January 31, 2007
The worst movie title of recent memory has to be Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.
Perhaps this partly explains its poor showing at the box office – of a budget of over $65 million, the film has barely cracked $2 million in domestic gross. It opened to a limited audience in December 2006, then to a wide audience two weeks ago.
Guess what? No one came. But the failure of this film does provide a valuable lesson in name development.
In all fairness, the movie is an adaptation of a best-selling German novel of the same name. Perhaps the way the title is translated from German makes for a less laughable combination of words (The original title was Das Parfum).
To pursue that point further: because the name of the movie is such an odd grouping of words whose inherent meanings seem oxymoronic when combined, the title of the movie would work well if it were affixed to a comedy.
Alas, that is not the case here.
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer tracks the life of an 18th-century French perfume maker, whose obsession with discovering the right scent leads him to murder.
I’m sorry, but if a film with serious subject matter wishes to achieve some gravitas amongst its viewership – make the name less laughable!
Such a title may work on a book, since you’re dealing with an already niche market. But a film needs a less awkward title, or brand name, since its market and demographic are much larger. Screenhead.com suggested that "the film’s added subtitle must have been an attempt to attract a broader, more bloodthirsty audience."
The name of the movie would not be troublesome if the novel had been one of those literary classics that had penetrated the walls of high schools and colleges for half a century already, or the novel had been a huge hit in America, and rumors of its being made into a movie had been bandied about rapidly, like The Firm or The Da Vinci Code.
That way, transferring the success from book to film is easy, considering how one is piggy-backing on the name recognition of the book.
Perfume also suffered from poor branding, especially during its trailers when the film came off as an ǖber decadent period piece that seemed too obscure or pompous for the average American viewer.
The naming of a film is a delicate process. It depends on so many variables, including what kind of audience you want coming to see your film. And even if the title is set in the U.S., a different title of the same film might be given in the UK, appealing to a new set of rules tailored to its culture.
Sadly, the rules of American culture aren’t welcoming to Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. And that's exactly the type of cultural and language differences that should be considered in brand naming, or when developing a brand name that will be marketed globally.
Check out this related blog post for an interesting take on perfume and product development.
Copying current technology seems to be a blessing and a curse in protecting a product name.
In the case of Under Armour, it is a blessing. Here is a company that simply took existing, easy to find technology and packaging, and positioned it with an easy brand name to remember (think Post-Its and Velcro).
In one bold move, the company quietly hijacked NIKE's dominant equity in this arena, despite a fairly weak slogan, I think (“Protect This House”), and some misguided target market positioning (appealing to women with a brand proposition that sounds more suited to a campaign to make Kevlar vests for the LAPD).
Word of mouth, in this case, has won over customers for Under Armour.
Compare this to the curse of the knockoff: the iPhone has its first possible clone in China, the carelessly named Meizu M8, which some bloggers think may actually be an improvement over Apple's offering. One blogger says “it was only a matter of time before the iPhone got Xeroxed,” a reference to the phenomenon known as brand name genericization.
What's the lesson here?
If you're selling a similar-but-different product, your brand name serves as a key differentiator. Its everything, in fact.
January 30, 2007
This week the New York Times noted that Levi's is one of the 10 most litigious companies in the country, partially because of its zealous protection of its famous pocket design — as well as every other trademark design feature it owns.
Susan Scafidi points out that while fashions themselves are not protected under US law, trademarks like pocket stitching and label design certainly are and those who blatantly copy Levi’s trademarks may have "bitten off more than they can chew."
Many bloggers are siding with Levi’s, who is chasing fashion houses that create jeans which feature a "patch with two creatures pulling a pair of jeans apart" as well as label placement on the back pocket. On top of this, Levi's has been after Japanese companies who create exclusive "repro" knock-offs of their earliest (trademarked) designs for resale.
There can be no doubt that part of every brand strategy is protecting the recognizable trademarks associated with it — that includes all of the above.
As the Times points out, Levi's has initiated over 100 trademark lawsuits since 2001, more than General Motors, Walt Disney or Nike. In my opinion, this is not surprising, as Levi’s trademarks are so easily copied, both purposely and inadvertently.
Part of brand naming is establishing everything that is unique about the brand and protecting it from those "inspired" by the features of the classic jeans to out and out criminals like the ones Google has to contend with. Levi’s is simply practicing due diligence.
Can you have too much life? I'm seriously starting to think so, at least when it comes to product names. In fact, I’d like to add "Live" to the list of banished words for 2007.
Any word used too often, in too many ways, loses its meaning. Any name used for too many products dilutes the brand of all those products, not just the one that used it first. Apple recognized this when it decided to call its new internet TV receiver AppleTV instead of iTV. There are just too many products out there with a lower-case "i" in their names. And along with "i" and "My," "Live" is getting to be sooo 2006.
Yet companies are still jumping on the "Live" bandwagon. It's bad enough that Microsoft has saturated the market with everything from the confusingly named Windows Live search engine to the Windows Live Writer (Beta) offline blog editor (which by definition is not live, though it's actually a good blog editor) to Office Live’s web-based software, which does, at least, rely on a "live" internet connection. And let's not forget OneCare Live.
Now Pepsi has just announced Aquafina Alive vitamin-enhanced waters. Maybe I'm just squeamish, but I don't want anything in the water I drink to be alive. That's part of the point of drinking water from bottles and not out of streams.
"Live" is appropriate, if unoriginal, for anything broadcast directly without delay or editing, like live news and interview shows on TV. But "recorded live" has always been something of an oxymoron, and many other uses of "live" in the broadcast industry are redundant. (Would you want to record in front of a dead studio audience?)
Let’s put a moratorium on "Live" in product names for 2007, and get more creative.
Ever wish you didn’t have to touch chicken when preparing a chicken meal?
Well your wish has come true, for you and millions of other consumers.
Gold’n Plump has just introduced the new Bake It Easy™ product line with the ultimate in convenience. The chicken comes in oven-ready packaging. Just add your favorite touch of seasonings if desired and bake.
Bake It Easy™ was selected in the top 10% of the best new food products in 2006 by Stagnito’s New Products magazine based on overall appeal, new and different, and purchase intent.
We developed the brand name Bake It Easy™. "The name is not only memorable, but conveys and reinforces the key product benefits and point of difference," said Tracy Miller, Senior Product Development Manager, New Products, of Gold'n Plump.
January 29, 2007
Any of us who have purchased a car have probably needed a scorecard to figure out some of the alphanumeric nomenclature.
- Mercedes C, E, and S classes
- Mazda 3 and Mazda 6
- BMW 3, 5, and 7 series
- Honda Civic GX NGV
- SAAB 9-2, 9-3, 9-5, 9-7X
Need I say more?
The writer drew on Strategic Name Development's proprietary consonant research for auto names to determine the inherent associations consumers have with each consonant letter. I think you'll find the article interesting and eye-opening.
The Palm OS product name will be replaced by Garnet OS, which was originally the code name used by PalmSource for Palm OS 5.4.
The renaming is part of an overall revamping of the Palm brand name. PalmSource itself, will soon be named after its owner ACCESS and the very word Palm is set to disappear from both products and software.
David Beers writes, quite convincingly, that this is actually the "rebirth" of the Palm brand name thanks to the naming agreements between ACCESS and PalmSource.
Good thing, because the blogosphere is full of complaints regarding this latest move to eliminate the Palm OS name.
Not least is the problem that we are sure to be given PDA software with clumsy brand names like Daily Quote for Palm OS and Garnet OS. Others call this OS "FrankenGarnet." And, ironically for those of us who might miss Palm OS, "The Garnet Host" on Linux will be called "GHost."
Just to add some more confusion to matters, there is an inaccurate rumor that PalmSource has a "secret third business" involving a yet-to-be-seen product codenamed Sherlock that may be introduced as Foleo.
It is amazing after all the permutations the Palm name has gone through (PalmSource, Handspring, PalmOne), that it still resonates with consumers.
Doing away with it would be a mistake. It is always possible that a groundbreaking brand name that is associated with the original, imaginative products in a field can make a big comeback after years of languishing and corporate infighting.
Just ask Apple.
January 28, 2007
The Burning Man founders are in a trademark dispute that might spell the end for the grass roots festival. Founder John Law’s suit against Larry Harvey and Michael Mikel seems especially bitter; you can get the full lowdown on the Laughing Squid blog.
Chris Messina recently posted a blog comparing the difficulty trademarking this "open" event with trademarking "open source software." One bitter post on the subject at Legal Pad posits, "everything that starts out as cool ages, losing pretty much everything that made it cool."
Probably so, but I might gently add that sorting out things like product naming, protection of brand names and protecting a trademark might slow down the uncooling process. Brand naming even off-beat events like Burning Man by a naming company can avoid these kinds of conflicts.
January 27, 2007
This year, 3,625 branding professionals ranked Google once again ahead of Apple, followed by YouTube (which Google now owns) and Wikipedia. Ian at Green Gathering points out that with this announcement, "user generated websites and social media have finally hit the big time."
Tom Taulli notes that these networking newcomers just don't have to spend lots of money on advertising — really loyal users are building their brand names for them.
Meanwhile, LogoBlog has posted The Best of 2006 Logo Trends: seems like "embellishing" is three spots above "splatting." What would product naming be without "vivid" or "glowing" logos? Nice piece.
January 26, 2007
The Superbowl is make or break time for some of the corporate names in the US, not least Superbowl stalwart Anheuser-Busch.
This year, Bud will be trying to inject some more humor into its brand name on Superbowl Sunday, according to the WSJ. The last few years have seen the beer giant focusing on "quality" while Bud Light, aimed as it is at the younger demographic, has gotten the laughs. Bud has some interesting things in store: Will Video for Food points to a "behind the scenes" video of the making of a Mad Max-style Bud spot with NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Bud has let loose a few teasers on the Internet for the die hard fans who are curious about what will air on the big day. Bud Light, for its part, will get 90 million viewers to watch Jay-Z vs. former Dolphins coach Don Shula in a holographic football game while K-Fed warms the bench.
This crossover is crucial to the entire marketing campaign as the Web prepares for the Superbowl onslaught of ad lovers logging on to see replays of the greatest ads. Last year, one Bud spot was watched a whopping 42 million times online!
The stakes are huge this year, not only for Bud and Bud Light but also for brand names like Pepsi, Doritos, Cadillac, Motorola, FedEx and Sprint. I will watch these with interest (probably while supping a Bud), but I’m more interested to see if Apple will come through with an announcement that The Beatles' tunes will be available on iTunes.
January 25, 2007
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has renamed its international airport after Alexander the Great, much to the consternation of their Greek neighbors who see the famous conqueror as “the epitome of classical Greek heroism”.
The renaming is part of a longer dispute between the Macedonians and the Greeks, who already have a province of Macedonia. The Greeks for years have pushed the EU to recognize their neighbor not as Macedonia but as The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), much to the irritation of Macedonians who want their country to be referred to, simply, as the Republic of Macedonia.
The Greeks are standing firm leading to some awkward interchanges between the two countries. The situation has become so intense that last Saturday a UN Envoy was sent in to help resolve the naming dispute.
This recent move on the part of the FYROM to associate the famous Macedonian (whom the Greeks see as their favorite son) with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, has led to some furious online interchanges, with Greek supporters saying the Macedonians are “seeking false support from the past” and FYROM supporters claiming Alexander was “born and raised” in their Macedonia.
Others posit that the FYROM is a Slavic, not Greek country, that simply has no claim to “true” Macedonian history - or its ancient heroes.
I am reluctant to offer an opinion here other than that of a professional naming consultant, but it does seem that The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is a rather unwieldy name and something should be done.
As far at Alexander the Great’s airport is concerned, well, as some bloggers have noted, there are street names and place names all around the world named after historical figures from other countries and, additionally, Alexander’s empire did stretch all the way to India.
January 24, 2007
Yahoo! is facing an amusing problem with the naming of its Yahoo! Search Marketing advertising system: everyone insists on calling it by its code name “Panama”, a name that has deep resonance with the company and users alike.
The problem is compounded by the fact that some users refer to it as “Yahoo Marketing Solutions” while others take the middle road and refer to it as “Yahoo Search Marketing ad system, ‘Panama’” or “Yahoo Search Marketing’s Panama Interface”.
It doesn't help that Yahoo’s own representatives seem to call it “Project Panama”. More than that, some users even confuse it with “Overture,” a now defunct but well loved Yahoo acquisition that has been incorporated into Panama, I mean Yahoo Search Marketing.
Things have gotten so out of hand that one user has started an online competition to help choose a new brand name for Panama—the winner gets a $100 Amazon gift certificate. It seems like this is an ill-fated competition, because on February 5th Yahoo! Will do away with the problem by re-launching the product as Yahoo Search Marketing. Whew!
We have seen how project code names often simply will not go away (Microsoft’s “Origami” is an example) and this one is so much slicker than the cumbersome Yahoo! alternative that we are sure to see it rattle its chains at least through 2007. The lesson here? When it comes to new product naming, make sure the one you choose is better than your code name.
January 23, 2007
There’s an interesting post on the WIRED blog, written by Eliot Van Buskirk and Sean Michaels. The post discusses a potential trademark dispute between the Microsoft Zune brand name and the Zunior brand name, which is also a music-related service.
This may or may not be a trademark conflict. If it is, it will be interesting to see how Microsoft handles it.
Since "Zunior" was the childhood nickname of Dave Ullrich, who runs Zunior.com, Van Buskirk asks if anyone can think of other company names derived from nicknames. He thought of Napster as an example (named after Shawn Fanning's "nappy" hair). Can you think of any others?
There’s a new kid on the online backup block.
Whether or not CrashPlan is really “the easiest, most reliable, and smartest backup on Earth,” it’s got a great product name and clever brand positioning. A hard drive crash is a thing to strike terror into the heart of any computer owner. If it doesn’t, it should: all hard drives fail eventually.
I think Code42’s marketing department clearly understands the value of fear as a motivator, as well as the greater emphasis Americans place on disaster preparedness these days. Your computer will crash, so plan for it.
Backup is not a particularly sexy thing to try to sell. Companies offering online backup services approach this marketing problem in a variety of ways. LiveVault sounds secure (the fear theme again). Carbonite sounds tough (ditto).
Mozy, on the other hand, sounds laid back. You can relax now, your files are backed up. EZ Backup appeals to the less tech-savvy by reassuring prospective customers that they don’t have to be computer wizards to use it.
All of these are good brand names, but none is quite as arresting as “CrashPlan." The name clearly communicates how the consumer will benefit, and alleviates the fear associated with data backup problems.
Whether "CrashPlan" motivates consumers to purchase the product is the real test.
Binney & Smith Co., as subsidiary of Hallmark since 1984, is changing its company name to Crayola.
To leverage the brand name recognition of Crayola, its most famous product “just makes sense,” says Tom Asacker. The name, coined by company founder Edwin Binney’s wife Alice, comes from “craie,” the French word for chalk, and “ola,” or “oleaginous,” relating to oil.
The Crayola masterbrand has been used on a variety of products recently, extending its brand franchise to MP3 players, executive pens that look like big crayons, and even colored flavored bottled water (Crayola Color Coolerz).
Some people are actually making serious art with Crayolas. Obviously, the equity in the Crayola brand name is so strong that frankly you have to wonder why Binney & Smith Co. didn’t do this years ago.
I think a great deal of the Crayola brand equity was nurtured by the user experience and the relationship Crayola has with its users.
The color naming scheme of individual crayons, including “Inch Worm,” “Jazzberry Jam,” "Razzmatazz,” and “Tropical Rain Forest” added to this bonding with its consumers.
Plus, Crayola works hard not to offend anyone, over the years changing “Prussian Blue” to “Midnight Blue,” and “Flesh” to “ Peach,” and “Indian Red” to “Chestnut.” This offbeat product naming scheme helps when, for instance, they want cool water flavors like “Berry Blue,” “Wild Strawberry,” “Screamin' Green” and “Purple Pizzazz” - there is an instant, goofy connection with the parent brand.
Way to go, Binney & Smith. I mean, Crayola.
January 22, 2007
Microsoft has announced its longest product name ever: Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate UPGRADE Limited Numbered Signature Edition.
Engadget says “you have to be seriously into Vista” if you are thinking about picking up one of these $259 packages, complete with a embossed signature from Bill Gates himself (this is, after all, his last Windows offering as head of Microsoft before he retires to a life of philanthropy).
You can buy this package on Amazon, there are only 20,000 numbered editions for true Windows fans and I have to say that they are indeed a “piece of history.” The packaging is also a great improvement, although I must say rather Applesque.
I think it’s interesting to note a little confusion has come up regarding the product naming of this version of Vista. A “signature” edition of anything is different from a “signed” edition.
A signature edition is usually a product with an embossed signature that the manufacturer has designated as the standard bearer for the brand name. A “signed” edition is literally signed by the maker.
So, it would be possible for you to get a “signed,” “signature” edition of Vista - if you ordered it off Amazon and then happened to run into Bill Gates in your travels, who would sign his name under the embossed signature on the box.
January 21, 2007
The video clip speaks for itself. Enjoy.
Martha Stewart's idea to trademark a line of furniture named after her upstate New York home town of Katonah has probably not earned her many friends.
The neighbors don’t seem to mind her use of the name but cannot see why it has to be trademarked.
One of Stewart's people has said this will be "a tribute" to the town, like "Philadelphia Cream Cheese or London Fog raincoats."
The head of the Village Improvement Society has countered, "I don’t object to Ms. Stewart's using the name, but her attempt to prevent others from using it is disturbing."
My advice as a professional naming consultant: use it, but don’t try to protect it. As at least one Katonah resident has already figured out, the patent application is doomed anyway simply because Stewart cannot claim the furniture, which will in all likelihood not be made by local craftsmen, comes from Katonah, NY. These days, 70% of furniture sold in the US is not made in the US.
The Katohah brand name is not a good thing, Martha.
January 20, 2007
PC Magazine has selected the 10 worst software or application product names of 2006. Some examples are:
- Traktor 3, Audio Kontrol, Komplete 4, Reaktor 5. . .
This is probably a German name. Although short by German standards, it's a bit of a mouthful (no offense to my German friends and colleagues).
However, the Deutscher Sprachrat Institution considers Vergissmeinnicht (forget-me-not) one of the 10 most beautiful German words. Go figure.
For a slide show of all 10 of the worst software of application names of 2006 click here.
A recent post on Population Statistic notes that the recent $300+ mil Barclays Center naming agreement — which I wrote about yesterday — is part and parcel of a surge in pricey naming rights deals that have included Citi Field (MLB Mets/$20mil per year) and the Prudential Center (NHL Devils/$105 mil).
I’ve written about stadium naming before, but these numbers bear a second look.
Fans may breathe a sigh of relief when they learn that, for instance, Yankee Stadium will not get a corporate name, but far more fans are holding their breath hoping for a corporate blessing so their teams can survive another year.
It’s easy to joke about the proliferation of corporate stadium names out there but the fact is, companies seek out these naming deals because they are great ways to get a brand name in front of a captive, excited audience.
As the writer on Population Statistic points out, naming a new stadium after your company is worth the extra expense because it's virgin territory — there is no chance your brand name will face dilution with the former one. This gives your brand pure DNA and a close association with a beloved team and its victories.
My predication is that we can look for more high profile deals of this nature because it's hard to think of another way to get 40-80,000 potential customers in a targeted area looking at your company name for two to three hours at a time week after week, not to mention the exposure on TV.
January 19, 2007
The planned Brooklyn arena, future home of the New Jersey Nets, will be named the Barclays Center after British-based Barclays bank.
Rumor has it that the bank paid in excess of $300 million for naming rights, possibly even $400 million. However, Barclays PLC president Robert Diamond has said the exposure his bank will get in New York is well worth it as “Building our brand in the U.S. is very, very important to us."
The Brooklyn Record reported that "there are a lot of people out there who are already thinking up nasty nicknames for the place...but as far as arena names go, Barclays Center has kind of a nice ring to it."
The Barclays brand name does have an upscale sound to it. It could be worse, the Brooklyn Record added, "In a world where the poor Chicago White Sox have to play at U.S. Cellular Field, and the New England Patriots hold court in Gillette Stadium."
January 18, 2007
NBC-Universal announced on Friday that it will launch a new network devoted to thriller and horror programming. The name of the network will be Chiller.
After googling the word “Chiller,” I encountered numerous results about beverages, ice, or any other product that needs to be cooled in order to be enjoyed. And how many of these results were related to horror? Zilch.
I presume the origin of the name of the network derives from the notion of getting “chills” down your back after watching something scary.
Although generic, Heebie Jeebies, Creepy Crawlers, Spine Tinglers are a few descriptions for all things related to horror. Taking it up a notch, words such as “blood,” “killer,” or any sharp object found in a tool shed have found a home in the titles of most horror movies, past and present.
NBC-Universal missed the mark on the naming of this channel by not delving into the rich lexicon of imagery that the horror genre has to offer. Instead, they favored the plain and vague, perhaps in an effort to play it safe for potential viewers.
This strategy did work with the Sci-Fi Channel, another NBC-Universal property. Although it is not an inspired title, it is still leaps and bounds better than Chiller because, at the very least, “Sci Fi” uses rhyme to make its name stand out.
Therefore, its stickiness factor—that is, the inexplicable quality that forces consumers to remember a product’s name—is strong.
Unless the channel can develop programming that is beyond the slasher garden variety of the Friday the 13th franchise or the monster mash medley of Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney films, Chiller will be dead on arrival.
The reason: why should we choose this channel when we can watch AMC, TCM, or TBS for these movies? Granted, these stations don’t offer the 24-hour horror programming that Chiller promises. But who wants to subject themselves to this kind of content for so many hours in a day? After all, those whose threshold can handle that already have these movies on DVD!
In addition, in the cable world, where new stations are being born everyday, now more than ever is it critical for a newbie channel to have a name that people can instantly recall. And to recall enthusiastically.
And I don't think Chiller is one of those names.
The US Government's website FirstGov.gov has been changed to the much easier to remember USA.gov.
Apparently people wanted a domain name that was easier to remember - in a 2006 telephone survey, 79% of respondents preferred the name USA.gov. Spanish speakers also like the new GobiernoUSA.gov portal.
Domain naming is an important business. And it's also very lucrative, and demand is increasingly based on current events:
- A judge has the site www.Hillary2008.org up on eBay for a cool $10,000
- Apple has been asking Google to help it to get iPhone domain names registered
- Cyber squatters, I like to think of them as "cyber critters," are going after names that feature “David Beckham” and “Galaxy,” after the soccer star’s recent move to the LA Galaxy team.
January 17, 2007
According to the O’Reilly Radar blog, the "iPhone of TV" is out and its name is “Joost,” an idiomatic reference to the slang word “Juiced,” started by the famous founders of Skype, Janus Friis and Niclas Zenström.
It’s an Internet-based TV service that uses file sharing software and broadcast TV to make watching TV on the computer fast, seamless and easy. GigaOM says it is a “nerdy if somewhat catchy name” and FOXNews points out it will be competing against BitTorrent and the mighty YouTube, two already very well-known brand names in the Internet TV business, as well as from well-positioned brands like TiVo and Slingbox.
One piece of interesting brand name research: “Joost” is a very common Afrikaans name. One of the greatest South African rugby players of all time is Joost van der Westhuizen. So this might be an example of a product whose naming gives it a built in demographic of fans overseas.
Posted by William Lozito at 9:17 AM
Posted to Brand Naming | Branding | Company Naming | Linguistics | Media and Entertainment | Product Naming | Technology | Telecommunications
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January 16, 2007
If you’re a Web 2.0 start-up on a shoestring budget and can’t afford the services of a naming company, don’t despair. Generous (and creative) souls have created Web 2.0 company name generators to assist you.
The new web-based services have distinctive names as well as a tendency to use Ajax and incorporate social media. The only thing a Web 2.0 company is likely to be mistaken for is a character from Star Wars. But even as the creators of these name generators are making fun of the current trend in product naming, they show a good grasp of naming techniques.
Andrew Wooldridge’s “Web Two Point Oh!” name generator takes bits of existing company names and mixes them up. (I think “Infonomious” and “Zimolimojo” have potential, but you might want to stay away from “Godiya.”) As an added bonus, it provides product descriptions to go along with the names, e.g. “tag-based maps via browser toolbar.”
Razorberry provides two short lists of phonemes such as “goo” and “dango” from existing company names and instructs readers to pick one from each column. Though less comprehensive and lower-tech, this generator operates on the same principle as Woolridge’s generator.
Be careful, though - if you pick a name that resembles an existing company too closely, you’re likely to get a cease and desist letter.
HackSlash incorporates a few more popular naming trends, such as “numberthings” and dropped vowels, resulting in such suggestions as “file95” and “goostr.” (Little did the creators of Flickr know, when they found that flicker.com was taken and the owners wouldn’t sell the domain, that they’d be starting a naming trend.)
Benjamin Simon’s name generator lets you pick your own source words to combine and shows you the phonemes below the name. Alternatively, you can draw product descriptions from the Web 2.0 Awards site. He also lets you check domain availability via GoDaddy.
Kira’s Web 2.0 Company Name Generator also lets you check the availability of the resulting domain, this time at Dotster. Interestingly, the .com domains for the first two names I generated were already taken.
I started to wonder if someone (Kira?) had decided to take the results of these generators and squat on the names. Even though the sites are meant to be funny, the principles behind them are perfectly valid, and I had to check results like “Buzzpulse” and “Podlounge” to see whether they were real companies. (They’re not: both are parked at GoDaddy.)
After several attempts, however, I found a cool name with an available .com domain: “Riffstorm.” (A music mash-up site, perhaps?)
Hurry while supplies last.
January 15, 2007
I've always wondered how Citigroup and CIT have coexisted in the financial services sector. It seems to me that changing to Citi will only exacerbate the potential confusion with CIT.
Michael Simon on Spymac has a tantalizing post up that posits we are about to see a brand naming shift from “i” to “” as in iPhone, Life, Work, Chat, and DVD. Even iPod will go to iPod. The post picks up on the fact that Apple has dropped “Computer” from its company name, “presumably to put more attention on its music and mobile initiatives.”
Simon may or may not be correct but one thing is certain: that the Apple logo already carries a great deal of weight in Apple’s brand architecture, which is becoming confusing to some people. It leads me to think about the challenges involved in taking it a step further and integrating logo development with product naming.
Apple’s products, if they go this route, will most likely be referred to in the press is “Apple ____” as in “Apple Life, Apple DVD.” This draws attention to the hugely powerful Apple brand name. But the visual branding of these product names will be Life and DVD.
Think the Red Cross, whose brand name is simply its logo. The recent decision to include a Red Crystal symbol for Israel’s admission to the Red Cross, and the ensuing bitter debate, illustrates just how deeply and irrevocably the logo-brand association is to this very well known name. In this case, Israel wanted a Red Star of David to offset the obviously Christian “cross” of “Red Cross,” a symbol taken from the Swiss flag which in turns takes it origins from the crucifix.
Nike and Apple have cerainly capitalized on the awareness of their respective logos by collectively taking the logo-branding approach even further with the Nike + iPod product (Nike-designed workout software for an iPod). The Nike swoosh and the Apple logo combine to tell you exactly what you're getting.
Another piece of news shows how counting on people to recognize a symbol may carry risks. Yesterday the post office announced a “love stamp” that features the ubiquitous Hershey Kiss with the word “Love” over it. The CEO of Hershey’s stated that “The Hershey®’s Kisses® brand is an enduring symbol of love, affection and sharing, recognized world over for its distinct shape, classic silver foil and unmistakable plume."
Hershey's also says that the With Love and Kisses stamp reinforces the passion and emotional connection consumers have with the iconic Hershey’s Kisses Brand. I hope people around the world are able to recognize the image on that stamp...if you send a Valentine to a person unfamiliar with the candy, it will look like you are sending them an image of Mount Blanc with a “kisses” flag on top, which might not be a good thing.
Apple, Hershey's and Nike make the (probably correct) assumption that we are all so familiar with their products and their logos that we will immediately “get it” when we see them. Makes marketing sense, I think.
January 14, 2007
On Monday, tomorrow, we will have the opportunity to witness the initiation of one the biggest name changing efforts in recent history.
It seems as if re-educating millions of consumers will be a multi-step process, including inserts with monthly bills and promotional materials at Cingular stores. The Cingular name and (well loved) orange "Jack" logo, both of which are only six years old, will continue to appear next to the AT&T brand and blue "globe" logo until mid year. By then, the only memory we will have of Cingular is the orange color for "accent and background coloring for ATT’s cellular products and services," not unlike the Sprint Nextel logo change we previously blogged about — the integrating of the Sprint brand name and Nextel yellow and black color scheme.
The tagline will be, of course, "Raising it Higher," and the company will have to change all of the signage at retail locations and kiosks as well as the uniforms for 15,000 retail personnel.
In all the talk about the end of Cingular, it might also be noted that this marks the end of Bell South. Mark Pritchard on Metroblogging San Francisco notes that Cingular will join a virtual graveyard of forgotten mobile phone brands, including Pacific Bell, SBC and AirTouch. He also notes that you can get great deals on Cingular stuff online. I’m sure a few years from now a Cingular t-shirt will be kind of retro.
There will also of course be a new ad campaign that, as Pritchard says, will see AT&T "spend more billions of dollars to erase the impression that it spent billions of dollars to create over the last two years."
AT&T's press release assures us that its efforts will "transfer Cingular's strong brand equity to the new AT&T." I think that, as reported in AdWeek, the brand transition technique AT&T is employing in its advertising to transition from the Cingular brand to the AT&T brand will enhance its chances of a successful brand name transition.
As usual, time will tell. But with billions to spend, is there any doubt that the Cingular brand will be barely remembered by most consumers? Will consumers embrace AT&T as cool and hip as Cingular’s Jack? Again, only time will tell.
Hold the, er, phone, my predictions about the rise of Blu-ray may have been premature. While I was writing my final piece on CES (I enjoyed Om Malik’s “What Happens in CES Stays in Vegas”), I was distracted by news that the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo also was happening while we were distracted by CES and Macworld.
Boing Boing points out that it is probably no coincidence that the biggest consumer electronics show of the year coincides in time and place with the biggest adult video show, not least because there must be a serious crossover between customer bases.
Fleshbot informs us that the porn industry has overwhelmingly chosen HD DVD over Blu-ray for its affordability and ease of use. Aside from the fact that Sony primly refuses to allow porn on Blu-ray, other stories have come out about adult video's sweaty embrace of the less hi-def but more accessible (and cheaper) format that might spell doom for Blu-ray after all.
The porn industry is tired of fighting with Sony and has found that HD DVD is far cheaper, not least because you simply have to upgrade existing DVD to get into business. Will this be the deathblow to the format (think VHS v. Betamax)? Possibly not — Julie Jacobson points out that despite the fact it’s a $4+ bil business on the consumer DVD, one exec estimates "It's not like Betamax and VHS. It's more like DVD-R versus DVD+R, where pretty much any player could play any format."
Possibly, but at least two major studios, Paramount and Warners, have non-exclusive agreements with HD DVD and Universal, Weinsein, HBO and New Line have exclusive support for the format. One blogger says Sony has killed the format as it did with MiniDisc and Betamax because "you just can’t say no to porn if you want to get in the living rooms and bedrooms of homes across America."
January 12, 2007
The connections between Apple, AT&T and Cingular are uncovering some branding insights.
CNN published an interesting article that brings up a sticky issue with the iPhone and its association with Cingular. Mobileburn.com says it all: "It was love at No Sight" - Cingular hopped into bed with Apple without having seen the iPhone. Steve Jobs' confidence in the product was enough for them.
It seems that in the months leading up to Macworld, Apple may have engaged in some subterfuge - possibly planting fake names with the Apple teams working on the phone to see where possible leaks might be coming from.
Now we know two names, at least: iPhone and Cingular. But at least one, and possibly both, are set to change.
Think buying the new iPhone will make you super hip, cool, and on the cutting edge? Well, you'll be an AT&T customer. Just like your grandmother was.
I am not really sure most people believe that Cingular is bouncing, or even know it because it seems to be a fact that has been lost in all the hype around the iPhone. Steve Jobs surely is not wasting his breath explaining it to his acolytes. But the new Apple phone needs an iconic brand name.
As the people across the blogosphere soak this in, we are seeing more and more postings about the Cingular rebranding being a waste of equity and money. People love the Cingular name and the happy jack logo. In addition, the Cingular name, with its huge appeal to west coast youngsters and yuppies, is an awesome match for Apple.
If Apple is U2, AT&T is like Bing Crosby. It will be intresting to watch how AT&T plans on handling the millions of demanding Apple lovers, many of whom are using the wireless service simply because they want the cool handset. This is unprecedented in the industry.
Although unprecedented in cell phones, that's not unprecedented in other categories. For instance, wrist watches have gone from being functional to being fashion statements. Think Rolex, Cartier, Bvlgari, Raymond Weil.
The Cingular brand is now embedded in the success of the handset. But, as we have pointed out before, the Cingular brand name is going to be nixed by it's owner, AT&T on Monday. By the way, almost 70% of our readers who voted said that the Cingular brand name was more valuable than AT&T.
No matter what happens in the coming weeks, expect the iPhone to send shockwaves deep through the mobile phone handset AND carrier business.
January 11, 2007
C|NET has posted its Best of CES 2007 awards. Alas, most of the winning products don’t have particularly inspiring names. And while a good name won’t save a bad product from its flaws, surely a good product deserves a memorable name.
Good names make life easier for everyone. Even for geeks, names are easier to remember than model numbers. This is why systems operators give network servers names. I know of one company where the servers were all named after different kinds of beer.
C|NET’s Best in Show award went to the LG BH100, a player that can handle both Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs. A boon to movie watchers and a great consumer product, definitely. But is the manufacturer going to get any brand recognition out of it? How many people are going to ask for it by name?
Instead, they’ll say to their spouses or parents or the sales clerk at Best Buy, “I want one of those players that does both DVD formats.” The technology which powers both the BH100 is known as “Super Multi Blue.” That tagline also appears on the GGW-H10N, which is LG’s comparable drive for your computer. Now there’s a name worth emphasizing.
The Sync system which Microsoft developed in conjunction with Ford, which received the “People’s Voice” award from C|NET, seems to emphasize the wrong thing with its admittedly short, catchy name. While the hands-free system does sync phone books between your cell and the Microsoft Auto Operating System, the real benefit is hands-free control of your calls, text messages, and music.
The Powercast wireless cell phone recharger, on the other hand, does exactly what its name suggests: it broadcasts power out to devices that can pick it up. (They have to be equipped with the tiny Powercast receiver.)
It’s the winner in the gaming category that has the best name, though: the Alienware Area 51 laptop. Given its specs, though, it probably has a battery life of about 10 minutes, so if you want one, you’d probably better equip it with a Powercast receiver.
The Philips SoundBar is not actually a place where you to meet other singles, but it is long and slim, if proportioned somewhat more like a two-by-four than a pipe. At a cool thousand per unit, there may be a few people who call it the Price Bar.
Dash Navigation’s Dash Express GPS and traffic-monitoring system sounds a little hasty, but since most drivers are in a hurry and don’t want to be slowed down by getting lost, the name is a fitting one.
Sony’s HDR-HC7 video camera suffers from much the same problem as LG’s BH100: too many initials, too little name. Like LG, Sony seems to prefer naming the technology to naming the product itself. And being Sony, it can’t call high-definition color XvYCC like everyone else, but calls it x.v.Color instead. Let’s hope that doesn’t prove to be an over-proprietary dead end for Sony.
Of the other winning products, more than enough has been said about the Windows Vista name, and we just discussed SanDisk’s Sansa Connect. Verizon’s V Cast TV may be of interest to those who want to spend their cell phone minutes watching television in miniature, but the V Cast name has been around awhile.
What would you call these products, if you had your choice?
Cisco has filed a lawsuit against Apple for trademark infringement on the Apple iPhone brand name, reported Engadget yesterday, less than a day after we were all assured that the two companies would "play nice" over the name. Now Cisco has stopped playing nice and is playing hardball.
The Guardian has an interesting post up that deconstructs the argument, noting that the name is sort of Cisco's and sort of Apple's. If this does go to court, Apple seems to believe that its trademark filings are for a different gadget.
As with anything related to Apple, conspiracy theories abound. The one of the day is from a user on Blogging Stocks who thinks that Apple will float on the iPhone brand name until June and then switch to Apple Phone (eg Apple TV) to not only foil Cisco but also to steal the company's association with the iPhone name.
Whether or not Apple is using the niceties of the law to build itself into the iPhone name, it is well worth noting the vitriol we are seeing on Engadget about this story being spewed at Apple from all corners. Comments like these:
- “Apple deserves to lose”
- “They should just change the name to iFone”
- “I hope Apple loses"
- “Apple goes around suing other companies for having the word 'pod' in their products”
As well as support of Apple, or promoting the idea of an Apple Phone:
- “How about apple just goes with "Apple (symbol) phone"? i mean, they already did that with iTV, changing it to "apple tv". Then, there will be more name recognition for the newly branded 'Apple, Inc.'”
The MarkLaw.com site does a nice job of summarizing the Lanham Act. There are a few key points in the Lanham Act that seem to suggest that Apple will have an uphill battle convincing the courts that its iPhone and the Linksys (acquired by Cisco) iPhone can co-exist without confusion.
Some of the legal tests for the liklihood of confusion are:
- Do the trademarks compete with one another?
- Will the products be marketed in the same stores or channels of distribution?
- Do the Apple and Linksys products access overlapping customer bases?
January 10, 2007
While most people at CES are absorbed in the appearance and function of all the new gadgets, we here at SND are busy cogitating on their names.
For instance, there’s the Philips Streamium wireless home stereo, designed to let your MP3 files follow you around the house. Engadget describes the device as “dreamy-um.” The name is a good choice. It’s descriptive (since the system streams music) and it flows nicely. What’s more, it rhymes with “premium,” implying high quality (and preparing consumers for its price tag). Plus, as we’ve described before, the Latin “-ium” ending lends a nice high-tech sound to it.
On the other hand, MOTORIZR Z6 is a bit of a mouthful. RIZR by itself would emphasize the slide (rather than flip) opening of this new phone. As it stands, consumers may be expecting something motorized. One of my colleagues here thinks “Z6” sounds too much like “seasick,” but I don’t think that’s really an issue. I have a RAZR V3m, and the only time I think of it as a V3m and not a RAZR is when I have to install software. I’m guessing most people will just call the new Motorola phone the RIZR.
One has to wonder whether Microsoft’s Reclusa keyboard was designed for those gamers who spend all day locked in with their computers and never encounter other human beings except through avatars. C|NET wastes no time in making the association with reclusiveness in its review.
First Cable Line’s child-oriented multimedia players, on the other hand, have an uninspiring alphanumeric designation (MPD-101A, though now that I think of it, “MPD” can stand for “Multiple Personality Disorder,” from which you could argue a media player with a GPS device installed suffers) and a frankly hilarious nickname: “Spacecrap.” Gizmodo, while rolling in the aisles at this, still adores the actual product.
The original meaning of “crap,” for those interested, seems to be “chaff,” “weeds,” or “discards.” Neither the manufacturers nor the reviewers appear to think these players are rubbish; the response is more on the order of “This is some good sh**.”
The Sandisk Sansa Connect has an obvious name, at least in the sense that “connect” refers to its handy ablity to connect to wi-fi networks to get music. The name “Sansa” is a bit more interesting. It’s got a nice catchy sound to it, and it alliterates with “Sandisk,” reinforcing the main brand name.
As to the origins of Sansa, that’s a murkier issue. “Sansa” is the name of a Costa Rican airline. There’s also the South African Network of Skills Abroad, SANSA. In Italian, “sansa” refers to a form of olive oil. Japan’s Sansa Odori festival seems like a much more entertaining and appropriate source for the name of a music player, however.
Samsung’s Ultra phones, for music, video, and messaging, are quite possibly cool enough to live up to their name, but “ultra,” that Latin equivalent of the Greek prefix “hyper,” is starting to lose its impact to overuse. There are more than 10,000 trademarks beginning with “Ultra” (Interesting point of trivia: “ultra” was once a noun referring to political extremists).
Continuing coverage of more product name announcements at CES soon...
There have been some tantalizing things to think about with regard to new product announcements at CES and Macworld. The first, of course, is the iPhone brand name, which has indeed been the subject of an agreement between Cisco and Apple.
I also thought it was interesting how Nokia reminds us that this iPhone is a convergence device, not a smartphone. It seems that a smartphone allows you to install your own software and expand its capabilities. Fair enough, Nokia, Treo and Blackberry, but I am very glad I am not you today. Maybe we should just call this a "coolphone?"
I read a fascinating article on TechBlog that posits that just maybe Steve Jobs has "fixed a hole" in iTunes by getting the remaining Beatles to allow songs to be downloaded from iTunes - not least because the song he played on stage to introduce the iPhone was "Lovely Rita," from the Beatles' "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," a song that cannot be downloaded from iTunes. Is Steve Jobs sending Beatles fans a cryptic message?
Back at CES, according to Scobleizer, thunder has definitely been stolen. Everybody seems to be talking about the iPhone. But there was also an interesting debate over copyrights in the midst of the media sharing melee. Check it out here.
SONY is quietly taking Apple's lead, with "transformation" (into an entertainment company) becoming the company's mantra. And another behind the scenes coup has taken place: "Blu," as in "Blu-ray" has become the high-definition DVD format of choice, with more than one million Blu-ray disc drives being shipped to the U.S. in Sony PS3 units alone. By 2010, it seems that Blue-ray will be the only choice for “HD optical disc hardware.”
In 2007, according to the Blu-ray Disc Association (yes, there's even an industry association), we'll see the Pioneer BD-ROM driver, the Samsung BDC-202 player, the Sony BD-P1200, and movie releases from 7 of the 8 studios supporting the format.
In other words, Blu is going to be big.
January 9, 2007
Everyone likes to announce new names. Especially baby names.
That's sort of like what Apple CEO Steve Jobs did just a couple hours ago, during his keynote at MacWorld. Jobs finally announced the name of two of his babies: the Apple TV and the iPhone, two products in development for years.
Jobs also announced a company name change from Apple Computer to Apple Inc. to reflect that they're not only in the computer business anymore.
And the news is spreading like wildfire, because the iPhone will, arguably, reinvent the telecommunications sector. As for the Apple TV product, it represents a push by Apple to extend its brand into our living rooms, and our digital entertainment lives. Both are revolutionary and innovative new products.
The MacWorld blog reports that Apple TV is actually spelled "appletv." If so, I think that represents the broad trend of fast instant messaging, the young/hip/fresh personality, and the casual, relaxed nature of entertainment lovers.
However, lowercase names also have a slight association with being immature, or outdated, so I think Apple is probably going with "[apple logo] tv". The apple symbol, like the nike symbol, has proven strong enough to stand on its own and still be pronounced "apple tv."
By doing this, I believe Apple leverages the broad awareness of its logo, given its huge market share. Consumers are also increasingly connecting the Apple brand name with entertainment. In fact, many get there music, and now movies, via iTunes, which has become the 5th largest music retailer in the U.S.
Linksys just announced a new product with the iPhone name a few weeks ago.
So, from a trademark law standpoint, there are still some unanswered questions. In International Class Code 9, Cisco owns the "iPhone" trademark for its Linksys iPhone VOIP product. Will Linksys be forced to pull it's product from shelves? Was Apple's iPhone a case where people already associated the product as being from Apple and therefore Linksys actually infringed on Apple's name?
From Apple's perspective, "There must have been a fully negotiated agreement between Apple and Cisco," says Martin Schwimmer, of the Schwimmer Mitchell Law Firm, who will undoubtedly have some more to say about this news on The Trademark Blog.
Investing in the iPhone brand name was a good move by Apple. It's an innovative device that also represents a significant step forward in the category.
Some of its amazing features include 5 hour video battery life, Visual voicemail, a Safari Web browser, Google Maps, and a really cool Proximity Sensor that automatically deactivates the screen and turns off the touch sensor when you raise the device to your face.
As we mentioned earlier today, many customers will be green with envy of the early adopters of this new device. It seems to have everything you could ask for, and familiar usability.
The iPhone also has an iPod icon at the bottom, providing quick familiarity for owners of the 42 million iPods sold already.
In his speech, Steve Jobs also questioned how "smart" smartphones are, audaciously announcing Apple's intent to "leapfrog" that category name, introducing a new name into our lexicon: "Multitouch," the revolutionary new interface the iPhone uses.
And, already, branding partnerships are being announced. Surely, Cingular Wireless (or, wait, will that soon be AT&T Wireless?) will be connected to the Apple brand, elevating it's coolness factor, since it has now been announced it will be the service provider for the iPhone.
So, it turns out Apple, at Macworld, did indeed steal some of the thunder of the announcements at CES today. Continuing coverage of CES tomorrow, by the way...
Posted by at 2:32 PM
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It's a hectic, but exciting Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas so far, and the list of new product names being introducted seems endless.
A few names caught my eye, like the new HP Voodoo Envy HW:201 gaming laptop. Why do they call it "Envy?" According to Rahul Sood, the cofounder of Voodoo PC, it's 100% handmade (takes 30-45 days to build one) and you can "trick it out" to a cost of $5,000.
Speaking of "Envy", GigaOM noted on Sunday (with evident satisfaction) that NetGear seems to be "taking its design cues from Apple and its product offerings" - everything is white with rounded edges. One commenter says "I see your Netgear iGear and raise you a Sony iGear."
The award of the day for offbeat product names, however, goes to The Ace Bayou Corp for its X Rocker and V Rocker - two media friendly "sound system chairs," products that bring new meaning to "rocking around the house."
But some big things are happening outside of CES, not the least of which is the press opening of the North American International Auto Show, which has the blogosphere agog with great new cars. Two brand names from yesterday that have come out big are the Camero and, amazingly, the Ford Airstream concept van which simply has to be seen to be believed. This silver van melds traditional lines with the Ford Edge to the concept and design of the Airstream, that silver, torpedo-like trailer that is a staple brand name of the 50's, likely making auto enthusiasts envious.
Once things get started on January 13th, I’ll be looking at greater depth at the retro brand names as well as new alternative fuel cars like the Chevy Volt and the Saab Biopower.
Another hot topic is that Steve Jobs gives the keynote at Macworld in San Francisco today. Stay tuned to find out if we finally get that phone from Cupertino, or if Apple has an HDTV in store for us.
Nick Wingfield, of the Wall Street Journal, wrote an insightful article this morning on the "great expectations" of Jobs' keynote today. The article points out that despite the incredible hurdles and barriers to entry to the wireless phone and interactive TV markets, consumers are willing to attach Apple's brand to anything entertainment now, and thereby have high expectations of an "iPhone" or "iTV" to be announced.
Whatever Jobs introduces today, many consumers are likely to be green with envy (or is that white with round edges?)
January 8, 2007
It’s usually Microsoft’s final product names that inspire derision and disappointment among consumers, not its internal code-names. In fact, Microsoft products very often have quite interesting code-names and rather less inspiring release names. There’s no better example of this than the Windows Ultra-Mobile PC.
This much-anticipated mini-tablet had the definitely cool working name of “Origami.” Microsoft even filed for a trademark on the name in March 2006. Unfortunately, they were too late: a company called Industrial Origami, Inc had filed in the same class a month earlier. But you would have thought they could come up with something more euphonious than “UMPC.”
Now Microsoft’s developers are hard at work on the Windows Vista version of this hardware and software combination. I shudder to think what the final product name will be, because the current code name is “Vistagami.”
Someone please tell me this is a cruel joke played on gullible bloggers. The more prosaic “Pocket Vista” or “Vista CE” would be easier on the sensibilities.
Of course, a portmanteau name (in more modern terms, a “mash-up”) is an obvious choice for a product that combines two other products, but there are many better possible combinations of the “Origami” and “Vista” names. Even “Orivista” would be better. Or “Vistami.” Or “Vistora.” Something interesting. Something unique.
Now CES is upon us and Microsoft has to show these devices in action. Which means they have to call them something. The good news is, they haven’t filed for a trademark on “Vistagami.” The bad news is, there’s nothing to rule out “VUMPC.”
Now that the CES has started, all I can say is thank goodness for bloggers, who keep us all focused on the big events.
It seems to me (and to the Scobleizer) that this year, at least from a computing point of view, the 2007 CES will be all about the Microsoft Vista brand name. There are hundreds of vendors dependent on Vista's success. According to Kotaku, by Jan 30 more than 1.5 million devices will work with Vista and over 2,000 products will be Certified for Windows Vista.
Everything, from UMPCs to smart phones to notebook computers, will be dependent on the success of that one brand name. The ubiquitousness of Vista at CES is leading me to agree with those that suppose Steve Jobs will be trying to "steal the thunder" from Microsoft in his keynote speech on Jan 9th at Macworld, so stay tuned.
Bill Gates, in his own keynote, gave the nod to an assortment of Vista devices, including the HP Touchsmart PC and, interestingly, the Toshiba Portégé R400, a new generation PC that muscles in on Apple's (seemingly) trademarked white color for portables.
This newest Portégé is being touted as the "signature" Vista PC, part of a "collaboration" between the two companies. The tagline even promises, "The signature notebook for Windows Vista™."
It looks like a great computer, but I wonder why Toshiba didn't work Vista, or Microsoft, into the product name? The Portégé has been around for awhile and one has to wonder if the casual consumer will "get" that this computer has been singled out as the PC of choice for the new Vista program?
The name Portégé is a coined name with no English or Spanish meaning, but it does remind me of the word "portage," which is a hiking trail connecting two lakes separated by forest. What an interesting name that could have been for this product, despite the fact that it is the name for a Linux project and a line of luggage.
I predict that today will be Vista's day at CES, and I am interested to see what Steve Jobs has to say in response tomorrow.
January 7, 2007
Today, Sunday, I am starting with a link to Dwight Silverman at TechBlog, who notes that this is going to be a banner week for two reasons: CES opens officially on Monday (with Bill Gates giving his "opening shtick" on Sunday night) and on Tuesday Steve Jobs will give his own keynote at Macworld, dealing with all of the rumors that have been floating around for weeks, ranging from wishes for phones to a new one about an Apple 16:9 HDTV that has yet to be named.
But be warned, it might be that nothing of interest will happen at Macworld and all the action and interesting names will be at CES. TechBlog will be blogging live from both events so check in with them for appropriate links.
And while I admire all the incredible technical blogs out there, I stumbled across a blog entitled Shiny Shiny — A Girl's Guide to Gadgets, that makes 10 predictions for CES that I think are pretty good.
Interesting to note that many of these names were mentioned in a recent MarketWatch article that predicted a banner year for consumer electronics.
Somebody should tell the people at Strategy Analytics, who see things from a slightly less rosy perspective.
January 6, 2007
The CES in Las Vegas, which starts officially on Monday, is already giving us some names that should raise eyebrows. The term for the day is "Dumb Thumb." Now, I have always granted my fingers all pretty much the same intelligence, but because my opposable thumb does make me Homo Sapiens ("man who knows"), I have always privately believed that the thumb was something special. Now, UMPC maker Seamless Wi-Fi has given us the S-XGen™ which promises to do away with "dumb thumb" typing.
"Dumb Thumb" typing turns out to be Blackberry/Treo style messaging that has execs on subways hunched over their devices looking for all the world like 80s high school kids playing Mattel Electronic Football. The S-XGen combines a cellphone, tablet PC, laptop and PDA. The president and CEO of the company is selling these things with the statement that "fingers are a terrible thing to waste." Elsewhere, they promise to "turn users into mobile powerhouses, not thumb suckers".
It is indeed true that today's PDA phones give your thumbs a beating — a year or so ago CNN ran a story on the fact that "users of small gadget keypads feel the effects of overuse."
But should we really be calling those millions of sore thumbs "dumb"? Granted, I suppose there must be legions of yuppies out there with inflamed thumb joints complaining "ouch, my dumb thumb is killing me!" And the term Dumb Thumb, I have found, is occasionally used in the model helicopter field to describe pushing the sticks in the wrong direction.
On the other hand, the rest of us might declare 2006 The Year of the Smart Thumb. Consider how the thumb is used on today's gadgets: it needs a light touch on the iPod's wheel, a firmer touch on the scroll of numerous cell phones and iPod knock offs, and Mozart-like dexterity on Blackberrys. It is used all day while text messaging and dialing. Dumb indeed!
Still, I can see these guys with brand new S-XGens smirking when a colleague pulls out a Blackberry Pearl, saying "Oh, I see you bought another 'dumb thumb' device. Look at mine!"
I just have to ask if at a whopping $1400 (same as an iMac Core Duo with an extra gig of RAM and a free, thumb-friendly iPod thrown in), if anyone save for the truly geeky, possibly the thumbless or maybe the incurably thumbaphobic is going to give these things the thumbs up.
January 5, 2007
Now, seven months later, the reality has set in and the dismantling of Cingular has begun in earnest. Olga Kharif wrote an insightful article in BusinessWeek yesterday that the loss of the Cingular name signals the convergence of wireless and wireline communications.
In that vein, there’s an article on Computers.net by Bob Caswell explaining how AT&T's move will probably mean that the company is going to be forced to turn away from "net neutrality" and will be forcing its broadband customers to use its "AT&T Yahoo! High Speed Internet U-verse Enabled" service with cranky "middleware" from Alcatel and Microsoft, making the name "net neutrality" a "buzzword of the past."
l noted last year that the change will cost the company $2 billion in rebranding expenses, but this week Doug Berger quotes AT&T on the Gadgetell blog as saying that this pales in comparison to the $4 billion they are spending to "raise the bar" (Cingular's famous slogan.)
AT&T is very serious about revamping and modernizing what Kharif feels is a "stodgy" name and cannibalizing Cingular is clearly the first order of business. The Thingnamer blog summed the news up nicely yesterday: "AT&T-Bellsouth merger complete. Cingular’s rebranding inevitable."
AT&T plans to use its well-known name on all of its products - local, long distance, wireless, data and video. I think, however, that AT&T is serious about modernizing its brand striving for a consistent and congruent brand architecture.
You can read more about the name change at CrunchGear, including the somewhat confusing geneology of the names involved. Matt Hickey discusses how AT&T completing the Cingular merger is confusing mobile history buffs. Check out the comments, too, regarding readers opinions on the value of the Cingular brand name versus the AT&T brand name.
January 4, 2007
I have been watching the news from the 40th CES in Las Vegas and reading about the incredible electronics gear that will be launched once the show starts Jan 8th.
And I cannot help but notice that electronics product names seem to fall into two camps: either mishmashes, or portmanteaus, of two words (FinePix, Streamload, Netstairs) or else one irreverent, neologism, or created word (Jadoo, Athentec.)
It's difficult to decide which is better, although my gut feeling is that mishmashed names seem more dated and awkward than standalone, created names like Jangl (which, by the way, Gizmodo says is a tool that "lets you share phone numbers without sharing phone numbers"). Perhaps this signifies the same sort of shift to coined names that has happened with search engine naming.
I do think, however, that a witty company name like Let It Wave engenders more curiosity on my part than a name like Streamload. Neither name directly says what the company does, but one makes me want to visit the booth more.
Posted by William Lozito at 8:09 AM
Posted to Brand Naming | Branding | Company Naming | Consumer Electronics | Linguistics | Marketing | Media and Entertainment | Naming | Product Naming | Retail | Technology | Telecommunications
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January 3, 2007
The 2007 CES in Las Vegas (Jan 8-11) is set to be a jackpot of product names and we are planning on covering new product name news as it unfolds.
Already the news, rumor and innuendo on the blogosphere has reached a crescendo, with such a huge number of new products slated to be introduced that I hardly know where to start. That said, there are already a few tantalizing names that have come out that I'll look at today and I will add to these in the days leading up to the conference.
For starters, there is the Autonet Mobile Unit, which creates a "moving Wi-Fi hotspot to access email or go online," according to WinForms. John Gartner at Wired asks, with tongue firmly in cheek, "how did they think up that pithy name?" and I have to wonder as well, however the product looks very interesting. Check out the full blog post to find out more.
It looks like this product will find its way into Avis rental cars, according to Slashdot, eclipsing the functionality of the also weirdly named "Junxionbox."
The other news, of course, is that Microsoft might introduce an interesting new product name with its introduction of Vistagami, a Vista-based UMPC. The name is a mish-mash of Vista and Origami, the original name for the ill-fated Tablet PC.
There are some interesting names on the way via CES: The Sonneteer Sedley brand name sounds pretty cool. Sonneteer offers us the Bardaudio wireless range. It's a great name, but I am a Shakespeare buff and there's no doubt William, a pretty good sonneteer in his own right, would be into wireless sound.
I like the sound of "Chestnut Hill Sound" - how refreshingly American it is (and East Coast America, too!) And naming a product from a Boston company "George" is just great: one thinks of King George III and his troublesome relationship with the city, and there's also the tie to President Bush's first name, as well as George Clooney and even George magazine.
Chestnut Hill Sound's website URL deserves kudus, as well: www.chillsound.com. It's probably a reflection that most people in the industry seem to refer to the company as "Chillsound." Very nice, and very cool. Good luck at CES, George and Company.
Posted by William Lozito at 8:07 AM
Posted to Brand Naming | Branding | Company Naming | Consumer Electronics | Marketing | Media and Entertainment | Naming | Product Naming | Technology | Telecommunications
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January 2, 2007
Lake Superior State University has published its 32nd annual list of "banished words" for 2007 and it's just awesome (whoops, used a word that was banished over twenty years ago). Here's the complete list.
Edward Willett thinks that the best banishment is the phrase "now playing in theaters" (Where else do we find movies? Laundromats?) The Education in Texas blog likes the fact that combined celebrity names (TomKat, Brangelina) have gotten the boot, as well as "i-ANYTHING," "armed robbery gone bad", and "ask your doctor."
I agree that the term "boasts" has been terribly abused in recent years. The listing explains its dismissal from the language noting that ads for real estate often read "master bedroom boasts his-and-her fireplaces - never 'bathroom apologizes for cracked linoleum,' or 'kitchen laments pathetic placement of electrical outlets.'"
MJ Murphy gives the list the nod and leads us to an interesting list of 1,159 words "not allowed on personalized jerseys at the NFL Shop" because they are offensive. These include some clearly raciest and homophobic terms and names.
David Ringer, inspired by the Lake Superior list, has published a list of Banished Birding words for 2007 which include "x-bill" for "crossbill" and "fallout." Mr. Wave Theory, on the other hand, has used the list to help people clean up their Web 2.0 vocabulary, and the Colbert Nation has acknowledged that its creation of the word "truthiness" has raised the University's ire.
And, finally, something we've written about before, the verbification and genericization of "google" led to the banishment of the term "search."
January 1, 2007
In preparation for a flight last week, I was looking to find a puzzles book that could easily occupy my time for a few hours. Since the new craze is Sudoku, I of course caved into the public hysteria and looked for a book that was perfect for my skill level.
It was hard to avoid one particular brand - that of Will Shortz’s name on the cover - which had filled at least 4 shelves worth. For those game aficionados out there, Will Shortz is a brand name akin to Superman. For those who aren’t familiar, Will Shortz is the New York Times Crossword Puzzles editor.
Will Shortz has had a huge following since he took the post in 1993, mainly because he re-enlivened the crossword puzzle, breaking a few rules and adding a certain wit to it.
As recently as this summer, his popularity reached a new level with Wordplay, a documentary focusing on Mr. Shortz and on the lives of New York Times crossword devotees, including Bill Clinton, Jon Stewart, and Yankee pitcher Mike Mussina.
He has become, in many ways, a cult figure. Or better still, a cult brand.
How we define this kind of brand is best articulated by Bob Dowly in a recent Business Week article called Rise of the Cult Brand. Dowly holds that a cult brand inspires consumers to continue their devotion to the product beyond purchase by proselytizing its brand to their friends, building websites about it, attending events, and proclaiming their status as a proud user.
Mr. Shortz indeed satisfies these criteria. In addition to Wordplay, he has an NPR show; he hosts an annual Crossword tournament in Stamford, CT; and now he is associated with a new brand of Sudoku books that has expanded to 50+ volumes in total in just 2 years.
St. Martin’s Press - the publisher of Will Shortz’s Sudoku books - has done something smart. By putting his imprimatur on the cover, they are capitalizing on his fan base and encouraging them to break their brand loyalty to the crossword and shifting it to (or at least sharing it with) Sudoku.
This has already paid off - his book, Sudoku Easy Presented by Will Shortz, Vol. 1, was the 13th best selling trade paperback of 2005...and that was before the documentary came out.