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October 31, 2008

Can AC/DC Brand Naming Become Mainstream at Walmart?

ac-dc-logo-header.gifAC/DC's new album, "Black Ice," is number one in the country, which is great news for metal fans and pretty interesting for marketers, since the album is only available at Walmart.

The band has also decided not allow the album to be sold on iTunes, which means that it is entirely possible for a supergroup to retain that elite title thanks solely to Walmart.

This success has some critics of the Walmart only strategy eating their words. Even Satan himself seems mystified that this band, which was the scourge of parents everywhere throughout the 80's largely because of its dubious name, along with albums like Highway to Hell, has found favor in the aisles of a company that is routinely criticized for censoring artistic freedom in the name of deep discounts and higher sales.

This is especially surprising when you consider that AC/DC is a term that means, in some places, bisexuality. Although, the founding members claim they were unaware of this allusion, maintaining that they found it on the back of a sewing machine.

But controversial name aside, this band, which used to put out albums you hid from your folks, now seems to have acquiesced to the Walmart "thought police" who banned a Sheryl Crow album and forced John Mellencamp to change his album cover before selling it.

The AC/DC frontman doesn't seem fazed. He's happy the chain store not only carries all his band's albums but also their shirts and "pajamas for kids." My feeling is that any store that sells AC/DC pajamas in toddler sizes isn't really much of a censor - it's simply sensitive to what its consumer base likes to buy.

And retailers can't be censors, even if they want to be. When certain stores refuse to stock books, clothing or CDs, they are making economic decisions, not artistic ones. Who in their right mind goes to Walmart looking for edginess?

The more interesting question is how a band like AC/DC gets to be considered mainstream in Walmart at all?

Probably because the Walmart upper management can vividly recall rocking out to "You Shook Me All Night Long" when they were younger and most likely getting punished for it.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:02 AM

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October 30, 2008

Can Jose Cuervo Naming and Branding Help You "Live Notoriously Well?"

jose-cervo.gifJose Cuervo is encouraging customers to "Live Notoriously Well" in its new campaign, which is a slogan obviously designed to reposition Jose Cuervo as an aspirational brand.

There are very few liquor brand names out there that really appeal to both the upscale and downscale crowd, but one that immediately comes to mind is Jack Daniels, which appeals to easy sipping young professionals (you can even get the logo on your Blackberry), as well as rock stars like Slash from Guns n' Roses.

With the "Living Notoriously Well" website, Jose Cuervo is trying to distance itself from the humorous persona previously associated with its brand name and it appears to already be working. To their credit, the word "notorious" makes the brand sound like an outlaw, and gives the drink a kind of western resonance that seems to fit.

jose_cuervo_platino1.gifThe brand's owner, Diago, also just launched a "premium silver" tequila called Jose Cuervo Platino in response to dwindling sales against ultra premium tequila competitors.

But tequila does have an aging process and there is a broad range of quality out there, much like bourbon, with high end brands coming in at $50 a bottle. The key question here is whether or not tequila can genuinely become part of the good life or if it will always be a step below margaritas and slammers.

Which, for some, is pretty much as good as it gets.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:46 AM

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October 29, 2008

How Does Charlotte Moss' New Product Name Smell to You?

charlottemossfragrance.jpgHome fragrances are in vogue, and don't dare call them air fresheners. Plug-ins, solids, sprays and lamps are now being used to create different fragrances in every part of the house.

Of course, this concept is nothing new, it's been with us since ancient times, but in its most recent form it has moved out of the world of aromatherapy and into mainstream fashion.

Case in point is decorating doyenne Charlotte Moss, who is making sophisticated home fragrance products, one of which is called "Left Bank."

Most fashionistas will immediately recognize that this product name references the Left bank of Paris, while those of us less familiar with the geography of fashion may be left scratching our heads.

It may also be helpful to note that the fragrances are administered via AirEssence fragrance diffusers by Agraria, which are made to look like perfume bottles.

This news closely follows the announcement that Moss's flagship New York store is closing, which is terrible news for anyone who likes trendy shops and even trendier homes. It will officially be gone as of November 15.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:03 AM

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October 28, 2008

Macy's Celebrates 150 Years of a Brand Naming Miracle on 34th Street

Macy's in New York celebrates its 150th birthday today.

macy's.jpgIn addition to an "epic cake" and lighting the Empire State Building Red, the store plans on renaming 34th Street in New York. As of this morning, 34th street will now be called RH Macy Way in honor of the company's founder, Rowland Hussey Macy. The renaming will only be in effect until November 15th, a week before the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

It's a nice touch but I might respectfully add that Macy's and 34th Street are two names that are permanently embedded in the American consumer's mind.

Macy's is a true miracle 34th street.jpgAmerican name that has stood the test of time and 34th Street is so much a part of Macy's identity that Fashion Week refers to today's celebration as "Anniversary on 34th Street," a play on the classic movie "Miracle on 34th Street" from 1947, which of course features Macy's.

The man responsible for this prominent brand naming, Rowland Macy, came from one of the eminent Nantucket families. His father was a whaler and a descendent of Obed Macy, the man who wrote the first history of Nantucket.

Rowland left his family and the sea 150 years ago and opened the first Macy's in New York City. In doing so, he instituted many concepts that would become common business practices, such as charging the same price for the same product to every customer, advertising prices in the paper, and even having a "Santa Clause" in the store at Christmas time.

As a side note, he is also a distant relative of top novelist Caitlin Macy, who also works in New York City and will be releasing a new set of stories next year.

Happy Birthday, Macy's.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:50 AM

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October 27, 2008

It's Been a Long Time: Zeppelin Brand Naming Flies Again

Would you take a ride in a zeppelin?

I would . . . I think.

airship ventures.pngA California company called Airship Ventures is offering Americans a chance to ride in a real zeppelin, the first time paying passengers can board one in more than 70 years. People who are into airships (what zeppelins are called by enthusiasts) are thrilled by their return to the states.

But what about the Goodyear blimp, you may ask?

A blimp is not a zeppelin, because it doesn't have the same rigid internal frame. But riding in a blimp sounds safer to me, and a little less edgy than boarding a zeppelin. This may be in part because the name "blimp" is friendlier, even though the actual name comes from the sound made when this huge steerable balloon is pressed with a finger.

Zeppelins, on the other hand, were created by German Count Graf Ferdinand von Zeppelin and were a major source of transportation between WWI and WWII, so much so that the spire on the Empire State Building was meant to be a Zeppelin dock.

Then came the Hindenburg disaster in Lakehurst New Jersey in 1937.

However, the new zeppelin is far safer. The Hindenburg was filled with highly flammable hydrogen, while the new versions, built in Germany by Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik, are filled with nonflammable helium.

Led_Zeppelin1.jpgStill, the name zeppelin is filled with emotion, possibly because the band Led Zeppelin used a picture of the burning Hindenburg on the cover of their first album, prompting millions of fans to think about the disaster every time they put on the record, much to the irritation of the Zeppelin family.

More than that, zeppelins have a distinctly negative connotation in Europe where at the start of WWI they were used to bomb London from high altitudes in the dead of night. The image of a zeppelin in the sky still carries that frightening association despite the fact that zeppelins have not been used as bombers for over 90 years.

In light of the zeppelin's murky past, it is no surprise that effort is being put into creating excitement around the naming of the Airship Ventures' new aircraft. On the company's web-site, you can try to guess the name of Airship Ventures' new Zeppelin NT04 (New Technology) for a shot at a free ride on what will be the world's biggest zeppelin at 75 meters. Although that may seem rather large, it is a pygmy compared to the Hindenburg and the Graf Zeppelin II, which were built in 1937 and 1938, and were a whopping 245 m in length, making them the biggest flying objects in history.

And just in case you wanted some help making your zeppelin naming guess, Airship Ventures has created a site that examines naming conventions of zeppelins through the decades.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:03 AM

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October 24, 2008

Thirsty for Relaxed Brand Naming or Pepper's New Product Naming Edge?

drank625oct22.pngMost carbonated drinks promise to give you energy, but at least one new beverage offers relaxation. Maybe even too much of it.

It's brand name is "Drank" and it is sold as a "Relaxed Energy Drink." In fact, above the name is the proclamation "anti-energy." In addition, its slogan is "slow your roll" and the product logo is "suggestive of a cough syrup bottle."

Although it seems that you cannot just toss back a few Drank's in a complete state of relaxation. The drink actually contains melatonin, a hormone naturally produced by our brains to regulate circadian rhythms (rhythmical biological processes, such as heartbeat). There is even a warning label on the side cautioning consumers not to drink more than two cans in 24 hours.

The name is interesting enough, but the warning label is what I find most intriguing, as does the Illinois attorney general's office, who wonders if that's a "marketing tool" or a legitimate warning?

The brand naming and packaging has a street reference - apparently there is an underground substance called "Purple drank" (note the purple Drank can), which is a cocktail made up of codeine-laced cough syrup and soda. At least one rap star, DJ Screw, has died from drinking too much, er, drank.

Fact is, the warning is not required but the clear reference to "Purple drank" has several groups worried. My feeling is that it is quite unique for a company to create a warning label of its own and actual tell consumers to limit their intake. Even beer companies don't go that far.

But then again, this could be part of the ever-edgier strategy of soft drink companies, lending a little naughtiness to their offerings.

drpepperaxlgnr_l.pngAnother case in point of a drink company looking to get down and dirty is Dr. Pepper.

Barry Manilow once penned their "Be a Pepper" song decades ago, but more recently Dr. Pepper has teamed up with Guns N' Roses.

They are offering a free can of Dr. Pepper to everyone in the USA as part of the promo for the Gunners' new album "Chinese Democracy."

The new can actually features a picture of Axl Rose in what seems like an aggressive attempt to give a little edge to the Dr. Pepper name.

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:58 AM

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October 23, 2008

Determining the Target Market for Sapphic Brand Naming

The launch of the Sappho Cosmetics brand appears to target a lesbian audience.

islandgirl1.pngThere are clearly strong and obvious connotations with the word "Sappho," which of course hearkens back to the famous poet from the isle of Lesbos and the origins of the word lesbian. An island girl on the company's web site, along with a company description that suggests that Sappho Cosmetics is "all about making up fearlessly," only strengthens this Lesbos association.

Some bloggers believe that despite these obvious references, the cosmetics are not marketed as a "lesbian make-up line." Supporting this argument may be tough when you consider that JoAnn Fowler is the founder of the company and the make-up artist for the popular TV show The L Word.

However, instead of placing emphasis on the sexual connotations associated with the name, the brand strategy seems to be focusing on how environmentally friendly the make-up is, specifically noting that it is phthalate and paraben free.
sappho.png   
I think that it will be very interesting to see if this cosmetics line resonates with all consumers, just as The L Word show has. Sappho and all things Sapphic have always been about pure feminine beauty, and nowadays it is not much of a reach for even conservative consumers to associate homosexuality with fashion and cosmetics.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:45 AM

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October 22, 2008

Banning Biker Brand Naming

mongols.jpgIt seems that even sadistic biker gangs can fall afoul of trademark violation these days, as the nefarious Mongols have discovered this week.

The FBI has decided to charge the Mongols with murder, attempted murder, assault, gun running and drug violations, and as part of their strategy to punish the gang for these infractions the FBI is attempting to seize their trademarked name.

The indictment calls for a court order outlawing further use of the name, which would allow any officer "who sees a Mongol wearing this patch ... to stop that gang member and literally take the jacket right off his back."

Some trademark lawyers call this move "troubling" and an "over-reach" of forfeiture law since the Mongols actually made the effort to trademark the name in relation to "interests of persons interested in the recreation of riding motorcycles" before allowing for it to be registered by a company called Shotgun Productions. This may prove to be a stumbling block for the FBI, as Shotgun Productions seems to have nothing to do with anything illegal.

There are also issues of free speech to consider, such as what happens to the pamphlets and other written materials that bear the Mongols name?

wild_hogs.jpgOne blogger points out that rather than making the name illegal, the FBI can simply strike at the gang's legitimacy or else hammer the gang for using a trademark that is "primarily geographically misdescriptive" since none of the bikers actually come from central Asia, like real Mongols. However, the problem with this approach would be that the mark would remain in the public domain, while federal ownership of the mark would make it illegal for the gang to use it all.

Maybe the Mongols should hire the same lawyers that the Hell's Angels did when they sued Disney for "trademark dilution" for their representation in the comedy "Wild Hogs."

The Hell's Angels are actually the "Hell's Angels Motorcycle Corporation" and aggressively protect their mark not only against movie makers, but also against apparel companies.

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:28 AM

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October 21, 2008

Buckypaper: A Naming and Branding Strength or Weakness?

buckypaper.pngI have no idea why the inventors of so many new, interesting products seem to actually go out of their way to get silly names appended to their inventions. Today's case in point is Buckypaper.

Yes, you read that right. Buckypaper.

No, this is not really nubbly sandpaper, nor is it dental paper for buck teeth. In fact, this isn't paper at all. Buckypaper is actually "The tube-shaped variation of the buckminsterfullerene molecule" which can be dispersed in liquid and turned into a very, very strong film that's 10 times lighter, but 500 times stronger than steel. Say hello to new planes, cars and homes made of this interesting material.

Did I mention that buckminsterfullerene is referred to as "buckyballs," so nicknamed by its Nobel Prize Winning discoverer?

That's right, the miracle substance of the next generation starts out life as buckyballs and then evolves into Buckypaper. insecta-concept.jpgAlthough surprisingly, this might not even be the silliest prototype name I have seen this month - the (probably fictional) High Five-o-Meter gets that label - but it is close. A second runner-up is The Insecta, the product name for a new concept car that looks sort of like a . . . well, you know.

Hey, at least the Insecta has a name, the new, incredible eBook reader by Plastic Logic is still in the midst of its own product naming process.

However, in the case of Buckypaper, a bad name might actually be far worse than no name at all. You definitely won't see me stepping into an airplane made out of Buckypaper any time soon.

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Posted by William Lozito at 11:11 AM

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October 20, 2008

Save the Sea Kittens: Fish Naming Gets Slippery

An article in The Tyee got me thinking about the problems and difficulties related to fish naming. The fact is that nobody is going to eat a fish with a weird name.

orangerougy.jpgSlimeheads were not a big hit until they were renamed "orange roughy," and stumpknockers just wouldn't sell until they were renamed "spotted sunfish." Canadian fishermen used to curse "whore's eggs" that were caught in their nets, now they are resold to sushi lovers as "spicy sea urchin." It seems that when a fish's name shifts from "dogfish" to "rock salmon" we suddenly see an increase in consumer demand, which can then lead to over fishing.

Similarly, US catfish growers no longer sell catfish, they now sell "Delacata." This new name is meant to give it an edge over Asian imitators who use the name "Pangasius."

Sushi lovers with a conscience are now looking carefully at fish naming: New fish pocket guides are designed to help us differentiate between sustainable tuna and bluefin, big-eye or yellowfin. Wild Pacific salmon sushi is okay, but farm-raised salmon is not. And you better not get caught eating fish roe from Maine - the good stuff comes from Canada.

PETA is taking things one step further by trying to discourage us from eating any fish at all by campaigning to have all fish renamed "Sea-Kittens" while at the same time pushing to "Save the Sea Kittens."

SeaKittens.pngAs one activist puts it the "Lives of Sea Kittens" site, "I never eat anyone I know personally. I wouldn't deliberately eat a grouper any more than I'd eat a cocker spaniel."

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:39 AM

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October 16, 2008

Wigwam's New Brand Architecture and Product Naming

Have you looked in your sock drawer recently?

Kind of a mess isn't it? Mine is anyway.

wigwam-logo.gifThe Wigwam sock line, all 138 styles, certainly wasn't a mess, but definitely had expanded into a challenging portfolio for retailers to work with.

Strategic Name Development partnered with Wigwam, one of the few, if not the only, major sock manufacturer that can still claim "Made in the USA," to create a common naming nomenclature for its extensive line of 138 sock styles.

The styles were grouped into 5 competency areas:

  • Sport

  • Snowsport

  • Outdoor

  • Health

  • At Work

WigwamDiamondDancerSocks.gifThe assignment included brand architecture, product naming and a packaging copy system to accompany the award winning packaging created by MSLK Graphic Design.

Some of the consumer-friendly language is reflected in the new product names like:

  • The Big Easy

  • Diamond Dancer

  • Blue Ox

  • Snow Whisper Pro

In fact, that consumer-friendly language included a new twist on "Made in USA" to "Proudly Made in Sheboygan USA." For those of you who may not know, Sheboygan is located on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin.

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Posted by William Lozito at 12:22 PM

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October 15, 2008

Higher Heels Produce Elevated Product Naming

highhighheels.pngThey say that hemlines go down with the stock market, but nobody has mentioned heel size, which seems to be skyrocketing. The Wall Street Journal suggests that today's best dressed women have to be prepared to brave 5, 6 or even 7 inch heels if they want to stay in fashion.

If you can manage to put aside the obvious physical difficulties that wearing these mountainous spikes represent, you can clearly see that these heels are in an entirely new category of fashion and ultimately require new names. The Wall Street Journal refers to them as "skyscraper shoes" and "megaheels" that turn the 3-4 inch "stiletto" of Marilyn Monroe's day into little more than a gradual incline.

The naming of these shoes screams both sophistication and sex (witness the Promiscuous line of high heeled boots). The Evian Girls even have their own design of high heels from the Clearly Glam collection.

And who do we blame for this new trend?

There are two culprits that come immediately to mind: Carrie Bradshaw and Manolo Blahnik, a pair that goes together like James Bond and Martini. In one episode of Sex and the City, Carrie, whose love of heels helped bring them back into fashion, implores a mugger "Please sir, you can take my Fendi baguette, you can take my ring and my watch, but don't take my Manolo Blahniks."
ankle-wrap heel.png
A quick glance over at Neiman Marcus tells me that high heel naming is both sexy and severe. Just take a look at the Ankle-Wrap d'Prsay or the Scrunched Boot. Ouch!

Well, as British Vogue Editor recently pointed out, "if God had wanted us to wear flats he wouldn't have invented Manolo Blahnik."

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Posted by William Lozito at 11:51 AM

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October 14, 2008

The Dodgers' New Naming Process for Stadium Naming

The Dodgers' new approach to the naming rights of their stadium may be the way of the future when it comes to stadium naming.

dodgertown.jpgDodger Stadium does not have its name up for sale, but lots of the naming possibilities inside certainly are. The top deck, bull pen, the garage, and other sections of the stadium will be up for grabs. This naming auction follows the recent announcement that the area around the stadium will be called "Dodgertown," a name that seems to have been lifted from their spring training complex in Vero Beach.

I have written before about how stadium naming is in trouble thanks to the collapse of many banks and financial institutions that have lent their names to sporting arenas.

minutemaidpark.jpgThis new naming process of selling off sections of a stadium may be in response to names like Wachovia, which is likely to be removed from many stadiums, just like the Enron name was kicked out in favor of Minute Maid Park. WaMu is yet another name that seems destined for history, leaving a trail of stadium naming and branding wreckage.

Given that the economic crisis will almost certainly continue to trickle down to sports and stadium naming, it only seems logical that bidders should be offered small parts of a stadium rather than the whole thing.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:54 AM

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October 13, 2008

Jamaica Blue Mountain About to Be Served a Bitter Naming Brew?

jbm2.pngSince "Blue Mountain" is judged to be too generic to be registered as a trademark, The Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica is taking an interesting approach to gaining ownership of the name.

As the current owners of the "Jamaica Blue Mountain" mark, The Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica is attempting to secure "Blue Mountain" by itself by registering it as a Geographic Indication (GI).

I find this interesting because I happen to be a coffee lover and have probably had hundreds of cups of "Blue Mountain" coffee without thinking about where it comes from.

echo-point-blue-mountain-sydney.jpgI have thought, vaguely, that its an American coffee (probably mistakenly thinking of The Blue Ridge Mountains), although it just as easily could have been an Australian brew, named after the Blue Mountains close to Sydney.

However, both Kenya and Ethiopia have apparently been selling coffee with the Blue Mountain name. In fact, at least one Kenya brand sells a "Fair Trade" version.

The issue here is that there is already a high set of requirements for a coffee to be called "Jamaican." Blue Mountain Coffee takes this differentiation to an even higher level.

And then, of course, there are also various coffee sub-brands located within the Jamaica Blue Mountain range.

Geographic Indications for the Origin of Coffee is well traveled trademark terrain. It is a term used to "identify a good as originating in the territory, region or locality where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographic origin, such as 'Florida oranges.'" Even better, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, "Geographical Indications serve the same functions as trademarks,
because like trademarks they are source identifiers, guarantees of quality, and are valuable business interests."

Coffeebeans.jpgHere's the kicker: If your product does indeed come from the same area as indicated in the registration or the name can be argued to have lost its regional uniqueness and simply becomes used to signify a certain product no matter where it comes from, you get to use the name under rules of "fair use."

Ethiopia has already learned this lesson when it tried to register its "Harrar" coffee mark. The registration office pointed out that "Harrar" is well-known as coffee blends, and thus, Ethiopia could not claim the regional indicator.

Blue Mountain is even more well known than "Harrar" and thus I am sure the African users of the name will probably argue that they are simply trading under fair use, even if Jamaica gets the geographic indicator.

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:26 AM

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An Ode to Noah Webster - From Brand Name to Genericide Victim

Oh noble Noah, you who stripped the u
From color and the k from music and who
Taught a nation how to spell and gave
Us a lexicon of the language of the brave
Rejoice! For Yankees all still celebrate
Your dictionary and your birth upon this date.

Webster.pngThis little composition might not quite fit Noah Webster's 1828 definition of an ode, which attributes "sublimity, rapture and quickness of transition" to the form. Nevertheless, it seems appropriate to offer some tribute to the man who created the first dictionary of the American language in all its colorful idiom as the 250th anniversary of his birth approaches.

1828_small.pngWhile every naming company relies on many dictionaries for inspiration, Webster's is particularly appropriate, because his name has become synonymous with dictionaries. This is in great part because the Merriam company, which bought the rights to Noah Webster's dictionary after his death, lost control of both the "Webster's" name and the original 1828 text.

As a result, several other publishers also produce "Webster's" dictionaries and Merriam-Webster has to work hard to establish its claim to being the real Webster's.

That may just make Noah Webster America's first victim of genericide.

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Posted by Diane Prange at 9:48 AM

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October 10, 2008

Toz Spirits Naming a Good Bar Call

st.luciadistillerslogo copy.pngSt. Lucia Distillers located in Roseau, St. Lucia makes the highest quality rums and rum liqueurs. The company produces over twenty-five of the finest rum products in the Eastern Caribbean.

St. Lucia.jpgThe majority of rum production occurs in and around the Caribbean and South America. Rum is a distilled beverage made by fermenting and distilling sugarcane by-products, such as molasses and sugarcane juice.

With gold rums, the distillate, a clear liquid, is usually aged in oak and other wooden casks and thus receives its darker color.

St. Lucia asked Strategic Name Development to name its new luxury gold rum. The name had to be short, natural English, easy to pronounce, masculine, and most importantly it had to be a good bar call. It was imperative that the name conveyed a notion of discovery and that the product be portrayed as being premium.

TozRum.jpgFrom the hundreds of name candidates developed, Tøz surfaced as the most appropriate. Tøz was chosen as the name due to its tie to gold, since it is a symbol for the troy ounce, the traditional unit for weighing precious metals.

The name is based on the concept of a gold standard since the color shows signs of aging through its golden brown core and shimmering rim.

The Tøz masculine brand name was enhanced with the Danish "Ø" to add visual appeal and uniqueness.

An enjoyable aspect of the project for the Strategic Name Development team was taste-testing the rum.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:30 AM

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October 9, 2008

Cenovus Company Naming Success

Energy is on everyone's mind these days, especially energy independence.

EnCana Corporation, a $60 billion enterprise located in Calgary, is a leading North American unconventional natural gas and integrated oil company.

The company is splitting into two enterprises: One that focuses on natural gas and the other on integrated oil.

EnCana management selected Strategic Name Development to create a new global company name for the new integrated oil company.

forbes_home_logo.gifAfter generating over 1,000 name candidates, conducting a linguistic analysis and screening for trademarks globally, Cenovus Energy was born.

Cenovus is comprised of "Cen," which represents an innovative way of doing business in a new century and "novus," the latin root for new. Together, they represent the company's commitment to fresh progressive thinking in order to assure success in the 21st century as an integrated oil company.

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:01 AM

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Does the Political Brand Development of Maverick Have Other Consequences?

maverick-logo.jpgIn a recent post, Box Vox articulated what has been on my mid for a few weeks: The fate of Maverick brand naming.

Most of us know the story about the origin of the word: Unbranded cattle from Samuel Augustus Mavericks came to be known as Mavericks because they didn't hold to one group. Samuel Maverick's descendents, meanwhile, do not seem happy about the word being so closely associated with John McCain and Sarah Palin. The owner of the Dallas Mavericks isn't smiling about it either.

We here at Strategic Name Development do not take sides politically, but it is easy to see that the Maverick name is going to go through some rough times after this election simply because it will forever be associated with these candidates.

Outside of politics, the people at Maverick Solutions are probably worried that their new cell phone application is going to wind up carrying unwanted political connotations. Same for Maverick Presentation Products.

It seems like Maverick will now be associated with John McCain as Gipper is to Ronald Reagan and Bubba is to President Clinton.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:30 AM

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October 7, 2008

Stop and Smell the Scent of Product Naming Inspiration

Perfume naming and branding is never dull. Take perfumer to the stars Frédéric Malle, a perfume king who apparently "sees himself as a publisher" and has made himself into a Hollywood elite by treating his perfumes like books and those that make them (called noses) like authors.

Frederic-Malle-Coffret-Collector.pngAll of his perfumes are packaged and named like books, specifically books from the famous Éditions Gallimard publishing company in France whose simple, elegant book designs are legendary. Frédéric actually calls his flagship shop in Paris "Editions de Parfums."

Meetings with Malle are more like meetings with an old time bespoke publisher than a perfume designer, and the casual intelligence he brings to the trade has caught on across the world.

The cross pollination goes both ways: Recently I wrote about the Camel No. 9 cigarette whose branding that evokes Chanel No 19 perfume. L'Occitane Skin Care products, in turn, reminds us of Provence, a place reminiscent of the sweet smells of food and flowers.

avon-ironman.pngAnother perfume that displays unique inspiration is Avon's Ironman fragrance which surprisingly doesn't smell like sweat at all, but instead is "a victorious fusion of energizing citrus and exotic spices spiked with rich woods."

The packaging reminds one of a bike grip, with icons of running, swimming and cycling on the carton. The tagline? "'Anything is Possible,' which happens to be the Ironman Triathlon mantra.

Associating well known brands and designs, from books to bikes, seems to be a winning formula in the perfume world so long as the basics of design and fashion are not transgressed. The million dollar question is whether or not your target market is drawn from your source of inspiration exclusively:

  • Is Avon selling the Ironman fragrance solely to the legions of people who will recognize and admire the brand name?
  • Is Malle appealing mainly to cultured bibliophiles?
  • Or are some brands so ubiquitous and appealing that they have an instant, dramatic appeal that works well in the scent industry?

I don't see Ironman being bought by die hard couch potatoes. In fact, it is much more likely that a huge percentage of Malle's clients are readers.

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Posted by William Lozito at 7:25 AM

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October 6, 2008

Will Financial Naming Endure?

wallstreetsign.jpgNewsweek is wondering what exactly will become of the American brand now that the financial system is under such stress.

More specifically, there is room to ponder what will become of the Wall Street brand name, which now seems synonymous with greed and mismanagement.

Although, there is no real sense in losing sleep over whether or not the Wall Street name will weather the storm. It has always been the name that people love to hate.

Yes, there has been a lot of trust lost between Wall Street and the American people which has led to some frightening closings to many established bank brands, but do we really think that Wall Street will reinvent itself in the next few months as something other than a place where you can win big and lose big, a place where "greed is good?"

The more interesting naming news related to this issue is the press suggesting we banish the word bailout when talking about the Rescue Package.

Salon magazine reminds us to call it a "Rescue Plan," following the trend we wrote about on Friday.

billlegislation.pngRescue Package or Rescue Plan makes the whole bailout bill (the term will not die) seem all the more necessary and makes those who sign it look like rescuers rather than bailers, or even worse, bailer-outers.

This may be the case, but as we suggested in our last post: Bailout bill name change or not, we all appear to be in need of a financial rescue.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:50 AM

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October 3, 2008

The Semantics of Branding and Re-branding the Bailout

"Go directly to jail. Do not pass 'Go.' Do not collect $700,000,000,000."

mccain.jpgThat kind of mental association is exactly the reason Senator John McCain wants to re-name the highly contentious Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. He wants to talk about a rescue package instead. Others are talking about a "recovery plan."

You can't entirely blame McCain. As anyone who has ever driven past a courthouse knows, "bail" is inextricably associated with crime.

But because people speak colloquially of bailing their friends out of trouble, there's a stronger mental association between the word "bailout" and the idea of getting off the hook.

But in legal terms, bail is something offered up in exchange for temporary freedom. It allows someone accused of a crime to await trial in the comfort of his or her own home rather than in the local jail. The accused still has to face trial, and could still go to prison, or even end up on death row.

bailout1.jpgThe other primary non-slang usage of the phrasal verb "bail out" applies to leaky boats. If you don't want to sink before you can get to shore, you have to bail the water out faster than it comes in. Again, bailing is not a long-term solution. Once you make it back to shore, you have to haul the boat into dry-dock and get the leak fixed.

Makes you think, doesn't it? The American economy is leaking all right, but where is our dry dock? And should we, in fact, be accusing U.S. financial institutions of committing crimes?

The most common slang usage of the word "bail" only makes it worse. To bail means to leave a place or abandon a project or a person. No doubt we all want to get out of the current economic situation as quickly as possible. But who or what might we be abandoning in order to do so?

Euphemistic, and outright deceptive, names have helped bills to pass before. Maybe calling Paulson's proposal a "recapitalization plan" will win votes.

But it's going to take more than a good brand name to get us out of this one.

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Posted by Diane Prange at 7:50 AM

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October 2, 2008

Weather or Not, A Brand Name That's Cloudy

microsoft cloud.pngSteve Ballmer recently announced that Microsft will soon be launching a new OS called "Windows Cloud," for developers who want to write applications for cloud computing. Although the system most likely will not be called "Cloud" by the time it's released.

This move demonstrates that Microsoft clearly wants to be part of the "cloud computing" phenomenon; a phenomenon that has elicited a huge response across the Internet, mostly because it's so hard to define.

Larry Ellison is already denying the existence of clouds while others feel that cloud computing is "overhyped," even though few of us feeling the hype can, hand on heart, say that we understand what it actually is.

GNU founder Richard Stallman says cloud computing is a "trap" (well he would, wouldn't he? This is the fellow who says it's "worse than stupidity" to use Gmail).

My feeling? Cloud computing is here to stay, but this may be a case where the product name preceded the product in a big way. The best thing about it, from a naming perspective, is that the name itself has got us curious, and even arguing about it. I have already written about how the "Cloud" name has had trademark issues as eager developers try to make this particular product name theirs and think up a product or application for it later.

But by actually calling the new OS "Windows Cloud," Microsoft helps bring clarity and credence to an otherwise cloudy phenomenon.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:58 AM

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Does Brand Name Product Placement Work?

007_quantam_of_solace_trailer.jpgIt is no surprise that the new James Bond movie will have some serious brand name placement, but the real big winners will be Aston Martin, Omega watches, Smirnoff, Virgin, Heineken and Ocean Sky, a British private jet company.

Now one may wonder how much product placement factors into the minds of consumers, but it is tough to argue against the fact that Bond's cruising around in an Aston Martin has helped Aston become the coolest overall brand name in the UK.

Placing brand names in movies is something moviegoers have come to expect, but music lovers are also getting their share of them as well.

Busta Rhymes and Diddy's (previously know as Puff Daddy) "Pass the Courvoisier Part Two" pushed up the sales of the refined Courvoisier cognac by a whopping 20%. It's my guess that the new buyers were not habitual drinkers, but were major rap fans.

entourage.jpgAccording to one site that tracks product placement worldwide, Variety magazine and Apple have seen plenty of airtime on the HBO hit series Entourage. Of course this is nothing out of the ordinary, Apple seems to be everywhere these days. I just had to laugh when I saw Al Pacino in 88 Minutes playing a college professor who was literally surrounded by Apple logos as he taught.

This leads me to wonder if there are not some uniquely placable product names. I take my hat off to Busta and Diddy for actually working an awkward word like Courvoisier into a song, although I should add that my favorite rap product placement of all-time was Jay-Z's use of the even more awkward Armand de Brignac in a pointed "dis" at the easier to rhyme Cristal.

Besides pronunciation, there are other difficulties, like getting macho James Bond to fly on something called "Ocean Sky," which is probably almost as hard as associating his name with "Virgin."

Although, the biggest jaw dropper is that Bond won't ask for that "shaken, not stirred martini," something that must have been a disappointment for Smirnoff.

It really seems to me that certain brand names have to start to ask themselves what they'd sound like in a rap song, or how they'll look on the big screen for a second and a half.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:25 AM

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October 1, 2008

The Roots of Virgin's New 'Airphoria' Tagline

virgin_logo.jpgVirgin Atlantic has just launched a new advertising campaign centering around a neologism: Airphoria.

A spokesperson for Virgin's agency of record defined the term as "the excitement and anticipation felt before a Virgin flight."

"Airphoria" is obviously a play on the word "euphoria." It's a trifle less euphonious than its source word, but with a little practice it falls "trippingly" enough on the tongue.

It's too early to tell whether the campaign will be a success, but my own interest in this newly-coined term is its linguistic richness and probably unintended appropriateness.

Euphoria, as we all know, refers to a sense of exaggerated well-being, or in other words, a "high." Apt indeed for the experience of cruising at 40,000 feet, not to mention the effects of consuming alcohol at high altitudes.

If you break down the word "euphoria," however, it's the "eu" that provides the positive connotations. "Eu" is Greek for "well" and has a sense of familiarity because of words such as "eucharist" and "eulogy." Take the "eu" out of "euphoria" and you have "phoria," which comes from the Greek word meaning "to carry" or "to bear."

virgin atlantic.pngIn fact, the original Greek meaning for "euphoria" was "fertility," in the sense of bearing children easily, which is slightly ironic for an airline whose name is Virgin. I'm sure the flight attendants would prefer that passengers not give birth in mid-flight, though outfitting planes as delivery wards might be just the kind of wacky stunt that would appeal to Richard Branson.

So "airphoria" (which the Greeks would have spelled aerophoria), would be "the ability to carry in the air." And any airline had better have that.

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Posted by Diane Prange at 1:29 PM

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