May 31, 2007
The blogosphere is alight with the lawsuit recently fired off by CKE Restaurants over Jack in the Box’s new ads that makes a rather rude suggestion about the origin of the "Angus beef" which is served by CKE’s Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. You can see the ads in question below.
Jack in the Box better brace itself, because Burger King and McDonald’s also use Angus beef.
While Defendant may find humorous the aural and phonetic similarities between the words "Angus" and "anus," [the ads foster] the erroneous notion that all cuts of Angus beef are derived from the anus of beef cattle.
There is almost no way you can read that aloud without laughing. I’d say that I feel sorry for the lawyers who have to prosecute this except its simply too hard to pity lawyers getting involved in such a frivolous case.
On the other hand, there is a huge amount of brand name equity tied up in the quality usually associated with "Angus beef," and these ads are indeed quickly doing away with all that.
I wonder how it will be filed? CKE vs. Jack in the Box Re: Angus vs. Anus — possibly the most ridiculous name for a lawsuit in history.
Jack in the Box, for their part, defends itself by pointing to an ad by Carl’s Jr. that makes a clearly false but very humorous suggestion about why their milkshakes are superior to the rest:
Is it false advertising or simply excessively childish?
I’m not sure, but it will be very hard for me to think of the words "Angus beef" without thinking of Jack in the Box. Which is kind of the point.
May 30, 2007
Alex Beam has a great column up in The Boston Globe entitled "It's a re-brand new world" that takes a hard look at the prodigious amount of renaming that's going on lately.
He looks at the very intelligent rebranding of Boston University as "Boston's University," a nice step up from "the third great University on the Charles."
He then takes a swipe at the Cingular/AT&T company name change, and goes on to to say: "Boston Scientific just rebranded its troubled Guidant brand of heart devices out of existence. Healthone Care System has rebranded itself as Atrius Health because of a name conflict with a Denver hospital network. Citigroup, Delta Air Lines, and even the Iraq war are all said to be in various stages of rebranding."
And while renaming and repositioning cemeteries, cities, and, indeed, countries (he has fun with Canada's new slogan "Keep Exploring," which I think is pretty good) may seem odd to the casual observer, we do it because naming matters. Slogans matter and even mascots matter.
I'd love to see a debate between Seth Godin and Mr. Beam. Seth just posted a great piece entitled "Naming: Of Renamed Brands and Previous Names." Seth says that in general, use an existing name with a great deal of recognition (think AT&T and Cingular), but change your product name or company name only grudgingly for three reasons:
- A merger makes is a necessity
- You need to simplify your brand architecture
- Your current name has too much negative baggage.
Once you implement the change however, make a clean break with the old name and market the new name aggressively.
Posted by Diane Prange at 10:39 AM
Posted to Brand Naming | Branding | Company Naming | Financial Services | Naming | Product Naming | Slogans | Taglines | Telecommunications | Travel and Tourism
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May 29, 2007
According to the International Herald Tribune, big banks are trading up to brand names that reflect a global rather than regional reach to appeal to well-heeled customers who might do their banking in a number of countries.
Thus, Spanish Banco Santander Hispano recently changed its name to Santander and is doing away with the names of the banks it acquires.
HSBC and Citigroup have followed the suit. The danger, according to one exec, is creating "not a global >brand but a global bland" as bank brand naming gets blander and more encompassing.
The problem, according to one blogger, is that "good bank brands make bad bank trademarks."
Bank brand naming is getting all the more confusing, as banks expand their reach, often treading on local company names as they do so.
- According to the authors, "once-sleepy, small-town banks suddenly emerging as protagonists in national or even global trademark wars."
- Who, for instance, is the real "First National Bank" or who can claim rights to the name "Savings Bank"?
- Are these generic and descriptive or are they trademarkable?
Bankers also get in trouble for snapping up regional names: as in Winchester Federal Savings Bank vs. Winchester Bank, Inc.
Of course, as bank names get more wishy-washy, the names for bank robbers seem to be getting more panache.
The FBI now seems to be giving names to some of its more flamboyant targets: next time you are making a deposit at your local bank watch out for The Paparazzi bandit and the Panama Hat bandit.
May 26, 2007
It's a sad but true fact that seedy domain names are among the most valuable on the Internet. A recent story set to be printed in the UK Sunday Times explores about the utter skullduggery around the sex.com domain name, which was stolen by Stephen Michael Cohen from Gary Kremen in 1995, leading to a ten year man-hunt, a $65 mil court settlement and a detective story worthy of Sherlock Holmes.
You can read more in the new book by Kieren McCarthy entitled, of course, Sex.com. There seems to be a dispute over the actual article that is slated to appear tomorrow and an alternate article on the subject which he has also posted on his blog. The second version begins with the tongue in cheek statement by a Harvard professor that "The Internet is for porn."
Nobody could agree more than MXN, an Internet media and investment firm which last week bought the Porn.com domain name for $9.5 mil — the largest all cash domain transaction in history. This is the second largest domain sale overall after Sex.Com, which sold for $12 mil in cash and stock in 2005.
May 25, 2007
Thursday’s news that Victorinox, the company that makes Swiss army knives, has changed its name to Victorinox Swiss Army, got me thinking about the evolution of the company and the Swiss Army brand name.
Victorinox, for many people, doesn’t really mean “knives” any more, it means watches. Victorinox's blog certainly makes it seem like they are a watch company more than a knife company. I don’t see a knife anywhere on the opening posts.
But the term “Swiss Army” covers a great deal of ground nowadays, which is one of the reasons Victorinox wants to have those two recognizable words in its company name.
There’s a great post up by Michael Marcus describing the long standing competition between Wenger and Victorinox, both of which make “Swiss Army knives.” The term is generic and so essentially any company could trademark it as part of a product name. Not just anyone can use those words on their company name, though.
The first Swiss Army knife company, Victorinox, was founded in 1891 and found its biggest competitor only a few years later in 1893, when Wenger opened its doors. By mutual agreement Wenger advertises as “The Genuine Swiss Army Knife,” while Victorinox bills itself as “The Original Swiss Army Knife.”
Interestingly, the name “Swiss Army knife” was coined by American soldiers after WWII, who could not pronounce the original product name: Offiziersmesser.
Last year Victorinox bought Wenger, but the Wenger brand is very much still alive and is used to market briefcases, perfume and deodorant. Victorinox makes knives, watches and rescue tools.
Wenger also makes The Giant Swiss Army Knife, which frankly has to be seen to be believed. They also have a product name that might not be the right choice these days: the Traveler. When travelling, remember that knives of any size are not allowed on airplanes, and airport security will confiscate them.
The good news, though, is that one blogger seems to have found a place where you can buy all those confiscated Swiss Army knives.
May 24, 2007
Everlast is revamping its brand identity including a new tagline, “Greatness is Within,” that demonstrates its fight to survive in the competitive athletic apparel and sporting goods market.
The new logo won't be officially launched until later this year and includes a refreshed logotype, a new icon and corporate colors.
Women’s Wear Daily pointed out that the company was looking for a “consistent message” as it moves to “premier brand caliber.” Everlast wants to emphasize its brand assets of “strength, dedication, individuality and authenticity.”
The new icon shows a vanishing perspective apparently symbolizing “infinity.” Clearly, Everlast is moving away from it’s old “rope-a-dope” brand image into one that might conceivably compete with Nike and Adidas, shooting for “premier athletic brand status” via their 72 licensees.
I think Everlast's current image is pure boxing and not general sports and fitness. Everlast even declares on its website that its name is synonymous with boxing. When I think of the Everlast brand name, I think of Mohammed Ali and Rocky Balboa. For me, the Everlast name conjures up visions of victory, yes, but also visions of pain and blood.
The lovable George Foreman has had something to do with making boxing and boxing-related branding more approachable. There certainly seems to be "greatness within" the George Foreman brand.
In fact, Monday’s announcement that Foreman is now co-team owner of IndyCar Panther Racing makes me think that there's nothing the Foreman brand can't take on. Well, almost nothing.
George Jr., Foreman’s eldest son, commented that, "our involvement with Panther Racing offers a tremendous opportunity to bring together two championship brands and cross-promote two sports powerhouses across a diverse fan base."
Is the Everlast brand destined to be a champion, too?
May 23, 2007
Like most people, I was under the impression that Formica was a type of laminated plastic, that lost its status as a trademarkable brand name.
I was interested to see that Cerberus was part of the sale of this legendary and quintessentially American brand name, which has been defined by Webster’s New World Dictionary as “a trademark for a laminated, heat-resistant thermosetting plastic used for table and sink tops.''
Formica has been around since 1913 when a young engineer created it for use as electrical insulation, and the name comes from the fact that the stuff can be used instead of mica, literally “for mica.”
Formica's product nomenclature includes VirrVarr, Atomic Orange and Aqua Boomerang. These are names left over from the fifties and I am interested to see what happens what New Zealanders and neighboring Australians make of them. And I wonder how “VirrVarr” will translate overseas.
I’m not sure we should be selling anything with the word Atomic, and Atomic Orange seems like a fairly agressive product name. But that would depend on the category and target market.
How about an Atomic Orange energy drink?
Of course the word boomerang may ring false with some Australians—or else it may be taken as a tribute to where boomerangs come from.
“While some people are known to have ‘bad hair’ days I feel like I’m currently going through a ‘bad product naming’ week,” writes the Epiacenter reviewer when faced with the HiPePC Driv-N CarPC and the Zonbu Zonbox.
It gets better, actually: the HiPePC is housed inside a Voom-PC-2 enclosure.
My favorite of all of these is the HiPe PC, because what it instantly brings to mind is “hype” as in “overhyped product.” I presume HiPe actually stands for “high performance,” but it’s woefully unsuccessful at conveying anything positive.
And “Driv-N CarPC” sounds like something made by Fisher Price for small children, quite apart from the fact that the driver had better not be doing any high-performance computing while the car is in motion.
“Zonbu Zonbox” has a certain funky charm, though it seems a bit twee for a technology product name. You’d expect it to be some form of media player, not a "low-cost, eco-friendly computing device” that runs Linux. Though admittedly the assorted flavors of Linux often have pretty funky names of their own; the Zonbox runs something called Gentoo.
Enough companies have “bad product naming days” that there’s an entire blog devoted to bad product names. We don’t like to be quite so negative here at NameWire, but they make some good points in their multi-part series about Web 2.0 names.
And we certainly can’t quarrel with their rationale for producing the blog: “A bad name for a product won’t leave a pleasant taste in your customer’s mouth, so please use consideration when naming your product or service.”
May 22, 2007
There’s a buzz on the blogosphere today about Hershey’s recent litigation against a fellow on his way to jail for selling marijuana-laced candy.
Seems as if this person made the mistake of not only selling an illegal product, he also violated Hershey’s trademarked names, offering the world product names like “Stoney Rancher,” “Rasta Reese’s” and “Keef Kat.”
These are direct trademark violations of Hershey’s Jolly Rancher, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Kit Kat brand names.
Bottom line? He’s looking at a $100,000 fine on top of five years in the slammer for selling dope.
Seth Godin happens to have a great post up about trademarks today that discusses many important subjects relating to developing brand names and trademarks, including the danger of your brand name becoming generic, or what Seth’s associate calls “genericide.”
Godin points out that the best possible thing you can invent is “an idea that needs a name,” or something that is totally new and nameless (think Jeep, iPod).
But then again, a reader on Slashdot yesterday reported that Linux, certainly a unique sounding name for a totally unique product, shares its name with 204 other products, including a Swiss laundry detergent.
May 21, 2007
As you may already be aware, the makers of Equal sued the maker of Splenda, contending that Splenda had deceived millions of consumers by deliberately creating the impression that Splenda was healthier and natural because it started out with sugar, even though the final product has no sugar.
As Lynnley Browning of the New York Times reported a few weeks ago, the lawsuit highlights the fierce battle for leadership between later entry Splenda and one-time leader Equal in the $1.5 billion artificial sweetener market.
In a strategic response to the success of Splenda, NutraSweet is co-branding with competitor American Sugar Refining, Inc, who manufactures and markets the Domino sugar brand, to create a new brand name of sweetener called Domino Pure D’Lite, which is what the industry refers to as a light sugar product, or sugar blend.
The Pure D’Lite sub-brand will be endorsed by Domino and its packaging will carry the easily recognizable NutraSweet logo. It will be interesting to see if Pure D'Lite will help Nutrasweet reacapture market share lost to Splenda, who now dominates two-thirds of the U.S. market.
If there ever were an instance where a sub-brand is warranted, this is it, contrary to what some marketing gurus have to say about sub-brands.
NutraSweet has an association with aspartame that is pretty negative, so being associated with “pure” sugar may be a real boon, and help the brand leapfrog its aspartame-based competitors, such as Equal.
May 19, 2007
Jaeger is a UK fashion brand name that saw its best years decades ago (Audrey Hepburn liked it) before falling into a slump — in 2002 it closed its Madison Ave. flagship store.
The brand is named after a professor of zoology Gustav Jäger who wrote a book in the 1880’s detailing how humans could benefit from wearing animal fibres. The resultant company was called Dr. Jaeger's Sanitary Woolen System and became known for wool, cashmere and angora.
I’m surprised to note that there is such an interest in a brand that has essentially failed and is so old fashioned. Yet a new generation of investors believe that its worldwide recognizability and history could give it a new life, not least in New York, where there is a search on for a new flagship store, as well as in Asia.
Is this an example of a zombie brand comeback?
Only a few years ago we saw Burberry make a tremendous comeback from the brand name your grandfather liked to the handbags Kate Moss favors: Burberry is so hot that it might even ditch its signature plaid, an integral part of its brand, I think, but customers don’t seem to miss it.
I’ve written before about brand names that never say die.
I am sure London Fog is watching Jaeger with interest.
Jaeger has a new fashion team, a new brand manager and a whole lot of new money behind it. It has a brand that perhaps never really goes out of style. If they play their cards right, they might just do it — and prove that brand name recognition and history can trump tough times.
May 18, 2007
One of the oldest debates in branding is whether you introduce a new product under the existing parent brand or create a sub-brand name. Some marketing consultants essentially say that sub-brands don't work. That seems like an over-simplification to me, as well as not a universal truth.
Toyota is extending its Prius sub-brand for its hybrid vehicles, removing the Toyota moniker, and, in effect, creating a new parent brand. Does Toyota know what they're doing? I think so.
In the consumer's mind, I believe, Prius equals hybrid, green and good. Therefore, I think its wise that Toyota's new hybrid models, which we'll start to see in 2009, will be called Prius A, Prius B and Prius C.
However, I think the A, B and C nomenclature is a mistake. Anyone that's received a grade in school would much prefer to get an A than a C. And what happens when Toyota introduces its sixth Prius model? Would you want a Prius F?
If you've read this far, I've fooled you. The Prius A, B and C are only internal code names, once again demonstrating that Toyota knows what they're doing.
As you're probably aware by now, AT&T, which, a few months ago, was acquired by much bigger SBC Communications, which renamed itself AT&T despite its much larger size. That "was a bit like France marching into Brussels and renaming itself Belgium," said Stephanie Mehta of Fortune, in her article yesterday, Meet the new AT&T.
Although controversial, AT&T did away with the very well known and probably much hipper Cingular name. I predict that long-term, the Cingular brand will reemerge in some place in some way, like many other zombie brands.
May 17, 2007
If voters compare candidates like boxes of cornflakes, do photographers shop for camera bags the way they’d buy real estate?
Crumpler seems to think so, given the fact that they produce a “Million Dollar Home” line of camera bags. These range from the 1 Million Dollar Home to the 7 Million Dollar Home—and there’s a Brazillion Dollar Home, as well.
As with homes, the higher numbers reflect greater square footage. The Brazillion Dollar home holds two SLR cameras and a laptop, with straps for your tripod. The Sherpa required to carry all of that is not included in the $280 price, however.
As a recent review of the 4 Million Dollar Home points out, Crumpler is known for its unique product naming schemes. And rightly so. “Crumpler” is a counter-intuitive name for a company that manufactures bags for fragile equipment. The last thing you want your camera or laptop to undergo is crumpling.
But that’s as nothing to the names of the bags themselves. In addition to the Million Dollar Home series, there’s:
- the Bucket series
- the Bundle series
- the Customary and Sinking Barge (a name even less reassuring than “Crumpler”)
- the Whickey and Cox (sounds like a pub, doesn't it?)
- the Karachi Outpost
- the Keystone
And that’s just in camera bags. There’s also:
- a book (or beer) bag called the Hoax
- laptop bags called the Salary Sacrifice and the Dreadful Embarrassment
- a traveling bag called the Status Belly
- a cell phone/accessory bag called the HooJah
The product descriptions are, if anything, crazier than the names. Which seems to be a big part of why they’re popular as far away as Kota Kinabalu.
- Pretty Boy
- The Daily
- The Warm Shower
- Stripper Ripper
Maybe Crumpler employees all have a secret aspiration to work for naming companies. They certainly out-name competitors like Tamrac and Lowepro. Not that “Cyber Pro” and “Velocity” (Tamrac) are bad names; neither are “Vertex” and “Road Runner” (Lowepro).
But none of them are as memorably funky as the names of the Crumpler bags.
May 16, 2007
Brian Dickerson of the Detroit Free Press wrote a wonderful article about Cerberus, a leading private investment firm, the company that bought Chrysler this week for $7.4 billion, and asks “why a company with $60 billion would name itself after a three-headed monster.”
By the way, in Greek mythology, Cerberus is a three-headed dog.
Seems that some investment groups like using terms from Greek mythology in their company naming—one of the least effective name changes from 2006 was Prime Rate Investors’ move to Summus Works. Say it fast, it sounds like “some of us works”.
But I would say that a quick look at a list of Investment Company names shows that names from mythology certainly do not dominate the field.
Because there are regulations over what an investment company can call itself, it seems logical that names from history and mythology that just look good—and neutral to regulators—may get some play.
Why would the founders of Cerberus choose that name? Chances are they liked the fact that it looked like the word “cerebral” from “cerebrum”, the Latin word for brain, neither of which have any relation to Cerberus, which is a Greek word.
But it is amusing that an investment company would (probably inadvertently) name itself after a three-headed dog protecting the gates of Hell. I have to say I do like Cerberus’s response: "Our firm was founded to keep companies that are in pretty bad shape from entering the underworld."
Which is exactly what they have done with Chrysler.
Nice save, guys.
May 15, 2007
AMD’s new brand name for its next generation dual and quad core desktop processors is set to be Phenom, as in “Phenomenal” and not “Phenomenon.”
Phenom is what we refer to as a clipping. That is, phenom was clipped from the word phenomenal. With most of the English language trademarked, clipping of existing words is becoming a more common naming technique.
A potential downside in this instance is that Phenom may not be instantly pronounceable and require us to think about how it's pronounced. However, with time and money, the pronunciation of Phenom should become easier.
AMD plans on dropping the “64” add-on and they will make up AMD’s high-end product line: the Athlon X2 will stay awhile longer while the stand-alone Athlon brand is gone and the Sempron (single-core) will compete against the Celeron.
The Phenom brand name is a “metaphor for the company’s expectation for the chips,” which are set to compete against market dominator Intel. Phenom chips will be the ultra-pricey, ultra-powerful chips set to take advantage of the demands of Windows Vista.
May 14, 2007
Anheuser-Busch has just filed an intent-to-use trademark application for the Pomacai brand name.
No, this isn’t a new beer: it’s vodka. And not just any vodka, according to what analyst Mark Swartzberg told the Wall Street Journal, but “a fruit-flavored vodka involving pomegranate and açaí, a fruit native to South America.”
That would make Pomacai a portmanteau name, but a more problematic one than, say, “Slentrol.” Brew Blog notes that açaí berries are popular in smoothies and juices, but the fruit is not a household name in America.
And even with the diacritical marks which are missing from the trademark application, pronunciation is far from obvious.
The name has the advantages of being both descriptive and exotic, but any alcoholic drink needs a good “Bar call.” People have to be able to say it out loud with confidence. And vodka is not a snooty drink for the French speaker, either.
Anheuser-Busch’s earlier ventures into the realm of spirits have much better bar calls. “Ku Soju” (a sort of sweet-potato vodka) is tidily phonetic, and “Jekyll and Hyde” liqueurs have a memorably funky name with a hint of danger.
Because of the difficulty with trademarking names, companies trademark more names than they end up using.
It’s entirely possible that when (and if) the vodka appears, it won’t be called “Pomacai.” Which would probably be a good thing for both Anheuser-Busch and vodka drinkers.
Sometimes its not so great when your name is the trailblazer in an industry. To generations of sports fans and athletes, there is only one recognizable brand name that is synonymous with artificial grass on playing fields: AstroTurf®.
But it seems that years of sprained ankles, rug burns and painful turf toes brought the company to its knees. By 2004 AstroTurf was bankrupt and the last old-school AstroTurf surface was ripped up in 2005.
It’s main competitor FieldTurf, who makes a kinder, gentler artificial grass, has declared the brand name dead, going so far as to erect a headstone to the name in one of their advertisements.
Jon Pritchett feels that the death of the AstroTurf brand name has been greatly exaggerated. In fact, he thinks he can capitalize on the brand name. His company, GeneralSports Venue, acquired the AstroTurf brand name last year, understanding that the brand’s history, which stretches back to 1966, has real equity.
His major competitors, FieldTurf and SprinTurf, have stayed close to the AstroTurf name, since it represents so much, like being the original innovator and creating the category.
Now, Pritchett has rights to an improved AstroTurf product, named Gameday Grass. Nice.
There is a resonance to the word “grass” among sports lovers - somehow games that are played on grass have an authenticity and grittiness to them that is hard to replicate. And most turfs are trying to be grass anyway... why not work the word grass into the product name?
I think that the idea of synthetic grass or “turf” bears little romance to fans or athletes anymore and I bet Pritchett will hit a home run.
May 12, 2007
The name was announced during a "wildly successful" press launch by drink maker Redux Beverages LLC that "featured a chimpanzee." They claim to have new products in the works. I can hardly wait to see the new brand naming strategy for these.
I think the Censored product name is wildly dumb, sophomoric and irresponsible. The company is obviously playing off the fact that the FDA banned the Cocaine name.
Despite my distaste for this brand name, companies like Redux Beverages LLC seem to be spewing out new products with outlandish names designed to take advantage of the old adage "any publicity is good publicity."
Expect Redux to flame out in a year or two.
May 11, 2007
Nobody will miss the stupidly named Cocaine energy drink, which clearly gets the dumbest product name award for 2007 thus far.
Cocaine was pulled off the shelves a few days ago after the FDA stepped in...its name and its motto (“Speed in a can”) manages to be inaccurate, misleading and a not-so-subtle promotion of drug use to what is clearly a teenage target market.
On top of that, the company was crudely copying Coca-Cola’s colors, meaning that if the FDA didn’t put a stop to things, Big Red probably would.
Today there will be a press conference in California announcing the drink’s new name. Don’t expect much better, although naming your drink after an illegal narcotic is what I might call “suicide by product naming”, so stupid that it must have been a publicity stunt.
An interesting article in the online edition of the Atlanta Journal Constitution describes how difficult it is for new soft drink brand names to survive out there.
It seems that jarring, niche names that really stand out are the way to go if you are starting without brand recognition — think SoBe and Fuze. Three others that were profiled include Red Toe (ouch), Crunk and Fever.
All of these, by the way, are better than Cocaine.
May 10, 2007
Food Business Review Online reports today that Minneapolis-based General Mills will be partnering with Curves to launch a Curves cereal and Curves Chewy Granola bars. According to BusinessWire, the granola bars will be available in Chocolate Peanut as well as Strawberries + Cream flavors while the cereal will offer Whole Grain Crunch and Honey Crunch.
These are safe product names—we don’t see anything like “General Mills’ Curvy Crunch.” The idea is to sell the cereal off the equity of the Curves company name.
This integration of two big brand names has already been getting some attention in the blogosphere. I agree with Lloyd of The Breakfast Bowl blog that this will give General Mills the ability to better compete with Kellogg’s well-entrenched brand name Special K.
General Mills is now in a long-term partnership with Curves that will give it excusive promotion rights to “several key food categories encompassing everything from licensed products to consumer promotion activity.” This means, I think, that if the cereal and granola bars sell, we can expect more Curves branded foods from General Mills. How about Curves Yoplait Yogurt?
Frankly, you have to wonder why they didn’t do this sooner? Curves is probably the best known women’s gym brand name in the country and the company name is already all about changing your life “30 minutes at a time.”
Its advertising avoids showing leotard–clad amazons: Curves is the gym for the Oprah set. They already have a diet recommendations in place as well as their own magazine, which will be a logical promotional outlet for the new cereal and granola bar brands.
Watch out Kellogg’s. The time has come when co-branded cereal names can quickly level the playing field.
May 9, 2007
Why is a presidential candidate like a box of Kellogg's® Corn Flakes®? Both of them are brands, and their names are their reputations.
Unlike cereal makers, however, candidates don’t get to choose their own brand names.
Few politicians are fortunate enough to be born with names that imply “great leader.” (One might make a stretch and associate Hillary Clinton with Sir Edmund Hillary, the man who climbed Mount Everest “Because it was there,” but Senator Clinton doesn’t appear to be doing so herself.)
Barack Obama, of course, has already had to deal with detractors playing on the likeness of his name to that of Osama Bin Laden. Nevertheless, his brand is strong with voters, according to Presidential Brands 2008, which scored both Democratic and Republican candidates according to familiarity, reputation, personality, performance, and connectivity. Download the complete report here.
According to the study:
- Hillary Clinton means “competence”
- Barak Obama means “celebrity” which ties in nicely with Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement
- John Edwards means “compassion”
- Rudy Giuliani is an American icon
- John McCain is an American hero
- Mitt Romney is an American idol
Or, to put it another way,
- Clinton is a Volvo station wagon
- Obama is a BMW Z4 convertible
- Edwards is a Prius
- Giuliani is a Toyota RAV4
- McCain is a Ford Pickup
- Romney is a Dodge Viper
Meanwhile, several candidates are buying Google AdWords campaigns by bidding on each other’s names. If you search for “Obama,” on Google, for example, you may find a voting poll for Hillary Clinton in 2008 in the right sidebar along with the ads paid for by Obama’s own campaign.
The biggest problem these candidates have to face in branding themselves isn’t their own names or their rivals’ AdWords campaigns.
It’s the negative associations that people have with the word “politician.”
Carla Marinucci, San Francisco Chronicle Political Writer, researched candidates' websites and found that some of the qualities the top candidates are trying to associate with their names are in much the same way how a company brands a product:
- Hillary Rodham Clinton - Slogan: Leadership, experience, women's advocate, "making history."
- John Edwards - Slogan: "Change," big ideas, champion of the poor and middle class.
- Rudolph Giuliani - Slogan: "America's mayor," maverick, strong, decisive leader.
- John McCain - Slogan: "War hero," steadfast, independent, commitment, record of achievement.
- Barack Obama - Slogan: "Hope," change, action, fresh face.
- Mitt Romney - Slogan: "Bold, new leadership," business success, public achievement.
May 8, 2007
Brand architecture should simplify information and choices for consumers.
I think it's fair to say the 6 different versions of Microsoft Vista adds confusion.
It's another example of branding by committee, as illustrated by the old adage, "a camel is a horse designed by committee."
While watching 24 last night, I was treated to Apple's latest installment of the "Get a Mac" TV ad campaign. Last night's spot made fun of the Microsoft Windows Vista brand architecture.
Enjoy the commercial:
To see the latest "Get a Mac" ads, visit the website.
Like the writer at the SunbeltBLOG I am not much of a fan of Microsoft’s product naming nomenclature, and in other posts I have looked into the Windows Live Hotmail brand name—the best part of it is “Hotmail,” as Microsoft overuses Live.
A New York Times article on Saturday about the troubles suffered by merged FedEx and Kinko’s best describes the trouble many people will probably have with the Microsoft Windows Live Hotmail brand name.
Kinko’s was once known for its laid back culture, while FedEx is known for its clipped efficiency. It is hard for a store to be known as both laid back and super-efficient, the two corporate brews just do no mix. FedEx Kinko’s is thus having some hard times despite the obvious synergy in their business offerings.
Hotmail is one of the oldest online mail services that I know of, a logical base for Microsoft which wants to use it to catch up with Gmail and Yahoo, but by forcing not only the Microsoft name but the Windows name as well as the Live name next to it, it is hard to feel a sense of authenticity.
I think this was named by committee. You know what they say about naming by committee. When trying to name a horse, you end up with a camel.
Does the Windows Live brand name really have the same longevity and equity as the Hotmail name?
I suppose that the success of this name is intertwined with the success of the Windows Live platform of services. If I were a Microsoft/Hotmail user, I might feel funny using my new Vista to access Microsoft Windows Live Hotmail.
In the meantime, it is still good to see Hotmail alive (which takes its name from the acronym HTML.)
May 7, 2007
PepsiCo is getting into the health and beauty industry by extending its Aquafina bottled water brand name into cosmetics aisle. It is about to introduce Aquafina Hydration RX, a 10 SKU skincare line created by licensee Added Extras.
Can a bottled water brand name survive in the skincare aisle? One of the dealmakers believes it can, stating that "Hydration is the basis of any effective skincare product and Aquafina delivers on the promise of hydration."
According to Brandweek, skincare and beverages are becoming a “hot combination,” with Anheuser-Busch and Coca-Cola wooing partners—and probably looking into some interesting cooperative marketing efforts.
I think the core values behind almost any bottled water brand - purity, health, cleanliness - seem transferable to the skincare line. Aquafina has already moved into the lip-balm category with some success, proving that the product name has extendibility.
I'm sure that PepsiCo has thoroughly researched what the Aquafina name brings to the cosmetics aisle. Having said that, I think it's a stretch and more likely to be less successful than successful.
This news, however, comes on the tails of concerns that PepsiCo is misleading customers by showing a mountain range and sun on its logo, which suggests that the water is from a mountain source. It’s not, of course.
An advocacy group, Corporate Accountability International, is asking that Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nestlé reveal the origins (tap water) and quality information about their water right on the bottles labels. A good idea.
Do you think the Aquafina logo gives the impression that it comes from a natural mountain source?
May 5, 2007
Costco and home doyen Martha Stewart are set to partner on a new ready-made food line: the foods will have both Costco’s Kirkland signature label and a Martha Stewart label." The new food line is likely to be branded "Kirkland Signature by Martha Stewart."
Madison Avenue West sniffs that "Stewart’s cracked-country style doesn’t fit in with the metal shelves of Costco."
The New York Times notes that the Martha Stewart brand name has been a little sour as of late, but her Martha Stewart Everyday bedding, cookware and dishes brand name is doing well at low-end Kmart and she is set to produce high end furniture for Macy's.
Apartment Therapy hopes she brings "a good thing" to her food line by emphasizing "real cooking" at home. Unfortunately, most respondents to their survey asking "What do you think about Martha Stewart's new partnership to sell food at Costco?" say "I’m just not that into it."
Martha has high brand name recognition and if the "metal shelves of Costco" are good enough for Dom Perignon’s high end brand name, why not Martha’s?
Or is this an example of, as Jack Trout would say, extending the Martha Steward brand too far, motivated by greed?
May 4, 2007
Olivier Blanchard, The Brand Builder, wrote an interesting post yesterday, “How is your brand doing?” Blanchard is a branding expert and he's referring to your personal brand, posing a series of provocative brand evaluation questions.
To be clear, though, a brand is not a product name (our specialty), tagline, or even a logo. A brand is a promise that lives inside the mind of the consumer. Consumers own brands, not companies. Seems counterintuitive, but it's true.
And your job, in Blanchard's words, is to “understand who you are, what you do... and to clarify it.” As a naming company, we face this challenge every day... developing product names that clearly express an identity.
Here are some other discussions of personal branding that I've found insightful:
- Build Your Personal Brand, by Bud Bilanich wisely notes that "you don’t want to be a vanilla brand that appeals to everyone. You want to be a Cherry Garcia brand - something that is uniquely you."
- You’re brand one?, by Raj Dash has some thoughts on A-list bloggers building their online brands, like Seth Godin and Jason Calacanis, for example.
- The Personal Branding Blog, by Dan Schwabel, discusses, at an impressive depth, how the many principles of marketing can be applied to an individual and thereby establishing a personal brand, differentiating yourself from the competition and increasing your brand recognition.
I think it goes without saying, though, that a great brand name won't improve a bad product or service. A great name can only be appended to a great brand.
And in the case of personal branding, it’s brand you.
May 3, 2007
Tower coming back
Some company names can be whatever they want to be. Take Tower Records for example, the legendary music retailer that is now a small web site. The last 89 stores were sold off at the end of last year, but now plans seem afoot to bring Tower back into the retail game and to seriously strengthen its online presence.
Can Tower go from being the last word in retail to a thriving online brand name? It seems to me that this is a company with enough brand equity in the music scene to survive—and resurrect itself in the brick and mortar scene as well.
I just have to wonder if the strategically placed stores will serve mainly to bolster Tower’s online presence. But so be it... it is hard to think of another company name that means “retail music” that is more well known than now-defunct Tower Records.
Apple getting greener
Last night Steve Jobs posted a blog calling for a Greener Apple. It is astounding how pliable the Apple brand seems to be. After years of being berated in the press for their environmentally unfriendly practices, Mr. Jobs used Apple to launch his eco-friendly initiative. Of course, he also hinted about LED backlit displays.
No doubt about it: backlit, green Macs and RED iPods would make Apple the brand name representing the save the earth brigade.
People have asked for a greener apple for a while, of course, and Jobs has taken this hurtful pun and used it. I’d bet that Apple builds “green” into its brand name and uses it in the “I’m a Mac” commercials.
Oh, and who does not like green apples, the fruit ones, that is? I do.
May 2, 2007
Her new collection literally brought London's main shopping street to a standstill yesterday... fans were limited as to how many items they could buy at a time.
At least one blogger says that we may be due for some "Katemossophobia," but nobody can deny that Kate Moss is a very, very bankable brand name.
The name Kate Moss is simply unsinkable: she is at once a celebrity name, a brand name and a product name all in one. No matter what she does or how she behaves, she seems to simply make us want more of her.
I think that we can safely say that high fashion can easily go mainstream, so long as the right supermodel’s name is attached to the clothing.
I think all this goes to show that the old adage that "any publicity is good publicity" might just be true.
Or going to "rehab" is the fashion du jour (pun intended).
The naming seems aimed to appeal to Apple users (or, possibly, not). The Inside Google Blog notes that the homepage was not even supposed to have a name in the first place.. its codename was “Mockingbird.”
At least one Mac User seems happy with it, although it does not seem to be overtly Mac friendly. Yesterday, PC World’s Harry McCracken went a step further with an excellent piece on the name, noting that Apple probably will not bother to sue Google over the name, given that Google CEO Eric Schmidt is on the Apple board.
More than that, he points out that when Apple uses the lowercase “I” it usually is referring to the Internet (iWeb, iLife, iPod, iPhone). Google is using it to refer to the personal pronoun to emphasize the personalization aspect of the site. However, the likelihood of confusion trumps this reasoning in the eyes of trademark law.
I have blogged at some length about how many products use a lowercase "I".
If Apple sues Google they could add hundreds of people to their list!
I see, however, that PC World’s poll currently shows that 40% of respondents believe the name is “lame” and only 6% of them think its “cool.” But then again, PC people always are a little touchy about anything that sounds like it was made by Apple.
May 1, 2007
What do you think “Flexpetz” is?
Yep, you guessed it...Flexible pet ownership.
Flexpetz, a little more user-friendly than some recent pet drug names, just recently launched in Los Angeles and San Diego and its founder, Marlena Cervantes, views the service like an extended family and allows dogs more love and attention than single ownership can often provide.
This type of business is referred to as fractional dog ownership, and the name is an alliterative portmanteau containing the word flex. There are 5,820 nationally registered active trademarks with part of the mark being “flex.” And that’s 3 times as many as Fusion.
- FlexJets - fractional private jet ownership
- FlexCam - flexible video camera
- FlexSpace - combining industrial space leasing with outsourcing
- FlexCar - car-sharing company
- FlexBank - flexible banking
- FlexGuard - flexible mouth guard
Just goes to show the flexibility of flex. However, it becomes an interesting naming challenge when a competitor wants to enter the market and needs to develop a brand name. This happens in many categories, but take fractional jet ownership, like FlexJets.
To differentiate their service from FlexJets, competitors must communicate their advantages by developing brand names that emphasize the consumer benefits in other ways than simply flexibility. For example, these companies did just that:
- Airshare Elite
In the naming business, there is sometimes a fine line between stupid and clever. Even though the business might be a brilliant idea, some people are trying to figure out which side of that line the Flexpetz name sits on.
Some suggest it's just another way of saying Rent-A-Pet. What do you think?