December 31, 2008
As the clock strikes an end to 2008,
Spread the news of a new year's date.
For it tis the season for holiday cheer,
And a fresh, new start in Happy New Year!
Happy New Year from the entire team here at Strategic Name Development!
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December 30, 2008
On Monday Ben Zimmer finally came out and asked "how did a term for Russian royalty work its way into American government?" He was referring to, of course, the many "czars" that seem to populate American politics.
Despite its Russian origins, it is really no surprise to see czar crossing over into American politics. The vocabulary of our world is becoming increasingly less restricted by language boundaries.
As more and more words extend beyond their native borders, terms once confined to a specific heritage and usage are finding new identities in other tongues. Take the Russian avtomobil as one example of an English word, automobile, that has found a new home in Russian.
This is not the first time that a foreign word has become commonplace in American culture. Ever wonder why we don't just call pork, pig meat, well, maybe its because the French word "porc" sounded a lot more elegant.
In fact, the vast majority of the English language today is not from Old English, but instead from many other languages, most notably French as a result of the Norman conquest of England in 1066.
December 24, 2008
Dairy Queen, our cross-town neighbors, which despite the economy, expects to see sales go up 3% this year. The company revamped its logo and is now offering us a chance to run our own virtual DQ store via its new Dairy Queen Tycoon game. The Dairy Queen brand is one of Warren Buffett's favorites and the game is aimed at adult women who are stuck at home with the kids.
Dairy Queen has hit the social networking, web surfing tween market with a vengeance via their Deeq game and marketing campaign and there seems to be no end in sight. The store appeals to everyone and carries warm nostalgia.
Brand Autopsy recently asked if any of us would care if DQ went out of business and the answer is yes. Dairy Queen is a durable brand name that never seems to lose its relevance. It is instantly recognizable and its product naming is part of American culture. There are plenty of blogs extolling DQ's customer service and they are able to customize their offerings on a dime to appeal to small target markets - witness the Girl Scout Blizzard to the Pumpkin Pie Blizzard.
Of course, Dairy Queen has a huge seasonal product offering: the Yule Flip Peppermint Blizzard and Yule Flip Peppermint Chip Cake are just two of them. This is a company whose product naming is so flexible that they can sell blizzards in the summer or winter.
That's pretty cool (a durable slang term).
December 23, 2008
Dell's new, ultra-mysterious Adamo computer has people wondering across the blogosphere where exactly the name came from. PCWorld notes that the name in Latin means "love or pleasure", and thus Dell might be trying to increase the "love" or emotional connection for its new product. Michael Dell's brother is also named "Adam."
Adamo is a variant of the name "Adam" indeed and means "earth." The rumor mill has pretty much confirmed that it is a ultra-slim notebook and the name sounds endearing, much like "amo" meaning "friend" in Spanish.
Perhaps Adamo is an environmentally friendly laptop.
Engadget as usual is all over this product and has confirmed the name's registration.
Watch this space.
December 19, 2008
I have followed the demise of the Kinko's name with some sadness. Not only will we miss the iconic, hippified brand name, but its replacement, FedEx Office, is not really all that hot. And at least one source, Blogging Stocks, seems to agree.
Senovitz suggests that we all go over and give FedEx a "wedgie" for this boneheaded move. He notes that great brands are priceless and irreplaceable, and that you can't be everything to everybody.
Although he is completely right on that front, I might add that Kinko's and FedEx were not really a partnership that was meant to be. The two names stand for two totally different things, it's like pairing UPS and Ben and Jerry's or Chanel and Burger King. One is all about heartless efficiency and the other is about friendly, laid back service.
Can FedEx actually become an "Office" for us when most of us no longer need a remote office? Today our computers can do pretty much everything we need them to do.
That's why Kinko's was in trouble in the first place.
December 18, 2008
I have written about the rise of private label brand naming in the food aisles and I'm not surprised to see that 2009 will most likely see a rise in private label clothing brands.
Private label brand names in clothing stores "have their own identity - and their own discerning fans - instead of being a cheap trick to spark a little foot traffic."
It had to happen. Fashion has become fast. No-name brands can get the new styles into the stores faster than the well-known brand names, and they can do it for less. So there's no reason for large clothing stores not to take advantage of this.
Macy's now has INC, Charter Club and Style & Co. Saks has Clothes(Real) and Nordstrom's has Classiques Entier and Halogen, which represent a great deal of Nordstrom's overall sales - try 15%.
Note how carefully these brand names have been created and positioned. The strategic naming that gets appended to private label brands rivals that of much larger brands, just on a minimized scale. With private labels we are naming a product to appeal to a few thousand shoppers, rather than a few million.
I have noted that even the Big Box retailers are now using brand name designers, which goes to show that private labels bring fashion for the average consumer to a whole new level.
A Cotton Inc blog states it pretty simply:
With private label, retailers are able to customize their lines to target specific groups of consumers who shop at their stores... A third of women who shop in department stores are 25-55, and many private label programs are aimed at this group.
Private label clothing allows each store to create products and brand names for a distinct customer base. The news about these house brands can be spread through social media channels, while also helping build the store's brand at the same time.
December 17, 2008
Yesterday Theresa Agovino savaged the beleaguered Trump brand name, which has recently been beset by all kinds of financial hardship (relatively speaking). One ad executive quoted in the article compares the Trump name to the Hefner name, adding tartly that "he has an anachronistic feel." Or in other words, the Trump name is becoming obsolete.
However, this bold proclamation of the death of Trump brand naming seems a bit premature.
Granted, the Donald is under fire. He recently lost a bid to rename Morgan Street in front of the Trump Plaza Jersey City. The Wall Street Journal also listed a litany of woes that Mr. Trump is facing worldwide, alongside a singularly unflattering picture, while the New York Times published the problems his casinos are facing.
But let me say it loud and clear to all the writers and bloggers in New York and Jersey: You think the Trump name is dead? Fuggedaboudit.
The guy's name still drives tons of web-traffic, just for starters. And even if he really is slipping from his brand naming throne, the equity of his daughter's name, Ivanaka Trump, is most certainly on the rise.
Think about it. Is it a coincidence that she often gives a talk on "Building & Sustaining a Brand in the Real Estate Business" or is the Trump brand here to stay?
December 15, 2008
How deep does naming go? Two new studies indicate that naming may be more important to medicine than we'll ever truly understand.
The more impressive name you attach to a medical condition, it seems, the more people will look for medicines to cure it.
Tell somebody they have pityroasasis and they'll panic, even if it means they just have dandruff. People with chronic hyperhidrosis are more likely to buy drugs to cure the problem than people who just have excessive perspiration.
This study is released just as Katrina Karkazeis publishes a nuanced and difficult piece in The Lancet entitled "Naming the Problem: Disorders and Their Meanings." Katrina says that the "ways in which we identify medical conditions - togther with their permutations in labels, identities, or diagnoses attributed to (and sometimes embraced by) individuals thereafter - are freighted with meaning that is tied to a sense of self."
In other words, people are starting to say "I am a person, not a disorder" as we become, as a society, more and more attuned to the names of various afflictions, maladies and so forth. It's heavy reading but it's worth it.
Lightening up the naming helps us understand what's actually going wrong, as evidenced by the "Seven-In-Absentia" gene, which has become the new focus of a pancreatic cancer cure. This "whimsical naming" seems to lend an fragment of hope to the cure itself.
I have written before about how drug brand naming is becoming more patient friendly. I wonder if disease naming should go the same way?
December 12, 2008
There are some brand names that are so durable that no amount of failure, poor management or shoddy products can keep them from being classics. Atari is one such name, which now will receive new life as a reincarnation of Infogrames.
Back in June I noted that Infogrames had bought the Atari name for $11 million and suggested that they should start cleaning up the messy naming architecture that Atari had been subjected to (Atari Interactive, Atari Corporation, Atari Games). They have done that, and the new Atari, Inc looks ready to rock.
The name still comes across as "old school cool" to video gamers but the new Atari president, Phil Harrison, is quick to note that he has a "a cool logo and a brand" and just needs to find cool games to support it.
Harrison was responsible for turning Sony Worldwide Studios into a leading game development factory, and his being behind the rehabilitation of the Atari name has created some excitement. The bloggers over at Go Nintendo are declaring that they "hope to see [the Atari name] synonymous with quality." At least one other blogger notes that he didn't think NINTENDO could make a comeback, but the "Wii has hushed my mouth."
I agree. Just a few years ago Nintendo was as retro as Atari is today and many people were laughing at the Wii naming.
Atari still brings back memories to millions of gamers and it is one of those names that we want to see succeed.
There is still so much recognition and goodwill built into the brand that I would not be surprised if Atari was the sleeper brand name of 2009.
December 10, 2008
1. At the end of the day
2. Fairly unique
3. I personally
4. At this moment in time
5. With all due respect
7. It's a nightmare
8. Shouldn't of
10. It's not rocket science
2. A safe pair of hands
3. I'm gutted
5. Going forward
7. Shouldn't of
8. Up until
9. Neither here nor there
10. On a daily basis
Inspired by these lists and a few too many real-life examples of jargon overload, blogger Shel Holtz asked his Twitter followers to send in their most-hated words and phrases. His list includes such verbal atrocities as "leveraging low-cost locations" to mean "outsourcing," not to mention "mission critical," "value-added," "granular," "synergy," and "net/net."
Jargon frequently starts out as something useful - a new word needed to describe something specific to an industry, or at least a faster way to say something. Some of it is simply created to sound impressive - or to replace an older cliché.
And some of it is literally the result of misunderstanding, such as the contradictory "fairly unique" or the frankly ungrammatical "shouldn't of."
Much of it is unnecessary. Why talk about "learnings" when we already have the word "lessons"? What advantage does "impact" really have over "affect"? And who had the unmitigated gall to turn "obsolete" and "architect" into verbs?
There was a time when "synergy" was a beautiful word for a rather nice concept, but now it's trite and overused.
What shall we invent, or revive, to replace it? There's the rather obscure but parallel "heterodyne," which refers to combining radio frequencies and has equally impeccable Greek roots.
Perhaps it's time we revisited our dictionaries to find new words to re-brand as business buzzwords. Then we should be safe from cliché-dom for at least a few years.
December 9, 2008
The news that Kevin Plank, Chairman and CEO of Under Armour, is stepping into competitive footwear is something that should make everyone in naming and branding pause, not least because it looks like the company is heading for success.
The new marketing campaign is called "Athletes Run" and will push three cross trainers: Proto Speed, Proto Power and Proto Evade.
Under Armour is grappling with an assortment of naming challenges:
Yet the success this company is having making inroads against Nike is simply remarkable.
- Under Armour: Can the company move into this space comfortably with a name that is clearly associated with t-shirts?
- Cross trainers: This is a heavily saturated market.
- Proto: This sounds like "prototype" which is exactly what the company wants. Customers get to be first and own a breakthrough product.
The key, I believe, is the careful management of the brand and its close association with college and pro sports.
Under Armour's campaign seems to have bested Nike's "My better is better than your better," which some people felt sounded like "trash talk."
Next year we will see the launch of the Under Armour Spectre, which will add heft to the company's efforts to conquer the 15-18 year old crowd of aspirational athletes who will actually use the shoes for sports.
Plank feels that the "heart and soul of Under Armour is authenticity" and he seems to be gambling on raw brand name recognition to take a piece out of Nike's territory.
Under Armour has depended greatly on word of mouth to promote its products and the company's excellent reputation on sports fields rather than playgrounds. This is where Nike was twenty-five years ago.
December 8, 2008
This Tuesday the computer mouse turns 40 years old.
It was first introduced on December 9, 1968 at a public demonstration of interactive computing by Douglas Engelbart of California. As most of you have guessed, it got its name because, well, the wire made it look like a mouse with a tail (the first one was wooden, if you can believe it).
The name had actually appeared a few years before at Stanford and its first printed use was in a 1965 publication: Bill English's Computer-Aided Display Control, while "mouse pad" had to wait almost another twenty years (1983) to emerge.
By the way, it is correct to use the term "mouses" when speaking about the plural version of the word "computer mouse," although the word "mice" is also acceptable and seems to be used far more often.
Therefore, the following sentence is, in fact, correct: "One billion mice is a lot of mouses." I must note, however, that my spellchecker still does not accept this word.
Engelbart did not make any money from the invention, but Logictech did. They designed their first mouse in a farmhouse in Apples, Switzerland and claim, as of this week, to have sold more than a billion of them since 1985.
The Xerox Star workstation is what actually brought mouses to the masses, but it was the Macintosh in 1984 that really made the devices popular.
Apple paid $40,000 for the mouse license just a short time after Engelbart's patent expired on the product.
I wonder if Engelbart would not have been better served holding on to the name and leasing it to all.
December 5, 2008
The new name, Dirico Motorcycles, was named after Tyler's brother-in-law Marc Dirico, the designer of these ultra cool road bikes and one of the company owners.
These Dirico Motorcycles are technically custom Harleys, but each motorcycle is signed by Tyler himself. Those who are interested in these autographed bikes will have only two varieties to choose from, the ProStreet and the Retro.
I do have to wonder where the trademark problems arose. Honda is one likely candidate, since it would most certainly fight to avoid undue competition for its Gold Wing. There is also the Red Wing hockey team as well as the Red Wing Shoes company, who has a line of motorcycle boots.
Well, Dirico Motorcycle's blog confirms that Honda was the one who complained. The similarity between the Gold Wing Brand name and the Red Wing logo was not okay by anyone at Honda.
These look like great bikes, but this goes to show that even rock stars have to abide by smart brand naming and trademarking practices.
Posted by William Lozito at 7:59 AM
Posted to Brand Naming | Branding | Company Naming | Licensing | Marketing | Naming | Product Naming | Sports and Recreation | Trademarking
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December 4, 2008
If the potential merger between British Airways and Qantas actually transpires, the task of creating the new company name would present a serious naming challenge.
One Australian writer suggests that it could be call "Pommie Roo" or even "BQA," quoting several marketing experts who believe that the union may lead to an acronym brand name. However, he also mentions that we "should expect more from such iconic brands." In reality, these are two of the most valuable brand names in the airline industry.
Several news reports assure Australians that Qantas would stay "true blue" if it did merge with BA and remain in Australia.
Qantas is a name with true Australian heritage. Originally it was called The Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited; Qantas is a shortening of that. Its kangaroo logo is instantly recognizable worldwide.
British Airways also has a similarly well kept brand name, along with legions of loyal customers.
I do think that the culture clash between freewheeling Australians and stiff upper lip Brits would make for some interesting developments in the marketing departments of both companies.
When I think about Qantas, I immediately think of the fun and irreverence of Australia, while BA suggests class and safety. Asking these two distinct airlines to learn to live with one another is the kind of thing they make movies about.
If the merger does happen, the thought of one gargantuan airline controlling the so called "kangaroo routes" is even a little tougher to imagine than building a brand that encompasses the fun of Qantas within the safety and tradition of BA.
Maybe it's better to let sleeping roos lie.
December 3, 2008
The news that GM is set to drop four vehicle brand names - Hummer, Pontiac, Saab, and Saturn - in order to streamline its business is not a big surprise to us in the U.S. naming and branding business.
The woes that the Big Three face today may herald an entirely new approach to marketing and naming cars in the U.S.
Al Ries and Adam Hanft have both come out and said that bad marketing killed the car industry in the U.S., not bad cars. Old fashioned add campaigns, and nebulous and confusing brand naming (Hanft bemoans "the way Detroit names its cars - with all the originality of meeting rooms at a Westin") are greatly at fault here.
GM is finally coming to grips with the reality that they simply cannot be all things to all people. They need to pare down their offerings and add meaning to the brands that remain. In a sense, what they really need to do is bring the romance back to the automotive industry.
The biggest U.S. successes at this year's LA Auto Show were, arguably, the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camero, brand names whose allure never seems to fade. Of course people will miss brands like Saturn, but this exhibits a return to the basics.
This strategy closely resembles that of Japanese car manufacturers who focus on a few core brand names. The parent brand is everything everywhere else in the world, and here, we are now looking at a total shift in focus back to Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac, all of the names that have the most value and most resonance among consumers.
I'd say it's about time.
Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac are names that should tower over the competition. We are currently in a world where people are going to return to what they know and be much more likely to buy American made if the price is right.
Frankly, I want to see these brand names - filled with the romance of the American open road - survive. And now is the time for GM to rethink the management of its classic brands.
December 2, 2008
The marriage between Sprint and Clearwire (and $3.2 billion from Comcast, Intel, Time Warner Cable, Google, and Bright House Networks) has brought forth a new network called Clear, which replaces Sprint's unpopular Xohm brand name.
This new union is looking to create a nationwide broadband-wireless network that rivals that of AT&T.
The new company is also keeping the Clearwire name. Sprint will be selling WiMAX (Clear) via Clearwire and the profits will be shared between the two entities.
Clearwire chose Clear as the brand name of its new service because, according to one executive, "it is a simple, commonly used word that has significance as it relates to communications services and, of course, it is part of our corporate name."
I have to say that this is a brilliant move. The name Clear does all of the above, while also defining the service offering, suggesting that we all can have a clear line. It is simple, direct, clean and most importantly modern.
My only concern however, is that the Clear brand may become genericized.
This emphasis on modern branding is nothing new to the industry. I have written before about AT&T's struggles to keep its name contemporary in order to attract consumers who like modern naming (remember Cingular?), well Sprint's recent move will clearly position Clearwire as the clear choice for people who want to take advantage of cutting-edge communications.
That said, AT&T has years of brand equity and trust built up, and marketing wisdom suggests that in a tough economy, consumers gravitate toward brand names they know and trust. It will be interesting to see how this wireless network competition plays out.
Posted by William Lozito at 9:39 AM
Posted to Brand Naming | Branding | Consumer Electronics | Industry | Marketing | Naming | Product Naming | Technology | Telecommunications
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December 1, 2008
Black Friday is over and the financial results were OK, meaning more sales and less profit. However, there is something odd about looking forward to Black Friday, the day when retailers get back in "the black" due to a surge in shopping following Thanksgiving.
The name Black Friday itself is full of misery. The first Black Friday occurred when Jay Gould, James Fisk, and others sought to corner the gold market on September 24, 1869. The second was on October 28, 1929, when the stock market collapsed and signaled the beginning of the Great Depression.
In addition, the Philadelphia Police Department gave this name in 1966 to the particular day that signaled the start of Christmas season traffic jams.
Now, Black Friday generally refers to the sales on the day after Thanksgiving that prompt one of the biggest shopping days of the year, although contrary to popular belief it is not the biggest shopping day of the year. That title is reserved for Christmas Eve, naturally.
With this years Black Friday already on the books, the online shopping bonanza can start today on what is now referred to as Cyber Monday.
The Cyber Monday site is run by Shop.com, which is responsible for coining the term three years ago. And much like Black Friday, it is not actually the most popular Internet shopping day of the year, but it definitely is a biggie.
Given the state of the economy this year, one might assume that retailers will be more willing to offer sales, regardless of what the day is called, in order to entice consumers into spending a little cash.