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August 29, 2007

Frenemies in Product Naming

The word of the week is frenemy: the kind of friend who can hurt you one day and be your best friend the next. Om Malik says bluntly, that "everyone is a frenemy," especially in the online world, where YouTube and MySpace are perfect examples of frenemies; or Google and eBay for that matter.

In the world of product and brand naming, a tried and trusted name can be a frenemy.

jagemblem.gifTake, for example, the Jaguar brand name. Jag knows that it is a brand that seems to appeal to an older demographic. The problem is that newer drivers really don't understand the brand and tend to see it as kind of old fashioned. The Jag name is being a frenemy to the company... and the company's solution is to drop it and put a "leaper badge" in its place.

In Europe, the Ford Fiesta brand name is a frenemy. Ford wants to amp up the car but knows that consumers understand Fiesta to be a reliable bare bones vehicle. Everything about the Fiesta brand name means cheap and dependable, and Ford wants the car to be more than that.

But doing away with the brand name means throwing away years of brand equity, while keeping it means being hamstrung by consumer's perceptions of the Fiesta name.

ngage.gifThere's no question that the N-Gage brand name is a true frenemy to Nokia, who is using it to introduce a new gaming platform following the dismal performance of the original N-Gage initiative.

No matter how great the new products are, consumers are going to associate it with the first generation of duds thanks to its product name.

Closer to home, the name of the new market research agency created by Stan Rapp is going to be "Enguage," a name that is sure to be its creator's worst frenemy, notes The Browser, not least because it sounds like the ill fated Engage.

Maybe having a name change at all is the real frenemy here: Enguage had already bought out the well-named Direct Impact, a corporate name that would have been just fine.

What to do? The Godfather once said, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer." Maybe you should totally dump your frenemies.

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Posted by William Lozito at August 29, 2007 8:10 AM
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