Jour 08-26-06

  • skull watchFashion Skull - Here’s some far out brand name research. John Winsor recently noted that skulls as logos and decoration on clothing seem to be everywhere. So did the New York Times last month, who posit that skulls may be the new happy face sign.

    Why? Well, has something to do with it, punk/goth culture in the suburbs as well, and a dash of Latino culture.

    But also, writes one astrologer, the fact that we are sitting smack dab in the middle of the Pluto in Scorpio generation, which is a generation with the death’s head motif. Interesting to read these in conjunction with our recent posts on .

  • Windows in QuechuaMicrosoft Unveils Inca Windows Patch - Interesting how has found its way into indigenous culture. In the Incan (Quechua) language, which is still spoken by 12.6 million people in South America and 30% of Bolivians, file becomes knotted cords.

    This means that the Microsoft product name will be the one of choice for these new computer users.

  • Stephon MarburyCan Starbury Change Sneaker Culture? - Can it be that a player from the NBA will put his name behind an affordable brand name of sneakers? Stephon Marbury is promoting the $14.98 Starbury sneaker. I have to wonder, as they do at Adfreak, if this is not the dawn of the new . Just seeing an NBA star use such inexpensive brand name sneakers will be a total paradigm shift for those in the sneaker product naming business. Can we build an affordable sneaker product name?

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Trademarking: Apple of Our “i”

Safari logoIn the last few days, has filed for a trademark for its Safari RSS, which leads me to a quick discussion on trademarking web images and names. The MacNN blog has a nice piece on this, as well as Apple’s recent files for patents on iPod stuff and on a "," which means a tool to manipulate displays on electronic gizmos (think iPod wheels).

I blogged about the latter a few days ago, and the Mac site gives us the lowdown not on the trademark of the movement but the device itself. The Safari post mentions “Design Search Codes,” or the trademarks of “figurative, non-textual elements” found on marks. Web shots are sent in with the application, which covers color and design…meaning that not just anyone can use a blue compass for an RSS or search icon and get away with it. This is interesting stuff indeed for those who want to know more about the guts of brand naming and what a naming company grapples with on a daily basis.

Reading about Apple’s trademark applications gets me thinking about Apple in general and the unique names and devices they seem to launch on the market almost monthly.

iWozWired mentions that The Woz (Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs' partner in the founding of Apple) has just written a book entitled : From Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It, news that was gleefully picked up on .

I’ll order it for sure, but have to wonder at the title. A book entitled iCon: Steve Jobs was published as the official unauthorized biography of the man. He hated it so much he has had all books by its publisher, , banned from Apple Stores. You have to wonder if the use of the word “Icon” in the title of Woz’s autobiography was intentional, especially since Steve Jobs refused the offer to write Woz’s foreword because he felt it made him look like "sort of a bad guy."

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:51 AM

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August 25, 2006

Links Du Jour 08-25-06

  • NASANew Spacecraft Name Leaked Into Space - Looks like an astronaut Jeff Williams let it slip that the new vehicle NASA hopes will bring us back to the moon is to be named Orion. I've written before about my fascination with space and the naming conventions used by astronomers that are taken right out of Greek Mythology. Orion means "The Hunter" and most people are aware of Orion's Belt, a constellation of three stars easily viewed by the naked eye.
  • Hitler CrossIndia's Hitler-Themed Eatery To Get New Name - And now, for the dumbest product name of the year: an Indian eatery that was until recently named "Hitler's Cross" and which was decorated with Nazi symbols. A good one to file under "What were you thinking?" category. This was probably a misguided effort to generate instant buzz about an otherwise unremarkable restaurant, but I have written before about how certain names, especially those relevant to the Nazi era, are simply no-go areas. I did find it interesting that the swastika, a symbol that by all means should be cast into infamy, once was a symbol of good luck in India. It is a symbol filled with occult meaning and mystery. But now it's just another casualty of the Nazis.
  • South_Africa_LogoAzayo Pursues South Africa Name Change Campaign - The Azanian Youth Organisation (Azayo) is pushing for the name Azania to replace the Republic of South Africa, noting that the name has been used for years by the various liberation movements within the country. The origins of country name changes are fascinating and I was interviewed about this by Southern California Public Radio on July 20th, 2006. My contacts in Cape Town assure me that this name change is probably not going to happen, but it is indeed a long running debate. One of the reasons the name will probably fail is because it is not an African word--it is from ancient Greek word azainein meaning "dry", its mythological roots lie closer to Somalia, and as such the African National Congress sees it as a yet more colonialist name that South Africa.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:50 AM

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August 24, 2006

Branding: Trying To Be Cool

HPI recently read a great post on What's Your Brand Mantra about . Every naming company at one time or another wants to come up with cool brand names and it's very difficult to pinpoint what is cool at all.

Jennifer's Rice's words struck a chord: You Can't Copy Cool. wants to be cool like , but will not do it by trying to be like Apple.

You can't sound cool: On the other hand, don't think you can be cool by sounding like a cool brand. seems to have a less than cool networking site that calls users "hubsters" (sounds like hipsters, get it?).

Which iPod Are You?You cannot buy cool: I was surprised to read that , a very good brand name, tried to buy into the rap scene by paying rappers to rap about their Big Mac. How uncool!

Coolness is authentic. A cool name, linked to an authentic brand selling stuff that is authentically cool is... yes ...cool.

My own thought about coolness, to paraphrase a famous quote about a cool band called the :

You get cool by being the best at what you do... and being the only one who does it.

Robin Sharma goes so far as to say that even people are brands, so they might as well be cool brands.

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Links Du Jour 8-24-06

  • Microsoft to serve ads on Facebook - They wanted MySpace but nabbed a co-branding deal with Facebook, which gives Microsoft entry into the all important youth market. The Facebook product name is a good one for Microsoft. Social networking sites are just crucial for brand name building now, and Microsoft knows it.
  • Apple Pays Creative $100 Million To Settle iPod Suit - This battle has been going on for years and finally Creative has been paid to go away. Lawsuits like this simply hurt the authenticity of the brand name and draw attention to wannabe products. Apple and Creative have fought over several issues, not least the Nano brand name, which Creative has argued is generic. The Wall Street Journal argues that this is what happens when one company (Creative) invests very little in its brand name marketing and makes no effort to come to a trademark agreement that would help the two companies work together. On the other hand, the Guardian Tech Blog puts it very nicely by quoting the Chinese proverb that "Rich men shouldn't start quarrels." These lawsuits, as I have written before, are indeed avoidable if companies are willing to enter into trademark co-existence agreements.
  • Elizabeth Arden's New Fragrance Called "So...?" - This is a pretty nifty brand name for a perfume targeted to 12-18 year-old females. Interestingly, girls can also play with the brand name by personalizing bumper stickers that affix to a billboard. As Marketing Blurb pointed out, the name itself is what every single parent has heard his or her preteen girl say (or scream) at one time or another.

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August 23, 2006

Branding: Not Just Chia Pets: DRTV Goes Big.

DRTV () has a bad rap from serious branders.

Ginsu knivesThink of those late night infomercials for Ginsu Knives, Chia Pet and the Clapper and you get the idea. OK, they’re lame (even though I would bet every single person reading this blog knows what these brand names are and has even possibly considered buying one.)

Now, Dell, Gateway, RadioShack and Hewlett Packard and then Apple Computer, Nikon, Evinrude, Nissan, Redken. Stir in YouTube’s new and what you have is a pretty sweet means of promoting your brand name to millions of people.

DRTV requires a whole new approach - an entirely new way of offering customers an in-depth experience with your brand name and an instant means of buying. Because the shows are longer format, customers see the item, interact with it, and buy it. The emotive stuff - the whiz bang of a 30 second spot - is complemented.

You TubeThis brings consumers into the heart and soul of the brand. Kind of cool. So cool that America Online, the U.S. Navy, Hyatt and Johnson & Johnson are all using it.

The longer format allows customers to digest complex information about your brand - great for computer companies selling products in new categories. Dell can go from PC products to consumer products, while Gateway can go the other direction, and keep customers informed on what’s up - and show them products in the comfort of their own home that they might be intimidated by in Best Buy.

This is partly why YouTube must find the new Brand Channel irresistible - and what is this format but computer based DRTV? Customers can make purchases - think Chia Pet..or Paris Hilton’s new album, and you can get your brand name in front of people that TV spots miss.

YouTube has been so effective at reaching people that some bloggers predict Steve Jobs might even buy the company outright - or at least they .

Chia PetWhat’s the bottom line? DRTV and YouTube’s brand channels are turning commercials and brand name promotion into entertainment. Right now, DRTV and YouTube spots offer an interesting option for those brand names that need a little more time with customers to ensure the sale. And that’s just about everyone.

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Links Du Jour 08-23-06

  • When Product naming goes wrong...internationally - Here’s a list from Hotelguru at the Talent Jungle of naming faux pas from around the world. Effective brand name research requires time and an understanding of various cultures, languages, and their nuances. You may already be away that the KFC slogan, “Finger lickin' good" means "eat your fingers off" in Chinese, for example. You may be less aware that Handi-Wrap, in Japanese, for instance, has a very strange sexual connotation. And some English slogans just do not travel well.
  • Geox and the Seven Year Itch - Great brands that understand their promise and what they mean to a consumer can successfully extend their franchise. Bud=beer. Folgers=coffee. Geox=shoes. Laura Ries seems right on the money in her post: Geox “breathable” shoes are great. Breathable clothing, not so much. Geox means Italian shoes to people. Not shirts.
  • News from Prague - What about the Plutons? - Lynn Hayes blogs about the importance of Pluto. Some are calling Pluto a "deviant" with a “large companion”. We gotta stand up for the fractured old guy. Tomorrow they’re going to rename him, and I say we show some humanity. Let’s do Pluto a naming service and get him back to planetary status.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:40 AM

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August 22, 2006

Naming: Universal Grammar Doesn't Mean Universal Brands

Charles YangA recent Wall Street Journal discussed Charles Yang’s theory that babies and toddlers don’t speak ungrammatically. Instead, infants come equipped with all possible grammatical rules, from all languages, and have to test them out against what their parents say is correct in order to narrow themselves down to one native language.

Charles Yang, by the way, just wrote , The Infinite Gift: How Children Learn and Unlearn the Languages of the World (See left.)

In other words, those aren’t really mistakes in English usage, but rather an attempt to determine which constructions belong in English rather than Russian or Chinese or Malayalam - not, of course, that children are consciously aware this is what they are doing.

It’s a fascinating theory - and plausible, assuming that Yang has a way to determine what are “grammatical errors” and what are errors in pronunciation caused by undeveloped muscles.

It’s also important to remember that the existence of what Noam Chomsky called “universal grammar” does not mean there is a universal language. Attempts at finding words which have the same sound and meaning across languages have all failed so far, as have attempts at creating brand names which are universally pronounceable and comprehensible (think .)

Noam Chomsky and Alexander PushkinBy the way, Noam Chomsky happens to be our company mascot, along with Alexander Pushkin (See image to the right.)

The act of naming, therefore, is fundamental to human language development. Before children start speaking in sentences, they use names. Ask any parent whose toddler has demanded something seen on TV just how good the barely-verbal can be at brand recognition. Nor do children need to test out possible variants of names the way they do word order. Learning names is a matter of hear-and-repeat.

So it follows that working at a naming company is much more like learning your first language as an infant. Teams of namers come up with as many different-but-appropriate product names as possible. Suggested name candidates have to pass a thorough trademark analysis, and any names already in use are discarded. A much shorter list gets presented to the client, who then chooses only one final name (grammatical or otherwise) from the multiple final name candidates.

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Posted by Diane Prange at 11:17 AM

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Brand Names That Never Say Die

London FogLondon Fog is a brand name that means a lot to consumers. Problem is, it's the wrong generation of consumers that identify with it.

London Fog has been by Iconix, a clothing brand management company. Iconix intends to make the London Fog product name popular once again, along the lines of Burberry and Coach, two other brand names that have found a second life after languishing through the nineties.

What I find interesting about this news, and the rebranding strategy behind it, is that a name with a long pedigree can come back from the dead, be repackaged, and resold to a new generation. Burberry is obviously the model to look at: once deemed the trench coat maker of choice for your grandfather, it is now one of the hottest brand names out there, worn out by everyone from to .

BurberryCan London Fog do the same thing? Why not? The Burberry lesson has been heard across Madison Avenue. I think the London Fog brand name could be tweaked a little and take up where Burberry left off - as a respectable clothing line for men who do not want to be thrown out of pubs for being soccer hooligans.

What is interesting, of course, is the fact that the word “London” is in the name of this American company. One has to ask if a loaded brand name like “London Fog” is easy to turn around and sell to Americans with an expanded line. You know, Häagen-Dazs was , not overseas. Hush Puppies wants to do just , and re-packaging that brand name seems to be an even greater challenge to me.

Another brand that has , officially, as of today, is Tower Records, a super brand name from a decade ago that now, in the , is simply no longer relevant. If it wants to survive it has to mean something totally new to a new kind of consumer.

Tower RecordsAs today in Techdirt, the most likely scenario is that somebody buys the brand name, ditches the bricks and mortar, and uses it to sell downloads.

I’d say that’s about right: there are some brand names that just refuse to die - they just change hands. Watch this space.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:28 AM

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Links Du Jour 08-22-06

  • YouTube Debuts Brand Channels - Yes, you read that correctly: online TV channels devoted to whatever brand name pays. Steve Rubel says that these brand channels are actually selling multiple brand names at once...which is sort of like making commercials within commercials. A fascinating new branding strategy that has already attracted Warner Bros, who is selling Paris Hilton’s new "album" to the 100 million viewers who visit daily.
  • The real reason ‘Snakes on a Plane’ failed - The name was too straightforward. Frankly, I’m not sure if the movie can be called a “failure.” Jack Yan says bloggers have become something of a cult hit, but at the same time, I think Catherine Taylor at Ad Freak may be on to something. There weren't any naming consultants that urged Hollywood Pictures to call Arachnophobia “Spiders in a House”, and it turned out to be a smash, even though millions of people can’t stand creepy crawlies.
  • Trademark Coexistence Agreement Article - Great piece here about trademark coexistence agreements that should read, as well as . It has to do with agreements settled between companies for the legal coexistence of trademarks. This brings up the relation these agreements have to both third party brand names and the public good. At the bottom of the debate: are trademarks the property of their owners? These issues are crucial to consider for those of us in the naming business.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:39 AM

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August 21, 2006

Branding Blog List

CTB logoWe’re pleased to note that at the considers our blog one of the better branding blogs.

We’re in good company, with the likes of these other branding blogs:

We hope to live up to the recognition. Thank you, Larry Munn, and the Canadian Trademark blog.

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Posted by William Lozito at 11:01 AM

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Links Du Jour 08-21-06

  • Adidas, Toyota come to Second Life - Wagner James Au reports in the GigaOM blog that two reputed brands are entering the 3D online world as immersive, interactive objects. The virtual world, Second Life, is becoming a playground for brand name research as companies test how residents interact with and talk about their brands.
  • Hey Kids! It's The Web 2.0 Bullsh*t Generator™ - If there is one name that is , it’s “Web 2.0.” Guy Kawasaki has dealt it yet another , while the Empty Bottle blog has gone so far as to create a Web 2.0 Bullsh*t generator that will actually create a Web 2.0 company name, product line, some catchphrases, and a logo. Techcrunch figures it’s .
  • Pluto the Pooch Plans a Name Change - At 76, Pluto has decided to change his name. It's actually not so crazy that Pluto would decide on a name change. He’s done it before: it turns out Pluto started out without a name at all and then spent some time as “”. Now, of course, he’s a brand name unto himself. By the way, just for fun, here is a list of translated into various languages.
  • Livid Intros Sexy Interactive Reactive Touch Thing - It’s called “respond-r” and turns any room into an interactive environment. It's interesting to note the “-r” in the name. Why not call it “Respondr”? Or just Responder? I have written about the virtues of intentionally before, but I'd say this one deviation seems to be on its way to the trash bin. This led me to a fascinating blog by start-up funder Paul Graham. He says that Flickr, and any start-up with a company name like it, is occupying a “,” and gives us the low down on start-up company names that work. A great read for any marketer (or name consultant.)

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:58 AM

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August 20, 2006

Links du Jour 08-20-06

  • Heidi KlumHeidi Klum Increases Her Brand Equity - Following my recent post about the "body slam" between Elle Macpherson and Heidi Klum comes this interesting piece of information about the Heidi Klum brand name. Bill Tancer has tracked hits on the television show and found that Heidi Klum's name is now synonymous with the show's name (in terms of searches at least). An interesting case where the celebrity behind a product actually becomes the brand name itself.
  • MasterCard Makes a Mini-Movie - They're airing a two minute flick on that is designed to get around ad skipping. A new move in product name placement, where the main character will blatantly use the product in some dramatic situations. They are thinking about serialized two-minute shows that you watch between the shows you actually tuned in to watch. The real star of the show? The brand name.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:00 AM

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August 19, 2006

Links du Jour 08-19-06

  • What is Co-Branded? - Adjab has a great post about a new at Urban Honking that was picked up on Brandflakes. Think Disney and McDonalds, think Jeep and Orvis, U2 and iPod. I have written about the great co-branding between Nike and iPod and Lego and Eggo. Co-branding is different from franchising — it's using two non-competing brand names to build a bigger presence in the marketplace. Who can you share your company name with? Today everyone puts their two cents in.
  • TiVoTiVo Wins a Big One Against EchoStar - EchoStar has 30 days to disable nearly all of its DISH-branded DVRs. I've written about the clash between before — it's a landmark case against people who want to bypass TiVo. EchoStar has won an injunction but the writing's on the wall: patent protection is here to stay on groundbreaking technology and further strengthens TiVo's position as the name brand of choice for this popular service.
  • Rule One for Celebrity Endorsements - Make sure people actually know the name of the celebrity doing the endorsing! One of the tips from Name Branding 101, students.
  • Marketing Wine to Women May Indeed Be a Great Idea - I have a special fondness for . But the product name "Little Black Dress" is possibly a little dodgy. It sounds like you are pandering — there's no wine aimed at men called, for instance, "Cute Bow Tie" or "Sexy Boxer Shorts." Also, lots of women who like wine, as one wrote, happen to have a "big black dress." This is an interesting link just to see the instant negative reaction from lots of wine drinking women on cute, girly product names for wine.

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Posted by William Lozito at 1:41 PM

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August 18, 2006

Brand Naming: New Balance Brings Back Zip

NB ZipNew Balance officially sneaks into the youth market with a new running shoe aimed at 12 to 24-year-olds.

The company is trying to appeal to the youth market with a pretty cool new line of sports footwear. The new brand name is called NB Zip.

New Balance has always shied away from trying to sell to kids since they have such a strong brand loyalty among older consumers. Those customers are uncomfortable with the Nike and Adidas brands but still want comfortable shoes (think college professors and Naomi Klein).

I wonder if New Balance remembers the Zips Sneaker by Stride Rite, aimed at pre-school kids? Zips were an 80's stalwart brand that were pretty breakthrough in kids’ marketing, but not really an ageless brand. They were cool on the playground but you never admitted to owning them, after you hit second grade.

Still, I think New Balance made a good move resurrecting "Zip" as part of this new brand name.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:19 AM

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August 17, 2006

Double Meaning Prompts Name Change

Sometimes your street name can be irksome, especially if you live on Kaka Street in New Zealand. According to ABC News, the double meaning of Kaka is prompting a street name change.

NameIn Maori, a is a bird and Kaka is something they would deposit on a statue. The resulting name change to Kākā is a gentle nod to proper usage of the Maori language.

I have to feel sorry for the Brazilian soccer player Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, whose . Just for the record, Kaka also means "Togolese Folk Dance," is the Swedish word for "cookie," and means "brother" in Swahili.

The , on the other hand, reminds us that similar sounding Caca is the Spanish word for “excrement”, an .

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Branding: Customizable M&Ms

My M&MsI just read an interesting article regarding the launch of a new marketing initiative from Masterfoods USA for its M&Ms brand.

Masterfoods is discovering that custom name branding can pay huge dividends. Their new “My Branding” campaign will allow individuals to take charge of what’s on their M&Ms and thus create their own brand name. Both Heinz Ketchup and Wheaties let customers and the offshoot of this has been an increase in for both brands.

SND M&MsNow, M&Ms will be the first customized consumable brand platform. This effort follows their very popular color customization project and the 2005 “My M&Ms” initiative which lets private customers put their own messages on M&Ms at $45 a pop.

“My Branding” will allow corporate promoters into the game, meaning that Masterfoods now expects custom brands to make up a “significant portion” of total sales over the next few years.

Nicole Weston of and Rich Ottum of reported on this news and both thought it was an idea that made sense.

I agree. Sweet move, Masterfoods.

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Product Naming: 'The Body' Slam: Elle vs. Heidi

There was in the LA Times about who gets to refer to herself and her products as “The Body”, Elle Macpherson or Heidi Klum.

Heidi KlumKlum is now touting “The Body” bra, and claiming “they call me the body, and now I have a bra named after me.” Macpherson begs to differ, claiming she is actually “The Body” and sells a line of products under "The Body” brand name.

Her publicist claims that “in terms of the public record” Elle is the real body. Yes, but in terms of legal protection of a generic term like “The Body”, it is doubtful either model - no matter how attractive their bodies indeed are - will win.

As the writer of the piece correctly points out, Jesse Ventura (former WWF wrestler) has called himself “The Body” since both Macpherson and Klum were prepubescents and a generic term like “The Body” is almost impossible to protect in court, especially since it seems clear neither woman has tried to gain a registered trademark for it for probably the very same reason.

Elle MacPhersonI think the key here is that the must genuinely refer to the product offering. This issue comes up in the naming business often. Both Klum and MacPherson can legitimately argue that they have “bodies” that are attractive to buyers.

Also, neither model is attempting to infringe upon the other’s “body” - Klum is not trying to pretend that her body is just like Elle’s (perish the thought.)

Jesse VenturaThis means that neither Jesse Ventura nor even L'Oreal (owner of “The Body Shop”) are likely to be able to defend their use of the ”Body” unless of course Klum went into wrestling or MacPherson’s cosmetics were sold as environmentally friendly products similar to, or the same as, The Body Shop.

In this case, each woman is referring, legitimately, to their own bodies as selling points for the products, something anyone with a body could do without being sued by MacPherson or Klum.

I’m reminded of that old Hollywood saying, “Any publicity is good publicity.”

Continue the dialogue over at , , or , all of which I found to have some good discussion going about this hot topic.

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:25 AM

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Links Du Jour 08-17-06

  • Las Vegas tourist board wins lawsuit over slogan - The Las Vegas tourist board has won a lawsuit against a woman who used a simulacrum of its famous slogan “What Happens Here, Stays Here” on a line of women’s clothing emblazoned with “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.” , the Vegas location slogan is the best city slogan in the country, partly responsible for a huge upsurge in tourism to Sin City, and the Las Vegas tourism board is quite prepared to drag you to court to protect the asset they have spent $155 million promoting. How anyone could start a line of clothes and try to trademark them in that very same city with a slogan that is such a clear copyright violation is just beyond me.
  • Apple: iPod means our pod - Yet another bunch of opportunists have been busted trying to infringe upon a famous product name, in this case it’s the iPod, which, , has seen every variation of its name scattered across the Internet. Yes, every single letter of the alphabet has been used on product names before the word “Pod”. I’m talking a-zPod. Apple sends out a series of to those who are infringing on the name branding, but these letters seem to get less polite and a bit more insistent when the products are clearly trying to look as if they were . According to their lawyers, “Apple owns, inter alia, U.S. Trademark Registration Nos. 2,835,698, 2,781,793, and 3,089,360 for its IPOD mark for portable and handled digital electronic devices, as well as several pending U.S. applications for the IPOD mark.” So lay off.
  • Web 2.0 logo generator, but where’s the stickr generator? - The Scobleizer has two great posts up. The first is a very interesting link to a courtesy of . The Scobleizer thinks the generator actually isn’t half bad - as does Steve. He also leads us to a way-cool of those of us brave enough to deface our computers. Like Mr. Scoble, I have an iMac and but unlike him, I can’t bear to deface it. The Scobleizer is also looking for a domain name for the TV video he is working on and wondering whether he should just name it after himself or call it something like “VideoShowHostedByAFatWhiteGuyWhoThinksHeIsAGeek2006.com.”

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:34 AM

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Brand Naming: Alternative Spellings Aren't New

FlickrThe marketplace, and particularly the Internet, are full of alternative spellings of ordinary words: Flickr, Google (the original mathematical term is “googol”), RAZR, Seeq, Syndic8.

Even before text messaging inspired the trend of disappearing vowels and numbers substituted for syllables, we had “Citibank” instead of “City Bank” and “Publix” instead of “Publics” - not to mention “Rite Aid” and “Toys ‘R’ Us.”

PublixNone of these names would win a prize in a spelling bee, but that doesn’t mean the companies that chose them can’t spell, or don’t think their customers can spell. Most would be much less effective if consumers didn’t recognize the alternate, “incorrect” spellings.

Indeed, without standardized spelling as laid out in dictionaries, there would have been no motivation to use the alternative spellings - and no chance to trademark them.

Back in Shakespeare’s day, English spelling had not been codified. Not only were “u” and “v,” “i” and “j” interchangeable, but Shakespeare’s own name has been spelled several different ways - even, it appears, . While the most common spelling was the one we use today, there were many variants, including “Shake-speare,” “Shakespere,” “Shakspear,” “Shaxpere,” and even “Shagspere,” which is rather rude by modern British standards.

Rite AidThe Elizabethan era lacked trademark offices as well as dictionaries, but the USPTO is as aware as Shakespeare’s contemporaries that alternative spellings still refer to the same thing, and wouldn’t look kindly on anyone who attempted to file “Publics” for a grocery store or “Right Aid” for a drugstore.

Nevertheless, the alternative spelling helps distinguish the company or product and to get around restrictions on “merely descriptive” names and trademarking words in general usage. And unlike Shakespeare, Flickr, Publix, and Rite Aid can enforce their choice of how their names are spelled.

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Posted by Diane Prange at 7:27 AM

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August 16, 2006

Brand Naming: Niche Markets + Internet = Backwards Naming

Brand name research will confirm what product names appeal to the vast majority of the target market while confusing as few consumers as possible.…like Nike, for instance, or Apple.

Niche product names seem to follow different rules. They appeal to a small, loyal group of fairly radical consumers who like names that set them apart. This means the names can be startling or meaningless to the rest of us.

Examples? “” and the stuffily named . There is a movie out (based on a true story) about how an old fashioned English shoe company decides to exploit a niche and make , going from staid W.J.Brookes & Co to “Divine” or, as it is now known, “” and "Divine."

It may well be that the average person does not want to buy “Dirtbag” clothes of “Kinky” anything but that’s just it: niche markets are not for average people and thus do not have your average brand names. The names that endure are “insider” names. The hard to pronounce brand name in Johannesburg, is actually South African street slang for “Location Culture”, or, culture of the townships. It is instantly recognizable to that very large target market, but unintelligible to the rest of us.

Nonetheless, these names give the products behind them an instant authenticity that customers are willing to pay a premium for. The Internet has fed this by being a playground for the person looking for and thus becoming a breeding ground for cool, niche names. I suggest that you look for more of them as companies use the Internet to fill in the niches.

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:02 AM

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Links Du Jour 08-16-06

  • Canadian Trademark Blog - Ron Coleman at Likelihood of Confusion gives us the heads up on the brand new which I think looks like a great source for information on Canadian company naming and legal information. This couldn’t come at a better time: yesterday I noted that that Canada is now the national brand in the world. Welcome to the blogosphere, CTB.
  • Rolling Stones roll out European tour - Primal Branding’s Patrick Hanlon has noted that the Stones are at it again, and we all can learn a great deal about building an enduring brand name from the in the world, whose brand equity has simply never been stronger. Hanlon likens their success to the “marketing equivalent of releasing a VW Beetle, iPod or Netflix every 24 months” and tells us that The Rolling Stones got their name from a Muddy Waters song (I’m a fan, I didn’t know that), Mick Jagger is a living icon (the lips are as iconic in US and UK culture as Apple’s apple logo or the VW logo) and their songs are now “sacred words.”
  • Most interesting article in this past weekend's papers - Bookofjoe points out some interesting naming changes from a recent that made all the difference. Scott Fitzgerald wanted to call his first big novel “Trimalchio in West Egg” instead of “The Great Gatsby”. Movie and song names are also difficult: The Beatles wanted the song “Yesterday” to be titled ”Scrambled Eggs.” Problems like these keep a naming company like ours busy.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:03 AM

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August 15, 2006

Links Du Jour 08-15-06

  • Nauru to relaunch carrier with new name: Our Airline - This New Zealand airline might be taking a step backward. It almost seems that whether we are discussing high-end, luxury airlines like MiMa or , or value airlines like Ted, Song or Clickair, airline brand names today need either resonance, quirkiness or both. Interestingly, a quick perusal of gives us a graveyard of dead airline brands and two kinds of names stick out: those names that focus on places (think Air California, Air Florida, Allegheny,) and names that focus on price (think Peoplexpress and ValuJet.) "Our Airline" sounds sort of like the latter and Nauru is definitely the former.
  • Canada a great brand, but needs marketing - Canada is now the world’s second most popular national brand (the USA, amazingly, is tenth) and they just refuse to capitalize on it. Quick, what do you think about when you think of Canada? Snow? Empty space? More snow? In fact, this is the country that boasts one of the nicest cities in the world: . A recent survey also found that people would like Canadian products, that is, if they knew they were Canadian (Blackberry is a Canadian brand!) One blogger “a country largely void of any defined, cohesive, or focused core values or brand identity,” noting that the one brand people do think of when they think of Canada is “Canada Dry.” Canada might need to do some brand name research on itself.
  • Dell facing slew of Chinese lawsuits over CPU switcheroo - What difference can one little letter in a product code make? Dell casually changed the processor in their new Inspiron 640m laptops to a T2300E instead of the advertised T230. Consumers have gone nuts and have initiated a class action lawsuit led by one single owner despite the fact that there really is not a huge deference between the two processors. This bad news follows pretty I found on Gizmodo of Dell laptops which exploded due to faulty batteries.

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Posted by William Lozito at 12:29 PM

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Brand Naming: Is Kia's New Cee'd Relinquishing Control?

Kia See'dKia is correct that “cee’d” is an unconventional and innovative . The lower-case “c” and the apostrophe make it seem more like a Web 2.0 company name.

The first half of the name, CE, is meant to represent the European Community, while the ED stands for “European Design.” That makes the name an acronym, and if the car were a government agency, the name would be spelled in all upper-case, rather than all lower-case, letters. (When government agencies start to have trendy, alternate-spelling names, we should worry.)

By the way, the abbreviation CE, or EC, has been replaced by EU, or UE, depending on one's language. That aside, only 6 of 25 member states (France, Spain, Portugal, Malta, Italy, Poland) would reverse the acronym order. I think Kia would be better off referring to "cee'd" as an alternative form of "seed". The other explanations for the name feel like marketing hyperbole.

The apostrophe in “cee’d” is superfluous, as it is not replacing a missing letter. (Even Web 2.0 companies normally use apostrophes in the traditional manner, though the same can’t be said of in brand names.

It would be more logical to insert it in the middle of the word, which would indicate a distinction between where the car is manufactured and where it was designed. Put the apostrophe at the front of the word, and it could indicate that the name is short for “exceed.”

The apostrophe is not the real problem, however. In choosing this new brand name, Kia had in mind the word “seed,” with all the appropriate indications of growth. But “cee’d” runs afoul of : “cede,” meaning “to relinquish control; to yield.”

I think that’s the last thing any competitive company wants to do, and the last thing most drivers want to do when they’re on the road.

Check out the post about the Kia Cee'd at for some more insights and some great reader comments on the name. David Leggett, at , shares our concerns over the redundant apostrophe.

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Posted by Diane Prange at 10:42 AM

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August 14, 2006

Links Du Jour 08-14-06

  • A Hummer of a Summer? - Some co-branding matches are made in heaven, like McDonald's and Disney. Some are not. Like McDonald's and Hummer. This post by John Winsor is a great one, and links to the recent NY Times article in the subject. The AdLiterate team also has some strong points about advertising the wrong brand names to kids.
  • The IBM PC turns 25: Engadget's first PCs - August 12th was the official birthday of the IBM PC (it was the IBM 5150, one of the legendary computer brand names from the old days), which changed the way we work and play. Engadget takes us on a trip down memory lane, bringing back all those 80's brand names like Amiga, Apple Lisa, Commodore, Apple Laserwriter
  • Google Warns Media on Using Its Name as a Verb - Steve Rubel at Micro Persuasion calls this doomed effort one of the "worst PR moves in history". As I have written about before, it seems almost impossible for Google to de-verb its brand name.

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:49 AM

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Brand Naming: ABC Sports to become known as ESPN on ABC

ABC SportsThe two brands have been linked for years and enjoyed many cross-branding services but now they have “moved the ball forward," according to George Bodenheimer, President, and and Co-Chairman, .

Starting Sept. 2, the kick-off of the college football season, ABC will start to look a lot more like ESPN, taking on its graphics, sets and sharing a logo with its cable TV partner.

Already joined at the hip (ESPN staffers routinely call ABC “ESPN South” or “ESPN 3”) and sharing sports packages and PR resources, this move simply leverages the now much stronger and much more visible ESPN brand name to an audience who is used to its blanket, 24/7 sports coverage.

ESPNI find it hard to say goodbye to the stand-alone brand that brought us “Monday Night Football” (with the legendary Jim McKay and Howard Cosell) but as former president Neal Pilson has pointed out, this is the reality of TV sports today and ESPN’s offering is just too wide to permit an island brand like ABC.

As one younger blogger wrote: it's "a change of name but not much else", and Monday Night Football clips are for "older people."

One “older” blogger said that this was like the “death of an old friend," lamenting the demise of the 45 year-old brand name created by ABC Sports' former president and driving force Roone Arledge who created "ABC's Wide World of Sports," which brought us such industry standards as the instant replay, on-screen graphics and investigative journalism in sports.

But after a series of bad decisions in the 80s ABC had cooked its goose and even those mourning ABC give credit to ESPN: great coverage, great journalism, production work, sports direction, broadcasters and analysts add up to one big slam dunk for sports lovers. RIP ABC.

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Posted by William Lozito at 7:11 AM

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Product Naming: Del.icio.us: Can You Be Ser.io.us?

delicious logo: the Few, the Proud, the Geeky. This brand name is getting serious traction among all the right people, as has pointed out. I have to wonder if brand names with dots in the middle might not be the next naming trend.

At least one blogger was really impressed with the . combines all kinds of old and new naming conventions, from the use of "I" at the beginning (albeit not , which may be heading the way of anything dot-com, as I have written about before) to the use of the now forever redefined word "dot" to the use of the "." in the middle of it all.

magnoliaMichael Parekh is bothered by it all, noting that very few people who like the del.icio.us brand name can remember where the dots go when typing it into a friend's computer.

redditThat's just the point: The guys at claim that hard to remember brand names are the new way of doing domain naming and cite , , , , , , , and as other hard to spell and remember — yet successful — domains.

But these pesky .us domain names are getting to be a naming quagmire. Like Michael, I find to be almost too much — and impossible to remember even for a few seconds.

That might be the point, but it does make me fur.io.us.

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Posted by William Lozito at 6:51 AM

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August 11, 2006

Links Du Jour 08-11-06

  • Count the creepy advertising icons - The people over at Adfreak.com were surprised to find that Carvel's Cookie Puss captured the award for creepiest advertising icon on YesButNoButYes. Associating your brand name with weird images seems to be a tradition in the USA: The Quaker Oats guy is pretty scary as well, as is The Colonel - who recently got a makeover. I have to say that I am glad they have changed Aunt Jemima from a slave to, well, somebody's aunt. FYI, Aunt Jemima (who never made those pancakes) was indeed a slave and the very first living trademark.
  • The iPod: crack-cocaine for thumbs, poison to competing brands - I read this with some interest and immediately wondered if a movement (not a gadget) could be trademarked to a product name. I have already written about the difficulty of trademarking sounds, (Harley's throaty roar and Intel's chimes have been featured in previous posts) but would it not be possible for any thumb twirling motion on an MP3 player to be trademarked? Well, in fact this is possibly on the horizon, as one legal expert blogged last year about trademarking sports and dance moves (called "movement marks"). Kind of interesting, because twirling that wheel is really what sets the iPod apart.
  • State Farm drops branding in favor of humor - How about not even putting your product name on yours ads...instead slyly inserting it into a linked web site? That's what State Farm is doing. They should be careful: relying on virals can damage the brand name because they are so contentious and are easily hijacked. Two years ago, Abram Saur at Brand Channel predicted that faux ads were more irritating than anything else...so be careful, State Farm.

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:06 AM

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Company Naming: What’s in Your Portmanteau?

Accenture logoIt was Lewis Carroll who first used the word “portmanteau” to describe a word made up of other words - in this case, the words he had invented for the poem “Jabberwocky.” While some portmanteau words, like “guesstimate,” have an immediately obvious meaning, “brillig” and “slithy” are not so obvious.

Portmanteaux may come about from the need to name something which is itself a combination of existing items (“moped,” “brunch,” and “spork” fall into this category), a desire to shorten a long compound description (e.g. “modem” from “modulator-demodulator”), or from the creator’s desire to be humorous, clever, or make a political point (“Reaganomics,” “Franglais,” “Californication).

Portmanteau names for celebrity couples (such as “Bennifer,” “Brangelina,” and “TomKat”) have been particularly popular in the tabloids in recent years. Those that catch on, like “electrocution,” and “motel,” eventually become invisible, their portmanteau origins forgotten.

VerizonThere are two reasons portmanteaux make good company names. The first is that, as coined words, they are much easier to trademark than natural words. (But you still need to check the trademark database to make sure no one else invented the word before you did.)

The second reason for choosing a portmanteau name is the ability to evoke two or more concepts with one word:

  • Verizon, for instance, is a combination of the Latin word veritas, meaning “truth,” and the English word “horizon.”
  • Rolodex is a “rolling index” - a name which describes the product itself, rather than its benefits.
  • Microsoft, Accenture, Amtrak, Intel, and Texaco all have portmanteau company names.

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Posted by Diane Prange at 8:27 AM

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August 10, 2006

Communications Companies Benefit From Terrorists?

NameGizmodo reported that the Sprint WiMax network is going live in Q4 2007.

I think that of passenger planes flying between the USA and the UK is terrible news for beleaguered airline brands, but excellent news for communications brands.

As Seth Godin , air travel is getting to be . Today might be the final straw for those of us who are tempted to just stop doing it.

This means that any company that can allow us to efficiently hold meetings on the PC via video conferencing or any other electronic communication is likely to succeed.

I have been following the with interest but found it an interesting coincidence that today Gizmodo that Sprint Nextel will be using WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) to build their wireless network (named 4G).

I like the WiMax brand name, and am just as excited to learn that 4G now has a serious investment behind it.

In the end, however, there’s no substitute for an occasional face-to-face meeting. Until Star Trek teleporting arrives.

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Posted by William Lozito at 11:16 AM

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Tourism Slogans: What Happens In Vegas Does Not Always Stay In Vegas?

NameLas Vegas has spent $115 million promoting its popular slogan "What happens here, stays here" and, as I wrote in an earlier post, it's even made it into kids movies.

Now, Nevada-based Samaritan Pharmaceuticals - which makes drugs to combat AIDS - has applied to have its slogan "What happens in Vegas does not always stay in Vegas" trademarked, sparking off a legal battle in the casino capital.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board does not want the famous tagline to be associated with sexual disease, especially because since its 2002 debut it has become one of the most famous tourist slogans of all time, used by Billy Crystal at the Academy Awards (what happens at the Oscars, Stays at the Oscars) and attracted a cool 38.6 million people to the city in 2005.

Yes, it does suggest that you can come to Vegas and break all the rules and some people abuse this, but that doesn't mean you'll get AIDS for bringing your buddies to Caesar's Palace...and creating a slogan by tearing down your top city's brand name is just a bad bet.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:35 AM

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Slogans: BBC Uses CNN Trademarked Slogan. Uh Oh!

CNNThe BBC has got its fingers burned by using CNN's famous and internationally trademarked slogan "Be The First To Know" for its Arabic newsletter.

BBCTrademarks for slogans or taglines are protected even if you translate them to another language.

But you have to wonder what the BBC is thinking. Do they really think CNN is an upstart that will just sit back and take this? Or did some BBC staffperson writing the newsletter just not bother doing the brand name research?

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:45 AM

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August 9, 2006

BMW: The Ultimate Slogan Error is Not!

BMW logoI have to admit that when I first read about changing their slogan from the famous “Ultimate Driving Machine” to “A Company of Ideas” I said to myself “unbelievable.”

Well according to the Kicking Tires blog, Advertising Age was misinformed when reporting about the BMW slogan change. Great.

But part of me says that it is equally plausible that the new BMW marketing team and agency backed off the change or senior management wisely decided against it.

In any event, congratulations BMW for retaining the “Ultimate Driving Machine” slogan.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:46 PM

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Links Du Jour 08-09-06

  • School Fees - I love these Gaping Void cartoons and think the labels for Hugh Macleaod's new wine brand are just about as funky as they can get. Wine branding is going totally crazy, as I have noted in earlier posts outlining the rise of and wine brand names that bring out the animal in us. Hopefully Hugh's wines will be an interesting mash up of cartoon fun and darn good vino. Why not sell a little laughter with each bottle? My big question: Hugh's cartoons are meant to be drawn on the back of business cards--are the wine labels going to be business card sized? Interesting indeed....
  • You can't stay mad at Mel Gibson for long - I recently noted that we Americans are pretty darn forgiving of and the guys over at Ad Freak seem to agree: recent research shows that Gibson's popularity is still pretty much up there. Jack Yan recently wrote about the ins and outs of and how a pro might deal with Mel's drunken debacle. Bottom line is, dealing with a celebrity who is a brand name unto himself is risky business. But take a look at this link if you want to see how used the whole hoopla to push his own movie in Variety....pretty funny stuff. Just goes to show ya...when life gives ya lemons, pour a tequila slammer...
  • Another Blogger Leaves Microsoft, Hinting at "Paralysis" - Windows Live is hurting Microsoft and one blogger is speaking out. We never liked the product name, and did not much like the product. In fact, just yesterday I was wondering how Microsoft could endure so many bad branding choices and still be ranked in the UK as the number one "Superbrand"...

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August 8, 2006

Company Naming: To Merge or Not?

I find it interesting to see how two companies that merge, combine, or get acquired, end up with a new company name. In most cases, there is no right or wrong way of naming the new entity.

Usually, when mergers are billed as a "merger of equals", both names survive. Most recently, the Lucent and Alcatel "merger of equals" is not surprisingly called Lucent-Alcatel.

Other examples of "mergers of equals" are DaimlerChrysler and ExxonMobil. For more examples, please see this article in our section.

AMDIn other cases where, relatively speaking, a larger company acquires a smaller company, the latter name does not survive. The most recent example of this is .

AMD's nomenclature generally has product names ending in the suffix "-on". For instance:

  • Athlon
  • Opteron
  • Turion
  • Sempron

In our June 13th blog post, , we discussed the reasons why technology companies tend to favor names that end in "-on". They sound scientific and high-tech to us on account of the way biologists (mis)use Greek and Latin to name species and diseases, and chemists use them for the names of elements.

ATIIt'll be interesting to see how the "-on" suffix nomenclature will be employed on future ATI product names.

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Posted by William Lozito at 1:52 PM

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Will Microsoft’s Product Naming Missteps Impact Microsoft's Master Brand Equity?

MS logoMicrosoft has been voted the top UK brand, as the number one “Superbrand” in that country . The other in order of ranking were BBC, British Airways, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.

It seems ironic to me that Microsoft grabs this award because the company stubs its toe so often when it comes to product naming. We have written before about consumer dissatisfaction with the ill-named IE7+ which caused an embarrassing this year. IE7+ was a because it created confusion.

Microsoft then named another product “Live Search”, sowing yet more outcry among users who found the word over-utilized in the . Turns out the confusion over the Live brand name was actually the result of two linked divisions not doing brand name research in tandem. As I reported last year, Microsoft has also been the target of numerous lawsuits and lots of ill will related to the “Vista”, “RSS” and “Java” names.

Product naming snafus notwithstanding, the BusinessWeek Top 100 Brands ranks Microsoft the behind Coke, with an equity of almost $57 billion.

However, I think that sooner or later the Microsoft product naming missteps will catch up with them and will impact the Microsoft Master Brand equity. Then again, with Microsoft’s massive spending, it may not. But, it doesn’t do Microsoft any good to stub their toe repeatedly.

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Links Du Jour 08-08-06

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August 7, 2006

Product Naming: How Should Apple and Motorola Manage Their Nomenclature?

In life and in marketing when something is overdone it can lose its impact.

For instance, aren’t you tired of seeing movies where something is exploding, a car or building or whatever? Or a car running into a fruit stand or some other similar roadside object?

In the marketing world, I’m wondering, just wondering, if two great companies, Apple and Motorola, with great brand equity, are not “running into one too many fruit stands”. At least one writer, Steve Johnson, of the Chicago Tribune, with the "lowercase i" brand names.

In the latest BusinessWeek Top 100 Brands, Apple is ranked 39th and Motorola 69th. These rankings are, in part, most likely influenced by the iPod and RAZR brands, respectively.

However, I think I'm beginning to see, I think, taking a brand naming nomenclature a bit too far. I recently blogged about two new Motorola phone brands, and the .

To make my point, the first person that can correctly guess, without doing secondary research, what these two letter combinations represent, I'll send them a $25 gift card to Starbucks.

Apple, on the other hand, is faced with a different branding situation with their iPod and iTunes.

  • In one sense, all of the peripherals and gadgets that enhance the usability of the iPod reinforce the iPod brand as well as generate revenue for Apple with its Optimized for iPod(R) program
  • In another, as I previously , these brand names, especially iTunes, have not been elastic enough to accomodate the evolution of the concept. iTunes, in addition to music, is now a source for video, TV, and possibly movies.

It would be interesting to see how both Apple and Motorola manage their brand name nomenclature to optimize and reinforce their brand promise.

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:12 AM

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Links Du Jour 08-07-06

  • - Following our on Apple i-everything, the guys over at gizmodo give us notice that they will be blogging live from the Apple WWDC, where we are all hoping Steve Jobs comes up with some interesting new products with some interesting new brand names - maybe even one or two that do not start with “i”.
  • Moleskine: How to revive a brand - Here’s a great post about a fabulous product and beloved brand name: Moleskine. Looks like the funky notebook brand - which had been resurrected from the dead by a small brand of Italian aficionados - has just been sold to a French company for a cool 60 million Euros (US $77 million). Nice to see, yet again, that passion and inspiration can drive brands to new heights.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:31 AM

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August 6, 2006

Links du Jour 08-06-06

Tour de FranceBuilding a name brand on a celebrity’s name can be a mixed blessing, as the folks at Swiss hearing aid company have discovered following the recent news that Phonak team leader Floyd Landis won the Tour de France with the help of synthetic testosterone. Just a few weeks ago, the Phonak brand name was associated with a magnificent victory on the part of a gutsy American. Now it looks as if they will be forever linked to one of the biggest disgraces in the Tour’s history if Landis becomes the first person to be stripped of the title for doping.

PhonakPhonak, like many other sponsors, has responded by pulling out its sponsorship of cycling altogether as the entire bicycling sponsorship industry takes a spill, but as Phonak nurse their burned fingers, they might take comfort in the fact that many other brands have been hurt by the antics of their chief brand name agent.

  • has some serious spin on what its brand means after Kate Moss was busted for drugs and the brand name was picked up by soccer hooligans and "" in the UK.
  • Hertz could be positively envious of Phonak’s problem: Phonak just has a doped up bicyclist to get rid off. Hertz, on the other hand, will forever be associated with .
  • And Kobe Bryant, really just one step above OJ on the criminal rankings list, is one of the most powerful celebrities out there, according to Forbes, which has a secondary effect towards his getting people to endorse him.

Thinking about Kobe reminds me that we do forgive quickly here in the USA — Kobe’s still playing ball, Tom Cruise is the biggest couch jumpin’ star in Hollywood and lets face it, super-druggie Kate Moss is more popular and well paid than ever, with new deals signed with Calvin Klein and Belstaff. So, chin up Floyd Landis. Kate’s a cokehead. You’re just a cheater.

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August 5, 2006

Links du Jour 08-05-06

  • Internet Explorer Logo - Microsoft has decided to drop the "Internet Explorer 7+" name it was going to use for the version of its browser that would run on the upcoming Vista operating system. Users had complained that it left too much room for confusion, as people were likely to read IE7+ as "IE 7 or higher". The new naming scheme will just be IE7 and they'll specify which operating system they're referring to when necessary.
  • Starwood Previews New Hotel Brand in Second Life - I have blogged before about Starwood’s well-named new offering and now Micropersuasion gives us a heads up on the new brand strategy for the same product name: they are going to preview the hotels inside the virtual world and launch .
  • Nothing can bring Las Vegas’ slogan down - Some slogans for cities, even unofficial ones, have stickability. “,” Vegas’s famous slogan, has been around for years and while it is a little risqué, it has been paid a high compliment indeed by being parodied as the tagline for the new kids’ movie : "What Happens in the Barn, Stays in the Barn." Interesting barn, I mean brand, research indeed.
  • Personalize your ketchup - They’re finally letting us do it. And of course the guy’s at Adjab have already pushed this to its limit. Sometimes you just gotta be in charge of your personal condiment product naming.

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Posted by William Lozito at 1:58 PM

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August 4, 2006

Links Du Jour 08-04-06

  • Wise Investment Advice - Here’s a short heads up from Micropersuasion on how you can take your brand and get $60 mil from it in 18 months.
  • Successful Naming Strategy - Seth Godin tells us how the naming strategy for "SquidSoap" has been paid off by taking “two steps back” for one giant leap forward. Required reading for people doing corporate naming.
  • Microsoft Employees Drink Microsoft Drinks. - Microsoft now has its own limited edition of soft drinks to promote its own software Vista to its own employees. An interesting in-house name branding exercise.

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Posted by William Lozito at 1:40 PM

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Brand Naming: Der Zune vs. iPod

Microsoft’s imaginative strategy to trademark the Zune brand name. In a recent piece for , Lawyer Karsten Prehm pointed out that Microsoft’s recent $500 mil investment in Zune, the supposed big contender v. , has not been protected by a US trademark. Instead, the product name has been quietly registered in Germany. This allows Microsoft to apply for international protection of the name at the (WIPO) in Geneva.

When this is successful, Microsoft can have the trademark enforced in the USA dating from its German registration on July 7 of this year. It’s a nifty and streamlined way to get instant worldwide protection for this very American brand name.

Apple is also doing some interesting under the table dealing, it seems: the guys at recently told us that , a consortium of just about everyone who is anyone in the mobile communications and media market. It’s devoted to the creation of “open standard APIs to enable the authoring and playback of dynamic media on a wide variety of platforms and devices,” which means that they’re probably that much closer to releasing the much-anticipated , a crucial step forward for the iPod brand name.

Khronos GroupThe guys at the Unofficial Apple Weblog, for their part, have picked up on Jeff Scoble’s recent hints that Apple is about to introduce a bunch of new products — could the iPhone be one of them? I remain skeptical.

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Posted by William Lozito at 4:00 AM

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August 3, 2006

Links Du Jour 08-03-06

Gemini launches iTRAX - The new iPod gizmo is called iTrax and it looks pretty cool — allowing anyone with two iPods to become their own monster DJ. I am wondering what’s happening with the word “Trax” and iPod name branding. Why, just yesterday I covered the new as posted on Micropersuasion. Sometimes new product branding just has a life of its own.

Your Brain On Brands - Martin Schwimmer over at The Trademark Blog responds to a great article in the New York Times about The Brand Underground. He wonders if the underground has become the grounds wherein the best branding is done. The post brings up some excellent examples of edgy brand names and how product naming owes much to hip hop, punk music and skateboarders. It’s not really news to us in the name service business but it does map the very outer limits of name branding.

Trademark Tips for Your Web App - SND favourite Guy Kawasaki should be a name consultant: his recent post on trademarking web apps (and pretty much anything else) is right on and a really good primer on what a trademark is and how we naming consultants think about trademark and brand names. He also has some good advice about trademark registration: just do it.

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Brand Naming: Caddy Pursues The Happiness of Bling

CadilacCadillac is reworking its image by adding bling to its brand name. As David Kiley notes in his blog, the last four years has seen a revamping of the Cadillac brand name thanks mainly to the basketball stars and hip-hop gods who have embraced the Escalade SUV as their own. But Caddy wants an ever younger buyer - in recent years the mean age of a Cadillac buyer has dropped from 64 to 59 but they need more women and more people who are not so close to retirement.

They have also moved from their successful Led Zeppelin themed in favor of a more all-American “” I find it interesting to note that one of the Cadillac brand doyens notes that its hard to build an emotional connection to the Cadillac sub brands that have gone from legendary names like Coupe Deville, Seville and Fleetwood to alphanumeric names such as DTS, SRX, XLR, CTS. As we have noted in an , however, this is the way of things with the luxury and performance car market, where even staid old Lincoln has gone for . But Lincoln encountered some that we also blogged about recently.

LexusBMW, Mercedes, Honda and Jag have all gone for alphanumeric naming and all of them have a share of the youth market. Lexus, for its part, has taken a different tack than Caddy: they have recently launched the new IS 350 with an eye towards the rich geek sector: the vehicle is loaded with nifty gadgets that attracted the attention of the bloggers over at where by their own admission, cockpit accessories rule and road performance is secondary.

Posted by William Lozito at 10:22 AM

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August 2, 2006

Links Du Jour 08-02-06

  • NYC Transit Launches Freakin' Podcasts: Named “TransitTrax” - They’re short podcasts aimed at commuters covering all things related to riding the train. Not only is it great service naming but it’s a great concept as iPods and subways were made for each other—watch this space for a trend.
  • Sony launches Cyber-shot DSC-T10 - Sony’s Cyber-shot brand name has a new fan over at Engadget. Check out the new camera online, which is loaded with nifty specs and will give you a whopping 250 shots per charge. Gotta love it.
  • Aspyr moves Mac owners into The Gamerhood - Who says we Apple users can’t be serious gamers? This is a download service for Mac users that is liable to make gamers out of us all. Joystiq predicts there may be a few "gamer ghetto" jokes made out of the company name, however…

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August 1, 2006

Company Naming: Acronyms and Initialisms

Not many of us realize that an acronym is not just a collection of initials: it has to be something pronounced as a word. The name of Food Service distributor SYSCO is an acronym for Systems and Services Company. IBM, on the other hand, is an , because every letter is sounded out when spoken. Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranded itself with the initialism KFC.

I have found that the problem with acronyms and initialisms is that they rarely provide cues as to what the company, product, or organization is or does. Generations of existing customers have used the abbreviation “KFC,” but the letters alone don’t tell prospective new customers what the restaurant is famous for. Only the fact that the restaurant is well-known .

Saab logoNevertheless, I consider acronyms and initialisms can be a better choice than the long form names they represent. “S.A.D.” tells us exactly the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder. “SYSCO” is catchier than “Systems and Services Company.” “SAAB” is unquestionably , never mind pronounce, than “Svenska Aeroplan AktieBolaget.”

In fact, when expanding globally, abbreviating your company name often beats translating it. The abbreviation might not mean much in the new country, but accurate translation is a difficult art, and inaccurate translation can make your company look bad. Not translating the long form of the name may well leave overseas customers struggling to pronounce it.

Unless you’re already well-known at home and going global, beware of using initials for a company name. There are so many out there already that you’re likely to add to the confusion rather than branding your company.

There are many examples of company names formed by acronyms and initialisms. Matthew Phiong wrote about the interesting . The Re-Imagineering blog explains the history of Walt Disney Imagineering, which was originally , (the initials of Walt’s full name, Walter Elias Disney.)

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