June 30, 2007
The iPhone is here.
No matter if you love the name it or hate it — or love the phone or think it’s terrible — there are now only two mobile phones in American history that consumers ask for by product name: The Motorola Razr and the Apple iPhone.
I think that is a milestone.
There is room to argue that the iPhone name is inaccurate (and admittedly this gadget is a convergence multimedia entertainment and organizational device), but I consider the iPhone a great brand name.
Why? It leverages the iEquity of 100,000,000 iPods that are already in the hands of consumers.
And we still call that thing you pick up and call another person with a “phone” even though they can do a million other things, just like we call these things sitting on our desks computers, despite the fact that they are converging in to media and communication devices.
Let’s face it, the iPod name is doing just fine and we never used “pods” for anything related to music until Apple came along. Now it’s hard to disassociate the name from the word “MP3 player” or even “music player.” And chances are, no matter what Apple called this device, we’d be referring to it as an “iPhone.”
This is a luxury buy, the ultimate phone for the person with some extra cash and a love of gadgetry.
Last week, the New York Times quoted Nokia President Bill Plummer in an article that is cautiously optimistic about a product that is possibly too expensive and fragile for the average buyer, who says the iPhone is the “evolution of the status quo.”
The big question is still whether or not the well named iPhone, coupled with the super powerful Apple corporate name, will find the hoary AT&T name that provides the wireless service a liability.
It is far too early to tell but my feeling now is that the iPhone brand name is so strong that pretty much any carrier would do.
Yes, I will be watching very carefully from the sidelines to see how these two mega brand names with utterly different corporate cultures and marketing skills work together.
But here’s a hint: So far, Apple’s association with the Intel brand name has been pretty darn lucrative. If we’re willing to buy iMacs with Intel inside, I’m sure we can learn to love iPhones with AT&T inside.
June 29, 2007
Steve Blow has a great article up in the Dallas Morning News about packaging that is difficult to open. Hard to open packaging is inspiring a new affliction that has been given the name "wrap rage" by consumers who are tired of struggling with package backs that do not come off and toys that seem permanently affixed to their boxes.
Things have gotten so bad that Consumer Reports has given the "Oyster Awards" to the new Oral-B electric toothbrush that was almost "demolished" upon opening and Bratz Sisters dolls that require almost eight minutes to free from their plastic casing.
I'd add that easy to open packaging joins green packaging as the new clarion call for consumers: the new name is "sustainable packaging," spearheaded by none other than Wal-Mart Canada.
If suppliers do not reduce the amount of packaging on their products, Wal-Mart says, they could get excluded. This comes on the heels of The Toronto Star's report that toymakers are missing the green revolution by filling our landfills with tons and tons of cardboard, plastic and bubble wrap.
On the other hand, product tampering and theft seem to be major worries on the part of the packaging industry.
It seems to me, however, that this affects naming because packages that are clearly labeled "easy to open" or that tout their "green" attributes should capture the eye of legions of parents and grandparents who dread Christmas day and the bags of trash-and sore fingers-that attend the hours of opening the presents once they have been unwrapped. Right now, as Steve Blow points out, "Easy Opening" does not always mean it's easy to open.
Who should be listening? Toymakers, food suppliers and hygiene product suppliers. How about making packaging that foregrounds the product and is green friendly...like the NoBottle bottle from Sidel.
June 28, 2007
Sprint Nextel seems to be borrowing a page out of AT&T's brand naming handbook by dropping the Nextel name in its "Sprint Ahead" campaign and its NASCAR sponsorship. Starting next year, the Nextel Cup will be the NASCAR Sprint Cup, and at least one blogger feels fans are fed up with the constant changes to the name of the race.
Many analysts seem wary of this move, since Sprint Nextel's marketing to date has created a meaningless brand name for many customers.
The new campaign is designed to focus on the customer and not the phone, explaining on how wireless improves people's lives. Part of this is the launch of the 'whyPhone' initiative which is an early response to the pressure the Apple iPhone will be putting on the company.
I covered the Sprint Nextel name change awhile ago and I am not surprised that the company is shortening its name to Sprint.
Sprint is a much stronger consumer brand name and has a rich heritage, while Nextel is primarily a B2B brand.
The familiar Nextel yellow color that Sprint has been using will be dropped in favor of "neon-hued streaks of light." Sprint has made a conscientious decision, I think, to walk away from Nextel's equity, hoping to gain improved brand perceptions and brand equity among the larger consumer market.
It strikes me that Sprint is tinkering with the packaging rather than what's in the package. By that I mean their unfortunate deterioration of service.
Sprint's new campaign feels like the classic Pepsi Generation strategy. Once a category becomes commoditized with little product differentiation, like cola or cell phones, the focus becomes more on the user and the user experience. I believe this is a sound strategy but takes massive spending and time and more time to be effective. Time will tell if Sprint is making this type of commitment.
Posted by William Lozito at 10:01 AM
Posted to Brand Naming | Branding | Company Naming | Consumer Electronics | Marketing | Media and Entertainment | Naming | Naming Rights | Product Naming | Technology | Telecommunications
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June 27, 2007
Naming companies' employees aren't the only people who think names matter. Studies have shown that having the right job title-especially if they get to pick it themselves-can be more important to employees than getting a raise. Even the Department of Labor acknowledges such titles as "Chief Blogging Officer," and no large corporation these days can manage without a Vice President of Search. British communicator John Smythe has just written a book about "the other CEO," the Chief Engagement Officer.
Here are just a few of the creative titles people have today:
- Chief Interrupter (Joseph Jaffe, crayon)
- Playing Editor (Arnold Palmer, Golf Digest)
- Chief Inspiration Officer (Ardath Rodale, Rodale, Inc.)
- Chief of Confusion (John Seely Brown, consultant)
If you need an unusual job title and can't think of one yourself, you can visit The Cubes™ Job Title Generator.
June 26, 2007
Adidas is launching a new campaign around the David Beckham name, where we will be treated to "David Beckham and New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush swapping sports during practice in 'Futbol vs. Football.'"
David Beckham transcends the game of soccer and sponsors seem to be expecting him to become a better brand name than Pelé. Adidas's "The Impossible is Nothing" commercials have been re-taped to make David Beckham's past and soccer in general more understandable to American audiences.
June 25, 2007
And Apple, naturally, has objected. It might not be possible to trademark that initial lower-case "i," but even so, anyone who uses it, particularly for software or electronics, is going to get slapped with an iLawsuit.
In this case, Apple might have some justification: there is only one letter’s difference between “iPop” and “iPod.” It’s highly unlikely anyone would ever confuse the two products, but it’s possible they would confuse the names, and expect something with the name “iPop” to be manufactured by Apple, Inc.
Apple may actually be doing Orbitcoms a favor. “iPop” is a frivolous name, and CRM is serious business. The name suggests consumer entertainment, not corporate productivity.
Using a different name would save Orbitcoms at least NZ$50,000 and probably resonate better with their target market.
But I don’t recommend they call the product “PopI.”
Oxymorons (or, more properly, oxymora) are one of the better-known and more popular figures of speech. It doesn't take a degree in literature to see that there's something funny about phrases like "jumbo shrimp" and "advanced beginner."
As a naming strategy, oxymorons are something of a two-edged sword. If you decided to call your company "Crash Airlines," you might drive customers away, or you might attract people who want to fly with someone who has a sense of humor. Most companies prefer not to take the risk, but a few have jumped right in:
- The Fluke Corporation manufactures testing and measuring equipment. Customers don't seem to worry that the results they get might be a fluke.
- Jeep manufactured an SUV called the Cherokee Pioneer from the 1980s to the early 2000s. In American history, at least, the Cherokee were settled natives whom European pioneers displaced.
- Some Krispy Kreme doughnuts may be both crispy and creamy, but cream itself is anything but crispy.
In politics, interest groups often choose names that are not merely ironic but downright misleading. Phillip Morris Tobacco bankrolled "Californians for Statewide Smoking Restriction," which sponsored an initiative to weaken smoking ordinances.
Most often, however, it's consumers who decide that a particular product name is a contradiction in terms. (The top candidate in this category is probably "Microsoft Works.") Rob Hof of BusinessWeek argues that the iPhone is not a phone, but a computer. The Los Angeles Business Journal called Hollywood Park, Inc. "the most misnamed company in town" after it sold Hollywood Park to Churchill Downs. And there's a certain irony in ordering your laser toner from the Ink Jet Superstore.
It may not be possible to avoid having your brand name used against you, but it's a good idea to plan for the possibility and to make your product live up to its name. It's much better to catch people's attention with a deliberately incongruous name than to have dissatisfied customers conclude that your product has been misnamed.
June 23, 2007
BusinessWeek reports that when Unilever wanted to market its Axe deodorant/body spray in 75 countries simultaneously, vice-president Russell Taylor went looking for "an international expression of lust," a single phrase to represent uncontrollable female desire.
Leaving aside the inherent improbability that any scent will cause women to go mad with desire (particularly when worn by young men, who always put on three times as much cologne as they need and make me sneeze), coming up with a universal word or phrase for anything is impossible. Once you get past facial expressions and inarticulate grunts, you run into vast differences in language.
And Unilever's chosen phrase to encapsulate the response women have to Axe? "Bom Chicka Wah Wah."
Urban Dictionary claims the phrase is an attempt to mimic a 1970s guitar porn riff. I was around in the Seventies, and I didn't know there was such a thing as a porn riff.
Whatever the derivation, however, "Bom Chicka Wah Wah" seems about as far as you can get from any natural expression of lust or desire. (Of course, true universal sounds of lust are not the kinds of things you can put on prime-time TV.) Granted I'm a ways from the late teen-early twenties crowd Axe is marketed at, but even in my most slang-happy teenage days, I would have expected any guy to respond to "Bom Chicka Wah Wah" by calling the nearest mental hospital to see whether they'd misplaced a patient.
Nevertheless, perhaps due to an intensive advertising campaign that's found its way onto YouTube, the phrase seems to be gaining some traction. Which means that before too long, "Bom Chicka Wah Wah" really might become a universal expression.
Even though we make our living creating them, there's such a thing as having too many brand names-at least when a company uses different names to refer to the same product or service. Michael Hyatt of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc told it this way at Book Expo America on June 12th:
By 2004, we had 18 total imprints... I remember being at a meeting in New York with Barnes and Noble. Several of our executives had gone to that meeting, and as we presented our newest products with some enthusiasm and fanfare, we did the traditional business card exchange. The Barnes and Noble executives looked at the cards kind of quizzically, puzzled by them, and then they looked up at us and said, "Do you guys all work for the same company?"
Every imprint had a different name, so every executive had a different business card. And while those names were meaningful to the executives, as far as booksellers were concerned, they were clutter. They served primarily to confuse the stores about where to order books. To make matters worse, there was no meaningful distinction between many of them, and they were competing for internal resources.
But back to the names. A name that doesn't mean anything to your clients and customers isn't very useful, and having too many names for subdivisions that customers can't tell apart just undermines your primary brand name. Thomas Nelson recognized that it had a problem and got rid of most of its separate imprints and sub-brand names, keeping only a few, like children's books and big-name authors. That gave the name "Thomas Nelson" more prominence with the likes of Barnes and Noble.
By way of contrast, Hallmark Cards has created several successful imprints which cater to different markets. They've been creating cards for African Americans under the name "Mahogany" since 1987. That name resonates both with elegance and good taste and with darker skin tones. It tells shoppers who to buy these cards for. "Shoebox" (named for the fact that it is, or was, "a tiny little division of Hallmark, and for the shoebox of postcards Hallmark's founder started out with) is now the nation's number one brand of humor cards.
Multiple brand names can work either for or against your company. The moral of the story: every name has to have a good reason for its existence.
June 22, 2007
Sometimes, as with the change from "IPTV" to "Mediaroom," a company picks a new brand name because the old one didn't go over very well with consumers. Sometimes a company discovers that its name has rude connotations in another language, and changes its name in order to avoid offending people.
And sometimes a company changes its name because the original name is too narrow to cover the scope of the work the company is doing. That's what happened to PodZinger, the audio search company that just changed its name to EveryZing in order to expand into video search.
While podcasts, the source of the first half of the name "PodZinger," can be audio or video, a lot of the most popular online video is not delivered as a podcast, and plenty of YouTube fans would be hard-pressed to tell you what a podcast is. Business 2.0 blogger Erik Schonfeld takes the name change as evidence that podcasting itself is a dud, but I'm not sure that follows. Nevertheless, even podcasters debate the appropriateness of the name "podcasting," and Alexandra Berzon is right that having "pod" in your brand name might drive away potential customers. While "EveryZing" doesn't automatically say "search," at least it's general enough to cover multiple media formats.
Not all companies that started out focused on one thing end up having to change their names. Berzon points out that Kiptronic, an ad-insertion service, has a name that applies equally well to audio and video. It's worth noting that the URL their home page redirects to has "podcaster" in it, but the page itself refers to "automated ad insertion for downloadable media." And Technorati, once primarily a blog search tool, has redesigned itself to cover "photos, videos, blogs, and more" without needing to change its name, a nice portmanteau of "technology" and "literati."
If you provide specialized services and expect to continue to operate in that particular niche, it may make sense to use a name that reflects it.
- However, more often then not, companies that start in a niche expand and grow beyond that niche.
- Therefore, I recommend a name that is broad enough to accommodate unforeseen growth opportunities and expansion to new markets and businesses.
Posted by William Lozito at 9:04 AM
Posted to Brand Naming | Branding | Company Naming | Consumer Electronics | Linguistics | Media and Entertainment | Naming | Product Naming | Technology
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June 21, 2007
Anyone who reads our blog on a regular basis knows that we do not make a habit of being negative. That's too easy, anybody can do that.
However, this post is an exception.
I've never understood the Taiwan-based electronics company Acer changing its brand name to BenQ. I think it's fair to say that this name has no meaning to English speakers, but Wikipedia indicates that it's an acronym for "Bringing Enjoyment and Quality to life."
The new brand name, Qisda, has nothing going for it. But maybe that's a bit too harsh:
- It does start with the letter "Q," which is the least used letter in English alphabet, thus making the name distinctive
- Our proprietary consonant research of the English alphabet indicates that the letter "Q" is associated with innovation
Apparently, this Taiwanese electronics company is fond of naming its brands after acronyms:
- Qisda reportedly stands for "Quality Innovation Speed Driving and Achievement"
However, Qisda falls short of the mark in English, because the letter "Q" always appears before the vowel "U" and takes on the sound "kw" as in quest, quarter or queen.
When speakers of English see "Q" followed by a vowel other than "U," they quickly recognize it as a foreign word and invariably muddle the pronunciation.
For example, it's been almost 6 years since September 11, 2001, but the terrorist group, Al Qaeda, still enjoys two very distinct articulations in the media:
- Al K- Da
- Al Qwada
Now BenQ is asking speakers of English to pronounce another "Q" name followed by yet another vowel.
In my opinion, this is a classic example of a brand name developed internally with management sitting around the conference room table with little to no regard for the target market.
If you want to see what others think of the new Qisda name, there is an interesting image on Engadget.
Posted by William Lozito at 10:36 AM
Posted to Brand Naming | Company Naming | Consumer Electronics | Durable Goods | Linguistics | Naming | Product Naming | Retail | Telecommunications
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June 20, 2007
I am very interested to see the brouhaha that is developing over whether most organic beers can legitimately claim being "organic" at all, not least because it turns out that "almost all U.S.-made organic beers contain hops that have been chemically treated to fight mildew and insects."
This must be bad news for all the new organic beer labels that are coming out lately, including a whole bunch from New England like Wolaver's and Peak Organic.
The former has seen sales increase 18% yearly, which says something about America's love for microbreweries and organic products.
Of course, Anheuser-Busch has gotten into the act, with its Stone Mill Pale Ale and Wild Hop Lager. And therein lies the rub: Anheuser-Busch and others are trying to take advantage of a clause in the law that says just 95% of a product's ingredients need to be organic to be classed as USDA Organic on the label. So they are pushing to have their non-organic hops added to the list of exemptions.
But as one activist pointed out, "organic means organic," and, "when you're selling products that contain some ingredients that aren't organic, you lose the meaning of the word and the meaning of the organic movement."
This obviously puts bona-fide organic beer makers on the back foot. Most true organic hops come from New Zealand, where Steinlager has just announced a new Pure version of its popular beer brand name.
June 19, 2007
The late Princess Diana may no longer be with us, but the Princess Diana brand name has been going strong for the last ten years. Time Magazine published a great article about the "Dianabilia" industry that keeps us digging into our pockets to buy more things bearing her name.
Time posits that she can join the ranks of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe who can "still shift the merchandise long after they're gone."
There are three books coming our way, TV movie and a line of bath products launched by Paul Burrell, her ex-butler. He also has a wine, furniture and rug collection out in addition to a talent show called "American Princess."
June 18, 2007
Kudos to funnyman blogger Long Zheng for guessing a few weeks ago that Microsoft was planning to rename its IPTV platform with a "friendlier" name Microsoft Mediaroom. This new brand name is supposedly the AppleTV killer.
The Mediaroom brand name will be announced today in Chicago and is supposedly "more appealing and descriptive of its expanding features."
The rollout of this Internet TV platform has not been very smooth and comes on the back of AT&T's $4.6 billion upgrade of its fiber-optic lines which will enable the delivery of its (possibly doomed, certainly awkwardly named) U-verse service. This will make Mediaroom a reality in living rooms across the nation.
Mediaroom will function as an ingredient brand the way Gore-Tex is sold in conjunction with numerous clothing labels or computer makers use Intel Inside.
In this case, Mediaroom will be the key ingredient in IPTV services offered by telecoms like AT&T.
While the Mediaroom product name itself is not too bad and works as a metaphor, I am very interested to see if this means that Microsoft is willing to let its own brand name take a back seat to a telecom brand name when it comes to IPTV.
Paid Content says that the ingredient brand moniker means "service providers who don't see Microsoft as a marketing plus can skip it."
Wow, that's a brand-naming milestone for Microsoft.
Posted by William Lozito at 3:03 PM
Posted to Brand Naming | Branding | Consumer Electronics | Marketing | Media and Entertainment | Naming | Product Naming | Technology | Telecommunications
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June 16, 2007
Danny DeVito claims to put his name on "every single thing I do," so it is no surprise that his new restaurant is called DeVito South Beach. This just opened following his decision to launch a new Limoncello drink in August called Danny DeVito's Premium Limoncello after a very embarrassing episode on the View where he was still a bit tipsy from the night before. Talk about turning lemons into, well, limoncello!
The opening looks like it was typical Hollywood A-list fare in the trendy SoFi (South of Fifth) neighborhood. If you want to drop in, smart money says the Global Steak Flight is the thing to order: it offers cuts from Japanese Kobe Beef, Australian Wagyu Rollatini and American Kobe Flat Iron. An interesting name indeed for what must be a very expensive dish.
But one word of warning seems to be that stars like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis failed to make a go of it with Planet Hollywood despite their brand name clout.
Britney Spears’s restaurant NYLA seems to be going strong — interesting she turned down the name "Pinky" for her own restaurant (the nickname ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake gave her) and avoided putting her own name over the door.
On that note, my favorite name for a celebrity restaurant is Angus McIndoe, a Broadway eatery that is partially owned by Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Mel Brooks, Harvey and Bob Weinstein, as well as writer Frank McCourt.
June 15, 2007
As you know, I have blogged before about how important it is to choose a company or product name that's easy to pronounce.
Part of the problem is that English is not a phonetic language.
- How we pronounce words depends a lot on what language they came to English from, but even then English speakers don't pronounce imported words the way speakers of the export language do.
- Even in English, "Nike" assuredly does not rhyme with "bike" — but the original Greek pronunciation would have been "NEE-kay," not "NYE-kee."
Worse yet, as John Xavier points out in his Linguistics Zone Blog, there are no set rules about where to put the stress in an English word.
We can guess where the stress goes in "Jaiku" because of the parallel with "haiku," but it's not always obvious which word should be the model for a coined name.
Xavier's example is "Verizon," which in fact rhymes with "horizon," but could theoretically rhyme with "Amazon" and have the stress on the first syllable.
That particular example seems to be stretching it a bit — I, at least, would not think of "Amazon" as a possible rhyme for "Verizon," but people did mispronounce it in the days before the ads saturated the TV networks, and many people mispronounce polysyllabic words when they see them written for the first time.
Does that mean you should stick with one-syllable names for your company or product?
Not necessarily. There's no way to guarantee that everyone seeing your product name will pronounce it the same way, even with a one-syllable name, as we said when the Wii first appeared.
"Verizon" is actually a great brand name. It may not make you think of cell phones, but if the network stretches from horizon to horizon, that's definitely a good thing. And "Jaiku" is witty and apt.
But if there's any chance people might mispronounce your product name, make sure you put a pronunciation guide — and better yet, an audio clip — on your website.
June 14, 2007
A palindrome is a word, phrase, or sentence which reads the same backwards and forwards. Most English speakers are familiar with the palindromes "Madam, I'm Adam" and "A man, a plan, a canal: Panama."
Wikipedia has an interesting list of palindromic place-names, but most of those names seem to be natural palindromes, not names which were made up or chosen because you could read them in either direction.
One examining attorney in a trademark application case argued that palindromes make stronger marks, and the fact that two similar names were both palindromes increased the likelihood of confusion between them, but John L. Welch of the TTAB Blog isn't buying it.
The two names in question, Niccin and Nicocin, are indeed both palindromes, but, as with anagrams, you have to be looking for a palindrome in order to notice it.
Nicocin isn't the only palindrome in the trademark register. There's the Rotavator, the Honda Civic, the Intel Viiv, and the drug Xanax, among others.
But if palindromes really made such great brand names, you'd expect to find more of them, particularly among coined names.
Natural palindromes are fairly rare in English; if they were more common, they'd be less interesting.
The name "Palindrome," on the other hand, seems to be quite popular. Fourteen companies have applied to trademark the term "Palindrome," but the only currently registered Palindrome marks are for clothing and for computer consulting.
June 13, 2007
When Greek people don't understand something, they say "It's Chinese to me," and they have a point. English and Greek are at least related; Chinese is completely different.
If you're thinking of expanding your business into China, you may well need to come up with a completely new brand name. A name that works well in English-speaking countries may be incomprehensible, unpronounceable, or even rude in Chinese. To paraphrase the Clicks2Customers blog, Chinese who work for foreign companies complain that their employers have names that their parents can't pronounce.
That works both ways, of course: Americans rarely pronounce Chinese words and names correctly, in part because most of us have so much trouble even hearing the difference in tones, never mind duplicating them.
Whichever direction you're crossing the Pacific in, however, you want a brand name which both sounds good and has an appropriate meaning.
As for why it should be harder to create such a name for the Chinese market than, say, the Spanish-speaking market — or even the Greek-speaking market — the answer lies in the alphabet.
Chinese characters are not an alphabet the way the Roman, Greek, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Arabic, and even ancient Egyptian alphabets are.
According to Wikipedia, about 4% of Chinese characters are actual pictograms. Most of the rest are combinations of pictograms with phonetic indicators.
And now for the really bad news: you need to know 3,000 of these characters for basic literacy. The potential for "misspelling" your new brand name by choosing characters whose meaning undermines the sense of the spoken word is enormous.
No wonder translating a brand name to or from Chinese is more difficult than just creating a new name for your new market.
June 12, 2007
There's a new memory card standard on the block: miCard. And unlike most existing card types (CompactFlash, Sony's Memory Stick, Secure Digital/MMC, SmartMedia, xD), the miCard capitalizes on the current i/My/You/We naming trend so popular in social media.
The "mi" in "miCard" actually stands for "multiple interface" and refers to the fact that you can stick one into either a computer's USB port or the MMC slot of a camera, mobile phone, or other electronic device. While TechRepublic seems slightly underwhelmed with the miCard's claim to be totally new, only one competing format, the iStick, has a comparable name.
And a comparable appearance, come to that: tiny and flat. One YouTube member has even adopted "iStick" as his username.
I think a social media-type name is actually increasingly appropriate for a device like this. Websites like YouTube and Flickr are all about sharing the videos and photos that get stored on the likes of the iStick and miCard.
Whether or not the miCard's Taiwanese designers intended to jump on this particular naming bandwagon, it's likely to work in their favor.
June 11, 2007
Business 2.0 recently ran an article about domain name resellers. Before buying a domain name at auction, "dotcom mogul" Kevin Ham checks it against an imaginary keyboard by "air-typing." He's looking for names that people will type into their browser's address bar directly.
These days, most major products and all major brands have their own domains.
Most people who want to know about your company will look first on the Web. That means it's important for names you choose to pass the typing test. The easiest things to type, of course, are plain letters without punctuation, special characters, or even numbers — all of which are popular in product names these days.
If you're constrained by a maximum length (like a license plate or an SMS message), it makes sense to substitute numbers for letters, and if you're typing on a cell phone's numeric keypad, it's not necessarily harder to write "l8r" than "later."
But it is harder for a touch-typist on a Qwerty keyboard. You have to hold down the shift key and reach too far above the home row. Domain names (and e-mail addresses) with hyphens and underscores in them can slow down typing. And, of course, even if you use a special character like @, &, or * in your product name, you can't use it in your domain name. You might have to buy two or three domain names in order to cover all the possible spellings people looking for you might type in.
In addition to that, you have to consider the potential for confusion and mistakes if you have too many of the same character in a row.
If your company is called, for instance, "Pacific Crest," that looks fine written as two separate words, but typed in as a domain name (pacificcrest.com) the two consecutive "C"s are confusing. It looks wrong, even when it's right. "Pacific-crest.com" would be easier to read (and a search engine would parse it as two words), but people tend to drop, forget about, and stumble over hyphens in domain names, so it's not necessarily an improvement.
If your fingers feel like you're playing a game of "Twister" when you type a potential product name, it's probably a good idea to avoid it — unless you're in a position to buy up domains for all of the typos people are likely to make when entering it into their browsers.
June 9, 2007
But they must be a brand naming headache. Marlboro Snus (pronounced “snoose”), just do not offer the same imagery as that personified by the Marlboro Man, who, let’s face it, is all about traditional cigarettes. Maybe the new ads will show a bunch of sleeping cowboys around a campfire?
The word “snus”, which reminds me of the dirtier, unhealthier cousins of the smurfs, sounds suspiciously kid friendly, too. I seem to recall a similarly named cartoon character from my youth called Shmoo who, interestingly, looks like a ghost (like so many other tobacco users are now, including both Marlboro men). But maybe I am over-analyzing this association.
However, I do wonder if he Snus product name is designed for the age group that doesn’t want to get busted smoking in the bathroom.
June 8, 2007
I was interested to finally read an in-depth piece on the new Martini Rosato brand name, Martini's new rosé-style vermouth that is "designed to grow frequency of consumption amongst Martini's four million light and infrequent (one to four drinks per month) drinkers as well as reversing the brand's outdated perceptions."
The new product is pink, a combo of white and red wines, and the new bottle design is sexier and more feminine.
The logo has been centered and put in the foreground, and the labeling has been changed to "give a bright, transparent and modern feel" with the goal of increasing "brand iconicity."
There are two things that strike me here:
- First of all, the smooth, sexy, hourglass shape of the bottle as well as the whole tenor of the new product and its naming is clearly designed to make this product appeal to women more than men. I have to wonder if all those martinis that were tossed down by the Sex in the City girls had something to do with this.
- Secondly, the recipes that are on the bottles designed to help people at home make fruity, easy drinking concoctions are aimed at women: let's face it, what guy is going to mix himself a Martini Rosato over pomegranate juice or a Rosso and cranberry?
OK, somebody has to say it: what about, you know, martinis?
Could it be that the Martini brand name is actually moving away from the drink that makes it recognizable in the first place?
Obviously, the problem here is that people like martinis, they enjoy them fairly regularly, but only on a Friday night (four times a month), and when they do, they use only a few drops to a half jigger of vermouth. Winston Churchill, a great martini drinker, used to simply whisper the word "vermouth" over his martinis; some people actually only spray the gin with vermouth.
What we are seeing here is a subtle repositioning of the entire vermouth brand, aiming it at a whole new target market. Martini marketing manager Caroline Herbert says they are trying to aim the product at "lighter drinkers" (e.g. people who do not drink martinis regularly, which would be most of the non-drinking middle class) and "we are doing fundamental things that will make people see the brand in a different way."
A current weekly martini drinker might feel sort of left out even though like most hardcore martini lovers they like extra-dry vermouth, which Martini has also redesigned and repositioned.
And that might not be a good thing: educated males in their 30s who like martinis are likely to ask themselves what the Martini icon James Bond would do in a situation like this. My feeling is that he'd go for a more traditional vermouth like arch competitor Martini & Rossi.
June 7, 2007
The news that Canadian diamond mining company Aber Diamond Corp was changing its name to Harry Winston Diamond Corp after it's recently acquired retail division makes good sense.
Aber took control of Harry Winston last September and the renaming will better reflect ''the nature of the corporation's activities and in particular the broadening of the corporation's focus to include both retail and mining segments of the diamond industry."
The Harry Winston name, like Tiffany's, is synonymous with "diamonds" and "luxury."
More than that, I believe that Aber is borrowing a page out of diamond giant De Beers's playbook. The secretive South African mining conglomerate has teamed up with the European luxury brand name VMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and has begun "mining the web" and furiously opening stores in the USA since 2005.
It is quite clear that diamond miners understand that linking their names with luxury retail brand naming is the way forward. Aber's greatest advantage in this case is that Harry Winston is a quintessentially American name, which must irk De Beers, who is working with a suspiciously French and recently unpopular brand name.
Plus, even better, Harry Winston has been around for decades in the USA: Marilyn Monroe mentioned the luxury brand name in her famous rendition of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend".
Finally, Harry Winston is all about diamonds and just diamonds... while LVMH is also about, eh, luggage and cognac.
June 6, 2007
Mobile podcasting company Melodeo has just released a new service called nuTsie(TM), which allows users to access their iTunes music library from their cell phones.
At first blush the name seems, well, nutsy. But, as the Seattle Times explains, "nuTsie" is an anagram of "iTunes." This is entirely appropriate for a service that changes the way you look at iTunes.
But is it too clever? Anagrams are not obvious to everyone. Unless you explain the source of the name, there's a good chance people won't get the joke.
On the other hand, studies have shown that people who are asked to solve an anagram before seeing a brand name for the first time are more likely to believe they have seen that name before, whether or not they have. So far, at least, this hasn't created a wave of anagram-solving landing pages for new products.
Anagrams as names raise some interesting questions. By definition, an anagram for a word is not the same as that word, so it should be possible to trademark an anagram name like nuTsie without receiving a Cease and Desist letter from Apple's lawyers.
On the other hand, before you select a name, you might want to see what kind of anagrams jokesters (or competitors) might make out of it by visiting the Anagram Genius page. The first suggested anagram for "Strategic Name Development" was "Complete vendetta smearing." The server claims that "iTunes" is too short to yield useful anagrams, however.
June 5, 2007
PEEK polymer film is a product that has almost unlimited applications. Every day, new uses are found for this product.
Victrex, the maker of PEEK polymer, has introduced a new film called APTIV™, a technology enabler that facilitates meeting demands for reduced systems cost and improved product performance, including durability, reliability, miniaturization, and increased functionality.
APTIV film is produced by Victrex in one of the most technologically advanced film extrusion facilities in the world. It truly represents the next generation of high-performance films offering design flexibility and cost savings.
The name, APTIV, is short, sentient, and conveys a strong aptitude for both endurance and adaptability. John Getz, Global Commercial Leader, APTIV film, Victrex, said "the end result is a product name that communicates the product's key benefits, versatility and high performance." Strategic Name Development recently partnered with Victrex to develop the APTIV brand name.
Three finalists will get to travel to Monolith and will get their own names and faces in the game itself.
You cannot use the name "F.E.A.R 2", despite the fact that the current owners of the name, Vivendi, will be using it beside the winner’s name in another game. The two companies had a falling out that left Warner Bros. and Monolith with the game and Vivendi with the name.
I would imagine that Monolith and Warner Bros. would like a name that improves on, but still hearkens back to, the F.E.A.R name, an acronym for "First Encounter Assault Recon".
T.E.R.R.O.R is too long, I think. I assume that almost all of the possible combinations of the word “fear” have been protected by Vivendi.
Possibly the way forward is to name the new game after a character or the "universe" of the game itself, or else think of a very slick way to use the word fear.
I wonder if the leet-speak F34R is protected. Or 433R? Or just F3AR?
The Thinktechno blog has posted a description of the game as well as a few screen shots to help get your creative juices going.
Already, one forum poster has offered the brand name BEER. Probably a non-starter?
June 4, 2007
After I wrote my Saturday post on Federated’s name change to Macy’s, I followed up on an article I had read about CMO Anne MacDonald leaving the company just before the name change became official.
An interesting Ad Age article suggests her departure had to do with the eternal tug of war between brand building and sales today.
Sales driven merchants are giving us less and less time to show results, it seems. And a good many CEOs just do not have the patience to build a meaningful brand name. On top off that, some analysts believe that Internet search engines are doing serious damage to branding as well.
But make no mistake: a good brand name can drive sales and help you dominate a category. Without a decent brand name, you’re just a reseller. Laura Ries says that the goal is to move from being a "brand name" to a "category" (you don’t buy an MP3 player, you buy an iPod, you don’t shop at the local big box, you go to Target, etc).
The idea is to move away from focusing solely on getting the next sale and building brand name recognition, thus building an asset for your company that, according to Jacob Jans, "you can use to make money again and again."
A great example is JC Penney, who is focusing on branding (a la Target) to build sales which were up 13% in the first quarter after taking the time and money to build their brands, sub brands and store brands.
Tim Kenney has a great post up entitled "Ten Reasons Why Branding has a Strategic Effect on Your Bottom Line," which should satisfy marketers and bean counters alike.
And as Drew McLellan says, "Every business has a simple choice. You can create/identify a brand to differentiate yourself or you can just be the cheapest option." At this naming company, we choose the former.
June 2, 2007
Federated Department Stores changed its name officially to Macy’s Inc yesterday.
Interestingly, the person in charge of making the transition, CMO Anne MacDonald, inexplicably left the company a couple of days before the transition became reality.
Expect to see bigger ad spend on advertising and less on private marketing efforts says Marketing Daily. Apparently sales at what they call the "new" Macy’s (those that were formally Marshall Field's stores) are down. Are you surprised? I’m not.
Second City Style snipes that "the Midwest has had enough homogenization for a while and will likely be taking its business elsewhere."
Long live Marshall Field’s in the hearts and minds of consumers.
June 1, 2007
Two fairly innocuous pieces of naming news caught my attention this morning.
The first was the flak that the Suck & Blow branded gelatin shooters are getting for their product name that seems clearly aimed at the underage demographic, not least because the name comes from an adolescent kissing game that's right up there with spin the bottle. The company's web site is cartoonish and colorful and their product design is clearly designed to appeal to the fake-ID set, yet the founder claims that these are not geared towards kids:
"Our concept is the first interactive beverage in the alcohol industry,” said Doug Hamer, founder of SAB. “People in college or high school, they have all the interaction they need. People in their 30s and 40s and 50s, they just want the interaction of having fun when they go out to nightclubs or home parties. So our product is really geared toward the 30-plus-year-old demographic."
Well, I am part of the 30+ demographic and my last official jell-o shot was in college when I was, ahem, underage.
The other product name is the well named WoundStat product that is designed to stop bleeding on the battlefield. Right now, soldiers use something called HemCon, made with a blood clotting agent that is "derived from shrimp shells," and an aptly named product called QuikClot helps blood clot faster.