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March 31, 2009

Vineyard Vines: Brand naming Co-Opts the Prepsters

The Off the Cuff blog recently quoted an irate consumer, bemoaning the fact that the brand name Vineyard Vines seems to incorporating a luxurious lifestyle into their brand solely for material gain: "I myself just cannot accept a company that blatantly exploits the place I've summered all my life," said the plaintiff who labeled himself "Upset." In other words, how dare people from off island buy these pastel colored garments with trust fund money?

vineyard-vines-logo.gifDespite Mr. Upsets' reservations about the exploitation of Martha's Vineyard, the Vineyard Vines brand is simply an example of really well thought out lifestyle branding, where the products fit the aspirations of the buyer perfectly.

Ralph Lauren must look at Vineyard Vines and gnash his teeth and the Izod alligators doing flip flops, because this stuff just sells.

It's one thing to create surf/skate labels, but trading on preppiness is just taking things too far! Oh, come on...

Never mind that people have personal web sites called Preppy Petit and Cardigans and Clogs that hijack the lime green and sunset pink that is de rigueur for the Holden Caulfield crowd. Never mind that we live in a country where, let's face it, if you want to be known as a true islander you just have to plunk down enough cash for a cottage.

Vineyard Vines is an example of how a company overcomes the seemingly insurmountable difficulties of lifestyle/luxury branding. To do it right, you need to create a brand that is bought by insiders and outsiders alike.

People who live on The Vineyard actually do buy this stuff, while outsiders who couldn't find the island on a map buy it as well.

Luxury branding and naming embraces the fact that people who buy brands like Vineyard Vines make the conscious choice to embrace a lifestyle that others gravitate to instinctively. They have focused on the core market, and have made customers ask, "Does this product reflect who I want others to think I am?"

vineyard-vines-ties.gifStarbucks, Harley Davidson, and Apple do this every day of the week. And McDonald's would love to do it.

This is, of course, a sanitized version of what it means to be preppy. It is a carefully commercialized simulacrum of the real life led by those born into money.

As for me? I'm going to order one of those great ties. It should be here in Minneapolis in two days.

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Posted by William Lozito at 1:07 AM

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March 30, 2009

One World Trade Center: Naming That Means Business

The Internet is full of fury over the news that "The Freedom Tower" will in all likelihood be called One World Trade Center by the time it is completed in 2013.

one-world-trade-center.gifAs the New York Times points out, the Freedom Tower name has been mocked in the press as being a bit hysterical. It also makes the tower a logical terrorist target.

One World Trade Center is easier "for people to identify with," despite lacking the symbolic "determination to overcome evil" that the name Freedom Tower may have conveyed.

Most people are a bit jaded by the issue of naming the building, but there are still some tourists that are taking interest in the matter, suggesting that the tower needs a "stand out" name.

What then, is more recognizable than the words World Trade Center?

This decision is not part of an "absurd" attack on American values or part of some Chinese plot, as some of the more eccentric blogs have posited after learning that one of the tower's first tenants will be a Chinese company.

Naming the tower One World Trade Center "reestablishes the stature of the original WTC without diminishing the commitment to commemorate the attack and its victims."

The Bisbah blog says it best:

Calling it One WTC I think is just as powerful a statement. It says "You can knock us down and we'll just get back to business." Calling it "Freedom Tower"...did we rename the White House "The English Suck House" after they burned it down in 1814?

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:01 AM

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March 27, 2009

Does Green Brand Naming Need to Be Recycled?

Popular Science writer Tom Conlon thinks the new ".eco" domain is a waste of money, as are most of the other new domains out there that users seem to be ignoring, like ".biz," ".info," and ".mobi."

The idea behind ".eco" is that you can host a green web site on it and 50% of the take goes to the environment.

However, I have to wonder if the prefix eco itself is becoming meaningless, as are more and more terms associated with saving the environment.

A quick look at the blogosphere tells us that we have the eco police, eco-friendly yogurt shops, eco-friendly handmade fashion, eco-chicks, and the occasional eco-terrorist.

It isn't even clear if you're supposed to use a dash between eco and other words. Eco cops doesn't get one, while eco-terrorists does.

Other green words that seem to be so overused and heading for extinction are:

I have written about how the word organic is being so abused that it is losing its impact, but these other words have been tacked on to so many products and services that they are slowly becoming worthless descriptors.

Let's face it, when the prefix "eco" gets turned into a TLD (top-level domain), you really have to stop and wonder if the green revolution has to learn to recycle its own jargon.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:03 AM

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March 26, 2009

Cloud Computing: The Brand Naming MacGuffin for 2009

It seems that I am not the only person fed up with the term cloud computing.

This term, which the Wall Street Journal, among others, struggles to define, may become one of those annoying trend labels, like Cyberspace and Web 2.0, that the tech industry will look back upon with some embarrassment.

MobileMe.gifNever mind that Sun Microsystems has "Sun Cloud," that Apple has the "MobileMe" offering that features a cloud, or that Dell applied for a trademark for the word. And forget about the fact that is set to be one of the big ticket auction items at the Cloud Computing Expo and that open source leader Canonical is getting into cloud computing ("open source" is another term that may already be meaningless).

There is just way too much confusion over what cloud computing actually means even among supporters of the trend.

As ZD Net points out, the term is getting more meaningless by the moment. It has been overused and has become so "splintered" and hard to define that it's quickly becoming a term that identifies geeky tech head wannabees who want to see the industry experience a "paradigm shift" to "Web 3.0."

Names like "pop" and "indie" have become meaningless through overuse as applied to real products and services. "Thought leadership" is now passe. But Cloud Computing is one of those terms that never really stood for anything to begin with, and because of it, is slowly imploding on the naming and branding launch pad.

Will the name Cloud Computing ever truly take off?

Only if someone takes hold of the name and turns it into a concept that is easy to understand.

Right now it's the tech world's MacGuffin. Like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction, it is a thing that is desired for no other reason than it is something to desired. Or, as Hitchcock once said, "a MacGuffin is nothing at all."

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:07 AM

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March 25, 2009

Häagen-Dazs Five: Brand Naming Goes "Unplugged"

During times of recession, customers seem to be even more open to new brand names than at any other time, according to the New York Times. This openness seems to have led to established brands introducing new products - and new product names - at a furious pace.

Haagen-Dazs-5--Vanilla-Bean.gifThe example that caught my eye is Häagen-Dazs Five ice cream, which is getting both good and bad reviews across the blogosphere.

The name "Five" stems from its five all-natural, simple ingredients: milk, cream, sugar, eggs, and one of the following

  • Brown Sugar
  • Coffee
  • Ginger
  • Milk Chocolate
  • Mint
  • Passion Fruit
  • Vanilla Bean

Together, the different combinations of ingredients create a field of seven different flavors.

The idea seems to be to reposition the Five sub-brand as "pure, natural and simple." Or, as one press release has it, this is ice cream "unplugged."

The New York Times and Brand Freak give two snippets of information about the name:

  • The first is Häagen-Dazs chose the name partly because it was simple and easy to promote.
  • The second was the company's perception that there was a consumer demand for "a clean label product with as few, pure ingredients as possible."

I think there is a simpler explanation. I'm sure Häagen-Dazs Five has been in the new product pipeline at General Mills well in advance of the recession. There is just a natural momentum to introduce new products that have been worked on for a long time.

I wouldn't over read into the introduction of Häagen-Dazs Five during a recession. I think it is simply coincidence. And if you think about it for a moment, the consumer who five-gum.gifis willing to shell out $4.39 for a pint of ice cream is somewhat insulated from recessionary pressures.

Additionally, I would be remiss not to mention that about a year ago Wrigley's introduced the Five brand of gum, referring to the gum's ability to appeal to the five senses.

On one hand, Häagen-Dazs' Five packaging is clean and simple, which reinforces the all-natural positioning. While on the other hand, the Wrigley's Five brand gum is black, appealing to younger males who tend to be light gum chewers.

In summary, I think Häagen-Dazs brand management made a calculated decision to move forward with the introduction of Häagen-Dazs Five in spite of the recession.

Or perhaps the decision to roll out the Five sub-brand was made before it was realized that a recession was hitting us.

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Posted by William Lozito at 11:12 AM

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March 24, 2009

Will Re-branding AIG Help To Rebuild Its Tarnished Company Name?

aig_logo.gifAIG is yet another company brand name heading to the scrapheap as a casualty of its own greed.

On Monday its lower Manhattan offices were busy having the AIG name removed from above the doors, which will be replaced by a smaller one reading AIU Holdings Ltd because, as the CEO himself admits, "| think the AIG name is so thoroughly wounded and disgraced that we're probably going to have to change it."

AIG's Pine Street headquarters will continue to be called the American International Building for now, but it would not be a surprise if it was sold off soon to help pay the company's debts.

Things are so bad that employees have been warned, for their own safety, not to wear any AIG branded clothing or identification.

This public backlash has caused several other AIG subsidiaries to change their names. For example, the auto insurance unit AIG Direct is going to 21st Century.

Even companies like International Lease Finance have suffered because of their connection to AIG, which admittedly is not advertised in the name. One Nashville subsidiary is dropping the AIG name in favor of American General Life and Accident Insurance, or AGLA.

Enron-logo.gifThis can't be good news to Atlantic International University, American International Underwriters, the American InterContinental University, all of which have huge web presence and will now have to compete with AIU Holdings Ltd.

But the bigger question is whether or not changing a company's name can put the past behind it?

The simple answer is that yes it can, and sometimes its the only solution, as one professor suggested is the case with AIG's re-branding decision. It is can be painful process, but ultimately, it's worth it.

Most people have already forgotten that Cross Country Energy was once Enron and Accenture was a "big piece" of Arthur Anderson.

Naming and branding is vital to a company's success and if AIG plays its cards right, it will probably be able to find new life.

However, will it ever be as big a brand as it once was?

Doubtful. And that's good for all of us.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:25 AM

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March 23, 2009

Words Matter. And Words Matter in Product Naming.

R-Word-Image-032209.gifPresident Obama inserted his foot straight into his mouth by describing his poor bowling skills as "like the Special Olympics" on Jay Leno.

Just why being developmentally disabled should make one a particularly bad bowler is not very clear, but the joke would not have been any more appropriate if the president had said "Paralympics" instead.

This is no longer an America which finds jokes about the disabled funny.

r-word ad.pngIn a curious case of timing, the Special Olympics is about to launch a campaign to stop the use of the word "retard."

You could say, however, that this campaign started 40 years ago, with the foundation of the Special Olympics. The name of the organization is not "Retarded Olympics," or even "Developmentally Disabled Olympics." (The latter, in addition to being a clumsy name, was not a term in common usage 40 years ago). "Special Olympics" was a conscious choice to re-brand intellectual disabilities.

And yet "special" has almost become synonymous with that "R-word" we now avoid in polite society. "Special needs" can cover a wide array of accomodations, but "special education" always refers to the intellectually disabled, not the gifted.

What happens to a brand when the euphemism itself starts to take on derogatory overtones, even if only in the mouths of the mean-spirited?

Unfortunately this diversion from positive connotations is not limited to the social realm - it is also very present in the world of category and product naming.

An interesting example of this is how the Gaming Industry came to represent gambling, because of the unfavorable associations the term garnered over the years.

In addition, Erectile Dysfunction, more often referred to as ED, replaced the term impotence for similar reasons.

However, there are instances where the wrong words were chosen for a product or category name right from the get-go.

One such example was "rapeseed oil," which is now most often referred to as canola Zespri-Kiwi.gifoil for obvious reasons.

You may have also heard of "Chinese Gooseberry," which is what New Zealanders originally called Kiwi Fruit before the category name was changed for marketing reasons when it was exported to the U.S.

As you can see, whether you're on national television talking to Leno or selecting a product or category name, the value of choosing your words carefully is undeniable.

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Posted by Diane Prange at 9:17 AM

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March 20, 2009

Timberlake's "901" Tequila Brand Naming Up Against Quality Product Names

Justin-Timberlake-0320.gifJustin Timberlake is launching a new Tequila called 901, referring to the area code of Memphis, his former hometown.

Popwatch jokingly suggests that it "might as well stand for the amount of money (in millions) that JT will be raking in this year between booze, clothes, and his own record label." However, Timberlake's spokesman says that the number "901 is that time of night when your evening is ending, but your night is just beginning."

A Memphis launch of this brand is not expected, but it does highlight the aggressive branding and naming that Timberlake and stars like Diddy and Jay-Z have embraced in this category.

You see, tequila is tricky. The word itself comes from "tequiti," meaning, work and "tian," meaning place, and Mexicans are particularly sensitive about the many tequila pretenders around the world. Some may even wonder if Timberlake will be selling us the real thing. But for that ruling we'll leave it up to The Tequila Regulator Council (Consejo Regulador del Tequila) in Mexico, the only source that can truly certify a Tequila as authentic.

If 901 really is authentic tequila, then Timberlake appears to be competing with a new trend of upscale tequilas that has been growing for about three years now. This growth has seen the unveiling of new brands like "Partida, Tezon, Distinguido, La Certeza, Siembra Azul," as well as a bunch of Cuervo extensions.

In light of that competition, Timberlake's 901 has some tough acts to follow, especially with Partida, which some believe is the "best tequila money can buy." Partida's founder has even compared its creation to that of wine.

Partida-Tequila.gifA great deal of effort has been put forth to inform drinkers that Partida is indeed "authentic" and all natural and made from "100% blue agave in Amatitán, the heart of Mexico's historic Tequila region." In addition, they recently announced that they would be protecting the trademarks against competitor Intersect Beverage and Maverick Spirits for copying their promo materials, bottle, carton and brand positioning in the branding of their Azuñia tequila.

It seems to me that customers in this segment are going to become more and more conscious about authenticity as time goes by and even more choosy about the quality of their tequilas, making the appeal of their brand name all the more important.

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Posted by William Lozito at 7:45 AM

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March 19, 2009

Wartime Slogan "Carries On" as Modernized Tagline

carry-on-slogan.gifA sixty-year-old wartime poster is now gracing the walls of the US embassy in Belgium and will likely appear on a t-shirt near you soon.

The poster reads "Keep Calm and Carry On" and its affiliated web site is selling reproductions by the tens of thousands.

One academic says that it appeals to people in these troubled times because "It is a quiet, calm, authoritative, no-bullshit voice of reason."

Another blogger sees it as a work of "genius," while others are having a bit of fun with it.

Boing Boing has posted a response that reads "Get Excited and Make Stuff."

Other motivational variations include "No More Boom and Bust" and "Keep Calm and Carry On Shopping."

While some are even becoming a bit edgy with t-shirts that read, "Now Panic and Freak Out" and "Drink Beer and Carry On."

Yet there are still those that wonder if keeping calm is really the thing to do when things go wrong.

I like this slogan because of the faint resonance between calm and on and the simple graphics behind it.

Yes, Americans don't really use the phrase "carry on" (except when it comes to airplane luggage), but it is exactly what we need to do nowadays. We need to all take a deep breath and just get on with it.

winston-churchill.gifThe British used to be the masters of "carrying on" and showing a stiff upper lip when thinks got kind of crazy.

I am specifically reminded of Winston Churchill flatly saying that he would "keep buggering on" through his so called Wilderness Years in the 1930s when his political career seemed finished. He even shortened it to KBO when responding to any major setback with a gruff: "Right. KBO."

Phrases often fall out of favor, but sometimes those ones that really resonate manage to make a comeback. This particular one has found its way to the office door of at least one of my colleagues.

A "cool reminder of what's past is prologue."

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:19 AM

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March 18, 2009

GM's Name Change Follows Pattern of Disaster Induced Rebranding

gmlogo.gifGM is wisely changing the name of its asset management unit from General Motors Asset Management, or GMAM, to Promark Global Advisors in "recognition of its growing client diversification."

The Wall Street Journal reports that this is an abrupt about face for the GMAM, which had previously highlighted its association with the automaker. As a result, the General Motors Trust Bank, N.A. now becomes Promark Trust Bank, N.A., and the funds it manages with Promark Global Advisors will be renamed Promark Funds.

It is surprising that GM would use such a generic and overused term. Within financial services alone there are more than 500 Federal marks that incorporate the word "mark."

In addition, there are also 23 Federally registered Promark's in various international class codes, including Promark Sports, Inc., a licensee for the NBA, NHL, NFL, NHL, NCAA and MLB.

At least one Promark executive says that the name change "meant to forge a separate identity in marketing to external clients, rather than breaking away from GM's financial and business troubles," but I'm not buying it.

blackwater.gifPRWeek notes that ValueJet's move to AirTran, Philip Morris's move to Altria, and Anderson Consulting's move to Accenture, as well as Blackwater's change to Xe, all came after these companies faced with some form of trouble. Similarly, GM's name might now be "sullied" enough that it can't be associated with financial matters, given the state of its pension fund and its public request for government bail-out money.

Other high profile investment groups have also changed their brand names, including IndyMac Bank's change to IndyMac Federal Bank and Countrywide Home Loans shift to Bank of America Home Loans after both companies publicly hit the skids.

Our own research has shown that this disaster induced rebranding strategy is nothing new. A large percentage of companies that do change their names, do so after a publicized mistake or mishap. However, renaming a company after such an event is a sensitive and important matter that needs to be carefully managed.

The fact is, that changing a company name is a delicate process, but it is one that can ultimately help a company distance itself from failure by bringing the consumer's attention to a new brand promise and company management style.

Although in this case, GM seems to have chosen a name that doesn't allow it to differentiate itself, which hinders its ability to properly reach the consumer.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:17 AM

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March 17, 2009

Wisconsin's "Live Like You Mean It" Naming and Branding Has Bloggers Doing Handstands, Cartwheels

Wisconsin's new slogan is catching some criticism for the fact that we've seen it before. Often, very often.

wisconsinlogo.gif"Live like you mean it" is a phrase that's been used by hundreds of motivational speakers and a bevy of authors, and its been used "to promote real estate, clothing, and other merchandise," and Bacardi.

bacardilivelikeyoumeanit.gifRegardless, one has to wonder why our Wisconsin neighbor would choose a generic slogan? Bloggers are already showing their discontent, making fun of the logo that features a man doing a handstand.

This slogan replaces "Life's So Good" and the state's tourism secretary says, "The silhouetted figure cartwheeling across the top of Wisconsin really speaks to the invitation to live and work and play here... and 'Live like you mean it' speaks to the fact that if you can imagine it, you can do it in Wisconsin. It was chosen for its energy."

I can imagine a picnic alongside one of Wisconsin's beautiful lakes and water-skiing in January, but don't think doing it is that realistic. The point is that some of the rationale for the name defies common sense.

At least one resident says that this slogan is "bordering on a cliché," while yet another blogger says that the handstand man does not reflect the "fiercely proud, hardworking and loyal people" that the governor wanted represented in the work.

With the unique beauty of Wisconsin I have to pose the question once again, why would it saddle itself with a generic slogan? It is an opportunity missed by our next door neighbor.

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Bill Lozito

William Lozito

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:03 AM

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March 16, 2009

Brand Naming March Madness Success

I love 'March Madness'

marchmadnesslogo.gifThat's because anything can happen - any team can win. And any fan, with a little luck, can predict the winner.

There is no right or wrong way for picking brackets - through darts or sophisticated algorithms work equally well, but everyone has their own way of doing it.

Now I am going to let you in on my secret method.

For the last few years, my bracket strategy has been based solely on linguistic considerations, primarily including:

  • How the team's name flows.

  • What the letters in the team name connotes.

  • How strong or weak or masculine or feminine the team names are.
I simply compare the two team names in every game and pick the one that is the strongest sounding basketball brand name.

duke-logo.gifFor example, it's no surprise that I picked Duke for one of this year's Final Four slots.

Duke is a great name because it's short, memorable, and starts off with a voiced plosive consonant, D, and ends in a plosive K (plosive consonants are highly correlated with speed and dependability).

In the middle of this name is a big strong low back vowel - U - that pulls it all together and tells you something 'big' is going to happen.

Duke, I predict, will make it to the Final Four as follows:

In the first round, Duke will beat Binghamton.

  • The Binghamton name is too long, begins with a high tone (feminine) I, and isn't American enough for basketball (My apologies to Naismith).

In the second round, Duke will prevail over Texas.

  • With a plosive T in first position and a perfectly balanced cadence, Texas is a strong name.

  • However the X in Texas is too complex, scientific and not emotional enough for March Madness.

In the third round, Duke will defeat Pittsburgh.

  • Pittsburgh will beat out two feminine team names (Florida and Oklahoma) to make it this far.

  • What makes Pittsburgh an especially tough rival is its plosive density - PTTB and G.

  • However, this name is longer than Duke and is hindered by its negative sound symbolism with 'the pits'. (A name like Pointsburgh, on the other hand, might even the score).

In the final round, I have predicted that Duke will face three other basketball brand names with strong semantic and phonetic assets:

  • Boston: Short, balanced, begins with a friendly and welcoming B, followed by large round O vowel sounds that are both dynamic and magnified.
  • Purdue: Also short and balanced, each syllable starts with a powerful plosive. The word has semantic connotation with a strong defense - as in 'pursue.'
  • Gonzaga: Even it doesn't sound too appetizing, this name has a definite edge over the higher-toned, more feminine sounding rivals like Oklahoma, North Carolina and Illinois, which are the teams it will have to overcome to reach the finals.
gonzagalogo.gifAlthough Gonzaga appears to have a particularly tough road to the Final Four, its name has several things going for it:
  • Two strong plosive G's.
  • A dynamic and deep O.
  • And an innovative Z.
  • So when everyone else zigs, this name seems to zag (pun intended) - making it distinctive and provocative.
As for the championship game, stay tuned. Before making those selections I like to do an in-depth analysis of the coachs' names, the mascots' names and the names of the starting five.

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Posted by Diane Prange at 4:05 PM

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SyFy Naming From A Galaxy Far, Far away...

I often wonder if brand naming and product naming conventions in the TV world are somehow in a parallel universe to my own.

syfylogo.gifToday's news that the Sci Fi Channel has changed its name to SyFy, effective July 7, 2009, has added to my confusion. The channel's name change also comes with a new slogan: "Imagine Greater," which seems to be a little nonsensical. It reads like a clumsily translated phrase of Yoda's making.

The change was initiated by executives who complained that the Sci Fi Channel name was too vague and generic - so generic, in fact, that they could not trademark the word.

In addition, it had acquired a negative viewer stereotype that made those who may be interested in the channel's programming actually avoid it. One executive summed it up by saying "The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular."

Another part of the problem was that people Googling the channel's name had to trudge though too many sites bearing the words sci-fi. Add this to the confusion around how to spell the name (Hyphen or not? One word or two?), and the name change seemed like a no-brainer.

Fair enough, but if there is a first commandment in the world of naming, it must be: "Thou shalt not confuse customers in order to be Google Friendly."

The blogosphere - which has its fair share of sci-fi fans - is not amused either, with one blogger suggesting that this might be some kind of April Fools' joke.

The change also prompted the sci-fi web site SyFy Portal (a web site that covers science fiction entertainment news) to drastically change its name to Airlock Alpha. When you visit the site you get a notice that reads "Don't worry, you're in the right place. We just had to evacuate SyFy Portal when it destabilized due to some... tachyon... quantum... spacial... something or other."

The Sci Fi Channel just came off its best year ever and faces a tough year in 2009 given the downturn in advertising spending, which leads to a couple questions that beg to be asked:

  • Will this name attract more viewers?

  • Will it expand the channel's niche?
yodaimage.gifThe short answer is that it is too soon to tell, but to somebody flipping through the TV listings, SyFy looks like, well, nothing.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:10 AM

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March 13, 2009

What Were They Thinking? Sears Tower to Willis Tower

sears-tower.gifWillis who?

That is what many of us are thinking about the iconic Sears Tower name change.

Willis Holding Group hails from across the pond in the U.K and we wish them a warm welcome to the U.S., but they are virtually unknown to the general public.

The Chicago Tribune contacted me for my opinion on this name change and I think it is a silly idea and was probably largely driven by financial considerations to rent a few floors of the Sears Tower.

The article is worth the read.

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Posted by William Lozito at 12:42 PM

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Naming the Winner of the Economic Recovery Naming Contest

A few weeks ago we decided that all the negativity surrounding the U.S. Economy was only perpetuating more anguish among American workers and decided to hold a contest that focused on the positive outcome we believe to be inevitable.

dent.gifYes, we understand that there is a long struggle ahead of us in order to collectively overcome these troubled times, but as Harvey Dent (a character in last summer's popular Batman movie, The Dark Knight) proclaimed, "The night is darkest just before the dawn." and "the dawn is coming."

This analogy was actually provided by our contest winner, Joey Ham, who was able to see past the dark economic times we are currently facing and envision a revival of the U.S. economy with his name: The iComeback Era.

Generally, we would consider the obvious reference to Apple's 'i' naming nomenclature as an indistinct method of naming that does little to differentiate a brand name, but by using it to represent a generation of American workers inspired by the innovation and connectivity that Apple's products represent, it is a rather nice fit.

RecoveringEconomy.gifiComeback speaks to the fact that we are facing rough times, but also boldly declares "Yes, We Can" overcome. The score may not be in our favor, but we are most certainly not out of the game.

As Joey Ham explains it:

When the name iComeback is read, it creates a simple, yet meaningful statement: I Come Back. This phrase is commanding and confident, while also being authentic and humble.

Thank you to all those who submitted names to our Name the U.S. Economic Recovery Contest. We had a lot of fun reading through the entries and were glad to see that encouraging, creative thoughts are still alive in the United States.

Congratulations, Joey!

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:28 AM

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March 12, 2009

Ben & Jerry's Flavor Naming Offers Value in Grape Depression

I came across a pretty obscure news piece about two flavor gurus from Ben & Jerry's who are in Turkey this week looking for inspiration. As part of the company's "do the world a flavor" competition, the gurus have asked people from 25 countries to create a new flavor of ice cream.

Not surprisingly, some of the flavor names from this competition have been very clever, such as Peace of Cake and Yes Pecan!, a direct reference to Barrack Obama's mantra. But the gurus jokingly say that the "little known secret to naming success at the company is to think of flavors that start with ch, like Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey.

The company has also been in the news recently for criticizing Häagen-Dazs for shrinking their pint tubs from 16 oz to 14 oz - Ben & Jerry's doesn't actually name the competitor, but do refer to them as the one's with the "funny sounding European name."


The blogosphere seems to be siding with Ben & Jerry's on this, with one blogger commenting on how their competitor's shrinking pint has allowed Ben & Jerry's to let some of their old values shine.

The trend may be towards offering us less for the same price, but Ben & Jerry's is offering us the same old pint, and gaining quite a bit of advertising equity from it.

Another blogger has taken the "Yes Pecan" naming idea and applied it to the financial crisis, offering us recession inspired ice cream names that are pretty nifty, including Grape Depression, Cluster Fudge, and Credit Crunch.

I don't think that there is a person out there that wouldn't see the true value in having a big, tasty scoop of Credit Crunch right about now.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:20 AM

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March 11, 2009

Hilton's Denizen Brand Naming Offers Luxury, Or Does It?

hilton-logo.gifFollowing my previous post on Hilton's secret new lifestyle brand name, I can now report that it's official. The new name is "Denizen," which Hilton says means "citizen of the world."

Well, sort of.

Denizen actually means "inhabitant," as in "denizens of the forest" or, more commonly, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "a foreigner admitted to certain rights in his or her adopted country."

A denizen, therefore, is a person inhabiting one defined area.

A "cosmopolitan," on the other hand is literally a "citizen of the world."

Moreover, the word denizen doesn't really have a direct association with luxury, which makes some sense since this hotel is aimed at the "globally conscious modern traveler." The name itself was launched on Monday in Berlin via a "reconstructed vision of the brand experience," allowing visitors to see the vision for themselves in the shipping container in which it was displayed.

Again, a shipping container doesn't exactly exude luxury.

The bloggers are scratching their heads over Hilton's belief that lifestyle brands in any category will find life in this economic environment. One blogger in-particular was wondering if Hilton heiress Paris Hilton was consulted on this decision.

Hotel watchers have noted that the Denizon Hotels web site references six personality types:

  • The Self-realized Maverick - Hollywood
  • The Tech(nomad) - New York
  • The Nocturnal Socialite - London
  • The Eco Warrior - Las Vegas
  • The Cultural Cognoscente - Istanbul
  • The Epicurian Explorer - Montreal
I just have to wonder what Eco Warriors and Epicurian Explorers have to do with luxury and lifestyle branding.

Happy phrases on the site like "I want to feel socially responsible in my consumer choices" also make me wonder if Hilton has identified an elusive luxury-green traveler.

Alan Hart says this is "definitely a wait and see" brand and I think I agree.

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:14 AM

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March 10, 2009

Smashies: Smashing New Product Naming

smashies.gifA recent Forbes article about some new no-mess applesauce has got me thinking about the relationship between naming and packaging.

Smashies Applesauce is aimed at the well-heeled mom who is prepared to pay a little more to get applesauce in squeezable (or smashable) containers that eliminate the mess factor of this traditional tot-food.

Sold as a wholesome alternative to the run of the mill applesauce, Smashies is being given away for free in an effort to get the brand name into the public eye.

One glance at all the interesting attributes of Smashies tells us that this is the premium applesauce for moms who want a no stress, feel good food. Take a look:

Smashies says they are

  • Nutritious

  • Healthy

  • Sugar free

  • Convenient

  • Easy to eat

  • USDA Organic

  • Gluten free

  • Kosher

  • BPA free

  • Packaged in eco-friendly containers

squeeze&squirt.gifThat's a lot of qualifications for something as simple as applesauce, but proof that even staple products can sweep the market with a cool new name and a little repositioning.

Heinz Ketchup did this years ago with the EZ Squirt, and Crayola's Squeeze & Squirt Foaming Body Soap is another example of package-driven branding that revamps a familiar brand name.

However, Laura Ries has an interesting article that touches on how well-known brands can do harm to their brand equity by radically changing their packaging.

Agreed, but I do think that the right innovations in packaging can create new life for tried and trusted brand names as well as give crucial market space to newcomers.

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:02 AM

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March 6, 2009

The Beatles: Rock Band Brand Naming Revolution in Game Branding

Rockbandxbox360.gifBeatles fans around the world will twist and shout at the news that The Beatles: Rock Band is on the way.

The Rock Band brand name just received a huge shot in the arm and Guitar Hero will be gently weeping today. Originally, the plan was simply to have a stand alone Beatles music game, but things have changed. Harmonix, the Rock Band developer, realized that its Rock Band name needed Fab Four clout, despite earlier protestations.

The Beatles: Rock Band is now set to be a savior for the struggling brand name. You even get Beatles themed instruments that are more expensive than the ones already available for Rock Band experts. Fab Four fanatics are sure to pay out, even those that typically don't play these games.

I think the people over at Rock Band owe the Beatles a big thank you, especially since a totally original looking Beatles game suggests to consumers that they need totally original software and hardware to play it, which can only mean higher sales.

It is the first Rock Band title specifically branded to a band and it will be available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii.

It will also let people learn about Beatles music "from the inside out" according to Sir Paul.

MTV had this to say about the decision to weld Rock Band to The Beatles:

The decision to include the Rock Band name in the title was a collaborative decision by Apple Corps, The Beatles, and MTV Games and Harmonix. As we moved through the creative process, it just seemed to make sense to clearly highlight the association between The Beatles game and the critically-acclaimed Rock Band franchise.

The release date will be Sept 9, 2009, or 9/9/09, a number that relates to the famous Revolution 9 song on the White Album. Pretty smooth Rock Band.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:05 AM

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March 5, 2009

Delta Sky Club Borrows Storied Naming from Pan Am

deltaairlineslogo.gifThe news that Delta Air Lines will be renaming more than 50 airport lounges worldwide that they inherited from their Metlifebuilding.gifmerger with Northwest has hit some people hard. Say goodbye to the Delta Crown Rooms and Northwest Airlines WorldClubs, the new name for both will be the Delta Sky Clubs.

At least one blogger was hoping for "Delta Crown Room WorldClubs," a name that is far too awkward.

The Middle Seat Terminal blog on the Wall Street Journal seems full of ill-will projected from Northwest fans towards Delta. One response in particular caught my eye: a certain "Globeman" reminds us that the name Sky Club was immortalized by none other Pan Am (now extinct) as the name for its lush dining room on top of the Pan Am Building, which is now The MetLife Building.

Until a few years ago the the Sky Club was a public restaurant, but has now become a private one and despite its change in ownership and patronage the name has lived on even after the departure of its name on the storied building.

I'm impressed that the Sky Club name is coming back into use by an airline, because I think it has a lovely cachet, but must wonder what the people dining at the Sky Club think about this news.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:04 AM

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March 4, 2009

Snickers Snacklish: Smashable Naming and Branding

Snacklish.gifSnickers has now added a new language to the world: Snacklish, a Snickers-based language that turns normal words into Snickers words.

Patrick Ewing becomes "Patrick Chewing," a taxi turns into a "snaxi," and planetariums turn into "peanutariums." If your interested adding some Snacklish words to your vocabulary, there are a whole lot more on their website and on Facebook.

I am immediately reminded of the movie Spanglish, of course, but I am also reminded of this fairly well known strategy to infiltrate language with words related to a brand name through an all out lexicographic assault (the practice of compiling dictionaries).

Mars is optimistic with projected results despite the downturn in the economy. But creating a whole new language to push one brand name? Can that really work?

Never mind, for a moment, that I have already written about customers' growing irritation with misspelled brand names, which may suggest that we are just not in the mood for more inventive spelling.
Although, this is a means to capture public headspace and we know it's not the first of its kind. Many books have been written around an examination of how brands affect our language, even inadvertently.

We also know that how a brand name sounds has a direct effect on its sales.

The Japanese, for instance, create made up, Engish sounding brand names for cars that actually beat out real English brand names.

In other product categories, Absolut has transformed the word absolute, while Disney owns words like dreams, creativity, fantasy, smiles, magic, and generation according to recent research.

If they follow suit and do this correctly, Mars may have a real winner on their hands.

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:29 AM

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March 3, 2009

Frank Talk About the Moose Interesting Name Ideas for the Obama's Dog

obamadog.gifWhen People reporter, Sandra Sobieraj Westfall, recently interviewed Michelle Obama, rumors began to surface that the much anticipated first dog would be a Portuguese Water Dog named Frank or Moose.

But contrary to rumors, neither the breed nor the name have been decided.

According to her press secretary, Katie Lelyveld, "They have not selected a breed. Mrs. Obama likes the Portuguese Water Dog, but she is only one of four votes."

And according to Michelle Obama, the names that her daughters are coming up with could use some grooming:

Oh, the names are really bad. Frank was one of them. Frank! Moose was another one of them... I'm like, no, come on, let's work with the names a little bit.

At Strategic Name Development we were relieved to learn that the Summa Canum (First Dog) would not be named after Barney Frank or one of Sarah Palin's pets.

And we're not the only ones. Dog lovers across America are weighing in with their ideas on just how the first dog should be named. Although not all of the following ideas meet the standards of our Petname Checklist, we are intrigued by feedback from the press and citizens alike:

  • The LA Times: Maverick
  • CBC News, Canada: StimuLassie
  • Fox News followers:
    • Porky
    • Porkulus
    • Trillion
    • Earmark
    • Lincoln
    • George
    • Hope
    • Hannity
    • Rush

Click on this link to see an Obama Dog Naming video that covers additional suggestions from a cross-section of U.S. Citizens.

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Posted by William Lozito at 1:51 PM

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March 2, 2009

Lego Succeeds by Knocking Down, Building Up Brand Naming

legobrink.gifSometimes when you're building a brand, you need to knock it down and start from scratch. Like Lego.

Despite hard times and vicious competition from computer games, Lego is experiencing growth nowadays through constantly revolving licensing deals and by letting go of brand names that just don't work anymore.

This means that the Lego theme parks are out, but Lego Raider's of the Lost Ark is definitely in. In an industry that is seeing a 2% contraction, Lego expects to grow 5%-10% this year.

The name, Lego, actually comes from the Danish "leg godt" or "Play Well," and it seems many of us are willing to play right now, with seven Lego sets sold around the world every second. This makes Lego the fifth largest toy manufacturer worldwide - and they don't outsource to China.

The secret behind their continuing success comes from focusing on their core brands: Lego City, Lego Pirates and Lego Castle (as well as the very popular Star Wars and Bionicle series), while also adding new Lego sets inspired by Disney movies.

In addition, they offer cool gadgets that attract geeky adults like the Lego Cell Phone.

And of course in the spirit of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," they have found a nifty way to get their brand name into the gaming world. With games lego-star-wars-the-video-ga.giflike Lego Star Wars on the XBOX, Playstation, and Nintendo Wii, not to mention Lego Rock Band for Xbox, Lego has successfully broken into the video game industry.

All of this allows the brand to stay fresh and relevant while at the same time remaining true to its roots.

It is interesting to see the Lego of today compared to the Lego of yesteryear, especially considering that they have used other brand names and movie titles to build market presence while also popping up in the video game world.

But there's just something kind of cool about using a joystick to move a Lego Indiana Jones around the screen, and I think A Lego Heavy Metal band is definitely a bit intriguing.

It goes to show that a good brand name and product line can appeal to generation after generation if its willing to deviate from the plans in the box and build something entirely new.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:47 AM

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