September 30, 2008
Recent events in the financial world effect all of us personally as well as the business world of company naming and branding.
To begin with, there are a few words that have become, at the least very least, tainted.
Take the business of iBanking, for instance. The words "investment banks" and "investment bankers" are quickly becoming less and less popular. I am pretty sure that the very term, "iBanker" is going the way of the dinosaur.
One blogger even believes that the failure of the recent bailout package was due to "bad branding." That's a stretch.
The various takeovers have also left all kinds of voids in the brand naming space. Citi's takeover of Wachovia put the brakes on a large advertising push, while the fall of WaMu has postponed the rise of a national bank brand name. Amazingly, Chase is now the biggest ad spender in the country.
These financial changes might also have a drastic impact on the world of sports stadium naming and branding as well. The rise of Citi has meant that some stadiums that carry the Wachovia name may be renamed, while other fields that carry the insurance or banking names like "TD BankNorth Garden, Wachovia Center, Progressive Field, Lincoln Financial Field, Quicken Loans Arena, PNC Park, INVESCO Field at Mile High, Scotiabank Place, Chase Field (pictured below), Bank of America Stadium, Prudential Center, Citizens Bank Park, RBC Center, M&T Bank Stadium, HSBC Arena, BankAtlantic Center, Scottrade Center, Comerica Park [and] SAFECO Field," are all in jeopardy.
In fact, buying naming rights for stadiums may be a thing of the past.
I'm starting to believe that by the end of the year there will be an assortment of financial institutions out there, as well as a few stadiums and ballparks, that will simply not know what to call themselves.
September 29, 2008
Genderizing brand naming is a tricky business.
Some brand names that are meant to appeal to women seem to fail despite the "can't miss" odds. One example is DC's Minx line of graphic novels (including Re-Gifters, pictured right), while some feminine sounding brand names aimed at men, like Claiborne, seem to do quite well.
L'eggs panty hose is a great brand name for women and Marlboro is a masculine brand name cigarette that appeals to men, but also had plenty of crossover appeal to females.
Things get even trickier with fragrances. Men seem content embracing both masculine and feminine brand names when it comes to colognes, such as Ralph Lauren's macho sounding "Safari" name, as well as more unisex names like "Chic."
And then there is Chanel's "Pour Monsieur," which received a great review in a recent article in The Independent. Most would assume that taking one of the most feminine names out there and tacking "Pour Monsieur" to it to attract men wouldn't work, but in this case, it most certainly did.
On the other hand, cigarette makers have discovered that women appear to prefer the taste of feminine sounding brand name cigarettes to those with more masculine names, even when the test groups taste the exact same product. If this were not the case, Camel would not likely offer us the sexy sounding "No. 9" brand cigarette.
Not surprisingly, consumers seem just as willing to apply genderized naming to cars. More feminine sounding names seem to attract women, while hard, masculine names appeal more to men. For example, take a look at the top ten cars for women, which all have polite, demure names like Miata (pictured above), Sentra, Fit and Civic.
That said, women also seem to be turned on by the sound of high performance cars that have wonderful, lyrical, and dare I say it, feminine sounding names like Maserati, Lamborghini and Ferrari. This was actually uncoverd by some research sponsored by a company called "Hiscox." No joke.
If your product were an animal, what would it be?
We often ask that question of our clients, because it helps us understand how they perceive their brand and more importantly how they want the target market to perceive it. If your customers, or customers in the case of B2B, would answer that question the same way you do, then your branding efforts have been successful.
Sometimes, however, the target market would liken your product or service to quite a different animal. For instance, most of us would not be too happy to find out that someone had named a beetle after us, particularly a beetle that lives on slime mold.
Nevertheless, when Quentin Wheeler dubbed three new discoveries Agathidium bushi, Agathidium rumsfeldi, and Agathidium cheneyi, he intended it as a compliment. President George W. Bush graciously took it as such. Professor Wheeler likes beetles, and he's a Republican.
But a hundred years from now, or even a generation, the significance of those particular names will be lost to all but a few, just as most of those who use the herb Siegesbeckia have no idea that Carolus Linnaeus (the 18th Century Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist), named it after a critic because he considered the plant, like the critic, to be an insignificant weed.
Species outlast individuals and even civilizations. Within the context of a scientist's own time, naming a trilobite after Sid Vicious or Johnny Rotten may give some clues to its characteristics.
Outside that context, however, such names are merely baffling. It's almost certainly better for future generations of biologists and paleontologists to use a more descriptive name.
Of course, that does require some understanding of Greek and Latin, but not very much, as any classicist will tell you while chortling at the bastardization of ancient languages common to scientific and medical terminology.
Though perhaps we could put a more positive spin on that process, and refer to such names as "mashups."
Thanks to NPR for the inspiration for this post.
September 26, 2008
Before anyone can answer the question of whether or not Pink Taco is a good brand name, they would need to know the context.
- Who's the target market?
- What category is it in?
- What competitive names already exist in the category?
- What is the likely category life-cycle?
Kids cereal is a great example of a category that has many products with short life-cycles. The master of managing the kids' cereal life-cycle is General Mills, who is also our neighbor.
Do you remember General Mills':
These kids' cereal brands come and go as predictably as the seasons change.
There is another category that has short life-cycles, just like kids' cereals, but couldn't be further removed - nightclubs and restaurants for the younger crowd.
These nightclubs and restaurants come and go. They are hot for a couple years and then the crowd is on to the next, new, "in" nightclub or restaurant.
Unlike kids' cereal, which is heavily advertised, nightclubs and restaurants often rely on word of mouth. Word of mouth can be enhanced if some celebrity frequents it, which is hard to control, or by a provocative and edgy brand name, which is in total control of the owners.
Now, back to the question of: Is Pink Taco a good brand name?
For a restaurant to appeal to the younger segment, both Diane Prange and I say yes.
We also like Whiskey Dix.
Our Canadian neighbors to the north, from the Winnipeg Free Press, contacted us this summer to ask our opinion on many nightclub and restaurant brand names. If you are interested, the full article can be found here.
September 25, 2008
As you probably already know, the T-Mobile G1 smartphone started out with the code name the Dream.
Seems like the G1 dream has become more of a nightmare in terms of product naming.
I then thought to myself, gee, might it be called the G1 because of the 1-GB limit? Maybe so, maybe not, but T-Mobile has rescinded the 1-GB limit, so I wonder if they will now call this phone the G1 Unlimited or the G1 Plus.
It is probably very unlikely that the G1 referred to the 1-GB limit, but I'm also reminded of another reason G1 is such a poor name. The G1 phone runs on the G3 network, which only adds to the aforementioned confusion.
At the risk of sounding self-serving, and I don't mean to be, my guess is that the G1 name was lobbied for by the T-Mobile engineers who worked on it.
The award for the clumsiest product code name goes to Apple this week for its secret something that the blogosphere is now gleefully referring to as "Brick."
The "Brick" is designed to, you guessed it, smash Windows with its sheer Appleness.
Many bloggers are wondering what the "Brick" is, but it is most likely just software updates. Although there are rumors that it might be a new Mac Mini or a new dock (these would actually look like bricks, I suppose).
The funny thing is that the word "brick" does not carry positive connotations in relation to technology. "Bricks" are usually useless devices, such as clunky cell phones or slow computers. The word "brick" is also a slang term for "bummer," like, "That movie had a brick of an ending." So "brick" would be a less than ideal code name for a new MacBook, for instance.
Even more tantalizing, giving the current economic climate, is that the "Brick" is simply a large price reduction for MacBooks. This would indeed throw a real brick at Windows.
The Brick gets unveiled on October 14th (we think), so be sure to keep an eye out to see if lives up to its name, or doesn't.
September 24, 2008
The new Google phone is out and it has been named the "G1." Well, let me be more precise.
This is a Google-powered phone sold by T-Mobile USA that uses the vaunted Android operating system. It's official name is actually the "T-Mobile G1" leading one blogger to ask "G1, Gphone, Tphone - what will you call your Google phone?"
To confuse matters even further, HTC, the Taiwan based manufacturer of the phone, code-named it the Dream. I've rarely seen a technology device referred to by so many names.
When I first saw the term G1, I immediately thought that this must be for an old product. Why?
I was immediately reminded of:
- Apple's G-Series of Towers which ended in the discontinued G5
- Then there is the Pontiac G5 and G6
- Oh, did I mention that ASUS has a G1 and G2 laptop
- Finally, maybe this is a little bit of a stretch, but I was also reminded of the George Foreman G5 grill
While I agree with New Gadgets and Gizmos that the T-Mobile G1 Phone is not an iPhone killer, I strongly disagree with the assertion that iPhone will become a genericized brand, like Kleenex, Xerox and Band-Aids.
Just as Apple tightly controls third party developer software for the iPhone, it has a track record of vigorously defending its brand trademarks.
Posted by William Lozito at 8:06 AM
Posted to Brand Architecture | Brand Naming | Branding | Consumer Electronics | Durable Goods | Industry | Licensing | Naming | Naming Rights | Product Naming | Retail | Taglines | Technology | Telecommunications | Trademarking
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September 23, 2008
Lettuce Eatery seems to be facing one of the same problems that many companies in the United States face - a company name that is consistent with their offering.
The company, which originated in Canada, is now operating under the name Freshii in the US. The name change is mainly due to Matthew Corrin, who originally wanted to be the "Starbucks of Salads," but slowly widened his positioning to offer healthy meals and snacks. In short, he outgrew his name. Now, Corrin is changing the naming of the entire franchise to Freshii.
Our proprietary research has shown that more than 300 companies in the US change their name over the course of a year because they have outgrown it. This can often be a smart move, especially if the business has moved in a totally new direction, such as The Flower Valet's move to Seaside Exploration, Inc.
But even when Lettuce was just Lettuce, it seems unlikely that every customer who went in there expected to buy, well, just lettuce. Starbucks offers far more than just coffee and Burger King offers more than just burgers.
I am not sure if Freshii, with its odd spelling, is a better name than Lettuce for a restaurant, because Lettuce is something that carries firm connotations for us all.
Freshii simply refers to a much more nebulous idea.
And I have to wonder what was wrong with trying to be the Starbucks of salads?
September 17, 2008
Brand naming is often the by-product of what happens when opportunity grows out of catastrophe. Take the debate around Bisphenol A, or BPA. This substance, commonly found in clear plastic, has utterly changed the baby bottle industry.
Brand names that have benefited from parents' worries about BPA clearly are meant to lay any fears to rest. A couple examples are ThinkBaby Bottles and Green to Grow Baby Bottles. In addition, this BPA fear has led to a rise in the sales of glass bottles.
The spill over effect is also breathing new life into the water bottle industry. Metal bottles are now in and plastic bottles are out.
Case in point is the rise of Klean Kanteen, a metal bottle maker which expects to see its revenues increase from $2.5 million in 2007 to $18 million by the end of the year.
We're talking about massive growth for a company that sells "Sippys" for $18, or $19.95 if you want the 27 oz model. Again, the magic words here are "BPA free."
Klean Kanteen has many competitors, including SIGG, which doesn't boast the same inspired company naming, but does offer nifty slogans like "Make Love Not Landfill" on some models. But Klean Kanteen is keeping pace with colorful models designed to appeal to mom.
Meanwhile, the Nalgene brand name has suffered for offering products that supposedly contain BPA, a disastrous blow to the company that previously defined the segment.
They have now pulled their BPA products and introduced something called the "Everyday" line that uses "copolyester." It also offers Nalgene "Choice," which has a funky "bpafree" logo all over its site and the slogan "drink responsibly", which sounds a little too much like an anti-alcohol plug.
September 12, 2008
South Africa is struggling with how to use the Mandela name as a brand and their problems are are quite interesting.
The Mandela name is iconic, and everyone seems to want to cash in on it. Coin dealers offer a "Free Mandela" medal for good customers, and recently one group tried to sell The Madiba Diamond ("Madiba" is the great man's nickname).
Brand Mandela has truly become a huge industry, with the Mandela name and likeness finding its way on to everything from comics to coasters.
The overuse of the name has led to protests by the Nelson Mandela Foundation of people "exploiting his name for commercial gain," mainly because Mandela himself wants the name only associated with charitable organizations.
Perhaps it is too late. The Nelson Mandela name is already being appended to South African airports as well as entire cities despite the Foundation's efforts to trademark Mandela's name, his clan names (Madiba and Rolihlahla) and his Xhosa name." On top of that, the Nelson Mandela Foundation should try to trademark his famous prison number, 46664, which at one point was being used on gold coins as well as Internet scams.
It really is quite a sketchy area in the brand naming business. Sooner or later, the Mandela name will simply become part of common usage, like Washington or Lincoln, and there will be few ways to protect it.
Mandela is now over ninety years old and it does seem that what the man actually achieved, which was absolutely extraordinary, may soon become another common part of South Africa's brand naming landscape.
September 9, 2008
Top Ten Reviews wonders who in their right mind would unveil a really cool electronic gizmo to the public "without the catchy name already chosen?"
The well named company, Plastic Logic, is about to learn about the plasticity of product naming thanks to its newly unveiled Electronic-Reading Device. We can only hope that this name, with its weird dash, is just a place holder.
This product, which uses a technology called "electronic ink", is a lightweight, magazine size electronic reader that is going to be given its own name by bloggers and fans before Plastic Logic officially gives it a moniker. If you doubt me, take a look at the way the bloggers have dubbed it an e-Newspaper reader. Or should it be an E-Newspaper because its electronic ink is made by E-Ink? Heck, maybe its just an electronic newspaper reader.
Although, this thing may actually work for reading things other than a newspaper. In fact, it can do far more than just display newspapers, it's a competitor to Kindle and Sony Reader Digital Book and as such can handle documents, magazines and books in addition to the Wall-Street Journal and New York Times.
But because it has not been introduced with a real name, it is already being shoved into its own niche by eager writers and fans.
This reminds me of the hype around the iPhone, which was named by Apple lovers long before it was introduced, and even before Apple had secured the final name.
However, I'm reminded of one of the Laws of Branding - If you don't define yourself, someone else will (this applies to politics as well).
September 8, 2008
Trademark law is a special interest of mine, not least because I am always interested in how good brand names are used (licensed) and misused (trading off someone's brand equity).
The Good: Lamborghini is now licensing its name for office equipment, which looks pretty interesting to a car loving desk jockey.
They also have licensed their name for a men's jewelry line. Here we see high end, finely crafted products that reflect well upon the mother brand: the watches offer "classic styling and superior performance under the most demanding conditions."
The real question is whether or not there is a likelihood of confusion between the real AAA and a few imitators? The obvious answer, yes! The real AAA offers insurance and of course car related products and services. Many would consider this outright theft and we wish the real AAA well in its efforts to protect its very recognizable brand name.
The Ugly: The Tata Nano, India's answer to The Beetle, already had its clever naming poached by . . . bakers? Small time fruit cake makers in India are using the Nano name to sell their products and there is nothing that Tata can do about it. What's makes this even more interesting is that these fruitcakes just grab any name that is in the news and run with it. "People may not have any idea of the product or its quality but they will want to buy one just out of curiosity." This has led some people to think that auto giant Tata is now in the cake biz.
September 5, 2008
No company wants its products mistaken for someone else's, that's why the US Patent and Trademark Office rejects applications it considers "confusingly similar" to existing marks. When your product is a prescription drug, that kind of confusion endangers more than the company's profits.
Yet despite the best efforts of both the USPTO and the FDA, which rejects some 1/3 of proposed new drug names because they sound too much like existing medications, the US Pharmacopeia maintains a list of more than 1,750 drug names that have been confused with one another (the printable list dates from 2004).
Changing all of those names (or even half of them) is impractical. Many have been in use for decades, and it's no surprise if someone mistakes a newer or less common drug name for that of something more familiar. Among those who study ancient manuscripts, this is known as the lectio difficilior potior, because the mistake so rarely happens the other way around. You've probably noticed something similar when the spell-checker wants to correct an unusual word or name you've used to something it recognizes.
So what's to be done, apart from taking greater care in the naming of new drugs? Electronic prescribing, which bypasses the famously poor handwriting of doctors, may be some help, but there's that spell-checker problem. Consumer Reports advocates having your doctor include both generic and brand names, as well as the drug's purpose, on the prescription form.
Now healthcare service iGuard proposes to send out e-mail alerts to patients about possible drug name confusions. And speaking of confusing names, that's iGuard.org, not the iGuard security camera company...
September 3, 2008
Google Chrome is out. As a browser designed to take on Firefox, Opera and IE8, it's become big, big news.
The world already knows the Chrome name and frankly, almost anything with the name Google behind it is going to pique our curiosity, it is a brand that appeals to anyone with a computer.
It sounds like a fragrance for men. Google claims that it refers to the typical bells and whistles around browsers, with the idea being to "minimize chrome."
Most of the features on Chrome have pretty standard names, although it does feature an "incognito mode" that is similar to Microsoft's new InPrivate browsing feature. Mozilla is also working on a similar feature and Safari already has a setting simply called "Privacy" for Mac OS.
Computer browsers all have odd names but I think this one is possibly a little impractical because it has been used before and because it is so jarring. "Google" is a funky word we've never seen before, but "Chrome" is not.
Nonetheless, I'm curious, and that's half the battle won for Google. And as a great blog post at Nature and Cyberspace mentions, this is a fabulous word but "this browser name is loaded with metaphors, both good and bad."
I think this is an example of "inside baseball" naming.
September 2, 2008
"Trademark [law]," according to the Paul Goldstein, a Stanford law school professor quoted in the New York Times, is the "sleeping giant of intellectual property." This conclusion was made for many reasons, but the one that catches my eye is the quest by companies to seek names for products that simply are not that well defined.
Cloud Computing, an innovative offsite Internet service, is a great name because it speaks to the so-called "computer cloud" (all the devices out there that access the Internet). It's also a term that has been floating around the geek world for some time.
Live Mesh, on the other hand, is a super application that is meant to keep all of your web devices in sync, although it looks like the term Open Mesh is already in use.
It looks to me like tech companies, are discovering that names are being registered faster than ever before, especially after running into trademark issues on products that customers might have a hard time understanding, much less buying. Never mind the difficulty of "dot-whatevers," we're seeing a virtual race to get names into the books before the product development is even finished.
This is nothing new, of course. Companies in more traditional fields are already borrowing from different markets of brand naming to get their own trademarks. For example, "Mango" is a fashion line and there is a "Virgin" cola out there alongside the airline.
Business Line in India asks "Will we soon have motorcars called Sweat and deodorants named Cylinder & Piston?"
Of course we will. Names from different categories is one of the factors that helps keep product and brand naming interesting.
Posted by William Lozito at 8:58 AM
Posted to Beverages | Brand Naming | Branding | Licensing | Naming | Naming Rights | Product Naming | Technology | Telecommunications | Trademarking
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