June 30, 2009
I am not going to pass judgment on Hardee's new brand naming effort with their "Biscuit Holes" promotion, but cannot help but submit my aversion to the idea.
Now referring to food as "holes" has a long pedigree - donut holes were a staple of my childhood - but Hardee's is using the name "Biscuit Holes" as sort of a placeholder while they try to convince customers to better it.
Hardee's has a mobile web site with the URL www.nameourholes.com which, to say the least, sounds a little strange. Fans have responded with names like "B-Holes" and "Heavenly Balls."
You can see where this is going.
The mobile element to this naming effort samples the "man on the street" ad philosophy. Stickers on the packaging drive consumers to the site, which really makes this naming for the Facebook generation: "'We view our 'young, hungry guy' customers as people who are going to do things instantaneously, so mobile seems a natural' medium for CKE" says one CKE Restaurants executive.
The slight problem here is that the Facebook generation seems to have taste issues, and the outgrowth of the Name Our Holes campaign has been disgust on the part of the blogosphere.
We're seeing names like "creamy sweet holes," "hole munchers," and "dingle balls" while Hardee's is chuckling right along with their tagline "They sound wrong. But taste so right."
Burger King, however, is also taking the same kind of flack for its "Super Seven Incher" advertisement which looks like it was cooked up in a frat house.
In light of all this, the PopWatch blog has announced that "Subtlety Is Dead." I must agree.
June 29, 2009
Today's Wall Street Journal reminds me of the fact that sometimes two big names can be a mixed blessing.
Here I am thinking of the Saturn and Penske combination that has been created by celebrity driver and businessman Roger Penske's Penske Automotive Group with its purchase of GM's Saturn brand name.
An upsurge in interest in Saturn cars by Penske fans has been initially seen as a result of the deal, but GM is currently asking the (very relieved) Saturn dealers not to trumpet the name too loudly lest it dilute the beleaguered Saturn brand. GM still has a major interest here, as they will still make the Aura, VUE, and Outlook for the next 2 years, but will discontinue the Astra and Sky.
Penske, for his part, might outsource production to Renault Samsung Motors of Korea. In addition, Penske has also hinted that he might introduce an electric car under the Saturn name.
Penske has already agreed to keep the Saturn "look," stating that it has a certain "brand value," which most everyone understands to have a very loyal following.
The key, I believe, is to not only to keep the look, but to go back to the integrity of the meaning behind the brand itself.
For example, Penske shouldn't do to Saturn what GM did to Saab. Essentially, Saab was made more boring by GM making it much less exotic and Swedish.
Consider, on the other hand, Range Rover, which has changed hands a few times (for better or worse), but still has its own unique brand equity.
The simple question the people at Penske should ask is this: would they create a "Penske" mid-range sedan? If the answer is no, they need to compartmentalize the names as much as possible.
Frankly, Saturn itself is a brand in rehabilitation after GM did its best to mainstream it.
June 26, 2009
The New York Times seems a little anxious over the fact that London-based Barclay's Bank has attached its name to "the nexus of subway stops at Atlantic Avenue, Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue" at a cost of $4 million.
This is part of the new plan to create a Barclay's Center (the new sports stadium for the New Jersey Nets) in the area by Atlantic Yards and essentially declares open season on the New York subway when it comes to naming rights.
The New York Times continues to state its amazement, writing "if a company can pay to get its name on any station, a New Yorker might wonder what's next: Coca-Cola Presents 59th Street-Columbus Circle?"
Well, yes. The Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) is even open to the idea of Taco Bell renaming Grand Army Station.
The New York Times' Freakomics blog also asks if the next step is "The "Bill Golden Gates Bridge," while jokingly suggesting that Subway should pay New York for getting all that free publicity.
As pointed out on Minyanville, "The possibilities are almost endless: There are 468 stations along the system's 26 lines and 722 miles of track. Advertisers already turn the inside of the subway's 6,400 cars into rolling billboards."
Interestingly, Minyanville also notes that when the subway was opened in 1904 it was meant to be ad-free.
The bloggers over in Chicago have already figured out what the Chicago Transport Authority (CTA) can do with some of the stops in that city, offering us nuggets like:
- Belmont LifeLube station
- 18th Street Blick station
- Clark/Division Viagra stop
- Diversey Starbucks stop
- Addison Axe station
However, while everyone in the UK knows Barclay's Bank, few in New York do.
This will definitely change.
June 25, 2009
The Ford Taurus is back after the new CEO Alan Mulally decided to resurrect the name after asking Ford executives in 2006 "How many billions of dollars does it cost to build brand loyalty around a name?"
This is exactly the question I would have liked to ask them!
He instructed his engineers to go ahead and "make the coolest vehicle that you can possibly make (and name it the Taurus)," and the result is now on the road.
But the interesting thing to note is that the car is not the mid-range, erstwhile "flying potato" of the early 1990s. This is an upscale, full size luxury sedan priced between $27,000 and $38,000.
Autoblog calls it the "once and future king" and takes us down memory lane from the very first Taurus (1985) all the way to its demise in 2006. They also remind us that Ford briefly revived the Taurus name on the 500 in 2007, and that it went from "America's hope to America's rental lots."
Now, you will soon be able to get the Taurus SHO (Super High Output), which one Ford executive calls the "flagship sedan."
Although, to get one of these with all the bells and whistles, you're looking at an even higher price tag of $41,000.
The San Francisco Ford, Lincoln, Mercury blog says that "convincing consumers that the new Taurus is a Taurus is one thing; making them fork over 40 grand for one is another. Both are hurdles Ford will have to overcome to make the car a success in the market."
Applying the Taurus name to an upscale automobile is a big risk. The Taurus was the ultimate mid-range car - Detroit's answer to the Camry, not the Lexus.
Why would somebody want to pay luxury prices for a brand name that is indelibly associated with good value?
I don't know how this will play out for Ford, but for me, it will definitely be exciting to see the Taurus back on the road again.
June 24, 2009
The entire blogosphere seems to be wondering if Steve Jobs himself changed the name of the new iPhone from iPhone 3G S to iPhone 3GS.
All references to the former name are off the website, but no formal announcement was made, nor was a press release ever issued. Even the company's partners were not given a heads up.
One thing is for sure, it will definitely make it easier for journalists and bloggers, because creating the plural of 3G S leads us to the ridiculously awkward 3G Ss.
3GSs just seems easier to write and read, doesn't it?
The change was first noted in a press release quoting Steve Jobs as saying one million iPhone 3GSs have been sold, leading most of us to think that Jobs is behind this name change.
Some feel that this is an SEO issue, although this technically changes next to nothing on Google. It has also been speculated that the a logo's odd use of the 's' may have had something to do with the change.
Additionally, there may have been a trademark concern: "3G" is generic (as myTouch 3G illustrates), and "S" is generic, but 3GS can be protected.
I too see the hand of Jobs behind this. Surely only someone as powerful as he could order a change mid-launch? Forget about the red tape, he just decided to make the switch on his first day back on the job.
So iPhone 3GS it is. Welcome back Mr. Jobs.
June 23, 2009
Kodak's Kodachrome color film is being retired after 74 years and there is much nostalgia for the brand name across the blogosphere, not least because of the famous Paul Simon song where he pleads "Mama don't take my Kodachrome away."
I note that despite the film's pedigree as the preferred film for the pro and amateur alike, very few people actually use the stuff anymore - even non digital photographers seem to have switched over to Fuji's Velvia, which may sound like a low-fat butter, but is actually "a contraction of Velvet Media."
Now, there's only one place in America that can even develop the Kodachrome film.
The Business Pundit blog calls this a "necessary but sad" retirement, while Doug Plummer's blog points out that "The film now joins the ranks of the Daguerreotype, Albumen, Kallitype, Palladiotype, Ozobrome, Artigue, Autochrome, Bromoil, and Polaroid," all brand names with great history and nostalgic value, but none which are still in use.
Most of us know Kodachrome not only from the song, but also from the famous 1985 National Geographic picture of the Afghan Girl, which was later updated by photographer Steve McCurry seventeen years later using Kodak Professional Ektachrome Film E100VS.
So what's the big deal?
Well, the name has stuck. It is catchy enough be included in a song lyric and it has been carefully associated with every spectrum of photography in the U.S.
Even though it accounts for less than one percent of Kodak's business, it is easily one of the most recognizable product names they stock - excuse me - used to stock.
June 22, 2009
The HTC Android G1 has become much more "touchy feely" with its new "myTouch 3G" phone naming.
This replaces the Android G1 and is the second incarnation of the long awaited "Google Phone."
The name is meant to make people recall that it is made by you, for you, as it is completely customizable. It is designed to be an "elite" and "mainstream" device that should compete with the iPhone and the Pre. It also moves the naming away from the G1 which has its shortcomings.
Keep in mind that it will have to compete with other pretenders selling Android phones - eighteen of them by the end of the year, according to Google.
It also doesn't help that the name looks and sounds so much like the iPod Touch, which many users already call the iTouch.
There is no doubt that the myTouch 3G is far better product naming than the G1, but it also shaves things pretty close to Apple. It wouldn't be a big surprise if Apple attempted to claim that when it comes to mobile devices, they own the i, me, my... Touch space.
June 18, 2009
GM has been the butt of many jokes lately, with some referring to it as Generous Motors, Government Motors, General Makeover, etc...
Conventional wisdom is that General Motors should change its name.
Chrysler is a company name and a car name. Ford is a company name and a car name. But GM is first and foremost a company name.
Yes, there are the GMC trucks and vans, but in my opinion when a consumer goes to buy a Chevy or a Buick, they don't have the GM name in mind, but instead are shopping for a specific model. For instance, they are thinking of the iconic Corvette or Silverado or Traverse.
Who remembers what Nissan was called before it was Nissan? Remember Datsun?
Who remembers what the company BP was previously called? I bet not many. It was BPAmoco after the merger with Amoco, which by the way was formerly Standard Oil of Indiana.
Who remembers what South Korean LG was previously called? Who even remembers their first products to land on the U.S. shores - some cheap, low-end microwaves branded Lucky Goldstar.
We all have short memories, since we are bombarded with loads of new information on a daily basis:
- The average adult sees 247 commercial messages a day.
- There are over 45,000 items in a typical supermarket with more brands, sub-brands and line extensions being introduced every day.
- When BPAmoco was dropped for BP, the tagline "Beyond Petroleum" was added.
- When Lucky Goldstar became LG, it adopted the "Life's Good" tagline.
I'm sure it would not be difficult to come up with some wonderful taglines that play off the GM acronym.
How about Good Motors? It leverages the well-known Mr. Goodwrench and has simplicity, honesty, authenticity and relevance going for it.
What positive ideas do you have for the GM acronym?
Intel's new Core i3, i5 and i7 branding is a much needed simplification of its brand naming nomenclature, which I've commented on before.
A spokesman for the company said that it is "important to note that these are not brands but modifiers to the Intel Core brand that signal different features and benefits."
The Lynnfield processor for desktops will feature either Core i5 or Core i7; Arrandale will be launched as Core i3 but will soon embrace Core i5 and Core i7; and Clarkdale will be available in Core i3 and Core i5 brands.
Meanwhile, the Centrino name will be retired as a PC brand but find new life in the realm of Wi-Fi and WiMax products.
Celeron will hang around for "entry-level" computing, Pentium for "basic" computing and the Atom processor will exist for "devices ranging from netbooks to smartphones."
In short, the company spokesman said, "For PC purchasing, think in terms of good-better-best with Celeron being good, Pentium better, and the Intel Core family representing the best we have to offer."
As a result, the main focus of the company's branding will be on the Core brand processor.
Sylvie Barak says on TweakTown that this is actually a "confusing mess" that doesn't cut down on the bolus of brands that intel has saddled itself with.
I applaud the focus on "Core," but wonder what will happen to the Intel Inside strategy that made Intel the first chip company to become a well-known, top of mind technology brand.
June 12, 2009
This will allow people to transpose their real names onto their Facebook URL, allowing you to swap "www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=123456789" with "www.facebook.com/John.Doe," for example.
This new ID will make your page more Google friendly, making you easier to track by creating better organic search results, more visibility and ultimately, better brand recall.
The Personal Branding blog flatly says that this is a "requirement" for personal branding. And maybe it should be, especially when one takes into account the potential trademark issues.
The Legal Technology Insider is a little worried about this, however:
According to Joanne Bone, head of Intellectual Property & Information Technology at Irwin Mitchell: "Due to the user generated nature of Facebook, allowing your trademark to be used by others could present a range of costly problems ranging from trademark infringement to defamation. While this can be seen as a unique opportunity, it may well present some very serious problems for trademark owners. You do not want to find that your brand has been 'hijacked' by someone with no connection to you and put at the end of one of the personal URLs.
Trademark owners only have until Saturday, June 13, to submit a form protecting their registered trademark.
This seems like a no-brainer if you have a trademark to protect, and if your brand is not registered, I suggest you burn the midnight oil this weekend and snag the name before somebody else does. The catch is that if you are not already on Facebook you'll have to log on with somebody else's details to protect your brand name.
At least one analyst says that while protecting your name on Facebook is a good idea, you need to "control the flow" as far as social media is concerned. This means focusing more on your own URL and not placing too much emphasis on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
He really does make a good point. Far too few companies have their own brand name as their URL, which should be made more of a priority if search results drive a significant portion of their business.
Still, I'd hate to see my brand name, or my personal name, get into a competitor's hands.
Posted by William Lozito at 8:45 AM
Posted to Brand Naming | Branding | Company Naming | Licensing | Media and Entertainment | Naming | Naming Rights | Technology | Trademarking
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June 11, 2009
The old debate over alphanumeric car names is back now that Chrysler has been swallowed by Fiat.
Brendan Doyle of McClatchy Newspapers asks carmakers to "junk" the "gibberish seemingly plucked from secure passwords" and go back to good old fashioned naming. He blames European imports (like the soon to be released, super sexy Lexus LFA) for sowing confusion and notes that the magix letter for car naming is "X," because it denotes secret new technologies and is a plosive letter that resonates with consumers.
But the vehicles that will keep Chrysler alive in the U.S. all have real names: Dodge Ram, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Dodge Charger.
While more automotive brands opt for numbers, The New York Times is lamenting the death of the "Rabbit" brand name and looking back with nostalgia on the "powerful, totemic animal names that lent cars personality."
According to the The New York Times blog post, Jaguar used to be the "Swallow Sidecar" and one famous poet suggested the Ford Edsel be called the "Utopian Turtletop." Saab also channels the animal spirit with a griffin on its crest while Porsche uses stags.
The funniest part of the blog is the mention of the Coneheads, where Dan Ackroyd refers to the Ford Lincoln Mercury Sable" as "a personal conveyance named after its inventor, an assassinated ruler, a character from Greco-Roman myth and a small furry mammal."
It just too tough to deny the instinct of wanting to hear a car engine roar.
June 8, 2009
The new Amarok "ute" naming coming out of Volkswagon both intrigues and puzzles me.
Ute, by the way, is short for "utility vehicle."
This particular vehicle is kind of a hybrid pick-up truck and is set to be sold everywhere in the world except the U.S.
However, VW has registered the trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, leading some to suspect that we may see the "ute" on streets close to home pretty soon.
The irony in the name is that Amarok means "wolf" in the Inuit language, and since the Inuit are Native Americans who hail from the upper 48, Alaska and Canada, they will not be able to drive one, because the Amarok will probably not be sold in these places, at least right away.
One VW CEO said, "This name fits to a tee the characteristics of our utility, which will set new standards in its class. We took great care selecting this name, which can be used globally. The Amarok is meant to invoke positive associations in all relevant international markets and make a more convincing argument than its established competitor's right from the start."
VW calls the division that makes these vehicles in Germany "Nutzfahrzeuge," meaning "use vehicles" and thus the "ute," or "utility," moniker that may or may not be useful to the product naming.
This moves the naming scheme for VW even further away from the Golfs, Sciroccos, and Corrados of years past and toward a much more esoteric naming nomenclature.
Their Toureg is named after a nomadic tribe in the Sahara (where you can't buy VWs, nomads generally walk anyway) and their Tiguan is an amalgamation of "Tiger and Lizard" that was put in place thanks in part to the enthusiasm of AutoBahn readers, but quickly was named one of the 10 worst car names ever by at least one blogger.
Nonetheless, VW had better be very careful about referring to their new vehicle as a "ute" if they do come to our shores, not least because another North American tribe, called the Ute Tribe, tend to be very protective of their name, as the University of Utah found out when they tried to name their sports team the "Running Utes."
Posted by William Lozito at 11:01 AM
Posted to Automotive | Brand Naming | Branding | Industry | Linguistics | Marketing | Naming | Naming Rights | Product Naming | Trademarking
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June 2, 2009
The Idaho Fry Company has learned the hard way about trademark regulations as they pertain to company naming and branding.
This new company, which wants to "elevate the status of the french fry," received a short note from the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC), two months before they were set to open, curtly informing them that there was "a problem" with their company naming.
The problem, of course, is that they cannot use the word "Idaho" on anything related to potatoes, including the words "free, fresh, frozen or dehydrated."
Even though the IPC does not seem to technically possess limitation for the word "fries," the commission refuses to back down. The Idaho Fry Company's sign, business cards and web site all have to be recreated and the company cannot simply change the name to "Boise" because that's also protected.
It seems the owners of the company actually did check with some intellectual property attorneys before opening shop and they believed they had a decent case for obtaining rights to the name, but they simply do not have the money to fight the mighty Idaho Potato Commission.
The Boise Weekly blog asks "Aren't enough local businesses struggling these days without nitpicking from the head potato heads?"
It took me only a few minutes to read about the aggressive way in which the IPC protects the word "Idaho" via both certification marks and trademarks. They license "Idaho" to potato growers, shippers, packers and processors, and have a clear record of protecting their mark.
It's a vigorously protected name on a local and global scale, which makes sense since "Idaho potatoes have the greatest name recognition and production preference among consumers."
So considering that the name "Idaho Potato" has the most equity worldwide in the multi-billion dollar potato business, one would think that the Idaho Fry Company had to know there'd be a fight over their company name. Just because you open a shop in Idaho does not give you the right to use the mark.
Idaho Potatoes are to spuds as Microsoft is to computers. They simply are not going to budge if you try to say you're not selling potatoes, you're selling fries.
However, the place looks like they offer some great food, but whoever told them it would be OK to use the word Idaho in their company naming and branding really isn't worth much more than a rotten potato.