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November 30, 2007

AOL to Become Brand Name History?

aol_logo.gifWired's Epicenter asks a hard question today: "whither the AOL brand?"

The company, as a whole, has been in decline for some time now, due to an outdated business model and decentralized leadership. However, AOL, as a brand name, still holds a lot of leverage. "AOL is a high fast ball," Frankel says. "They have everything you need to make it a great brand besides a strategy," states Robert Frankel, a branding expert.

Instead of leveraging the established AOL brand, the company has been actively developing brands that do not include the AOL name, like TMZ.com or Truveo, and adding a new ad division called "Platform A."

These new developments seem to fit with AOL's new strategy of getting away from the Internet portal and instead becoming an online advertising giant. "You want to be there whether you're branded or not," said Kevin Conroy, executive vice president for products at AOL. What it comes down to, is that AOL executives either do not believe that the iconic AOL brand name is as important anymore, or they just do not have a branding strategy, which I doubt.

This is really just another argument about brand image. AOL's CEO Randy Falco sees AOL as a house of brands, like Proctor & Gamble. Falco also believes that the attributes attached to the AOL brand are not all positive.

However, the "You've Got Mail" announcement has become part of popular culture, and products, such as AIM (AOL Instant Messenger),which still hold most of the market share, in their respective markets.

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:33 AM

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November 29, 2007

Sinatra Resurrected as a Brand Name

Frank-Sinatra.gifFrank Sinatra fans will rejoice when they learn that Warner Music Group and the Family of Frank Sinatra have formed a new brand name called Frank Sinatra Enterprises. It "integrates all facets of managing Sinatra's music, film and stage legacy, including administering all licenses for the use of his name and likeness."

This is not small news, as the company will own a good amount of the Sinatra recordings, including those from the Reprise era as well as films, TV specials, unreleased recordings and so forth. This move turns Frank Sinatra into a brand name that will live on forever.

Even better, it is an excellent example of how a company can expand its scope and sell "more than just music." Use of the Sinatra brand, beyond his music, should have at least as much equity.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:57 AM

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November 28, 2007

Trademarking: Knievel vs Kanyevel

West_Knievel.gif Looks like Kanye West and Evel Knievel have settled their differences over West's use of Knievel's likeness and name in his video where the rapper appeared as Evel Kanyevel and re-enacted Knievel's ill fated attempt to jump the Snake River Canyon.

It is good to hear that the lawsuit Knievel launched last year has been settled "amicably," not least because the 69-year old Knievel referred to West's music in the press as "filth." It does go to show that if two people can sit down in a room and hash things out, great divides in brand naming might be resolved.

West's attorneys argued that he was protected under the first amendment because the video could be construed as "satire," which is an interesting means of defending what looked like a trademark violation.

It seems almost certain that if Knievel wanted to stick to his guns he'd have a case, not least because the video seems to damage Knievel's reputation and infringe on his trademark.

Officially, the lawsuit went into mediation, which probably means that Kanye wrote Knievel a check behind closed doors which prompted the legendary stuntman to say West was a "wonderful guy and quite a gentleman."

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:10 AM

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November 27, 2007

Claseo: A Classy Product Name

logo.jpgHere's a new take on the concept of social shopping: clothes you need an invitation to buy. Claseo appeared in the November 15 SpringWise newsletter because of its concept, but we were attracted by the name.

While other social shopping networks have typical Web 2.0 names like ThisNext, Crowdstorm and ShopWiki.

"Claseo" emphasizes exclusivity rather than popularity.

You can tell from their name that their products, and their customers, have class.

Now, if only we could get an invitation...

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Posted by William Lozito at 7:57 AM

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November 26, 2007

Kindle Kinda Not Good Brand Naming

AmazonLogo1.gifWe have known that Kindle, Amazon's eBook reader, was coming for some time now, but last week we saw Newsweek's Steve Levy raving about it as the "iPod of reading."

There are two interesting naming developments here:

  • For one, Kindle is not naming a gizmo or a device as is often the case with cell phones, but it's naming a service that will act as an extension of the Amazon store.
  • The Kindle name is a verb, not a noun. Where have all the good nouns gone? In almost any category they are taken.

Amazon-Kindle.gifI also have to wonder if the name Kindle was well chosen as ParisLemon has a picture of kindling burning on its blog and there are sure to be many "up in smoke" jokes cracked if this particular gadget, I mean service, gets burned in the marketplace.

This seems possible after Scoble's review and other iffy reviews from the book set.

I also think that the Amazon brand name appeals to people who love books, and eBook readers are meant to help, not hurt, those people.

A product name like Kindle might be meant to refer to "kindling excitement" but it also reminds me of book burning. Also, as Laura Freberg points out, "I surely don't want my "book" to ignite in my lap" like some computer gizmos have in the past.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:23 AM

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November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving from Strategic Name Development

Here’s wishing to all of our readers a happy and prosperous Thanksgiving.

Rockwell_thanksgiving.gif

Happy Holidays!

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:49 AM

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November 21, 2007

When Brand Names Remind Us of The Worst

Scott_Peterson.gifWhat's the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear "Scott Peterson?"

  • Murderer
  • Liar
  • Psychopath
  • Sociopath
  • Evil

I'm sure, most of you recall he was convicted of murdering his pregnant wife Lacy Peterson.

Scott_Petersen_logo.gifI'm sure, most of you don't know, however, that there is Scott Petersen Sausage Company in Chicago.

Although the Sausage Company's name Petersen is spelled with an "e", I couldn't help but being reminded of another Scott Peterson who spells his name with an "o."

When Peterson is spelled with an "o" is generally of Swedish origin, while when Petersen spelled with an "e," it's generally of Norwegian or Danish origin.

A subtle distinction, I think. Too bad for the Scott Petersen Sausage Company.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:17 AM

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November 20, 2007

New Slogan for Great Britain?

Cool_Britannia.gifGreat Britain is looking for a national slogan, a move which is being received with an expected dose of cynicism by the British public. Recent suggestions include "Get blotto, play the lotto, that's our motto" and "Dipso, fatso, bingo, ASBO, Tesco." Another amusing one is "Americans Who Missed the Boat" have posted yet more.

Spice_Girls.gifThe UK has never had an official slogan. Even the Spice Girls' era "Cool Britannia" was more of a proposed and failed media tagline. This may be due to the fact that England "did not have the same grand cataclysmic moment of creation that other countries did" and thus a rallying cry was not really necessary. And as one student says, "We're British; we don't do slogans."

The Yahoo! News article on the subject quotes Shakespeare's "Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful" as a possible slogan, but I would suggest that if you are looking to the Bard for inspiration, why not "The Sceptred Isle?"

I guess "God Save the Queen" has served them well for some time now and few people will understand the meaning of "sceptred."

The whole debate has prompted at least one blogger to post suggestions for a Canadian slogan. My favorite is "North America's very own Belgium."

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:41 AM

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November 19, 2007

ANdAZ Hotels: Starting a New Spelling Trend?

Hyatt_logo.gif Hyatt chose a name meaning "personal style" for its new chain of "unpretentious, eco-friendly" hotels -- and may be starting a new trend in alternative spelling by rendering "Andaz" as "ANdAZ." That's right: instead of mid-word capitals, a trend we're all familiar with by now, there's a mid-word lower-case letter.

Andaz.gif Fortunately for our autocorrect options, the hotel chain seems happy to use the spelling "Andaz." One presumes the designer was aiming for hip, trendy, and attention getting, rather than puzzling, but the effect is to slow down the reader's eye in ways contrary to the naturally quick flow of the syllables.

What, one wonders, looking at "ANdAZ," are "AN" and "AZ" and how does the "d" connect them? Is this one word or two? Either way, it misses the opportunity for a play on "dazzle," though one could argue that Hyatt's Flash animation intro is meant to do just that.

The Red Hot Curry blog points out that the Andaz name reverses another trend: whereas once Indian hotel owners used English names, now an Anglo chain believes an Indian name will attract the right clientele. "Andaz" is Hindi, or Urdu, or both -- difficult for anyone not familiar with either the Nastaliq or Devanagari scripts to see whether "personal style" is a correct translation.

In a way, it hardly matters, except to Urdu speakers who might be annoyed by a misuse of the word.

The name is short, phonetic, easy to pronounce, and has a Z in it connoting innovation, as our proprietary consonant study revealed.

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Posted by Diane Prange at 10:23 AM

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November 16, 2007

DEWmocracy Millennial Brand Naming at Work

MD_logo.gifPepsi's new DEWmocracy initiative, which allows consumers to literally create the new Mountain Dew brand name, as well as "every aspect of the new drink, including color, flavor and label graphics" is pretty exciting.

It includes a nifty online movie directed by Forrest Whitaker and a complex game that, according to Beneath the Brand, takes the whole effort "far beyond any create your own commercial."

However, The daily (ad) biz isn't too impressed, stating that consumers ultimately wind up voting on three "brand acceptable" options, and DEWmocracy "is not consumer choice, it's a giant focus group."

Maybe so, but this is clearly an initiative to bring in the younger generation. It seems that when the product names are created, for the Facebook generation, (DEWmocracy has a page, of course) the more hands-on interaction you provide, the better.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:12 AM

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November 15, 2007

Martha Stewart Wins and Loses Katonah Brand Naming Dispute

Martha StewartThe New York Times reports today that the dispute between Martha Stewart and her fellow residents of Katonah is now over: she will be able to use the exclusive village's name on "furniture, mirrors, and chair cushions" but not on things "such as hardware, paint, lighting and home textiles."

kvislogo.gifHer plans to create a Katonah brand hit a snag when the US Patent and Trademark Office took up the case of the Katonah Hardware store and the Katonah Village Improvement Society, which have indicated disappointment with their challenge to the domestic diva.

As I have written about this before, it seems to me that Martha is not getting much out of this deal.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:50 AM

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November 14, 2007

Product Naming: Penryn Processors Anything but Obscure

Intel-penryn.gifA quick look at Engadget confirms that Intel's new Penryn processors are getting plenty of buzz, particularly now that they're already shipping. And back since the buzz began, people have been asking "What's a Penryn when it's at home?"

IntelLogo1.gif"Pennrynn" is Cornish for "promontory" and is the name of a town in (you guessed it) Cornwall. That Penryn is presumably the namesake of Penryn, California, after which the processors are named.

Yes, descriptive names have their place. Intel chooses its product code names from among lists of obscure place-names proposed by the design team. According to Dileep Bhandarkar of the Technology@Intel blog, Penryn, CA is near one of the development sites for the processors. He adds, "The project started originally in Israel under the name Hagar, but one quick look at the comic section of the paper convinced us that that was a Horrible name!"

I quite like the name Penryn, though I have to admit that "Core 2 Extreme" does a better job of explaining the product's features and benefits.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:03 AM

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November 13, 2007

eBay's Counterfeit Couture a Threat to Tiffany Brand Name

Tiffany_logo.gifTiffany's battle against eBay for not vigorously patrolling the sale of counterfeit Tiffany items is about to commence. The focus is on the ridiculous number of fake goods being sold by the online auctioneer.

Hermes-Logo.gif Hermes has weighed into the battle, as have L'Oreal and others.

L_Oreal_Logo.gifDespite the fact that eBay forbids the sale of these things quite explicitly, it seems that major brand names want eBay to take more responsibility for the no-good-nicks that fall through the cracks - and there seem to be thousands of them selling everything from Gibson guitars for under $3 to computers.

eBay_logo.gifThere can be no question that tracking what people want on eBay is a great way of tracking the world's most desirable brand names. And if eBay becomes the portal through which people undermine brand name equity of some of the most desirable names out there, then that is a real shame.

Add to that the ready availability for almost any brand name luxury good over the Web itself and it might be argued that "counterfeit couture" could very well wipe out the real thing.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:58 AM

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November 12, 2007

One vs. Wood, The Quest for a Cool PC Product Name

Dell_logo2.gifGateway-logo.gifThe news that Gateway's "One," a tricked out PC that is meant to rival with iMac in sleekness and form, shares a product name with Dell XPS One makes one wonder how this could happen. By the way, the Dell XPS One will be launched on November 19.

WoodPC.gifThere are might be two "One" computer brands, but there is only one "Wood".

What's wrong with the brand name "Wood Computer?" You tell me, but regardless it makes me curious to learn more about the brand.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:40 AM

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November 9, 2007

Company Name Changes: Working Assets Believes It(')s CREDO

WA_logo.gifWorking Assets, the telephone company whose unique selling proposition is the donations it makes to progressive causes, has just announced a name change, despite the fact that it hasn't been bought out or acquired any new subsidiaries.

Now, "Working Assets" wasn't a bad name: it conveyed that the company was putting its (and your) assets to work - if not necessarily what they were working for. But the new name, CREDO, focuses attention on the "paycheck of the heart" that the connected generation demands.

Credo.gif In a letter addressed to its customers, CREDO answers the question "Why are you changing your name?" this way:

    Because we want our name to tell the world what we're all about, so we can continue to grow our business an our movement for progressive change. Because "credo" means belief and belief is at the heart of everything we do. The belief we can make the world a better place through great phone service. As CREDO, we'll be reaching more people and working even harder for progressive change.

They could easily have added, "because the new name gives us an entry point into the social media revolution," because that's what the "What's Your Credo" project does for them. CREDO is inviting people - whether or not they're customers - to upload videos of themselves saying what they believe.

The word credo itself is Latin for "I believe" and is the root of the English word "creed," though it has also come into the English language as "credo," which actually means a system of principles or beliefs.

BenJerry.gif Those interested in trying the service will be happy to know that the bribe for signing up is still the same as before: free Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:17 AM

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November 8, 2007

Brand Recognition in the Womb?

Trendwatching.com just posted an article called "Generation Z," a quote from which caught my eye:

    First of all, no generation in the history of mankind can be made to embrace brands with such eagerness by exposing them to specific brand benefits. Consider this research nugget: a Swiss study has found that when sufficiently exposed to child-friendly brand jingles, tunes and spoken messages during pregnancy, up to 77% of all newborns not only recognize these brand markers, but develop a brand preference that could last until puberty, and probably into adulthood (final results are not yet available as the project only started two years ago). Furthermore, an astounding 23% of infant participants could indicate at least 9 out of 12 favorite brands using rudimentary hand signals.

Now, as it happens, this article is a spoof. Or, at least, it's meant to be a spoof -- there's no such study, and Trendwatching isn't really advocating marketing to children in the womb. And while we would find it fascinating if babies could really recognize brand names just because their mothers had heard them when pregnant, we're not in favor of it, either.

Shocked_Kidz.gifNevertheless, it appears that Trendwatching isn't far off the mark. Children develop brand awareness very early. In 2005, the Amsterdam School of Communications Research published a study entitled "Identifying determinants of young children's brand awareness: Television, parents, and peers ." To quote from the abstract, "Two- to three-year-olds recalled only 1 out of 12 brands, whereas they recognized 8 out of 12 brands."

Are you scared yet? The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood is. Their 28-page booklet, "The Facts about Marketing to Kids" makes the point that very young children can't distinguish between commercials and program content, and adds that six-month-old babies are "forming mental images of corporate logos and mascots."

Programs for educating infants don't seem nearly as successful as those intended to fixate them on buying things, because infant brains are better at recognizing sounds and shapes than at comprehending social values. (Hat tip to the Faux Real blog .)

This would be good news for the naming industry -- if we didn't care about letting our children grow up to be able to decide for themselves whether a name or a product is a good one.

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Posted by William Lozito at 11:37 AM

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November 7, 2007

Fruit Brand Naming Goes Plain Jane

Plain Jane logo produced by Mexico-based Melones International are “here to stay” after years of being sold under the brand name.

The CEO of the company says that savvy customers have prompted him to break away from Chiquita, a brand name that I am sure most of us associate with bananas and not tomatoes and cucumbers: the catchy “Chiquita Banana” tune that came out during the 40s and is still instantly recognizable thanks to its frequent updates over the years.

One can’t blame Melones for shooting for some brand name differentiation, not least because Chiquita has come under some heavy fire as of late for its political dealings that have hurt its stock price.

This news does remind me how an unlikely brand name can become ripe with meaning after years of repetitive exposure.

The only other banana brand name I can think of off the top of my head is , who, amazingly, once used a Pink Floyd tune to try and take market share from Chiquita's fruity dancer using a psychedelic stripper. The ridiculously phallic tagline was, "if you feel it, peel it"! Seems like they’re also in trouble lately for using banned pesticides.

I’m thinking naming a vegetable just “Plain Jane” is just a good idea for Melones — no chemicals, no politics here, just plain ole produce — otherwise we may all go bananas.

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Posted by William Lozito at 11:12 AM

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November 6, 2007

Brand Naming: Google’s Android is Pretty Frightening

GooglePhone.gifGoogle's launch of the new Android mobile software finally puts to rest the rumors of a gPhone. In fact, the new free software will not even feature the Google logo but, as Dana Gardner points out, this move will "threaten no less than the personal computer itself" by basically making any new cell phone a Gphone.

Extra Tech has sighed in relief over the fact that the Gphone name, "which stopped being cute awhile ago in the fine tradition of J-Lo, A-Rod, and K-Fed" can go away now, hopefully forever.

Still, the Gphone name will be around for some time, as even the guys at Google like to talk about it. Google's idea of omitting the Google brand name on the phones is a smart move and "part of Google's multilayered strategy to win over the wireless search and advertising industries."

The Android brand name reminds me of a '50s Sci-Fi flick "Androids & Cyborgs." Given Google's aggressive entry into the market, calling the new mobile software Android is little bit frightening given this free, stand alone piece of software will essentially enslave your phone to Google, making it Gphone in all but name.

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Posted by William Lozito at 11:09 AM

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Brand Naming: Handi-Vac Name That Sucks

reynolds.gifThe good news, at least for anyone who's ever experienced freezer burn: Reynolds is bringing out a $9.99 vacuum-sealing unit.

The bad news: they're calling it Handi-Vac.

HandiVac.gifIf a "Handi-Vac" sounds like a wannabe Dustbuster to you, there's a reason. There are several Handi-Vacs out there already, with minor variations in spelling but the common function of providing suction.

  • The Handi-Vac pick-up tool
  • The HandiVac refrigerant recovery unit
  • Hoover Handivac vacuum cleaners (no longer sold)
  • Handy Vac wet/dry vacuums
  • Hand-E-Vac medical aspirators

Worse yet, the name sounds a lot like Handi-Wrap-which is not a Reynolds product.

What's wrong with "Freezer Vac"? The domain and trademark are both available, and it would make the purpose of the product a whole lot clearer.

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:09 AM

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November 5, 2007

Branding 101: Paying to Prevent New Naming at U. Wisco

Yahoo! News just picked up a story that Andrew Samwick at Dartmouth blogged about last week: a group of donors to the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business has donated $85 million to the dean to not rename the school for twenty years.

logo_yale.gifThis is a reverse naming strategy for Universities, where the biggest donor usually gets to put its name on the building. This has caused some consternation over the years at places like the University of Iowa where the gift and proposed name change of The College of Public Health after Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield was nixed due to a (rather obvious) potential conflict with other donors.

OldCap.gifI think that we will always need to rename buildings after generous benefactors, of course, as Yale-New Haven Hospital (YNHH) and Yale University recently has done with the Smilow Cancer Hospital, but the safest renaming policies seem to be to name sport arenas after beloved coaches or important buildings after retired university heads.

Of course, I have said before, if you do not have enough money (or permission) to name a building after yourself, you could always just rename a classroom, office, or just a locker.

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Posted by William Lozito at 12:21 PM

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Company Naming: Is Latin Fashionable?

inditex.gifAccording to the Wall Street Journal Spain's largest fashion retailer, Inditex SA, has plans to open a new chain for accessories. Thriftily, they're considering a name they already own: Uterqüe.

"Uterqüe" is the masculine form of a Latin pronoun meaning "each of two" or "both." This could have good connotations for shopping, as in "I'll take both," and for accessories that come in pairs, like earrings.

If anyone knew what it meant, that is. "Uterqüe" is not among the Latin words likely to be known to the general public. To those who've never studied Latin, "Uterqüe" looks a lot like "uterus" or rather, since this is a Spanish store, útero. Which might be appropriate for a store selling maternity clothes, but rather less so to high fashion.

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Posted by William Lozito at 7:54 AM

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November 2, 2007

Platform Naming: Open to Misunderstanding

Google CodeThe domainers who favor generic names must be happy with Google’s new collection of APIs, . (API stands for Application Programming Interface, and you need one if you’re going to create add-ons for other people’s software.) OpenSocial an open-source platform for developing social networking tools, so the name is about as descriptive as it could be.

And it follows a naming convention common to many social networks: combining two words into one. Think Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn.

But the name just seems a little off. “Linked in” is a phrase that makes sense on its own, as is “my space,” and back in the days of paper, a “face book” was a collection of the names and photos of everyone who started college the same year you did. “Open” and “social” are both adjectives — though a “social” is also a gathering of women in tea-length gowns eating ice cream on the lawn. An open, social…what? If you leave out the initialism “API,” the name feels unfinished.

OpenSocialPlus, there’s already been some confusion about whether OpenSocial is a new social networking platform to replace (or supplement) Google’s , which is wildly popular in Brazil but barely in the consciousness of most Americans

The name surely contributes to that confusion. Calling it “SocialApps” would have made its purpose a lot clearer. (That domain appears to be parked; Google could surely afford to purchase it.)

All in all, “OpenSocial” just doesn’t sound like a party I’d want to attend. It’s much too dull a name for the possibilities it represents.

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Posted by Diane Prange at 11:14 AM

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November 1, 2007

Coined Brand Names: Findability vs. Brand Dilution

We've talked before about the trend toward funky names and alternative spellings among Web 2.0 companies. Many of them even have similar logos, making them even harder to tell apart.

Some domain name specialists argue that if you don't choose a generic name, one that describes the nature of your business, for an Internet-based company, you are leaving money on the table.

Amazon.gifThe basic reasoning behind this argument is that when people are looking for something online, they're likely to try typing a generic name into the address bar. So, if they wanted to find books, they might type "books.com." And if you call your online bookstore "Books.com," people will find you online even if you don't do a lot of advertising.

Barnes_Noble.gifJust about everyone now online knows that if you want to find books, what you actually type is "Amazon.com." But that's only because Amazon has done good job marketing itself, to the point where people associate Amazon with books in much the way they associate Kleenex with facial tissues and Xerox with photocopying.

Owning a generic domain name can certainly be useful. If you type "books.com," you get redirected to Barnes & Noble, which wasn't about to change its very recognizable name just to get a website, but had clever enough SEO advisors to take this step to associate its name with its product.

But the last thing a company trying to build a lasting brand wants is to commit genericide and have everyone else's knock-offs confused with their quality product - even if such genericization is a sign that your product is the one with the most market mind-share.

It's true that companies with physical presences and products have an easier time associating a coined or fanciful name with a particular thing - we see the Kleenex boxes on the shelves of the supermarket, after all. But even those companies have to spend time, energy, and money on advertising and marketing before they become household names.

Flickr1.gifA company with a descriptive or generic name still has to promote itself. Flicker.com only gets 150,000 visitors a month because Flickr is so popular. Even though the folks at Flickr would do well to buy flicker.com (if they can) and any other possible spellings, the "generic" name is only valuable because of what the specific name means to people.

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Posted by Diane Prange at 11:24 AM

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