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July 31, 2009

Ferrari Shifts Product Naming Nomenclature with the 458 Italia

ferrari-458-Italia.gifThe new Ferrari 458 Italia, aside from being a thing of beauty, is also a departure from the company's traditional naming nomenclature.

The name is derived from the engine, a 4.5-litre V8 that can wind up to 9,000 rpm, the "highest revving Ferrari road car ever."

And according to the Fosfor Wheels blog (quoting the Ferrari press release), "The new model is a synthesis of style, creative flair, passion and cutting-edge technology, characteristics for which Italy as a nation is well-known. For this reason Ferrari chose to add the name of its homeland to the traditional figure representing the displacement and number of cylinders."

Ferrari Chairman Luca di Montezemelo also wrote in the company blog that this car - and its name - is a "homage to Italy" as "The creative flair of its people, the quality and style of its products all go to make up a country that is synonymous with excellence."

Interestingly, this car is being built alongside Ferrari's California model, leading some to wonder if the legendary car maker will be naming all of its future cars after places. I doubt it, but it does seem to me that this incredible machine is a wonderful tribute to everything Italian.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:49 AM

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July 30, 2009

Saks Fifth Ave Embraces House Brand Naming (But Doesn't Want to Admit It)

new-saks-logo.gifSaks Fifth Avenue is embracing the house brand concept with a new line of menswear called The Men's Collection. This means that House Brands have moved from the fluorescent universe of 7-11 and Walmart to the well-heeled world.

But Saks is avoiding the term "house brand" because it is "too lowbrow" according to the Wall Street Journal's Christina Binkley.

However, house brands are good enough for Macy's and Nordstrom's, in addition to many top UK brands.

The new Saks line will compete with brands that have become exorbitantly expensive in recent years and have also found the audacity to open competing stores (that's you, Gucci).

Bloomingdale's is also following suit by offering "Bloomingdales: The Men's Store," with labels priced at 30% or even 40% less than designer labels. This makes them interesting bargains for those who can't live without Saks and Bloomies, but can't afford their more expensive price tags.

Saks has had private label brands before and discontinued them, but this move is clearly meant to retain customers who are strapped for cash, but still desire that Saks cache.

firedog-logo.gifAlthough this move makes great sense for today's economy and for future business. In fact, Circuit City's own house brand, firedog, may be worth $14 million more than the Circuit City brand itself.

It seems that the low prices and comparable quality of house brands, has given them a unique place in today's current economic climate.

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:36 AM

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July 29, 2009

Vulcano Chocolate Naming Set to Light a Fire in the Chocolate World

vulcano-chocolate-bars.gifSo there's a new super-chocolate developed in Switzerland that doesn't melt and is really, really low in calories.

Developed by mammoth chocolatier, Barry Callebaut, this stuff, which has 10% of the calories of your average chocolate, was stumbled upon by accident.

Vulcano, the name for this magical new chocolate, is being sold to Cadbury and Nestlé, and is expected to be used in brands such as Dairy Milk and the ubiquitous Kit Kat.

As an interesting side note, before Vulcano was settled on, the product's code name was Vulcan.

Both the code name and actual name hint at the the chocolate unique ability: it can withstand heat up to 55 C (131 F), while most bars melt at 30C (86 F).

Some bloggers are calling this a "Frankenfood," while others are just saying "Hallelujah."

vulcano-island.gifThe Volcano is a suggestive name that is already catching on, not only because of its heat resistant abilities, but because its name also refers to the chocolate's "airy" texture, much like volcanic rock. A company spokesman clarifies by saying, "It's called Vulcano because it can be eaten when it's hot, and its airy and full of bubbles, like volcanic rock."

It is unclear whether the name will appear as an ingredient brand on products in which it will be used, but I must admit that the name choice, which refers to a small volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, is really quite intriguing. As you may have already deduced, Vulcano was adapted from its Roman origins into English to create our modern day word volcano.

But frankly, if this chocolate tastes good and really has less calories, the Vulcano name is going to catch fire with chocolate lovers world-wide.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:12 AM

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July 28, 2009

Beverage Product Naming: Would You Drink Tru Blood?

Here are the rules for energy drink product naming: there are no rules. Anything goes.

Tru-Blood-Logo.gifCase in point this week is the launch of the Tru Blood drink associated with the True Blood TV show, an HBO series about vampires becoming citizens of our modern society.

This is a "delicious blood orange carbonated drink" and the bottle and typography mirrors what can be found on the show.

Tru Blood is also being marketed with two tagline: "All Flavor No Bite," and the other one, "Suck On This," well... you decide.

You can even quench your nocturnal thirst by using it in drink mixes, such as

  • The Fangbanger - Tru Blood, Vodka

  • Death on the Beach - Tru Blood, Peach Schnapps, Pineapple Juice, Vodka

  • Plasmapolitan - Tru Blood, Citron, Cointreau, Fresh Lime Juice
pawtucketale.gifBill Dowd, the Drink Examiner for examiner.com, says this "blurs the line" between fantasy and reality, but frankly, that's nothing new. Most beverage brand naming does the same thing.

Tru-Blood-Bottle.gifDowd reminds us of "Pawtucket Patriot Ale" from The Family Guy" and "Booty Sweat," inspired by the comedy movie "Tropical Thunder."

I'm not going to criticize here. Tru Blood may even be described as tame compared to "The Tastiest Buzz," Cocaine, or Bong Water. Plus, it wouldn't be such a bad thing for the rest of us living beings if Tru Blood was a hit with the undead target market, would it?

If you're really craving some Tru Blood, you can preorder it online today, otherwise you'll have to hideout in your coffin until September, when it will be available in stores.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:17 AM

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July 27, 2009

Saab's Swedish Naming Makes it The Ultimate Anti-Brand

It is simply too difficult to just forget about an automotive brand name like Saab, which has a tremendous amount of potential to rise again. 

move-your-mind.gifThe brand just has so many things going for it that I hardly know where to begin, but I guess I should start with the name's history. 

Saab, a very, very Swedish name, is supported by drivers who are incredibly proud of the car's Swedish heritage, despite the fact that GM has owned the brand for almost twenty years. Ultimately, its return to Sweden will give the brand even more authenticity in their eyes.

Saab is what one writer calls an "anti-brand," meant for people who like to think they can resist the allure of marketing. 

I always think of New Balance wearers as anti-brand people, although of course we all know that the ultimate compliment you can pay a brand name is that it possesses authenticity and attracts people who are willing to link their own identities to it.  One great example is Apple, a brand with incredible equity that appeals to those who "Think Different."  

One blogger did an analysis of the brand tags (as determined by a latent association study) associated with the Saab brand, and encouraging words came out like "cool," "European," "safe" and of course, "Swedish." 

That Swedish association is a very, very good thing.  Swedes seem to be, when it comes to cars, just as smart as Germans but a little more quirky and a lot safer. 

saab-griffin-logo.gifEven though Saab has struggled with its own identity while being owned by GM, the meaning of the name has remained.  

The Griffin logo is instantly recognizable and despite many rumors floating around the blogosphere, the logo is expected to stick around well into the future.

In the end, the quirkiness of the name, the fact that it leaves GM with an intact set of associations, and the authenticity of the brand are all things that many car makers would kill for.  If Saab can only provide a car that lives up to the name, they'll be right back in the action. 

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:31 AM

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July 24, 2009

Wheaties Adds Brand Naming Fuel to Boost Declining Sales

Believe it or not, Wheaties is becoming even more masculine. This erstwhile sports brand has been around since 1924 closely followed by its memorable tagline, "The Breakfast of Champions," which has been in use since 1934.

Over the years various sports figures, both male and female, have been on the box, starting with Lou Gehrig. But a recent slump in sales has pushed General Mills to "put more muscle in the Wheaties brand."

kg-wheaties.gifYesterday, they announced a new, supercharged variety called Wheaties Fuel, specifically aimed at a masculine target market. Athletes such as Peyton Manning and Kevin Garnett were consulted to help Wheaties Fuel become the ultimate, well, fuel for athletes. But to finalized the product, 1000 samples are being reviewed by "everyday athletes"--mostly Men's Health readers--who will then vote on the final formula and taste.

The official launch will be September 9 and there is now a six part video series on the Wheaties web site, where you can a behind scenes look at the development of Wheaties Fuel.

Although men are not traditionally the main shopper in the household, Wheaties has always enjoyed a 60% male customer base and according to one General Mills executive, more men today are getting involved in what he calls "the shopping experience."

honey-frosted-wheaties.gifThe New York Times also notes that this brand extension follows three failed extensions (Honey Frosted Wheaties, Wheaties Raisin Bran, Wheaties Energy Crunch). But this new cereal drops the folic acid and adds a "lot more sugar."

Additionally, at least one blogger likes the fact that Wheaties Fuel adds to the "chewing experience."

I would like to note that the essential layout of the box has remained unchanged. They are still relying on the bright orange color scheme and essentially the same typography. This is ultimately a Wheaties product and Wheaties is certainly one of the most recognized names in the cereal aisle.

The new tagline, however, is quite interesting. It moves away from "The Breakfast of Champions," one of the best known cereal taglines out there, to "Fuel. Win. Evolve," and really speaks directly to a certain kind of consumer. That is, the competitive or semi-competitive athletic guy who sees food as "fuel."

Any reader of Men's Health will note that the magazine often uses the word "fuel" in reference to diet (a typical lead: "Transform Comfort Food into Muscle-Building Fuel"), as do many sports supplement brands.

Max-sports-fuel.gifA quick glance at the internet brings up "Bio-Energy Sports Fuel," "NRG Fuel" for fitness and bodybuilding and Max Sports Fuel Yohimbe Energy Supplement. So the use of this word is definitely not expected to frighten away the average athletic type.

All in all, this extension shows quite a bit of potential--there is a built in authenticity to Wheaties that I think will appeal to this spectrum of consumer. The major question is whether this spectrum is big enough to significantly bump up sales?

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:48 AM

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July 23, 2009

Possible Brand Naming Union Between VW and Porsche has Interesting Consequences

I have been watching the recent power struggle between Porsche and VW with great interest, because if this possible merger takes place, it has extremely interesting ramifications for both brand names.

porsche-vw.gifTo begin with, Porsche has been trying to take over VW for some time, but now the tables have turned and VW may get a hold of Porsche. If this union takes place, it will create Germany's most powerful car company and has the capability to reinvigorate both brand names.

But the power struggle has been bitter, causing shockwaves that have reverberated through the German government. It may even result with the current CEO of Porsche getting fired.

As most car lovers know, both Porsche and VW were created by car genius Ferdinand Porsche in the 1930s.

The Volkswagen drove into history as the "people's car," endorsed by Adolf Hitler, and then as the lovable Beetle that your parents drove to Woodstock.

The Beetle has since become an iconic name and much of the brand equity VW now enjoys comes from a nostalgia factor. However, VW has more or less continued to create interesting "people's cars" with the Rabbit, the Jetta and the Golf, while still being run by the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, Ferdinand Piech.

And Porsche is, well, Porsche. The most admired car brand in the world. And another descendant of Ferdinand Porsche, Wolfgang Porsche, supports the current Porsche CEO, Wendelin Wiedeking, in his bid to have the company remain independent.

So basically, both companies were founded by the same person. And both companies offer cars that are synonymous with quality engineering and fun. Yet for some reason they both seem to strongly dislike each other, golf-gti-2009.gifeven though bringing the two companies together would create a juggernaut.

Just imagine, for a moment, what would happen if VW introduced an affordable rear wheel drive, air cooled car positioned just above the Passat or alongside the Golf that could claim Porsche engineering (like, say, a new GTI).

This would not just be a union of two car giants. It would be the creation of a super brand.

The equity VW would receive by having Porsche in its stable would be immense. And as previously mentioned, most car lovers are aware of the connection between VW and Porsche anyway. Bringing them together would make the new company irresistible.

Now, I am not suggesting that VW turn into VW-Porsche, I am merely saying that VW's association with the Porsche brand name would add a luster to its own name that might bump up its sales dramatically.

Porsche, meanwhile, would have a whole new, built-in segment of drivers to appeal to: VW drivers who want to bump up to a Cayenne, a Boxster or even a 911.

It is quite an intriguing situation for any branding or car fanatic. I can't wait to see how this one turns out.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:12 AM

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July 22, 2009

Rebranding Pepsi: The Linguistics behind the "Pecsi" Campaign

NPR reports on PepsiCo's local "rebranding" campaign for Argentina, where locals have apparently been calling the company's flagship drink "Pecsi" for decades.

pecsi_argentina_logo.gif"Ps" is not a natural sound for Spanish speakers; Latin (and English) words with "ps" in them tend to be spelled with "bs" in Spanish. The English word "apse," for example, becomes ábside in Spanish. So logic would dictate that Spanish-speakers would pronounce PepsiCo's flagship drink "Pebsi."

The people of Argentina speak an unusual dialect of Spanish, however. Alta Lang divides the Spanish spoken in the Americas into three broad groups and claims that Rioplatense Spanish takes on characteristics of Italian pronunciation. But I've never met an Italian who would pronounce "ll" as "shh," and in fact, the Italian word for "apse" is abside.

Wikipedia has a more detailed entry on the multiple influences on the language spoken in the Río de la Plata, and it's more than sufficient to demonstrate even to a non-Spanish speaker that almost any alternative pronunciations might be possible.

Perhaps a scholar of the castellano rioplatense will write in and explain just how "Pepsi" came to be pronounced "Pecsi."

PepsiCo's campaign is clever, and their appeal to freedom of expression--not to mention freedom of pronunciation--is almost certain to appeal to the civic pride of the Argentinean market. Yet the rebranding of the logo and the bottles miss the point. Argentineans already have freedom of pronunciation. Pepsi couldn't stop them from saying "Pecsi" if it wanted to.

And while many languages change spelling over time to reflect shifts in pronunciation (think of the American spelling of "color" or the AP's new ruling on "cesarean section"), there seems to be no interest in making the spelling of Rioplatense Spanish more phonetic.

Actually, if you grow up learning that "ll" stands for the sound "shh," it's already phonetic; it just doesn't look that way to those who speak another dialect of Spanish.

So thanks, Pepsi, but you really didn't have to.

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Posted by Diane Prange at 10:34 AM

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July 21, 2009

Steve Saleen Drives Into a Company Naming Crisis

2010_SMS_Mustang_460.gifSteve Saleen, who created the car performance brand Saleen, Inc, is learning the hard way that when you leave the company you founded, you can't always take your name with you.

After founding Saleen, Inc in 2003, Steve left in 2007. The company was unsuccessful and the name was sold.

Then a few days ago Mr. Saleen filed a suit against Saleen Performance Vehicles after the Saleen brand name was subsequently purchased by MJ Acquisitions, who appears to be reluctant to honor Saleen, Inc warranties, casting Steve Saleen's name into disrepute.

Steve Saleen has personally vowed to honor those warranties via his new company SMS Limited.

It must also irk him that the current owners of his former company's name are launching a new enhanced Ford Mustang just as he tries to launch his own.

His new SMS 460 Mustang, which is a thing of beauty, is "the only Mustang authorized to bear Steve Saleen's name, to use the benefit of his heritage and to incorporate his performance innovations derived from over thirty years of racing and manufacturing experience."

But then again, SMS Limited doesn't exactly scream "Steve Saleen."

MJ's purchase of Saleen, Inc entitled them to use the Saleen brand name for JOSEPH~1.pngsuperchargers, aftermarket parts and high performance vehicles, but Steve has retorted that "SMS Supercars is the true Saleen."

This is the same lesson that fashion icon Joseph Abboud once learned - when your personal name has brand equity, always be mindful to negotiate its future use. You simply have no idea who might wind up with it.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:45 AM

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July 20, 2009

Has the Starbucks Brand Name Become a Liability?

starbucks-logo.gifThis is not a joke: Starbucks is removing its name from at least one Seattle location, beginning what one blogger calls a "divorce" from the storied 90's brand. 

The store will be renamed "15th Avenue Coffee and Tea" and will serve wine and beer in addition to more traditional Starbucks offerings.  Two more de-Starbucked stores are also planned to be opened soon in the Seattle area.

It appears that Starbucks is shying away from the premium connotation of its own name, and possibly bowing to the pressure that McDonald's has forced upon it with its less expensive coffee offerings. 

On the up side, this may be the launch of a sub-brand that "may allow the organization to capture some other segment of the market that would otherwise be disillusioned by a large corporate chain."

Starbucks may even try to introduce this brand incognito, creating the impression to customers that the new shop is a local, indy place rather than just another Starbucks.  

One analyst calls this a "desperate" act on the part of a company whose elite brand name has become an albatross.  Brand Freak also declares that this is proof positive that Starbucks knows its name is a liability.

However, another blogger views the move as really "thinking outside the box."

I will reserve judgment, but since the company is also serving wine and beer, there is some strategic sense to introducing a new name. What do you think?

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:05 AM

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July 17, 2009

Skyscraper Renaming: Would the Sears Tower by Any Other Name Sound as Sweet?

8-news-logos.gifMessing with an icon is like messing with mother nature.

Not a good idea.

Can you image Chicagoans, or any of us, referring to the Sears Tower as the Willis Tower?

Not in our lifetime.

The name on the building may say Willis, but its heart and sole will always be Sears.

Changing the name of the Sears Tower would be like changing the name of the Brooklyn Bridge. I said as much in an AP story on the name change that appears to have global appeal.

Messing with an icon is a faux pas regardless of where you are on the globe.

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Posted by William Lozito at 11:15 AM

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Playing the Game Naming Game

mario.gifThe news that the longest game name ever is out has made it necessary for me to think hard about the ridiculous world of naming games (excise the pun).

This one uses the following for short: "HIOPB!WDIDTDT?" and the full title is "Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! What Did I Do To Deserve This?"

This is 64 characters long - almost half a tweet. To the uninitiated it seems freakishly bad, but the same company also offers us "Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero?" and Spectral Souls - Resurrection of the Ethereal Empires. Editors? Who needs 'em!"

Yahoo Buzz Up! notes that "HIOPB!WDIDTDT?" isn't even the longest name. There's also "GOLF Magazine Presents 36 Great Holes Starring Fred Couples" and "Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People: Episode 4: Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective", which is a ridiculous 95 characters long.

These names aren't even the silliest, of course. There's also "Plant vs. Zombie", "Little Red Riding Hood's Zombie Barbecue" and "Tongue of the Fat Man." . How about "Supermarket Mania" or ""Major League Eating: The Game" and "Imagine Party Babyz" ? IPhone Apps are almost as bad, with names like "iNap@Work" and "Hair Clinic: For Man and Woman" (don't ask). The last one probably doesn't really work....

Indeed, casual gaming/app developers have made weird naming almost a point of pride.

There seems to be a hot list of 20 words that infest weird game names. "Age, blade, command, and darkness" start off the group.

Kataku suggests you pile up a bunch of thee words and see how effective they are, asking us "Who wouldn't want to play World War Dawn of the Dead: Red Blade of Eternal Super Star Mario"? Who indeed?

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:01 AM

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July 16, 2009

Pontiac G8 to Cop Chevy Caprice Naming and Branding?

First the Taurus, now the erstwhile Chevy Caprice may be making a comeback.

More specifically, Caprice may be the nameplate applied to the Pontiac G8 sedan now that Pontiac is defunct.

Interestingly, the Australian designed and built Caprice is known in its home country as the Holden Commodore or VE Commodore.

chevy-caprice-1966.gifBut the return of the Caprice nameplate in the U.S. would mark the revival of a well-loved, forty-year-old brand name. This may be a car that is "too good to waste" after being launched in 1965 and reaching it's zenith in the late seventies before being phased out in 1996.

This also reverses a statement by GM CEO Fritz Henderson that the G8 would be killed off partly because he is "not a fan of rebadging."

General Motors Vice Chairman for Creative Elements of Products and Customer Relationships, Bob Lutz, seems to think differently and has been the champion of the Caprice name for the car.

However, the car itself would have to be slightly modified - the grille currently has the twin kidney Pontiac look. Consumer Reports thinks it will look more like a Lumina if it does in fact become a Chevy brand name.

The Caprice is a wise naming choice, not least because this real wheel vehicle is a perfect ft for law enforcement agencies, who have been known to use the Caprice in the past.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:30 AM

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July 13, 2009

Online Hotel Naming Affects Brand Name Development Strategies

getaroom_logo.pngA blog on the 4 Hoteliers travel site recently made me smile. This post laments the (seemingly successful) online hotel brand name "getaroom.com" which helps people, well, get a room.

The problem is that "get a room" usually is what you say to two people who are in "a social situation that compels a couple to find a hotel room as a consequence of their behavior."

Funny stuff.

I'm sure the people who thought up that brand name were well aware of the double entendre, however, it leads me to think carefully about how hotels have branded themselves on the Internet and the Twittersphere, where the rules are a bit different.

I note, for instance, that the top ten hotel brands on Twitter actually leverage the name of the hotel as well as the name of the person who manages the Twitter account.

guestiquette_image.gifThen there'sHilton, which has an online resource called Guestiquette, a name that would never work offline, that helps brides and grooms manage their guests.

The other big news in hotel naming this month is Hyatt's change from Global Hyatt to Hyatt Hotels Corporation, which Andrew Calvo of Passions of a Zealot correctly notes makes "one of the oddest corporate names in the hotel industry sound normal." He suggests that calling your company "Global" is almost redundant in a global market.

I agree. Hyatt Hotels Corporation sounds much more logical, and is the kind of thing I'd type into Google if I wanted to learn more about the company.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:10 AM

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July 10, 2009

Eastern Bloc Naming In the News

Nicholas1.gifRenaming games are afoot in the former Eastern Bloc. The mooted, then apparently scotched, plan to rename Leningrad Station has caught the attention of the world.

There could be a move to give it back its czarist, pre-communist name of Nikolaevsky after Tsar Nicholas 1, who was in power when the station opened in 1842.

It seems that there has been a major turn towards renaming pre-Soviet era institutions with Tsarist names in a bid to help Russians feel pride about their past and to put some of the bad memories of the Communist days behind them.

It's not a bad idea. From a Russian point of view, it makes a lot of sense to honor their heritage and the magnificent buildings left behind before the revolution in 1917.

moonwalking-mj.gifHowever, sometimes too much of a good thing, well, isn't all that great. In the neighboring Ukraine, there is also a movement to rename Oktyabrskoye Village after Michael Jackson.

The New York Times reports that a member of the regional parliament feels that the name would do honor to the village because Jackson has a "will of iron."

This comes after a suggestion that we rename the Johnson Space Center as Moonwalk Central.

This reminds me of when JFK passed away. There were numerous streets, buildings, towns and other entities named after him. Many of these were then changed back to their original names after a few years.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:08 AM

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July 9, 2009

Bottled Brand Naming: A Broken Brand Promise

bottledwater-group.gifBottled water looks set to be a casualty of the recession. Sales have flat-lined since 2007 and nosedived since the crash.

It is easy to see why: bottled water is a purchase that one can easily forgo, not least because more and more studies are showing that (free) tap water is just as good, or even better.

Now, the Government Accountability Office and the Environmental Working Group are pushing Congress to have bottled waters labeled with the same information that consumers can get about tap water. Different regulation laws have meant that bottled water is actually less regulated than the stuff coming out of your faucet.

The International Bottle Water Association, for its part, claims that its product is safe, but it still seems as if they will have to disclose more about their product than their soft drink/iced tea competitors. And additional standards should apply for claims that the water is "purified" or "spring water."

This is important, since a whopping 25% of the bottled water sold to you comes from municipal sources, like the tap. More research has even shown that 10 popular brands of bottled water purchased from a grocery store contained pollutants - an average of "8 contaminants in each brand."

Dr. Peter Gleick says that "The labels on bottled water in the United States are a combination of disinformation, misinformation, and no information."

More than that, bottled water brand naming, because it is totally unregulated, can be misleading. As Gleick says, "We thus have "Yosemite" bottled water from a municipal source in Los Angeles, "Everest" water from Texas, and all sorts of "Arctic" or "Glacier" brand waters from Florida and other places about as far removed from the Arctic or glaciers as one can get."

It has been quite clear for some time that bottled water companies have not been held accountable for the brand promises they make to the consumer with the product names they place on their labels.

Congress is simply taking a step towards ensuring all of us that when it comes to "spring water," we given enough information to understand what we are really paying for.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:43 AM

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July 8, 2009

Google Frees App Product Naming from the Oppression of Beta

gmail-no-beta.gifGoogle has finally removed the "beta" tag from their Google Apps, including Gmail. It only took them about two years to do it (Gmail has had it for an unbelievable five).

The New York Times asks "What took Google so long?"

Well, it might be that Google has a different idea of what "beta" means. Usually it means that the product is not ready for heavy business consumption, but Google Apps were certainly good to go from the start.

Still, Gmail has been the longest "beta" product ever. One of the Google gurus says, somewhat cryptically, "For every product we have goals for feature completeness and we feel we've now met them."

Maybe that's so, but many businesses did not want to use a beta product and the beta tag had become a "branding issue."

Or, to put it another way, "who would pay for 'beta?'"

Google says they only represent a "speck" of the total market for productivity apps, but without beta holding them back, there is no telling how fast that speck will grow.

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Posted by William Lozito at 12:56 PM

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July 7, 2009

Is Emotional Brand Naming and Product Naming Motivating?

left-brain-right-brain.gifThe psychology of naming and branding never ceases to interest me, and a recent piece on Brain Blogger makes me even more convinced that good naming affects us at a emotional level.

A good brand name hits us right in the brain's amygdala (the part of the brain involved in the process and memory of emotional reactions) and most of our purchases fullfill psychological rather than physical needs.

Top brand names are memorized by toddlers, as are easy to remember taglines. Today's logos take the place of family emblems or crests of the days of yore.

We use brand logos to identify who we are by placing them on the clothes we wear and the cars we drive.

It's no secret that the packaging and iconography of an item have a lot to do with what we decide to purchase. Studies have shown that within two minutes of seeing an item, we have made the call of whether or not to buy. Even color can have a lot to do with the decision.

Some names, like KeyGhost and 13 Boxes, arouse our curiosity and demand our attention, which is vital to the success of a product or brand name.

But long term, a brand name or product name that creates an emotional connection is preferred and insulates from price competition.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:40 AM

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July 6, 2009

Amazon Tests Waters of Internet Private Label Brand Naming

Amazon has been quietly, but vigorously and successfully, offering its own private label brands on its web site.

fish-turner-pinzon.gifExhibit A is the "Tom Douglas by Pinzon Dexter-Russell Stainless-Steel Slotted Fish Turner." "Pinzon" is the Amazon house brand and Tom Douglas is the celebrity chef who has endorsed it.

If you want one, you have to buy it from Amazon. You've probably also noticed that the fish turner also carries the name Dexter-Russell, which has made tools since 1818.

Here we see the celebrity endorsement doing the heavy lifting for the brand name, giving it an instant cachet. But Amazon isn't just a one trick pony, it has four house brands manufactured in ten countries:

pinzon-amazon-logo.gifAmazon Private Labels:

  • Pinzon - Launched 2005. The broadest and biggest of Amazon's house brands. Named for the European captain who first encountered the Amazon River. Bed and bath products, table-top kitchen tools and accessories. Indoor furnishings.

  • Denali - Launched 2006. Tools and accessories.

  • Pike Street - Launched 2005. Value-oriented products, particularly bed and bath.

  • Strathwood - Launched 2004. Outdoor furnishing and lighting.
As you can see, Amazon has been at this since 2004, but seems to have expanded its private label efforts thanks to the recession. This groups Amazon with Walmart and Target, who have also shored up their own private label branding for cost conscious consumers who still want interesting brand names in their homes.

In fact, Amazon has been referred to as "The next generation Wal-Mart" and seems set to keep on expanding its own lines, although these will ultimately represent only a fraction of the retailer's offerings.

At the same time, dead bricks and mortar brands are finding new life online. Stalwarts like Linen N' Things, Circuit City, Sharper Image and Bombay Co. are still out there as cyber brands.

It will be interesting to see how well these private label and resuscitated brands can compete online with brand names in the "real" world. For today's consumer, it doesn't get much more convenient or cost efficient than shopping online and buying for a lower price.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:50 AM

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July 2, 2009

Can Brink's Company Name Change Maintain Its Brand Name Equity with Broadview Security?

brinks-to-broadview-logo.gifBrink's has spun off its home security unit from its very well-known armored truck division and renamed it "Broadview."

This is a massive $120 million effort supported by a barrage of commercials featuring shady thugs breaking into suburban houses and being scared away by Broadview alarm systems. Their new tagline is "the next generation of Brink's Home Security," while their stock ticker will remain CFL, which stands for "Customers for Life."

Apparently, holding on to the Brink's name had licensing and taxation implications that were fearsome enough to warrant this name change.

A Broadview representative told AdWeek that the name was chosen because it "was meant to evoke 'broadband,' among other things" and that this is indicative of where the technology is heading.

Bob Allen, the company's president and CEO, also comments that "the new name is meant to reflect the wide range of services the company offers to both businesses and homes... [and] the name, and logo, are meant to convey the "active protection" provided by Brink's."

However, the company name change has received mixed reactions. For one, the word "home" is missing from the name, notes Security Systems News.

Whether your agree with the new company name or not, one must admit that this was quite an ambitious name change. It will be interesting to see if Broadview Security will be able to maintain the level of brand equity that Brink's Home Security built over the years.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:20 AM

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