October 31, 2007
I am interested to see whether the 2008 Smart Fortwo will be getting good press in the U.S., where people are a little reticent about really small cars.
The president of Smart Fortwo USA claims that "It's a new brand, a new car, a new everything, even a new segment - the microcar segment." And the brand name may be catching on with at least some of us.
It's a "smart" move during the times when people are worried about emissions, not least because the new "micro-hybrid" (not to be confused with the new name "microcar") was dubbed the "CO2 champion" in Frankfurt last month.
Cute names have worked before, of course, like the Beetle. But I have to wonder if this shift in brand naming is a strategic move on the part of the company that signals the general acceptance of small being a new big or not?
October 30, 2007
Like it or not, one of the factors in your choice of a company name is whether the name you want (and, increasingly, the domain name that goes with it) is already taken. It's always been important to check the trademark database for the country you're operating in before hanging out your shingle, unless you like getting Cease and Desist letters from those who have already legally protected "your" name, that is. But now a registered trademark isn't the only obstacle to the name you want.
In the course of writing an article about presence software for cell phones, John Cook of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer discovered that there are two companies with almost identical names offering similar services in this area: Whrrl and Whirrl. Talk about likelihood of confusion with a competitor! (That's the primary basis on which the US Patent and Trademark office denies new applications.)
Andrew at Domain Name Wire (not to be confused, of course, with NameWire) argues that the real winner of this name competition is whoever owns Whirl.com (a parked domain that takes you to findlinks.com), because that's what people will type into their address bars.
This is quite possibly true. There are arguments for and against using alternative spellings for company names, and those who think the dropped-vowel trend and most others common to Web 2.0 companies are just stupid, but the problem here isn't really with using a non-traditional spelling. There's an obvious fix for that, which is to buy the domains with the most likely misspellings and redirect them to your website.
Of course, before you can do that, the domains you want have to be available or at least for sale. To find the answer to the first question, do a search at any domain registrar. In many cases, they'll suggest alternative spellings and additional domains you might want to buy if your chosen .com is available.
If they are, you can make them an offer. If they aren't, you have to decide whether it makes better business sense to choose a different company and domain name, or to forego traffic you might miss through using an unfamiliar spelling.
In either case, it's far better to make an informed decision than to be surprised by the existence of a similarly-named competitor.
October 29, 2007
Repositioning your brand name can often mean the difference between survival and failure.
Take the Hummer, for instance. In the age of "Inconvenient Truth," big gas-consuming trucks are a no-no.
GM's new campaign, entitled "Hummer Heroes," is meant to shift the focus to the good deeds one can do with a massive vehicle. GM has cleverly given 19 Hummers to the Red Cross as part of a donation of 72 vehicles.
Going "back to black" packaging helped to reposition the brand as masculine and a humorous TV commercial about two brand managers trying to sue Classic Coke for "taste infringement" made it distinctive.
October 26, 2007
As you know, I've been blogging about Mercedes-Benz recently. The fact that company has not only implemented some serious revamping of its brand naming but also added a neat new "sound logo" is worth noting.
What's interesting about Mercedes-Benz's new logo is that it's a solo vocal taken from a recording made by an English (not German) boys' choir. One Mercedes-Benz exec enthused that it is "emotional, elegant and unmistakably associated with our brand."
October 25, 2007
Many Daimler shareholders are complaining about the company's name change from DaimlerChrysler to Daimler AG.
There's certainly nothing inspiring about the "AG" appellation, but Daimler and Chrysler never struck me as belonging together in the first place. The Daimler name evokes Lord Peter Wimsey: upper class, upscale, luxury cars with a good turn of speed (and perhaps a whiff of the turn of the previous century). Chrysler, on the other hand, is Lee Iacocca and the tough neighborhood that is Detroit (no longer really Motor City).
So I sympathize less with those who object to a change than with those who would prefer to see the Mercedes-Benz name brought back in. Daimler was always a better fit with Mercedes than with Chrysler, and a return to the previous "Daimler-Benz" would doubtless have been preferable to many people, especially, of course, the heirs of Carl Benz. But that wasn't an option, according to CEO Dieter Zetsche.
One advantage the new company name does have is that the company is unlikely to need to change it again to reflect future acquisitions or sell-offs.
October 24, 2007
Creating a new drug brand name is challenging, because you need a name that appeals to both doctors and patients and conveys or at least implies some of the benefits - oh, yes, and hopefully something people can pronounce and will remember without the need for a saturation TV campaign.
The generic pharmaceutical names of the same medications rarely have any of the same name characteristic advantages, since they're usually based on the chemical composition of the drugs. Even doctors may have problems with correctly spelling and pronouncing these polysyllabic wonders. Contrast "Prozac" with "fluoxetine" and "Allegra" with "fexofenadine" or even "Vicodin" with "hydrocodone/acetaminophen." (Acetaminophen, incidentally, is what we, Americans, know as Tylenol.)
This may help explain why so few people in a recent study could correctly identify the medications they were taking. It's easy to confuse one of those names with something else that may sound more familiar.
On the other hand, I doubt that explains it entirely, because most doctors use brand names when discussing medications with their patients; it's the HMO pharmacy that substitutes the generic version unless specifically requested not to. By now, most people who think of themselves as taking Prozac technically aren't. Prozac has become genericized like Kleenex.
Of course, with medications that aren't household names, the brand name may not be that much more familiar or comprehensible to patients, particularly if the medication is one of several tried for the same condition.
Remembering to take the pills on schedule may be more important to patients than remembering what they're called.
October 22, 2007
I realize that many people miss the Cingular brand, but as I mentioned before, I think AT&T made the right move in scrapping the Cingular name. The share price is increasing and the AT&T brand name has broader and deeper recognition.
Just give it some time. Be patient.
October 19, 2007
Mercedes-Benz is getting a new brand identity on November 1 as well as a new slogan "The Star Always Shines From Above."
The idea is to associate the Mercedes-Benz's star with things other than just cars, like "architecture, people and landscapes, putting the emphasis on uniform imagery." According to Mercedes-Benz official blog post "the new brand identity... revives our entire presence, and ensures an unmistakable image which combines tradition with a future-oriented approach."
Some may call this "branding suicide" but I am not sure. This seems to be an attempt to extend the usage of the logo. Seems to me that Mercedes-Benz is tearing a page out of Nike's book, a company that has successfully decoupled the logo from the brand name, allowing for greater usage of the ubiquitous swoosh.
The Mercedes-Benz's star is well recognized already thus giving the brand that much more resonance.
October 18, 2007
Today's article in the NY Times has me thinking how branding and naming have evolved in today's age of interactive media and social networking.
It seems we have moved into an era when consumers want to take ownership of the brand names they like, for better or worse, and companies have to find the means to manage that interest.
October 17, 2007
The Absolute Overall Oldest Appliance owner will get three new Whirlpool appliances plus $1000 cash, while the "Craziest Video Entry" winner will get three new GE appliances.
It seems APWagner figured the Whirlpool brand name would appeal to people who want longevity out of their appliances, while GE would appeal to creative people. In my opinion, however, all of these brands have qualities built into their names.
If you still wonder how old your appliance has to be in order to win a contest, the Old House Web has a list up:
- Dishwashers should give you from 5-12 years of usage
- Washers and dryers 8-12 years
- Fridges and stoves 15-20 years
Now we have to wait and see which appliance brand name will beat these numbers.
October 16, 2007
Check out an article on the Portfolio.com about the incredible changes in the recording industry that have made international news since major acts like Radiohead and Madonna have dropped their labels altogether to give in completely to the advent of downloadable music.
The artists are getting away from the old music industry model by letting their fans listen to the music for free.
Radiohead, Prince and Madonna have all figured out that letting fans have the product for free will bring them to the concerts, where the real money is made. It will also drive up their brand name recognition and sales that are covered by licensing deals. In addition, Radiohead will be selling fans music directly through their website for the amount fans willing to pay, which they seem to honor.
Common Sense Dancing compares big name artists to the Major League Baseball. Yes, we can all watch baseball for free on TV, but it also helps the baseball industry. The MLB exposure fills the stadiums and sold merchandise supports our favorite teams. And how many major brand names, from cars to beer, depend on the sports industry to survive?
October 15, 2007
A recent article posted at the New York Times should be read by all the good folks at Coca-Cola. It seems Nike is shifting their focus from the traditional advertising towards the social networking, reported the New York Times.
Nike is pushing for "more physical interaction with brands," like sponsoring soccer games and marathons but also offering ""Nike Running Club" in its stores to create a genuine place of interaction with the brand name.
Coca-Cola has decided on another approach for brand awareness in China. The company has opened the Coca-Cola Research Center for Chinese Medicine at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, which will dovetail with its Beverage Institute for Health & Wellness in China. As reported, Coca-Cola's newly developed beverages will include Chinese herbs as ingredients.
October 12, 2007
I have been following the stories about re-naming airports for some time now and recently came across an article just about that in the Modesto Bee.
The Castle Air Force Base in Yosemite, California wants to go from being named after a heroic airman to a georgraphical name. Soon it will be called either Central California Yosemite Airport or Merced County Yosemite Airport.
The similar situation is in Hartford Bradley Airport that was named after a pilot killed in a training accident during times when the airport was a military field. The new name alternatives considered are "Bradley New England International Airport" or "New England International Airport" since the airport is now an international destination.
On the other hand, well-known airports like Johannesburg International, are changing their names into OR Tambo Airport named after the former president of the ANC.
Here are a few more examples of airports that were named after people:
It seems to me that naming an airport is just as big of a task as naming a town. After all, it is the front gate into the city.
October 11, 2007
The name Salma is a derivation of the word salamah, meaning peace. The doll creator has already developed twenty different costumes "ranging from traditional wear to casual clothes and, of course, white prayer dresses." In case you didn't know, Barbie's revealing clothing is not appropriate for the 1.6 billion Muslim people in the world.
Now, an Indonesian woman has come up with an alternative doll named Salma, which is a Barbie look-alike dressed up in traditional Muslim clothing.
Indonesia is the largest Muslim country, thus making it a great starting point for the new toy. The similarity between Salma and Barbie is so striking that it's unclear whether it's an authentic Barbie.
Regardless, the Salma doll is marketed as a "Muslim Barbie," which is a trademark violation unless Mattel doesn't protect their mark.
The advent of this new doll should be bad news for Fulla and Razanne, the two Barbie-like dolls that are just as modest but are not likely to be facing lawsuits from Mattel.
October 10, 2007
The name of the event itself is clearly meant to attract females, but it struck me that the brand names of certain bikes on display there also appeal to women. Names that caught my eye were Suzuiki Burgman, Kawasaki Versys, and Kymco Velox.
Aprilla USA has a confidently feminine sounding name, and their product names seem very female friendly: the Tuono, the Caponord, and the Mojito. Italians with their beautiful, sexy language, seem to have a real advantage over everyone else from a brand naming perspective, not least because women are buying more scooters. There is something alluring about a woman on a Vespa, for instance, or on a Ducati (a company that has a wonderful women's racing race team.
These names are so much more refined than those offered by one of the other big sponsors of the event: Harley-Davidson, is a revered name in the industry but is also trying to sell women the "Night Rod."
Fact is, those of us in the naming business had better start being aware that even traditionally masculine brand names like the Kawasaki Ninja appeal to women (it is in fact a favorite among women because it is so light).
A great article on Cycle Trader breaks down women's favorite bike brands, and the results are interesting: Harley's Sportser is the top bike for that company name, while the Honda Shadow is ridden by more women than the goddess Valkyrie (who would have thought?) by a factor of six.
Harley has a tremendous amount of women riders, but names like "Softail" and "Fat Boy" and "Shovelhead" must at least make some women buyers pause.
October 9, 2007
Car lovers will be pleased to learn that French automaker Renault plans on reintroducing its Alpine brand name on a line of cars coming at the end of the decade that promises to include a "radical sports car."
While Renault plans on introducing 26 new models by the end of 2009, including a new Laguna as well as updated versions of the Vel Satis and Avantime lines, there can be no doubt that true aficionados will be eagerly awaiting new Alpine. The legendary Alpine A110 led the team to victory in the 1973 World Rally Championship, which was something pretty special.
This car that put a serious fire under the Porsche 911, can be found on eBay and aimed right at the classic car demographic. Owning a 1977 Alpine A310 would make you a "member of a much more exclusive club than is available to mere 911 drivers."
I have to wonder, however, how this brand name will work alongside another brand name: Alpine car stereos. It's a brand that appeared in 1978, years after the Renault Alpine was made legend, but is still very much sui generis.
Of course, Alpine the car stereo company, no longer makes car stereos, they make "mobile media solutions," but it’s still a fearsome and coveted brand name.
I think a new, "radical" Renault Alpine 2010 loaded with the latest Alpine sound system would be si bon.
October 8, 2007
Mazda has just announced its latest concept car, the gorgeous (if slightly surreal) Taiki . While the category they're putting it in ("Sustainable Zoom-Zoom") sounds like a badly-translated dinner menu, there are some wonderful names involved. "Taiki" means "atmosphere," entirely fitting for a car with sweeping lines and an all-glass canopy, and appropriate to the Nagare ("flow") concept car from which it evolved. The name Taiki also sounds like "tai chi," which epitomizes graceful, flowing (albeit not swift) motion.
Not only that, it has a branded engine, a 16x rotary job called Renesis (which sounds like "genesis" and involves technology taken from jet propulsion). And we already know how effective trademarked ingredients are for marketing. Indeed, the car has so much going for it in the naming department that it's a pity it's only a concept car and not available for purchase. It's got Lamborghini's Reventón beat hands down.
October 5, 2007
One might reasonably accuse Latin buffs of being a little odd, but those of us who started pursuing Latin in high school (and even before) got our revenge when it came time to take the SATs. About 60% of English words come either directly or indirectly from Latin.
It isn't just naming companies that like to adapt Latin for modern usage, either. First it was singing "Iucundus tibi" to our Latin teacher on her birthday. Then it was books like Latin for All Occasions and X-treme Latin: All the Latin You Need to Know for Survival in 21st Century. Now it's Vicipaedia, the Latin version of the popular open-source online encyclopedia.
"Encyclopedia" is itself a Greek word, which makes "Vicipaedia" somewhat less than proper Latin even if you leave out the fact that "wiki" (a Hawaiian word meaning fast) and Latin "vici" (which means "I have conquered") have completely separate meanings. Paideia, for those who are wondering, is Greek for "education," from the word pais, meaning "child."
Naturally, it can be a challenge adapting Latin to modern terminology, but because Latin is full of prefixes, suffixes, prepositions, and assorted root meanings, a little creativity is all you need. After all, look at how many of our modern items already have names deriving from Greek or Latin, like "submarine," "automobile," "motorcycle," and "video."
October 4, 2007
I've noticed a curious linguistic phenomenon developing around the new iPod touch (you know, the one that's basically an iPhone without the phone). People keep calling it the "iTouch." Yet no one calls the iPod shuffle an "iShuffle," or refers to the iPod nano as an "iNano."
Perhaps it's because the iPod touch looks so much like, and appeared so soon after, the iPhone, which is not, after all, called "the iPod phone." And maybe it's happening because everyone who sees it thinks "I want to touch that."
October 3, 2007
The Venus (LG VX8800) is aimed at the female demographic, quite wisely since the name "Venus" refers not only to a planet, but to the mythological goddess of love and beauty, in addition to Gillette's Venus razors.
The Juke is the old U470 fashion phone for people that don't want to surf the web, but want to listen to music.
These phones are being launched right on the heels of news from the ACLU that Verizon seems to be stifling political discourse on the web, leading to a seething Op-Ed piece in The New York Times this morning that might hurt the launch of these new handsets.
October 2, 2007
Many bloggers were relieved to learn that the New Yankee Stadium will retain its name... sort of. It is set to be named "Yankee Stadium at (insert company name here) Plaza."
Even more reassuring is the fact that it will not look like "Times Square" inside, although there will be plenty of sponsorship opportunities inside the park for companies who want to give their brand name some prime exposure. Yes, you could probably get your name up on a hot dog stand or even a bathroom.
It is certainly true that the Yanks have given up a great deal of money to retain the Yankee Stadium name. The new park, with far better facilities, is going to cost in the range of $800 million to build. I am glad that the new Yankee Stadium has found a middle way between observing tradition and embracing naming rights.
But I was sad to learn that Babe Ruth Park will be torn down in the name of progress and I sympathize with those who love the tradition of the place. Will this mean the Yankees may face their own "Curse of the Bambino?"
You just have to wonder why they couldn't give the House that Ruth Built a facelift. Tradition and superstition are big in baseball, and possibly some of both will rub off on the naming rights within the stadium.
If enough fans feel left out of the skyboxes, being associated with the stadium may not be a home run for those wanting to win over the hearts and minds of New Yorkers.
October 1, 2007
The fact that these names are funny works against the brand. Yes, they are memorable, but they are not doing much for the business - who really wants to eat "Yuki Sushi," even if it is easy to remember?
On the other hand, Raymond Lawrence has an excellent post up about funny business names that work. Nerds ToGo, Pet Butler, Boneheads and College Hunks Hauling Junk are all on the crazy side but they get the service message across. Brick Kicker gives pizzazz to a home inspection business, and FunBus is a better service offering than "livery service."
The point is that these company names are funny because they want to be: they're laughing with the customer and not being laughed at. Walking that line, however, is no small feat.