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July 30, 2008

Scrabulous Brand Naming Not Fabulous to Hasbro

scrabble tiles.pngThe demise of the much loved Scrabble knockoff named Scrabulous, played by thousands of avid Facebook users, has sent a "cry of woe" through the blogosphere.

This blatent copy of Scrabble has finally been shut down by Hasbro after the two brothers who invented it refused to be bought off.

While some argue that this type of fighting between online/offline game creators should prompt companies to "give up trying to protect their brand altogether and just learn how to better compete with those that counterfeit their copyright," the more interesting question is how, exactly, did Scrabulous' get itself into trouble.

The answer is partly in the name. The entire fight centered around trademark and copyright infringement, and not patent infringement.

The Scrabble brand name goes back to 1954, but the actual copyright is in reference to the very well protected and recognizable board. This offers a lot of loopholes, mainly with the contention that the fifty-four year old "Scrabble" name should be in the public domain, which arguably came out of copyright in 1994, even though technically it is still protected for another 55 years (70 years after the death of the game's inventor in 1993).

facebook_logo.pngThe fact is, the Scrabble brand name is immensely valuable to Hasbro and they have a duty to protect it.

The side issue here is Facebook's culpability in this matter. Simply put, the Scrabulous game attracted users to the site, and that's trademark infringement. It appears that Hasbro has decided to not take the matter up with them, but sooner or later Facebook will likely suffer from a similar case.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:39 AM

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July 29, 2008

When Does Brand Naming Become UnCuil?

cuil1.pngGiving an opinion on a name without knowing the strategy behind it leaves much to be desired.

At first blush, it is easy to understand why people are being critical of the new super search engine brand name Cuil, which is supposedly going to blow Google out of the water.

Started by some renegade engineers from Google, Cuil was launched yesterday and is meant to be the next big thing in search engines, but alas, it cannot even find its own name.

Yes, the name is an old Irish word for knowledge even though it actually comes from the alternatively spelled Finn mac Cumhaill.

Anyway, somebody who does not speak Gaelic or has never heard of Old Finn McCool (that would be pretty much all of us save for a few Irish scholars) is likely to initially pronounce it "quill."

yahoo_logo.gifEven if pronounced correctly, people will assumed it is spelled "cool," rather than "Cuil," which isn't great for a business that relies on the proper spelling of its URL to be able to use it. Everyone will have to tell you how to spell it, unlike say, Yahoo or Google, which are both spelled exactly the way they sound.

Already people are calling it UnCuil, which is to be expected, the name practically begs for its detractors to do so.

Others are just saying it's "not so hot," while several more have added that it will be hard to look for a word by "cuiling it" or trying to "cuil it."

Google Logo041408.pngLike Google, Yahoo and so many other internet related names, what is strange and unusual today becomes common place, accepted and emulated in the future.

I think we should give Cuil a chance. As a brand name. And as a search engine, which I think, does not yet measure up to Google.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:58 AM

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July 24, 2008

Sara Lee Forced to Embrace (Overly?) Accurate Food Naming and Branding

SaraLeeLogo.pngSara Lee's recent problems with its Soft and Smooth labeling issues speak to an interesting dilemma: when does labeling cross into the realm of naming?

It has come out that Sara Lee cannot claim that the product contains "whole grain goodness" because the bread is made up primarily of white flour: it is only 30% "whole grain," a fact that now must be made clear on its packaging. Additionally, "As part of the agreement, Sara Lee will add copy to the label stating that two slices have 10 grams of whole grain and that (the U.S. Department of Agriculture) recommends consumption of 48 grams of whole grains daily."

This has set off a bit of derision on the blogosphere, with one group suggesting that this stuff is really "White Bread For People Who Hate Whole Wheat Bread And Like Lying To Themselves That White Bread Is Healthy."

The issue of not-so-healthy food being touted in "creative" ways to customers is not a new one, but it seems all the more insidious when it comes to health (or at least healthier) foods.

It's one thing when a candy bar company, for instance, tries to get you to eat more chocolate for the good of your heart, it's quite another when you think that your purchase is either good for you or for the environment.

fiberonechewybars.jpgAnd food labels are notorious for being tricky to read and have traditionally been rather far reaching with their claims. Items like Fiber One Chewy Bars and Nabisco Fig Newtons 100% Whole Grain Cookies (there's that pesky whole grain thing again) have raised the ire of various consumer groups.

Cereals aimed at kids often claim to be "low fat" or "low sugar" while even "whole grain" cereals slip in sugar, salt and fat.

Responsible product naming should also be accurate product naming. And yet, is Sara Lee really that far off the mark in saying that their bread contains "whole grain goodness," a tagline that seems rather unimaginative but serviceable?

bread_190.jpgOr is the problem here the word whole? Like it or not, the bread does indeed contain "whole grain goodness" but is NOT made wholly of "grain goodness."

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) wanted to forbid the company from using these phrases: "made with whole grain," "good source of whole grain" and "now with 25 percent more whole grain," all of which do not seem overly misleading. We are, after all, talking about white bread.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:22 AM

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July 21, 2008

What Qualifies as a Naming Emergency?

It's hard to explain to people in other countries what's wrong with the US economy.

fanniemae.pngMore precisely, it's hard to admit that two of the major mortgage lending institutions are called Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As one Canadian blogger put it, "Who in their right mind would name a bank something so ridiculous - or anything for that matter... even a hamster would cease running on its little wheel if named Fannie Mae."

FreddieMac_color_logo_tag.pngThis is really nicknaming that got out of hand, but points to the major problems financial institutions have had in naming and branding.

The names are actually nicknames that grew out of the acronyms. Freddie Mac comes from Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. (FHMC); Fannie Mae comes from Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA).

Even worse, the CEO of Fannie Mae is named Naiel H. Mudd. As in, "Your name is Mudd."

While the brains behind Freddie Mac is named Richard F. Syron, which rhymes with "siren." As in "emergency."
Speaking of which, there may be a naming emergency going on in New York as Citi commits $400 million to secure the naming rights for the new Mets Stadium.

Recently, I wrote about Citi's decision to revitalize their 1977 tagline: "Citi never sleeps." Although, it appears that Citi may be set for a nightmare with their decision to get into stadium naming. Blogging Stocks says that there is actually a curse hanging over companies that name stadiums after themselves:

  • The Pats' stadium was named after Gillette, which is now owned by P&G, though the brand name is still in use
  • Fleet Center is named after a bank bought out by Bank of America
  • Tweeter Center is named after a company that has since filed for bankruptcy

Given Citi's recent problems, it seems to many people - especially to those employees who have been fired - that this might be a sad waste of money.

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:41 AM

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July 18, 2008

What's a Jihad When It's at Home?

The word jihad has been used in English to refer to doctrinal crusades since 1880.

jihad.pngThe literal meaning of the word is struggle, as Professor John Esposito of Georgetown University explains in his series on Islam for The Teaching Company. The struggle in question doesn't have to be war.

Nevertheless, most Americans automatically equate jihad with violence.

When I first learned the term in high school, there was no suggestion that the word could mean anything but holy war. But depite that lack of nuance, no one at the time equated jihad with terrorism. As we saw it then, wars were declared by governments and terrorists were isolated individuals. (This was long before there was a war on drugs, never mind a war on terror.)

Yesterday's "Morning Edition" on NPR reported that someone has finally explained to the Bush administration that jihad "has very positive connotations in the Islamic world."

Linguistically, the multiple meanings and positive connotations of jihad should not come as a surprise. After all, when English speakers use the word "crusade," they're not often talking about having the Pope guarantee them admission to heaven if they take up the cross and head for the Holy Land to kill Muslims. Yet before 1786, that's exactly what the word meant.

Crusade, like crucifix, comes to us from the Latin word for cross.

Psychologically, the difference between the way English speakers use and understand the words jihad and crusade makes sense. Our holy war is good, but their holy war is bad.

Linguistically, however, the words are very much the same. If we keep that in mind, it might make for better relations between Muslims and Christians.

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Posted by Diane Prange at 1:34 PM

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Brand Naming is 60 Milliseconds?

"Even 60 milliseconds of exposure to a brand name" can affect a person's "shopping goals," which says volumes about how quickly we recognize brand naming and product naming as we go about our daily lives.

The authors of a recent article suggests that "this provides the first evidence that such brands can automatically activate purchase goals in individuals and that these behavior can influence consumers' product preferences without their awareness or conscious intent."

What is especially interesting is how one brand name like Walmart, for instance, affects the choices we make in regard to other brand names.

If I am going out to buy a microwave, even seeing the Walmart sign (but not going there) might encourage me to buy a lower priced, bargain brand name.

gatorade.pngMatthew Hudson at Psychology Today has concluded that "Advertising is Magic" and extrapolates from this, as others have, that seeing a brand name like Apple might prompt our creativity, while seeing the North Face logo might push us up the stairs faster.

He points to a paper that claimed that people viewed an endurance activity as a "positive challenge" upon seeing a Gatorade bottle in front of them. That's right, after just seeing it.

The way brand naming works on our subconscious is a subject that has been thoroughly studied, but this new research seems to suggest that we are easily affected by the brand naming that surrounds us all whether we are aware of it or not, and that one brand may actually affect the sales of another.

If one thing is for sure, it's that good brand naming has an immediate and visceral affect on consumers, and their capacity to absorb thousands of these a day seems confirmed.

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Posted by William Lozito at 7:59 AM

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July 17, 2008

Will Budweiser's Move Alter American Microbrewery Brand Naming?

61budweiserbeer.pngBudweiser's recent acquisition by InBev has many Bud drinkers crying into their, well, beer, largely because the tagline "The Great American Beer" is no longer an accurate statement.

What once was Budweiser's major selling point is now lost. It no longer is an American brand name icon.

In addition, InBev also inherits Budweiser's famous naming dispute with the Czech Budejovicky Budvar, a subject that has developed into one of the classic trademark wars of the beer world.

And while the name is set to break new frontiers in Europe and Asia, back home there is likely to be a Bud backlash.

At least one blogger looks for the next in line to be considered the true American beer.
Miller is owned by South African SAB Miller and Molson Coors is Canadian. The answer is probably Sam Adams, which has a spectacular American brand name and is perfectly positioned to take Budweiser's place on the mantle.

In fact, this is a big opportunity for microbreweries in the USA to reposition themselves as true-blooded American as opposed to Bud, which is now forever married to Stella Artois.

I am expecting there to be a virtual flood of microbrewery brand naming that is intensely patriotic and strategically designed to attract disillusioned Bud customers.

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:44 AM

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July 10, 2008

Joseph Abboud Learns the Hard Way About Naming, Branding and Goodwill

JOSEPH~1.pngFamed designer Joseph Abboud is offering two new fall collections next month bearing the names Black/Brown 1826 and Jaz, a luxury menswear brand that is a clipping of the word "Jazz," originally suggested by his daughter.

The reason he doesn't have his own name on the label is because he's not allowed. He lost naming rights to his own name after selling his fashion company in 2000 for $65.5 million to JA Apparel Corp, which now owns "associated names, trademarks, etc., including Joseph Abboud, designed by Joseph Abboud, JOE, JA, and similar or derivative terms."

After the seven-year non-compete clause had expired, Abboud pushed to use his name "in an informational way" to indicate that he was the designer of Jaz. In fact, he wanted to have a tagline that said "a new composition by designer Joseph Abboud."

The courts have ruled that he cannot do this legally. He is only allowed to "be himself" and make media appearances as himself, but he cannot use his own name to promote goods and services.

That's harsh, but as the Likelihood of Confusion blog asks, "why did he think he was getting $65.5 million?"

abboud_logo.pngThis is the inherent danger in using a personal name as a trademark. When things go wrong, as they did for Mr. Abboud, you lose the rights to your name for your next venture.

But what is interesting here is the technicality around what the word name means legally. The court seems to have interpreted it stringently but fairly. The key clause in the contract states that Abboud agreed to sell "all of [his] right, title and interest in and to: ...names, trademarks, trade names... and the goodwill related thereto."

This really leaves little room for argument that $65.5 million deal stripped Abboud not only of his trademark, but use of his name and goodwill. Michael Lechter of the Start-Up Blog says that the lesson here is "if you (or your attorney) are careless in drafting the agreement, then you may lose the benefit of your reputation as well."

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:13 AM

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July 7, 2008

Five Frog Species Await Your Naming - For a Price

frogs.pngThere are five new frog species whose names are up for auction by TV personality Jeff Corwin and Amphibian Ark.

This promotion is designed to draw attention to the fact that of the approximately 6,100 amphibian species on the planet, some 2,600 are declining in number. The highest bidder will be able to name a "walking frog," which is "a newly discovered species in the genus Osornophryne."

Financing conservation by selling naming rights is becoming a popular way to raise money and since there are so many species of insects, amphibians and fishes that have yet to be named, it's a great idea.

Plus, it's worth big bucks: One butterfly name recently went for $40,800 and a monkey name, Monkey, went for $650,000.

There is, however, some criticism around selling sea slug naming rights for $15,000 or auctioning names for a hydrothermal vent worm for $50,000. It all just seems so unscientific.

One mail room supervisor at the Academy of Natural Science in Philadelphia had a catfish species named after him as a retirement gift, while a kind hearted math teacher in San Diego named Jeff Goodhatz paid $5,000 to have a sea worm named after himself (goodhartzorum).

yeti.pngYes, there is some risk that some avid namer will actually make up a new species just to score naming rights, but it's not likely. The Census of Marine life is busy adding 1,400 new species each year to its lists, including the recently discovered, scarily hairy but reassuringly small "yeti crab."

Comedian Stephen Colbert and musician Neil Young each have trapdoor spiders named after them by East Carolina University biologist Jason Bond, who also named an arachnid in honor of Nelson Mandela.

That's all great, but not all creepy crawlies are created equal. Adolf Hitler has a blind cave beetle named after him, similarly to Bush, Cheney and Rumsfield, who have all unwillingly lent their names to beetles, as have Darth Vader and Pocahontas.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:56 AM

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July 3, 2008

Celebrating the 4th of July!

This weekend many of us will be consuming hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad and lemonade, before taking in the bright lights of fireworks bursting in the night sky, all in celebration of the 4th of July.

But we also don't want to forget about the origins of this summer holiday.
On the 4th of July in 1776, the United States' Second Continental Congress declared their right for freedom by approving the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

We hope that everyone safely enjoys their freedom to celebrate the memory of this historic event.

Happy 4th of July from the entire team at Strategic Name Development!

Posted by William Lozito at 5:17 PM

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Walmart Gets a Naming and Branding Facelift

Wal-Mart has given its brand name a facelift, dropping the old fashioned, clunky, all caps typography, the hyphen, the star and the red, white and blue color scheme in favor of a cleaner, more "dot-com" image.

Frankly, this almost counts as a name change, because we are all now expected to refer to the company as "Walmart."

walmart logo.pngThey even have a new logo that looks like a sun, or a star, or maybe an asterisk (Walmart execs refer to it as a sunburst that "looks organic"). The idea is to get an image into the consumer's mind much like the Target logo, although Walmart's strategy is to appear friendlier.

They also have a new slogan that was unveiled last year: "Save Money. Live Better" which coincides with the company's attempt to equate low prices with a better, healthier life. Brand New has tracked all of the Walmart naming since 1962 and feels underwhelmed by this naming shift. And while the change seems precipitated by some troubles the company has had recently, many feel that the change was at least ten years overdue.

protest-walmart.gifWalmart has some serious PR issues to contend with in my home state of Minnesota and they certainly need to work on their profile.

The Huffington Post reports that its corporate image suffered the third biggest drop on the Harris Interactive Poll over the last year. So a facelift is probably long overdue.

I'm not expecting any major strategy changes from Walmart, a company that is very successful in being blandly able to offer low prices to the consumer. Its name recognition and immediate association with its most powerful selling point, low prices, is unparalleled and I would expect the company to profit during the economy's downturn.

Finally, the Walmart "sunburst" reminds me of Apple's "loading" symbol.

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Posted by William Lozito at 12:39 PM

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July 2, 2008

The Sound of Lying Around the House and other Japanese Naming Trends

Every language uses onomatopoeia: words made out of sounds that aren't ordinarily part of language (from Greek onoma, "name," and poiéō, "make").

ferrari.png And every language creates onomatopoetic names. The most famous in English is probably Meow Mix, while the most prestigious in Italian must be Ferrari. Okay, Ferrari is an eponym, named after a person, but it still sounds like a roaring sportscar engine, so perhaps Enzo's career was destined from birth.

However, Japanese may be fonder of onomatopoeia than any other language. David Mankin puts it this way: "The Japanese have words for sounds that cannot be heard."
Not only that, they reduplicate these sounds into word pairs-pairs. My favorite is garo garo, the sound of lying around the house, as described by Rebecca Milner of the CScout Japan trend research blog in her list of Japanese product names created with this technique.

If you're naming a product for the Japanese market, it might be a good idea to pick up a copy of Jazz Up Your Japanese with Onomatopoeia.

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Posted by Diane Prange at 7:53 AM

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July 1, 2008

Chinglish Linguistics: English as We Know It, Plans to Stick Around

China_map.pngIt may or may not be surprising to you that more people in China are learning English as a second language than there are people in the US learning English as a primary language.

English is the international language of business and will only become more so in the future. It is interesting to note that the Chief Executive of LG Electronics, Yong Nam, recently declared that all business at LG will be conducted in English, even at its corporate headquarters in South Korea.

Michael Erard, in a recent Wired magazine article, has his own take on how the Chinese might influence the English language long term. English, according to Erard, "is happily leading an alternative lifestyle without us."

Actually, it's been doing that for a long time, as have other languages when they served as the language of commerce or scholarship. Julius Caesar would have been hard put to understand the Latin of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Very little of the French used as a lingua franca in North Africa would win the approval of the Académie française. And then there's George Bernard Shaw's joke about England and America being "two countries separated by a common language."

Thanks to the Internet, however, native speakers of a language are now much more aware of the way others (mis)use their language. We've pointed out a number of instances on this blog before, with discussions of "Konglish" and "Engrish."

beijing-olympics-2008.pngThanks to the upcoming Beijing Olympics, the variant provoking the most comment at the moment is "Chinglish," English as employed by the Chinese, familiar to many of us from restaurant menus.

On the same day Erard's essay appeared in Wired, the Telegraph in the UK asserted that "English will turn into Panglish in 100 years."

Frankly, I doubt it. Even the expert interviewed by the Telegraph reporter admitted that she couldn't predict whether there would be one version of "Panglish" used across the globe, or "scores of wildly varying Englishes, many or most of them heading toward mutual unintelligibility."

We might, in fact, end up with both and neither.

If the Chinese speaker and the Hindi speaker want to converse in English, they're likely to need to use something closer to American or British English than to the English they speak with their countryfolk. One of the reasons they'd both be using English is because their native languages are so different from one another, and would therefore influence their use of English in ways that are likely to cause more confusion than using Hollywood English.

chinglish-1.pngFurthermore, the number of non-native speakers of a language doesn't seem to influence its use by native speakers.

While English has always been a voracious importer of foreign words, the only way Chinglish could come to dominate in America would be if there were suddenly more Chinese speakers than English speakers living here and they produced all of our movies, TV, and radio. And that still wouldn't be likely to stop the older generations from speaking the language they grew up with, any more than language reform movements in Germany or Holland have.

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Posted by Diane Prange at 8:07 AM

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