February 28, 2007
Federated Department Stores Inc. announced on Tuesday that it will be changing it’s name to Macy’s Group Inc. This is part of Federated’s larger efforts to make the Macy’s name a national brand, and comes after years of the Macy’s name replacing some of the best known names in department store history: including Marshall Field’s, a store I was especially fond of.
According to Chairman and CEO Terry Lundgren, the Macy’s name change “more accurately reflects the transformation of our business in recent years.” He added, “Today, we are a brand-driven company focused on Macy's and Bloomingdale's, not a federation of department stores.” Macy’s also got the nod for the name change because the brand name represents 90% of the company's sales.
There’s an excellent blog post up by Alexandra Biesada on Bizmology that looks at the rise of Federated and its chief rival, JC Penney. Both companies are busy revitalizing a shopping medium that once seemed dead - and bringing in younger, hipper customers by partnering with well known brand names: Federated partners with Martha Stewart and Elie Tahari while JC Penney partners with Liz Claiborne and Nicole Miller and offers in-store Sephora shops.
Federated, partly through aligning its strategy around the Macy’s brand name, has shown some very strong profits. Eli Portnoy notes on The Brand Man Speaks blog that in changing the (unknown) Federated name to the (well known) Macy’s name, the company is emulating Target's similar move and, at the same time making itself more attractive to investors.
I think that this is an excellent move on the part of Federated. As Lundgren told Women’s Wear Daily, adding the word “Group” to the name is a nod to the well known Bloomingdale’s brand name. It’s also a reflection of the way the Neiman Marcus Group operates Bergdorf Goodman or the J. Crew Group, which also has Crewcuts and Madewell in its fold.
I was interested as well to read that Macy’s in-house Hotel brand name is one of its fastest growing lines - surely what is good for the Macy’s brand name is good for this one as well.
February 27, 2007
If the names “Bumblebee™,” “Autobot Jazz®,” “Autobot Ratchet®” and “Ironhide®” mean nothing to you, then you're not the target market for the new Transformers movie.
GM is aiming to create an association between its brand name and the movie, linking itself with toy giant Hasbro and the entire Transformers product line, which analysts expect will make a huge comeback this year.
Autobot Jazz transforms into a Pontiac Solstice, Autobot Ratchet turns into a Hummer H2, and Ironhide turns into a GMC TopKick medium-duty truck. Pretty cool...but some fans are a little miffed about Bumblebee, who, back in the day, transformed into a very recognizable...VW Beetle. Now he’s a buffed Camaro.
More than that, we are likely to see a Transformers line of GM cars. They will not actually transform into anything, but Jessica Barnes reports that they will probably simply be special versions of the above-mentioned models with “an Autobots or Decepticon” on the back.
Bloggers are asking the logical question: will product placement in a kids movie prompt adults to buy the cars? Well, millions of adults actually will be seeing the movie: those who are dragged there by their kids, and those who have already booked their tickets (and probably have a few Transformer toys lying around the basement.)
If VW can successfully place a car in Curious George, then more extensions are likely.
This is another excellent example of the growth of product placement in entertainment, which, according to Mother Jones, was worth $3.5 billion in 2004, a 200% increase from 1994. Some GM brands, in fact, live on only in reruns (and our hearts), like the now defunct Oldsmobile, for example.
February 26, 2007
A post yesterday on Brent Scarcliff’s blog, Service Branding | The Magic Of Cruise Ship Naming, really got me thinking.
Brent links back to The Cruise Log by Gene Sloan, a USA Today blog, and discusses the “startling lack of imagination” that cruise lines display when naming their ships. Yes, The Princess and Norwegian lines seem to be virtually trading names, as are Carnival and Disney.
The names “Freedom," "Dawn,” “Pride,” and “Magic” seem to be popular. This post comes just as Disney announces that it will offer two bigger, sleeker liners - you can even watch them being built via webcam. John Frost at The Disney Blog is welcoming new naming ideas.
As a naming consultant, I suggest that the name of the new ships resonate with passengers and reflect the size. I must say that Disney seems to be leaving its competitors in its wake which puts the field wide open for some more adventurous naming.
Disney cruise liners are, from one perspective, an incredible way to build the Disney brand name. As Brent points out, the weight of nautical tradition and the onus of making the name “sound like a cruise ship," as well as a a need to “be all things to all people” are the impediments here.
The name of the current flagship, “Magic,” is taken right out of Disney's brand essence to bring “magic moments” to its customers, or "family magic" as its promise. Can that name be expanded in the future? Or is it time for Disney to turn to some of the legendary names in its stable: other liners may be called “Princess” but the Cinderella name is quintessentially Disney's.
February 25, 2007
On Tuesday, the romantically named Barbary Coast casino, one of the older names on the Vegas Strip, is going to disappear and open up on Friday as Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon.
While The Barbary Coast is not one of the truly classic old names in Vegas like the Stardust, which will be imploded in March, it’s been around since 1979. In Vegas years that makes it an old dog indeed, and its naming is reminiscent of the romance of the "Old Vegas" of the fifties and early sixties, when names like The Sands, The Palms, The Stardust, and Caesar's Palace marked a trend of larger than life naming mythology.
The name change comes as ownership of The Barbary Coast is transferred from Boyd Gaming Corp. to Harrah’s for a swatch of 24 acres next to the soon to be demolished Stardust (land which includes the site of the long gone Westward Ho). The name is a tribute to Harrah’s founder Bill Harrah, not Bill Gates, but I consider it a poor choice, as does VegasRex and the responders at Two Way Hard Three.
Vegas names are supposed to conjure up a mythical world of wealth, hope and decadence (think Bellagio). I am not really convinced that a casino name should include truncated words like "Gamblin'" in a world where half of the visitors will be booking their tickets online and may be erroneously typing "Gambling Hall" into Yahoo Travel. I just can’t see anyone getting excited to fly to Vegas and stay at a place called "Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon."
This is not the week's least appropriate name, however. That award goes to a deep roasted espresso coffee brand name in Japan. The name? Deeppresso. This name just can’t help but make you sad.
February 24, 2007
A recent post on Needlenose that had me laughing was entitled "On Super Secret Company Names": sometimes the company name has to actually hide what the company does — it is a name that tries to be bland and forgettable so the company can go about its business undetected (think James Bond’s Universal Exports or Valerie Plame’s Brewster Jennings & Associates).
According to SF Gate, Iran seems to have a series of front companies that are actually into nuclear development. Their names are Tamin Tajhizat Sanayeh Hasteieh, Shakhes Behbood Sanaat and Sookht Atomi Reactorhaye Iran. But these have been named pretty badly. Translated, they mean:
- Tamin Tajhizat Sanayeh Hasteieh: Corporation for Obtaining Nuclear Industries.
- Shakhes Behbood Sanaat: Division for Industrial Improvement.
- Sookht Atomi Reactorhaye Iran: Iranian Nuclear Reactor Fuel Company.
These are in fact corporate renamings; the original names were actually good and obscure: "Farayand Technique Co." and "Pars Thrash Co."
This article reminded me that it could be that some companies seem to "pretend" to be generic but through their own obscurity are becoming well known. Confused? Try the Olevia line of flat-panel TVs, which the New York Times calls "The No-Name Brand Behind the Latest Flat-Panel Price War" (subscription required). Olevia is a brand owned by the Syntax-Brillian Corporation, another name that is hard to remember and pronounce.
Couple that with last week’s news that GE is getting together with Asian based General Imaging Co. (now there’s a bland name worthy of a front company) to make cameras. The news is no longer "A major USA brand is outsourcing cameras to Asia." Instead we are learning the brand names of those companies that have remained nameless for so long. And those names sound established and boring and fait accompli. "General Imaging" is a name that I feel was clearly formulated to sound like a brand name extension of GE itself.
February 23, 2007
Are hip-hop moguls the most innovative co-branders in the entertainment industry?
I am consistently impressed by the aggressive branding efforts by stars from the hip-hop scene. The crossover branding is pretty good, whether you are talking about Sean Combs or Jay-Z.
A very nice recent case in point is the way rapper DMX has gone from launching a DMX Authentic Line, to a line of canine clothes, to the forthcoming Earl Simmons Signature collection, the new brand name that “turns the Sean John business model on its head - selling his birth-name at a markup, instead of the Macy’s sale rack.”
Meanwhile, Def Jam Interactive and Electronic Arts have a feature built into their new video game Def Jam: Icon that allows players to purchase virtual brand name clothing from real life designers as part of their struggle to become hip-hop icons. Don’t expect to see Brooks Brothers or LL Bean in the game, however. Instead look out for clothing from Sean John (natch), Phat Farm and Rocawear.
This happens while hip hop fashion brand Sedgwick & Cedar ‘73 - a name which “represents the actual intersection where hip hop was born in 1973 at 1520 Sedgwick Ave (1st House Party) and Cedar Park (1st Block Party) in the Bronx NY” - is born from a promotional mix tape of some of the hottest up-and-coming emcees.
Expect to see yet more of the Sedgwick & Cedar brand name on your sports screens as well as in your iPod: they just hired sports and entertainment agent Glen Toby to promote their name with major entertainers and athletes and are looking for more co-branding deals with other consumer brands worldwide.
February 22, 2007
As Christopher Snowbeck of the St. Paul Pioneer Press pointed out in his February 19th article, there’s a long tradition of naming medical devices for their inventors.
The term “stent” itself comes from the name of a nineteenth-century British dentist, Charles T. Stent. His name, in turn, appears to be related to the Latin verb for “to stand,” from which we get the word “status.” If true, that makes “stent” a doubly appropriate name, since anything Latin has a scientific ring to it.
Professional naming companies work with clients to develop names that appeal to a new product’s target market. In most respects, naming a cardiac stent is like naming any other product. Because it’s a medical device, names based on Greek and Latin roots might be more appropriate than those derived from other languages.
Because surgeons have more influence than patients do on the purchase of stents, it’s worth considering any advantages a new stent has for the doctor, as well as benefits for the patient. Because stents are used to treat life-threatening conditions, a frivolous name would be inappropriate.
Within the community of surgeons and medical researchers, naming a product after its inventor is both attractive and effective. In a small community of specialists, everyone knows everyone else. A well-known inventor’s name brings brand-recognition to the new product—at least among the people who matter most when the product is first released.
Outside of that first generation of consumers, a name like “Stent” or “Palmaz” has less meaning. And as long as the name meets federal requirements regarding its claims of effectiveness, any kind of name is possible.
A few of my own favorites are names which suggest benefits without being too literal:
- Fluency Plus
But I wouldn’t refuse the offer to name the product after me.
According to Mike Dobbs at Out of the Inkwell, this year marks the official return of eighties toy names we all know and love.
Hasbro is indeed expanding on licensed brand names like SpongeBob, Toy Story and Spiderman Three but has now decided to “build its core brands.” This often means taking an old brand name and putting it on a newer product: offering debit cards on the new Monopoly game, for example, and promoting old fashioned “Twister” as well as “Outdoor Twister” and “Dodgeball Twister.”
More than that, we’ll see new versions of “Operation” (Operation Rescue) and “Candyland” (Candyland Castle). Express versions of Scrabble and Life have been put out for people who want a “fulfilling robust game experience in 20 minutes.”
LEGO, for its part, is returning to “basics” and is moving away from the complex Bionicle line back to “what they know best: construction sets.” This means that they will sell mosaic sets for girls wanting to do art and a set called “Aqua Raiders,” the first LEGO set with an underwater theme.
There will also be an expanded offering of licensed toy names, with Star Wars being the big money spinner. This year, to celebrate the 80th release of A New Hope, George Lucas was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame. I have to wonder what took them so long: that man is responsible for the creation of more toy lines than Santa.
Of course, toy product naming can take some odd twists and turns, not least because your target market is kids. But there is no question that licensing and co-branding deals can have some very grown-up spin offs.
For example, John Deere’s toy strategy has all but ensured that every single American boy knows that John Deere makes tractors and farm equipment, even if the closest he’ll ever get to the farm is the produce aisle in Wegman’s.
NASCAR and Harley-Davidson all have interesting die cast products that are cool enough for dad to hijack once the kids are in bed. NASCAR has already co-branded with Monopoly. But, some parents find they have too many toys on their hands, and Carol Holst has some simple solutions regarding their kids' toys.
February 20, 2007
Imagine the U.S. Federal Government deciding to unilaterally change the names of Atlanta, Fredericksburg and Richmond because of their associations with the Civil War.
Now imagine the proposed alternatives being names like Grant City, Lincolnville and Yankee Town.
You get the idea.
Changing place names can be a tricky business, as people in St. Arnaud in New Zealand and Potchefstroom and Pretoria in South Africa are discovering.
A town council meeting in St. Arnaud was almost evenly split on the decision to change the lake town's name to Rotoiti, with a slight majority favoring the name change. If the area is named Rotoiti, it will be a reversion back to the town's original name before it was changed in 1951 to avoid confusion with Lake Rotoiti near Rotorua (say those names ten times fast!).
Those opposed to the name want to see a clearer mandate before it goes ahead, but it looks as if the change will happen.
In South Africa, however, tabled plans to change the Afrikaans names of Pretoria (the capital of the country) and Potchefstroom have met fierce resistance from Action Group Potchefstroom and AfriForum, who plan on pooling their legal resources to fight the changes tooth and nail.
Last year nearly 5,000 Potchefstroom residents took to the streets against changing the name and a petition opposing it went to the mayor. A serious debate was held over threatened changes to another well known name of a town close to the heart of every Afrikaner: Lydenberg. These are slated to be named Tshwane, Tlokwe and Mashishing respectively.
Many other South African place names are facing a change, including Pietersburg, Louis Trichardt, Potgietersrus, Nylstroom, Warmbad, Ellisras, and Duiwelskloof. This occurs on the heels of dozens more name changes across the country that seem aimed at dispensing with Afrikaans names.
We have colleagues in Cape Town, and they remind me that many South Africans today see Afrikaans names as a hangover from the country’s colonial and apartheid past but it should be noted that not all Afrikaans names have Apartheid's taint upon them and many thousands of Afrikaans people still live in the country.
Few of the names I have listed have any relation to the National Party government that ruled the country from the end of WWII until 1994 and was instrumental in the institution of apartheid. For this reason, President Thabo Mbeki is well advised to rethink these name changes that seem designed to irritate residents of these places.
Tread carefully, South Africa.
The recent announcement that the Audi A1 is going to get a revamp and a new name of course got me thinking.
Preliminary renderings show us a pretty macho looking vehicle built on the VW Polo platform, and it makes me wonder in what direction Audi’s new team will go. Should they try to find a retro name to compete with these entrenched retro small car product names? Or should they offer a more modern alternative?
I’m thinking that this car’s design is modern enough so that digging out a 1960’s brand name or developing one that sounds like it came from decades ago is not the direction Audi will go. Instead, I would guess they will choose either another alphanumeric name or else a name that sets the car apart from the nostalgia lovers.
I do think that the car should get a real brand name, however, seeing as its major competitors which also include DaimlerChrysler’s Smart car and a mystery small car challenger by sister company VW, the king of small car brand names - think Golf, Rabbit, and Beetle, which is probably also getting a makeover.
If Audi is serious about capturing market share in this very competitive segment, I recommend that they don't use an alphanumeric nomenclature but develop a brand name that could become potentially iconic over time.
Sometimes a product name carries incongruous connotations. This is certainly the case with Fox River’s Pro Choice socks. It’s a name that makes you wonder. Is there something political about these socks? Are they meant to be worn by feminists at rallies in front of Planned Parenthood clinics? Is there also a line of Pro Life socks?
In actuality, Pro Choice socks are ordinary-looking Lycra® athletic socks. Given that their other socks have names like “Explorer,” "Trailhead,” and “Fieldmaster,” it’s pretty clear the name has nothing to do with Fox River’s stance on abortion (assuming it has one). And no, they don’t have any socks called “Pro Life.” Or “Amateur Choice,” either.
For this brand, “Pro Choice” is meant to suggest that the socks are the choice of professionals. It would be more appropriate (if less intriguing) to call them “Pro’s Choice.”
While it’s not clear why these socks should be the choice for professionals, the name “Pro Choice” doesn’t seem to have stirred up any particular excitement, so it may not be that much of a misstep after all.
If you have a good example of a product name that carries incongruous connotations that you'd like to share, leave a comment to this post.
February 19, 2007
The Chicago Tribune and Fox News are embroiled in a suit over the “Red Eye” name.
The Chicago Tribune has a free, five year old weekly tabloid called RedEye that covers current events and celebrity gossip, while Fox earlier this month introduced a late night show called “Red Eye.” The Tribune has two federal trademark registrations on RedEye, one for the name and one for the design.
The name “Red Eye” is certainly in common usage, but the Chicago Tribune might get legal traction from the fact that the paper and the Fox TV show seemed to be aimed at the same demographic and have extremely similar content, leading potential customers to erroneously assume “Fox and the RedEye products owned by Tribune are collaborating, thereby causing confusion.”
Fox, for its part, seems to have admitted to not doing a trademark search before the show’s first airing on February 6th, and “ignored” the newspaper's request not to use the name before the initial broadcast.
More care might have been taken to recognize that a potential “lawsuit” was coming, not least because it would have been clear that another news agency was already using this trademarked name and obviously prepared to defend it.
Therefore, if the Chicago Tribune's claims do hold water legally, it appears that it will be due to sheer negligence and hubris on Fox’s part. A preliminary injunction has been motioned and the first hearing will be on February 26. I have to add that it seems almost impossible to believe that a trademark search was not made on such a common name, but that might be the crux of the matter:
“Red Eye” looks to the average person as a name up for grabs; it is synonymous with early morning anything. But the Chicago Tribune's claims look pretty strong - ”likelihood of confusion” in this case is indeed pretty likely.
I predict, however, that a group of Polish poets are not going to be so lucky.
They are facing a similar problem as the Red Eye issue, but their fight is with Google over the domain name “gmail.pl” which was sold to them by a local provider. Turns out that GMAIL is an acronym in Polish for Grupa Mlodych Artystow i Literatow or Group of Young Artists and Writers.
Whoever sold these guys the domain name did so in error. Justice (poetic or not) might be Google’s, in this case. Negligently using a protected brand name, whether you are a poet or a TV broadcaster, is just not going to fly.
February 18, 2007
Disney and the granddaughters of Pooh creators A.A. Milne and illustrator Ernest Shepard have lost a 16 year court battle against Stephen Slesinger Inc over royalties to 25 names from Winnie the Pooh. This opens the door for Slesinger’s people to sue Disney for what they perceive amounts to $2 bil worth of lost revenues over Winne the Pooh related videos and merchandise.
Disney is in the Very Messy Situation of licensing these names from Slesinger via a 76 year old agreement that might as well have been drawn up by Christopher Robin himself, who could not foresee the day when every kid's bedroom (as well as sleeping bags, pillows and pajamas) would be festooned with these characters, as well as every computer and DVD player, raking in $6 bil yearly for Disney.
I have to agree with Pribek at "Trouble Ain’t Over" that this type of situation is very un-Disney like; the company is so well known for its willingness to scrupulously protect its names and characters. While the decision has no bearing over Disney's rights to the Pooh name and those of his friends, it is A Very Sticky Business indeed.
But it is of course a lesson in protecting product names: if Disney can get stung by litigious bees, then we all have to be careful because the company has more lawyers on retainer than Pooh has honey pots.
It’s always unwise to go bouncing on to the market like Tigger without copyrighting and protecting every single name you can. The Slesinger estate is now attempting to void the trademarks on Winnie the Pooh they feel were taken illegally. This move, if successful, would be a disaster for Disney, but I think it's unlikely. I foresee some sweet stuff flowing to the Slesinger crew and Disney carrying on the Pooh legacy forever and ever.
February 17, 2007
Okay, so how do you pronounce "Vichysoise"? You know, the fancy French potato soup that's served cold. Is it vee shee swah? Or is it vee shee swahz?
And how do you pronounce "coup de grâce," the kindly act performed by the officer in charge of the firing squad at the end of his duties? You hear it all the time in the movies, and you probably say it yourself from time to time. Do you say koo duh grahss or is it koo duh grah?
Are you sure of that? Because the correct pronunciations (if we take as our index of correctness the way the words would be pronounced by an educated native French speaker) are, respectively, vee shee swahz and koo duh grahss.
It's funny, isn't it, how apt we are as Americans to characterize as "charming" the vaguely butchered English cobbled together by so many native French speakers? The French (and particularly the Parisians) certainly don't appear to be charmed by our less-than-perfect attempts to speak their language.
But I digress! This little essay is not really about the linguistic intolerance of the French. Nor does it seek to belittle those Americans whose pronunciation of French words is less than perfect. In fact, I would venture to guess that a majority of Americans would tend to pronounce one or both of the above French terms without the final consonant sound; swah and grah just sound more French, don't they? Besides, anyone who has ever suffered through a few Elementary French classes knows that half the consonants in French are silent. The question is just which ones!
So now consider this: Suppose you were trying to market a brand of fancy French potato soup to be served cold, and you wanted to benefit by the (you should pardon the expression) "cachet" that seems to be automatically conveyed by the French language in all matters culinary.
- Would you dare call it Vichysoise, and, if you did, how would you pronounce it?
- Would it be vee shee swahz (which is "correct" and therefore pleasing to the potential market in France, plus the rather limited group of Americans who have devoted years of study to the French language "as she is spoke by ze Parisien").
- Or should it be vee shee swah (which might actually sound "righter" to a much greater number of American consumers)?
There is, of course, no absolute answer to this question. The problem cannot and should not be resolved without the requisite study and careful consideration it deserves.
Which brings me to the point I would like to make: be very careful when using foreign words to achieve cachet with a product name. Stopping by the foreign language department of the nearby college to see if your grammar and/or pronunciation are "correct" is simply not enough.
February 16, 2007
The New York Times’ Stuart Elliott just profiled RJ Reynolds’s new brand for women, Camel No. 9, which it will add to its herd of almost 30 variations on the Camel brand name (Camel Wides, Camel Turkish Gold, Kamel Special Lights and Camel 99 are just a few).
Reynolds has discovered that despite the massive name recognition and appeal of its 80 year old Camel brand name, only 30% of the its buyers are women despite the fact that women make up half of the smoking demographic, seeming to prefer competing brands like Marlboro (40% women buyers), Newport (50%) and female-orientated Virginia Slims.
With all due respect to RJ Reynolds, at first glance the brand name “Camel” is just not going to be much of a winner with women, given that the average camel is a large, humped, bad-smelling beast and most of the advertising around the name over the years has been decidedly macho (think Joe Camel and The Camel Man).
Camel No. 9 seems to get around this problem by brazenly associating the iconic name with perfume, especially hoping consumers recall sound-alike Chanel No. 19 and, possibly, the perfume-tinged song “Love Potion No. 9.”
The Reynolds reps insist that “No. 9” simply signifies “dressed to the nines, putting on your best.” But the slick black box with its hot pink piping looks like a it was deeply inspired by the Chanel box, as is the typography of the words “No. 9.”
I also cannot help but be reminded of the distinctive Tiffany (who also conveniently have their own perfume) box in terms of the overall layout as well as the teal color chosen for the menthol version. The Camel itself has been shrunk, centered and rendered in hot-pink fuchsia, now truly a brand logo rather than a motif, and the familiar desert scenery is gone.
This is Camel by night - a glammed up version of the familiar brand name.
More than that, the slogan used to support the name has a distinct feminine feel: “light and luscious.” My feeling is that this brand name illustrates very well that you can choose your own product name associations and effectively reposition a sub-brand away from the parent brand if you know what you are doing.
Making women think of perfume when they see the the ubiquitous Camel? That is no small feat.
February 15, 2007
Guy Kawasaki just wrote a blog post about “framing”: the way word choice affects our perceptions of the thing the words describe. He uses music-sharing as an example: is it “piracy,” or is it “a music-listener’s revolt” against an oppressive industry?
This is a clear example of the power of names and the importance of choosing the right name—as the commenter who asks whether “framing” isn’t just a fancy term for “spin” points out.
Kawasaki himself keeps reframing his blog by renaming it. It started out as “Let the Good Times Roll,” a play on his name (and a possible trademark infringement, but let’s not get into that). That was a name that implied fun, rather than a serious approach to the topics he covered. When he decided to use the Latin version of that name, “Bona Tempora Volvantur,” the effect was somewhat more highbrow. But would anyone looking for Kawasaki’s thoughts on business search for it? Not likely.
The next name, “Signum Sine Tinnitu,” Latin for “signal without noise,” created a better frame—for those who knew what it meant. Kawasaki explained the meaning in a post at the time he made the change, but was still stuck with a name most readers wouldn’t understand, never mind search for.
As of this writing, the blog is called “How to Change the World: A Practical Blog for Impractical People.” It’s a good name. It has drama. It’s in English. It makes you want to know more. Moreover, it’s the likely title of Kawasaki’s next book, so it has marketing value beyond the blog itself.
But the name which matters most with regard to this blog is still “Guy Kawasaki.”
Citogroups’s recent announcement that the company was uniting its businesses under the “Citi” brand name and selling its red umbrella logo to insurance giant St. Paul Travelers was not a surprise to most people.
Citigroup has long needed to present a unified brand name to the world and has done it with the Citi initiative.
The company’s various divisions (which briefly included the original Travelers Group and its umbrella logo) will start using different colored logos all with the recognizable red arc logo. The company names will change to reflect inclusion in the Citi brand as well: Citi Smith Barney, Citi Investment Research and Citi Private Bank. Citi’s legal corporate name, however, will remain Citigroup Inc.
Citi’s return of the famous Travelers umbrella has caused much happiness in Hartford, the original home of Travelers, which had flirted with the idea of throwing out the umbrella altogether as part of its effort to build its brand name via its new parent company, St Paul Travelers Cos under a winged shield logo.
Obviously, common sense prevailed and St. Paul Travelers, after it buys the umbrella for undisclosed millions, is going to change its company name to The Travelers Cos (the stock goes to TRV from STA) and will be using that umbrella logo once again.
Citigroup’s effort to collate its myriad interests under one simple, memorable, and Google-friendly name is a great one, not least because they have also named the local stadium after themselves.
The experience with the Travelers umbrella is a nice lesson in branding: you just cannot trade logos between industries. The umbrella logo says “insurance” to millions of people, not “banking.”
February 14, 2007
A recent posting by Oliver Milman on the Madcomments blog notes that “Spanish is the most likely language to be mangled by English-speaking brands.”
Hence the importance of Global Linguistic Analysis.
He lists a few true howlers, not least the famous “Got milk?” slogan that was translated as “Are you lactating?” and a U.S. airline’s unfortunate urging to customers to “fly in leather” that was translated as “fly naked.”
It’s a shame because Spain has some excellent branding work, like the raging success of Chupa Chups lollies, suckers of choice to stars like Britney Spears and Elton John.
The brand name Chupa Chups may sound funny to Americans but is perfectly suited to Spain, much like, for instance, the Kawasaki Bajaj Pulsar 150cc motorcycle revolutionized the Indian motorcycle scene just a few years ago. The fans of this brand seem to be legion in India, with one blogger stating that it “rocks.”
The affordability of the bike along with the perfect name, I feel, just might have prompted top competitor Honda to rethink its entire Indian catalogue of motorcycle brand names, especially the CBZ and Hero lines, which seem to have been quickly decimated by the Pulsar.
As more and more Chinese motorcycle brands enter world competition, we are sure to see new brands moving away from copycat sound-alike naming (witness the Hongda Waze competing against the Honda Wave) into a field where great new bikes are coupled with great new brands.
Good motorcycle branding has a real longevity: witness the new Shelby Motorcycle and the new offering by Bombardier. Witness as well the reverence in which people worldwide regard the Vespa brand name, makers of the legendary scooter that is admired even by people who don’t ride them as emblematic of Italian and “mod” culture.
February 13, 2007
It’s very common for us to take our health for granted, until something goes wrong.
Anyone who is, or knows of, a patient who regularly needs the dialysis procedure, has a sense of how interruptive it is in one’s lifestyle, not to mention the potential for an unintended infection.
A fair number of dialysis patients do contract an infection and for a percentage of them, it’s fatal.
Zuragen™, a novel, injectable antimicrobial/antithrombotic therapy from Ash Access Technology, Inc., may potentially reduce the incidence of infection from the dialysis procedure. We found it a priviledge to be able to name a medical device such as Zuragen™ that offers hope to many, many dialysis patients.
We are thrilled with the outcome of a collaborative name development process that resulted in a mellifluous combination of the familiar Latin and Greek roots, Zur- for the azure blue color of the product, and Gen- for the pathogen eradication it performs.
“Zuragen™ is an exciting technology that addresses a significant unmet medical need and has the potential to be used across a wide range of patient populations,” said Bob Truitt, President of Ash Access Technology. "In working with Strategic Name Development, we were able to develop a name that both defines our product’s unique attributes and captures the excitement of technological innovation.”
A recent irate blog post on the Measuring Up blog has Ed Moed flabbergasted over an article in the New York Times profiling the “Noka” chocolate range, which offers connoisseurs 0.9 ounces of chocolate for $39.
What makes Moed (and Damon Darlion) irate is that the stuff just has a fancy name: it’s made by a husband and wife team out off their Plano, Texas apartment using (relatively) cheap Bonnat chocolate (or so bloggers at DallasFood.org have guessed).
Fancy Name; Premium Price
Welcome to the world of product naming, folks, where a good name and brand image can warrant a 5,000% premium. This blog got me thinking about how a beginner might create a high end, super luxury chocolate brand name from scratch.
First of all, the name must sound Spanish, or possibly German and Scandinavian - anything but American or Swiss. The most expensive chocolate in the U.S. comes from a shop in Norwalk, Connecticut called Chocopologie by Knipschildt Chocolatier (this seems like an amalgamation of Belgian and German faux naming). “Noka” sounds distinctly Spanish but also reminds me of “Nokia,” the finish cell-phone company. Perhaps this was done on purpose, as LG has a cell phone that is called “Chocolate.”
Easy or Difficult to Pronounce?
Noka is easy to pronounce. As is the high end chocolate brand Amedei (great post, Victoria) which offers “Porcelana” (fairly hard to pronounce) and “Chuao” (easy to pronounce and short). Of course the names sound Spanish: “Chuao” is a kind of Venezuelan bean, “Porcelana” is the color of the white “Criollo” bean.
Vegan? Even if you are making Vegan chocolate, the Spanish naming rules remain: “Cocoa Camino” and “Vivani” are staples.
Fair Trade? I might add that you are well served to consider whether or not your chocolate should be made from “Fair Trade” cocoa beans. If you are making this stuff in your kitchen in Hackensack using no-name chocolate, it may be a reach, but it does seem to me that anything made from beans grown in the third world, be it coffee or chocolate or cocoa powder, should be “fair trade” given all the anti-chocolate feelings out there.
If you do want to create a chocolate brand that does not sound like a Starbuck’s latte, you can consider the risky business of novelty naming. Julie Burba writes that she found a “pretty darn good chocolate bar” made by Bloomsberry & Co (note the non-Spanish name, although this is of course from New Zealand) which declares itself “The World’s Greatest Pick-Up Bar” as well as one called “Instant Gratification.”
However, she does say that the best chocolate of all is from “La Téne,” a Spanish-sounding chocolate made by a one-man operation in Somerville, MA. She notes that Nirvana, Godiva (with or without Sienna Miller), Lake Champlain, and Lindt do not even measure up - and I would add that all of these non-Spanish, Swiss/American sounding names are just so yesterday (but very tasty, I must add).
I’m off for a Hershey Bar.
February 12, 2007
One of my favorite things about Valentine’s day is the chance to review the various lingerie offerings out there in search of interesting brand names to recommend to my amorous readers.
Lingerie companies seem to have a taste for great names. Knickers: A Lingerie Webog is of course the first port of call, where they have helpfully posted “25 Perfect Lingerie Labels for Valentine's Day.” Lingerie brand names that caught my eye are “Eternal Spirits,” “Lounge Lover,” “Miss Mandalay,” “Prima Donna,” “Twisted Thrift” and the weirdest lingerie name: “Bela’s Dead.”
It seems that the US Air Force has spent $20 million developing high-tech shorts and underwear that can be worn for weeks without washing - perfect for those of us who are so romantic that we can’t bear to part with our corsets even for two hours. This product has yet to be named but I doubt either Victoria's Secret (who just launched their interestingly named “Very Sexy For Her 2” perfume line) or Frederick’s of Hollywood will be carrying lingerie made of this stuff anytime soon.
The Fashion & Modeling blog has a great post on the dos and don'ts of lingerie buying and wearing (be yourself, work your curves) while IndieLondon has helpfully posted a Valentine lingerie buying guide that gives us some interesting tidbits: g-strings are out, they say, because women find men’s shorts more appealing, and only two percent of men find raunchy underwear sexy anyway.
Maybe boxer brand names and not silky nothings will be the big winners this year.
February 11, 2007
As a professional naming consultant, I think the fledgling industry of personal submarines needs some naming help. There is a specialist engineering company out there that offers a well named product called the Aquarius, which is more like an underwater sports car, priced at a cool $1,500,000. But the company's name is "Subeo," a name that sounds, I think, like a night club in Miami.
However, the new, cheaper personal submarine on the market for the less well heeled is the C-Quester. I’m of the opinion that the use of sound alike names using consonants is pretty much dead, and really not a great idea for brand names where people's lives depend on the product's functionality. Perhaps the irreverent sub names stem from the Beatles song "Yellow Submarine."
But the company that makes this product gets the Strategic Name Development door prize for most poorly thought out corporate name in the last ten years: U-Boat Worx. Never mind the overuse of the consonants, we actually have a peacetime company trying to sell Europeans and Americans their own personal U-boats.
I’m sure very few of us have forgotten that the term "U-boat" (note that the historical name has the lowercase "b") was what the German navy called their submarines during WW I and II. It was a U-boat that sunk the passenger liner Lusitania, promoting the entrance of the USA into WW I, for goodness sakes. And probably no other nautical term is so closely associated with the Nazis, who used their U-boats to sink millions of tons of shipping, killing thousands of sailors, in an attempt to strangle Britain.
The company tells us that "U-Boat" means "underwater boat," which also happens to be the meaning of the "U-boat" — the abbreviation of the word Unterseeboot (under sea boat) in German.
Maybe, just maybe, the company could have said it means "The Boat For You," but nein, this is Third Reich naming at its best. It should be noted that 60% of the real "U-boats" were sunk, so naming your new sub the "U-Boat" is sort of like calling your new new ultra-light line the "Zero," after the doomed kamikaze fighter plane of WWII Japan (a legendary brand name that it’s maker, Mitsubishi, would probably rather we forgot).
Jokes aside, I simply cannot think of a more despised military name coming out of twentieth century history. I might also add that this company is based in the Netherlands, a country that was invaded and occupied by the Nazis. These guys should know better.
As if the term "U-boat" isn’t bad enough, the word "Worx" reminds me of the German word "Werke," or "company." And ending any corporate name with a sound-alike to the word "work" puts you clearly in German naming territory (think BMW: Bayerische Motoren Werke). Frankly, it would not be inconceivable that Hitler had a factory called U-Boot (German for U-boat) Werke (he didn’t).
February 10, 2007
I have noticed a distinct resurgence in classic motorcycle names and models lately, something that was underlined to me at the 26th annual Cycle World International Motorcycle Show, which was here in Minneapolis last week before moving on to Chicago and then to Atlanta at the end of the month. As most readers know, I have a special fondness for classic bike brands and was excited to learn earlier that the Indian Motorcycle was making a comeback.
An assortment of great bikes are on show from the big brand names like Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki — not to mention Harley Davidson. But there were also plenty of classic names like Ducati and Vespa, both of which seem to have retro models out, not least the gorgeous Vespa GT-60 (only 999 produced) which is a limited edition model based on classic 1950s lines. Ducati, for its part, offers us the “New Blue”, an homage to the 1977 Daytona winning 750SS.
There were also some brand names that are sure to appeal to the motorcycle enthusiast: how about the Indian company Royal Enfield, a brand from half a century ago that is catching up on its rival Triumph riding on its popular “Bullet” bike, which Gary Charpentier says is the "coolest name in motorcycling."
Even the newer brand names like the Buell Blast look retro — reminiscent, says Gary, of bikes made by Norton and BSA and Triumph (the latter was notably absent this year) a few decades ago. "Buell" is an odd name, of course, but not as odd as that of custom bike maker "Crime Inc." I had to wonder who the target market was for these guys.
February 9, 2007
Richard Sim, Senior Product manager at Windows Live, has announced on his blog yesterday that Microsoft has chosen to keep the Hotmail brand name, incorporating it into its mail application as Windows Live Hotmail rather than Windows Live Mail.
The Hotmail brand name, which was acquired by Microsoft in 1998 and has been in jeopardy for a while thanks to its “historical association with spam problems,” still holds considerable equity among consumers. Most technology are pleased with this move, which will coincide with product improvements to Hotmail.
Mr. Sim said, "By adopting the name 'Windows Live Hotmail,' we believe we're bringing together the best of both worlds - new and old. We're able to offer the great new technology that Windows Live has to offer while also bringing the emotional connection many existing and loyal users have with Hotmail."
The Hotmail name is really synonymous with web-based mail and doing away with it would cause unnecessary confusion for the millions of users of the service. The fact the Microsoft has held on to it for so long has made the brand one of the good things we associate with Microsoft - making the service better (more competitive with Gmail and Yahoo) would be more than welcomed.
To read more about the Windows Live Brand Architecture, check out our September 22nd blog post, Brand Naming: Is Microsoft's "Live" Dead?
February 8, 2007
DC Comics has just announced that it will be licensing and distributing collectibles “based on the world’s greatest pop culture characters and stories” under a new brand name: DC Unlimited.
The first collectibles announced, interestingly, are not DC stalwarts like Captain America or Wonderwoman, instead they are action figures taken from World of Warcraft, Blizzard Entertainment's Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG), the world’s best selling video game (19 million copies sold). DC Unlimited will have to go head to head with Toycom, who also produces similar figures.
According to Comic Foundry Magazine, The initial set will feature Blood Elf Rogue, Orc Shaman, Undead Warlock and Dwarf Warrior; while the “deluxe” figures will include a Draenei Paladin and Illidan Stormrage.
Great names indeed that remind me of Tolkien and Dungeons and Dragons. The names also remind me of comics and monster movies of yesteryear: “undead” is a word that seems to come from us from the 1950s drive-in, and Illidan Stormrage is right out of comic culture.
It’s fascinating to me that the first figures DC Unlimited chooses to make come from World of Warcraft, which is swiftly becoming a cultural staple. There is even an entire industry built around gamers who outsource their online characters to pro-players for money to attain higher level status.
World of Warcraft has its nefarious side as well: the Superbowl site was hacked for World of Warcraft passwords while it seems that a whole mini-porn industry has developed around sexy World of Warcraft characters: the blue fantasy movie line is named, appropriately, “World of Whorecraft.”
I suppose this move by DC further solidifies the company’s position as a pop culture touchstone, whose comics have often reflected other entertainment icons as well as current events.
It also is a reflection of just how “real” the characters and their names on the computer screen have become. I may be speaking for millions of gamers when I say that online gaming is creating the mythology of the day.
February 7, 2007
From Taurus to 500 to Taurus
The move has been initiated by new Ford CEO Alan Mulally who clearly saw the folly in discontinuing the brand name, Taurus, that resurrected Ford and led to sales of 7 million cars with the introduction of a radical new design (sometimes fondly dubbed the “jellybean” or the “flying potato”) that eclipsed the Honda Accord and made it seem as if America could actually defend its own turf against the imports.
One of the reasons the company dropped the Taurus name (aside from the fact that sales were declining) was because it did not start with an “F” (go figure), and because it was so closely associated with the Hertz brand name.
And while it’s nice to see the Taurus brand name come back to us, Chris Shunk asks, simply, “In the end, what's more important, a great name or a great product?” and the conclusion is that both matter but a good name works best when it is associated with a product customers really love. The Taurus brand name was badly tarnished because by the end of the last century the cars were stale, just like the Ford Five Hundred is.
Why not improve the car’s engine and its design and make it worthy of the brand name that saved the company and that was, frankly, such a joy to drive? If you want to hold on to the same product naming for twenty years (Civic, Corolla, Camry, and Accord), you have to offer noticeable improvements on the platform year by year, not simply slap the name of a once hot car on today’s non-starter.
Learning from Kodak
A good example of keeping a brand name fresh by attaching it to new technology and products might be the recent announcement that Kodak is getting into the printer business with the Kodak EasyShare All-In-One Printers.
Kodak is going to take on printer giant HP simply by offering users what they have always wanted: cheap ink. Right now, it costs more than champagne. In fact, a swimming pool of the stuff would cost you a cool $5.9 billion.
Kodak’s print cartridges will be half the cost of HPs and won’t expire in your lifetime. This will not only breathe new life into the home printer industry, it will ensure that the EasyShare brand name is fresh and new for years to come.
Revolutionary product + trusted product name = great brand.
Are you watching, Ford?
February 6, 2007
Pfizer lost a trademark battle over an Asian upstart with the brand name “Wei Ge,” which is the Mandarin Chinese homophone for “Viagra.”
Chinese drug maker Guanzhou Welman registered "Wei Ge," a commonly used local reference to Pfizer’s tremendously successful anti-impotence drug. Great product naming strategy - Wei Ge means “great man.”
As the expiration of Pfizer’s patent on Viagra looms, we’re sure to see the company at odds with yet more producers in China: my favorite Chinese name for a Viagra clone, of course, has to be “America Number One, Male Exclusive, Great Big Brother.”
Now that's a pharmaceutical brand name that doesn’t leave much to the imagination...
Finally, the Beatles’ record label Apple Corps and Apple Inc have decided to Let It Be, settling a long standing feud between that two companies that’s had iPod-owning Beatles fans disappointed for way too long.
It’s been a long and winding road but the sad Ballad Of John & Yoko, and Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison’s estate is finally over: Beatles fans will soon be able to download Beatles music from iTunes after years of dispute over the shared company name “Apple.”
The details are still a little fuzzy, but essentially Apple Inc. gets to own all the trademarks, while licensing some back to Apple Corps. Apple Inc. also gets to use its familiar Apple logo and brand name on iTunes. Gary Bourgeault nicely reports on the whole story at the Alpha Marketer blog.
The bottom line is that not much stands in the way from Apple owners doing the Twist and Shout to an exclusive online catalogue of Beatles tunes - maybe this week.
I’m pleased to see that Apple Corps has finally relented in its fight vs. Apple Inc. and Steve Jobs. I'm sure a huge percentage of iPod and iMac owners are relieved as well. I think I speak for all Beatles fans when I say that I truly doubt that any of us have been in a state of confusion over the two trademarks, whether we own Apple Inc’s products or not.
February 5, 2007
It seems to me that the trend in luxury car naming is toward developing an alpha-numeric brand architecture - that much is certain. But not so much when it comes to the naming of pickup trucks, where it may be that the inverse is true.
In the automotive industry, there is one brand name that stands tall: the mighty Ford F-Series, the best selling vehicle in the United States, the most awarded truck in auto history and sales leader in category for 29 years. The brand name was introduced in 1948 and since then over 32 million of these trucks have been sold worldwide, with one sold in the U.S. every 21 seconds.
Is this the triumph of alpha-numeric naming in the field?
Well, Toyota has an answer for that as does Dodge, who are both offering revamped versions of the Tundra and Ram respectively, leading to a panic stricken news reports last week that predict trouble down the road for this stalwart.
One option is to think up a new theme song for the truck. The other, Ford has discovered, is to get serious about product naming. Look at the top 10 cars in the U.S. for 2006. You’ll recognize names like “Silverado“ and "Ram.”
The Toyota Tundra sticks in your mind, too, even if it isn't in the Top Ten (Toyota has the Camry and the Corolla up there). The top of the list is the F-Series, which will be depending on a revamp of its equally boringly named “Super Duty” extension to keep itself up there.
Rather than do away with the equity around the F-Series, Ford has focused their naming on the extensions within the range. The Super Duty represents 40% of the F-Series line, and it has some interesting extensions built in, including the “King Ranch” and the “Lariat Tough-Luxury.”
On top of that, there is the FX2 Harley-Davidson SuperCrew specialty model. These names, all introduced within the last few years, I think, are far more evocative of what the truck is about and their success will drive the truck’s sales.
Superior naming strategies and co-branding deals with companies like Harley-Davidson might just keep Ford on top.
February 4, 2007
The Wall Street Journal blog points out that we are not allowed to use the terms "Super Bowl," "Super Sunday," "NFL" and team nicknames.
We are supposed to instead use the term "Big Game." The NFL has also forbidden churches to allow their congregation to view the game on 55" screens and has nixed plans for "Super Bowl parties" held by churches as well.
This is to protect Nielsen ratings: if the NFL had its way, we'd all watch the bowl on our own TVs to keep the numbers up. As one lawyer points out, however, much of this clamping down on businesses (and churches) using the name is just out of bounds. Says one, "If Joe’s bar wants to run a 2-for-1 special for the Super Bowl, I don’t see how that’s trading off of the good will and property rights of the NFL."
I’m not sure if this is a subject that should get people so steamed up since there are plenty of loopholes. Not least is the one Samsung discovered: it got itself named as the official HDTV of the NFL, allowing all of the Samsung resellers carte blanche to the name.
Enjoy the Super Bowl today, ur, I mean the Big Game.
February 3, 2007
The Starbucks brand name has had a heck of a week.
- First of all, its detractors regarding its Ethiopian coffee names have not lessened the attack, with an Oxford professor weighing into the debate yesterday.
- It just resumed the fight to protect its name against a small time roaster in New Hampshire named "Charbucks."
- Worse, yesterday, according to Consumer Reports, customers ranked McDonald’s coffee higher than Starbucks, calling Starbucks coffee "strong, but burnt and bitter." Ouch!
- People are also starting to give the baristas fake names when they order — some customers call themselves "Chewbacca" or "Frankenstein" or just "The Man."
- As if all that wasn’t enough, a Chinese news anchor is leading a movement to get Starbucks kicked out of the Forbidden City because the company's presence there "undermined the Forbidden City’s solemnity and trampled over Chinese culture."
I think Starbucks should just write this week off entirely — sometimes, when you are the top company name in any field, you just gotta duck and cover because everybody has it out for you. Chin up, Starbucks: as the saying goes, "nobody kicks a dead dog."
The Starbucks brand name can withstand this onslaught. Starbucks is a great iconic brand name, with a rich heritage and great future.
But I do need to ask, are you giving fake names to your local Starbucks? What’s yours?
February 2, 2007
Yesterday’s official announcement by Redhook that they would rename its Indian Pale Ale “Longhammer IPA” was old news to a few hardcore Seattle beer lovers who had already noted the product name change which took place after the New Year.
One blogger asked “since when did macro-microbrews [Longhammer is partially owned by Anheuser-Busch] need makeovers?” Well, Longhammer is Redhook’s first beer with a brand name; calling it India Pale Ale or Imperial Pale Ale is like calling it “Lager” as IPA is just a particular brew of suds.
I agree with Ian at 2 Beer Guys Blog: this was a move probably suggested by Anheuser-Busch to create brand differentiation in a field that seems to add new and funky product names daily. How funky? Chris at the Belmont Station Beer Forum has a list of new beers up which include the Sierra Nevada Big Foot 2007 and Rogue Dry Hopped St. Rogue Red.
Chris also notes that this year we shall see some new and truly difficult to pronounce new brand names on the beer shelves from Denmark and Norway: Nøgne Ø and Ølfabrikken. And Redhook can look to Idaho’s 16 month old Laughing Dog Brewing company, which offers, among other brews, “Hot Chihuahua,” and its “Devil Dog anniversary beer.”
The Laughing Dog may not be laughing long, however, when it learns that a Dutch brewer has just cooked up a beer for dogs (laughing or not), named “Kwispelbier” which is advertised as “the beer for your best friend” and has beef extract and malt goodness in every bottle.
Humans can drink it too (and undoubtedly will), but it costs four times more than Heineken. I’m sticking to Bud and our company dogs, Chomsky and Pushkin, are sticking to water.
February 1, 2007
According to the Huffington Post, Yahoo's plans to launch 100 brand name mini-sites via its “Brand Universe” program this year is a “Big Branding Bang” meant to “connect the dots between content and users.”
This project has been in the offing for some time and while you can’t buy your way into the program, current Brand Universe overseer Vince Broady says that “Yahoo fully plans to share traffic, behavioral data with featured companies/brands.”
This initiative allows Yahoo to offer users a more seamless and concentrated branding experience: its Wii site got 1.2 million impressions in November, now the TV show Lost and Harry Potter are set to experience similar strengthening of their online profile. Look for short and sweet domain names with the “brand name baked right in." Think wii.yahoo.com, for instance.
I agree with Michael Arrington at TechCrunch, who notes that while Yahoo claims to be unconcerned about the monetization of these new sites and for the time being will not be working with the brands themselves. I bet this is likely to change.
How could it not? Brand managers, especially those responsible for name development efforts, will soon be aggressively approaching Yahoo hoping to advertise on Brand Universe.
John Battelle points out that this move solidifies Yahoo as a marketing platform of choice and says, accurately I think, that “brands are the new water coolers.” Do you agree?
Consumers love to hang out with out favorite brand names online, and Yahoo may be offering a third place between social networking portals and brand promotional sites.
It really leads me to the logical next question: whose brand name is it anyway? The brand’s or the users’?