February 26, 2010
I'm really trying to feel nostalgic about the demise of the Hummer brand name, but I'm just not getting anywhere with it.
This is the car, after all, that had Fortune Magazine asking "What Car Would Satan Drive?"
The smug, name (a shortening of M998 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) or Hum-Vee) was irritating, as was the car's obvious target market of people who could care less about aesthetics or damage to the environment. This was, after all, the Terminator's ride of choice, or it was until even Arnie saw them as too ridiculously, lunkheadedly macho.
GM tried to dump it on the Chinese, but thank goodness they dropped the idea, the last thing China (or the world) needs is a popular Chinese gas guzzler.
This has been bad news to the 4 x 4 limo market but really, a stretch Hummer is just adding insult to injury.
Cory Doctorow put it best saying, "This car was like the high-fructose corn syrup of automobiles, something that concentrated everything bad about motoring until it underwent a phase-change and somehow became an object of desire."
February 25, 2010
There's really no way to sugar coat this one so I'm just going to put it out there: The official corporate sponsor of the Phoenix Open is Waste Management.
That means the new name of the game is The 2010 Waste Management Phoenix Open. They are replacing FBR Capital Markets (which admittedly wasn't the sexiest sponsor name, either).
Time to let the jokes fly.
For starters, you can get wasted there (insert laugh track). Others say the name is "nice and trashy" but, "Trash talking aside, the golf tournament draws more crowds and raises more money for charity than any other PGA event," according to April Stolarz of College Times.
The good thing is that the sponsor gets it. They know it sounds more than a little strange but they are rolling with it. They are putting hundreds of recycling receptacles around the course and "60 solar-powered waste-compactor units." Plus, "The number of plastic cups handed out will be reduced from previous years. Tickets will be printed on recycled paper." They even note that they have "recycled the 'Phoenix' name into the name of the tournament," which FBR had tossed.
The point is that the company is going to get a great deal of exposure and is aggressively integrating its name and its core values into the tournament.
I can't trash talk that.
February 24, 2010
The Nashville Predators home arena will soon be Bridgestone Arena after a naming agreement with the Sommet group, whose name is now on the arena where the team plays, went sour.
This is good news for the Predators, who seem to feel that having an internationally known brand name on their arena gives their team a sense of "gravitas."
This is the fourth arena name change in fourteen years (it was first the Nashville Arena, then the Gaylord Entertainment Center). Terms have not been made public but the Predators get all the cash.
Bridgestone Americas Inc, which is based in Nashville, has a strong interest in sports sponsorship: it was Bridgestone who sponsored the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Their support of the Predators in Nashville, not traditionally a hockey mad town, offers hockey in the South a new life. One blogger puts it this way, "The road to the Stanley Cup is less bumpy with Bridgestone Tires."
This looks like one of those rare situations where fans will actually like having a major corporate sponsor take over naming rights for their home team's ice.
February 23, 2010
A new brand survey links well known brand names to most frequently tried new products in 2010.
Starbucks was the number one brand tried by consumers last year, followed by Dunkin' Donuts Coffee and Celestial Seasons Tea. Most of the other brands that people tried (Chex Mix, Ritz, Special K, Lysol and Clorox) were also well known. This was especially so when it came to cleaning products.
Starbucks came out on top? I thought conventional wisdom said you should cut out the Starbucks during a recession. Seems that the ultra premium brand is still attracting converts, as are many other well known, pricier brand names
Beverages had the most brand name recognition with coffee products being the most tried by consumers. Funny enough, 44% of consumers tried a new brand of snack within the last 30 days. Those same snackers also were opting for healthier cereals, with Kashi and Special K getting special mention across categories.
The bottom line? Long term, well known brand names attracted the most new customers.
Score one for the power of a brand name, even in tough times.
February 22, 2010
The Washington Post's John Kelly Doesn't Like Metaphorical Naming, We At Strategic Name Development Disagree
Washington Post correspondent John Kelly quotes me this morning in a pretty amusing column, lamenting the evolution of a brand's original descriptive name to a more metaphorical one.
You know, Spray 'n Wash changing its name to Resolve. Seems that John prefers the more descriptive type of name: "Wite-Out and Liquid Paper leave no doubt as to their purpose. Same with Ty-D-Bol It gets your bowl tidy." It seems that the travel industry agrees with him.
Some othe examples of descriptive product name changes that limited the brand are Confinity changing its name to PayPal, Bridgegate Computers to Compaq, and Kentucky Fried Chicken to the shortened KFC.
Metaphorical naming seems to bridge cultural divides and satisfies "deeply held consumer needs and desires." As Evelyn Rodriguez puts it, "The bite in the Apple logo at once conveys the garden of Eden, wisdom, crossing the lines of convention, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil."
More and more research is promoting the idea that "brand equity based on symbolic values" is what marketers see is the Holy Grail.
In any event, we enjoyed the Post interview and especially John Kelly's sense of humor in the article.
February 18, 2010
It is probably just about time for Chrysler to finally do away with the Sebring brand name.
The Sebring has just over a decade of good sales and was once the vehicle of choice for the retired set.
Then things started to go wrong, and now it only sells about 70,000 vehicles a year, compared to Ford's Fusion (138,000) and the Honda Civic (322,000).
Now, the company has announced that it plans on "refreshing" its line up, including spiffing up the car that many in the blogosphere want to see "killed."
The new Sebring will be around until 2013 when it is finally put out of its misery.
February 17, 2010
This year may mark a milestone in branding and naming, one that has as much resonance as Marlboro Friday.
Walmart is unceremoniously clearing brands off the shelves that do not sell well and replacing them with their own private label versions.
This seems to be a backlash against "product overload" - a phenomenon where there is just too much choice for cash strapped consumers looking for deals. This is great for private label brands, but not great news for already struggling brand names.
Or for marketers in general.
Too much choice, it seems, can be paralyzing. Or, as some new studies show, "choice may be what consumers want, but not what consumers need."
The point is, this move might "make brand names irrelevant," simply because Walmart is so big, many other retailers might follow suit.
Choice, and product loyatly, seemingly are also luxuries. This has led one blogger to wonder out loud if "name brands are going away."
One thing is for sure: the brand message might start to be simplified. I think that the idea of building a brand though numerous line extensions might be slowly getting replaced by a deeper, truer, more simplified brand message.
Maybe this year, less will be more.
February 15, 2010
The tragic death of fashion icon Alexander McQueen has meant almost certain doom to the burgeoning brand that bears his name.
Unlike the Chanel, and Louis Vuitton brands, which outlived their creators, this is a blow to the DNA of the McQueen brand itself. As The Sartorialist points out: "I mean, come on, who could possibly keep the spirit of McQueen alive? He was so unique that his replacement could never get out of that shadow."
Brand Matters suggests that "the McQueen brand had so much of its founder's personality in it, that finding a successor may not prove possible."
It is owned by luxury goods giant PPR who now are faced with a well known but unestablished brand name that needs a new designer. On Saturday all the McQueen samples were called back and Fashionologie quotes one source as saying:
I think PPR will use this as a pretext to walk away from the McQueen brand, which has never really made any money anyway. The label just hasn't been around for long enough to be able to survive in the long term now that he is no longer there. A brand needs to have a history to live on in these circumstances and Alexander McQueen's brand doesn't have enough of a history. It's comparatively recent and its roots are not deep enough.
Make Do Style suggests that McQueen was the drama behind the brand and that after a decent period of time the brand should be allowed to quietly follow its namesake into oblivion. While other bloggers feel that other designers might step in and save the name .
I doubt the McQueen label will be around much longer. It is too cutting edge, and too new, and McQueen's suicide has tainted the brand.
Perhaps The Bespoken puts it best: "Regrettably fashion is the cruelest sport; it recognizes only those that make it to the finish line."
February 12, 2010
I have been trying to think of an interesting way to deal with what is happening at Toyota and a blog at Touchpoint Insights really helped. The word that we will come away with this month when it comes to branding is "humility."
Toyota's CEO, Akio Toyoda, gave us what looked like a heartfelt apology and this may actually save the brand name.
This year seems to be a time when humility will be back in vogue. Given the state of the world economy, we have much to be humble about.
Humility in advertising seems to be exemplified in many ways, such as Dove's "Real Beauty" ads.
But Toyota here has given a human, apologetic face to its recent problems. And a reminder of just how seriously the Japanese take craftsmanship and how unforgiving they are of failure.
Sure, Toyota might have done this quicker. And yes, they have to offer us more than an apology, but the CEO of this company has literally bowed in contrition to the world media--a full "60 degrees" according to the New York Post . This is an image that really does wonders for me as a car owner.
I can't help but surmise that this will usher in a new "humble" mantra into naming and branding. Goodness knows it's about time.
Comcast, the brand name that we have come to love to hate, is changing its name to Xfinity today.
For good reason... Poor service. Poor value. Poor channel lineup. Poor customer service.
The company recently announced a name change to Xfinity for its phone, television, and Internet services and the reaction has been almost universally negative.
Is Xfinity a porn site? Is it a condom brand? Is it the name of an energy drink? Is it the amount of time Comcast customers are put on hold? Is it the the number of Xcuses for poor service?
The Internet chatter piqued our curiosity enough to survey 511 consumers nationally to quantify the negative reaction to the Xfinity name.
Guess what? 70% of consumers did not think Xfinity was the name for a cable/Internet service:
- 38% thought it was a gaming console
- 16% thought it was a porn site
- 16% thought it was a condom brand
- 31% strongly agree/agree with the statement "Brand names that start with 'X' are so 1990's."
We agree. This name change comes across as nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig.
If fact, our Chief Linguistics Officer, Diane Prange, was so perplexed by the Xfinity name that she decided to drop a rhyme about it. Check out the video below:
However, new names are a funny thing. Over time they become accepted.
For instance, a few years ago there was a senator from Illinois with a very unusual name, Barack Obama. Many of us thought, what an "odd" name.
Today, we would venture to say that Barack Obama is as familiar to our ears as Steve Jobs, and even easier to pronounce.
Therefore, we think it would be helpful to look on the positive side of names that start with 'X.'
After all, 'X' is perceived as unusual, most likely because it appears in less than 3% of all English words. Additionally:
- It's the symbol for a kiss.
- It's the name of the 13th generation to be born since the American Constitution.
- 'X' is mysterious and unknown.
- 'X' piques our curiosity.
- International and fascinating
The letter 'X' aside, the 'finity' word root has many positive connotations as well. It evokes definity, divinity, infinity, and the holy trinity (of phone, internet and television).
So why doesn't the resulting name resonate better with the target market? Perhaps it's because a brand is only as good as the promise it keeps.
Until then... no brand name change and no amount of money spent on advertising will change consumers' perceptions of Comcast until the brand experience changes.
Comcast should have first fixed its poor service, poor value, poor channel lineup and poor customer service before changing its name to Xfinity.
Apparently Comcast management is aware that they will need more than a name change to alter consumer perceptions. The company has registered xfinitysucks.com, xfinitysucks.org, xfinitysucks.net, etc.
The positive associations of the letter 'X' aside, the Xfinity name will only suck less if it Xceeds consumers' Xpectations by delivering on its brand promise.
Posted by William Lozito at 8:15 AM
Posted to Brand Naming | Branding | Company Naming | Industry | Linguistics | Media and Entertainment | Naming | Technology | Telecommunications
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February 11, 2010
So the launch of Google Buzz, Google's social networking application, brings into question whether the word "Buzz" can really be Google's.
Leaving aside some of the snarky reviews, the announcement of Google Buzz made Yahoo! irritated enough to tweet its dissatisfaction with the name, saying, "Two years after #Yahoo! launched #Buzz, Google follows suit".
Then the Yahoo! PR machine went into motion, with Yahoo! reminding everyone they beat Google to the punch in the social media realm.
Microsoft also fired off an irritated message, pointing out that, "Busy people don't want another social network, what they want is the convenience of aggregation. We've done that. Hotmail customers have benefited from Microsoft working with Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and 75 other partners since 2008."
Google, so far at least, has ignored Yahoo's implication of trademark infringement, probably because the two applications do fairly different things.
However, this may spell trouble for the Google Buzz name.
Yahoo first used the Buzz name on May 12,2008, and filed for a trademark on June 9, 2008; although through today it has not been approved or disapproved by the US Trademark Office.
Moreover, we could find no record of Google filing for the Buzz trademark.
I wouldn't be surprised if Yahoo will prevail legally and tell Google to, "Buzz off."
Well, maybe not in so many words.
February 10, 2010
It may be that Tiger Woods's name has not suffered as much as we might have thought it would only a month or so ago.
This week Forbes reports that his name still holds the top spot among athletes with a value of $82 million.
This is still more than the following huge sports names make combined, reports The Street, "David Beckham ($20 million), tennis player Roger Federer ($16 million), NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($14 million) and NBA stars LeBron James ($13 million) and Kobe Bryant ($12 million)."
He gets all this even if he does not hit a single golf ball this year!
This has led PR2live to wonder if he is really "finished." Tiger has been on hundreds of magazine convers, and has been voted AP's Athlete of the Decade.
In summation, "Sports biggest brand may have suffered the greatest blow of his career, but the brand of Tiger Woods is far from expired." In fact, he's picked to win the The 2010 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in April, despite not having even entered yet.
I'm not sure what the takeaway is. One way of looking at it is that he's lost over $20 million in sponsorship. Even though, in 2009 he chalked up $105 million, $20 million is a big hit in anyone's pocketbook.
I suppose if he does come back and crush the competition again, his name may no longer be stuck in a bunker.
"Il gusto McDonald's parla italiano," proudly declares the publicity for the new McItaly burger. Well, maybe the McDonald's taste does speak Italian, but the name is as far as it goes in Italy.
The choice of McItaly over perhaps the more obvious McItalia is no real surprise, given the growing Italian trend for using English words - albeit with the nationals' own unique take on the pronunciation.
Italians are already well used to the McDonald's English names on the menu, although the descriptions are in Italian, and sound a lot better for it I might add. Over half of Italian McDonald's consumers are under 30 and more accustomed to using English than the older generation. More used to the concept of fast food too.
The BigMac - pronounced 'beeg mek' of course when ordered by Italians - is already an established fast food feature along with the Happy Meal ('ehpee male'), Chicken McNuggets ('cheeken' is often confused with kitchen, thus McDonald's staff in Italy are used to dishing up 'keetchen meknoogets') and the perennial favorite the 'emboorger' (hamburger to you and me!)
So how will the next offering sound? 'Mek eetahlee' is already on the menu in the chain's 392 Italian outlets, its syllables as well chewed as that oh-so-sexy 100% Italian-raised beef in its extra virgin olive oil bread roll topped with artichoke sauce.
McDonald's sold over 100,000 burgers in its first week, which must count for something.
But, surprisingly, McDonald's new 100% Made in Italy concept, with McItaly as its first product, was not the idea of the fast food chain but the Italian government. Italian Agricultural Minister Luca Zaia explains: "We asked McDonald's to create an international brand that would be understood from Paris to Shanghai. We want to globalize the Italian taste and give an identity to our agricultural industry."
This has led many Italians to question if Zaia is truly working for Italy or if McDonald's has a hand in his pocket. His support of McDonald's has been hard to swallow.
Italy is the nation that gave birth to the Slow Food Movement nearly 25 years ago, the movement for making eating relaxing, and more homemade. McDonald's, the fast food giant has always been met with slight animosity ever since it opened its doors in its flagship Rome restaurant.
The new burger is already the butt of many jokes. "Da Mc Donald's arriva McItaly, panino italiano a 100%, a cominciare dal nome," is typical - roughly translated as: "McDonalds' new McItaly burger is 100% Italian - starting with the name."
What will McDonald's do next? A McChina?
February 8, 2010
Ketchup packets have announced their first revamp in 42 years with the new Heinz "Dip and Squeeze."
They are engineered to allow users to either squeeze out three times more ketchup on their fries, or else dip them. One blog points out that when Heinz put out the first ketchup packet in 1968, the "hate began immediately," with people kvetching that "You need like seven of them just to get something done" and "They're a pain to open. They're hard to open and they squirt everywhere."
This is a huge day for anyone who has struggled with these things at least one of our staff admits to biting them open. But, more than that, it also is yet another innovation from Heinz that incorporates a packaging breakthrough into the naming. It was prompted by an apparent upswing in people needing to get quick access to ketchup while driving.
The target market here is fast food chains, and the roll out is relatively slow, but I am sure this will catch on. Heinz sells 11 million traditional packets a year and will keep on doing so, regardless of the new Dip and Squeezes.
I await these with great anticipation.
February 5, 2010
If you haven't noticed, wine naming has gone downmarket in a big way. And I mean a big way.
The recession has affected winemakers as well as everyone else and there is a rush on to rename and repackage wine for the thrifty consumer. Which has led to some interesting (read funny) crossover into the brown bag booze branding brigade. The New York Times has identified the lowest of the low and it's (drum roll, please) Wild Irish Rose.
This stuff is NOT good. One blogger reviews it thus: "Seriously, if given the choice between living under a bridge and having Irish Rosie to look forward to every night or simply hanging myself, I'd choose suicide without a second thought."
This really will not do the Irish wine industry much good at 18% alcohol by volume and around $2 a bottle, it is the drink of choice for the down and out. But, interestingly, many people in suits and ties seem to be buying it, as well as Jäger Bombs, which may actually be more dangerous than 'The Rose.'
For those of us looking for more savory alternatives, why not check out a new concept in wine packaging: wine in a glass.
It seems to be a hit in the UK and is used to sell quaffable units of Château Roubine's Grand Cru Classé Côtes de Provence made by the prestigious French Château Roubine. Here, you can literally buy a glass of the good stuff if you cannot afford a bottle.
Feeling a little risqué? How about some Red Leight Rosé, which some feel is "perfect for Hollywood celebrity bashes." Um, OK, maybe. Cristal has that niche wrapped up, sorry.
A quick round up of weird wine names shows a preference for down market, totally irreverent naming and branding. On one blog we have
- Le Vin de Merde
- Oops, Frog's Piss
- Cat's Pee On a Gooseberry Bush
February 4, 2010
Since the news of Comcast's name change to Xfinity broke, Twitter's been all a 'tweet' with opinions on the new name.
Unfortunately for Comcast, many of these virtual birds weren't singing a happy song about the naming switch.
In order to quantify those negative Xfinity tweets, we quickly surveyed a 511 U.S. consumers, at 95% confidence. In plain English this means the data are projectable nationally.
Although 30% of respondents did associate the Xfinity name with an Internet/Cable Service, significantly more consumers, 38%, thought the name was better suited for a Gaming Console.
Moreover, and the most troublesome for Comcast, is the potential association with either a Porn Site, 16%, or Condoms, 16%.
Many consumers think brand names that start with 'X' are dated.
For instance, significantly more consumers, 31%, strongly agree / agree with the statement "Brand names that start with 'X' are so 1990's," in comparison to 20% that strongly disagree / disagree.
Finally, if Comcast was hoping the name change would break them from their notorious mold of spotty customer service and expensive bills in the eyes of their customers, they'd be disappointed to learn that a majority of respondents, 56%, strongly agreed / agreed with the statement, "Comcast's name change does not affect my perceptions of its service."
While Comcast can be commended on an Xcellent effort, its renamed value may appear to be worth little more than... well, you know.
Or in other words, this is an example of putting lipstick on a pig.
Posted by William Lozito at 2:51 PM
Posted to Brand Name Research | Brand Naming | Branding | Company Naming | Industry | Marketing | Media and Entertainment | Naming | Technology | Telecommunications
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I am always interested in the emotions that are often unleashed when a high profile company changes its name. Comcast's decision to change its name to Xfinity has been met with almost immediate derision across the blogosphere.
But why do people get so angry when some companies change their names? I can break this down to two sources of irritation.
First, it seems that if the company is struggling with customer satisfaction, the name change almost always attracts some flak. Although Comcast is not changing their company name, the Xfinity brand name will be used for its cable TV, Internet, and phone services.
The change is being perceived as a kind of mask. As Philly.com says,
Xfinity seems to position the company to compete with Verizon Communications Inc, which markets its TV and Internet services as FiOS, and AT&T, which uses U-verse. Cablevision, the New York-based cable company, sells its services under the brand Optimum.
The Comcast name just has lots of baggage, and if they want to compete, the company needs a new face.
However, Comcast also needs to continue to improve its service. Ever call them? It's a voicemail maze, and that's a kind way of putting it.
This is, "repositioning the company with consumers," according to one Comcast executive. One blogger questions whether this is a "distinction without a difference."
Sean Portnoy notes that "it's a bit of a risk to surrender a very well-known brand in the hopes of sounding like a new, cutting-edge player in the game." In other words, there's an immediate authenticity issue here.
Second, it's the Xfinity the name itself. Today the "Xfinity and beyond" jokes are myriad.
Some find the Xfinity name "strange" and "harsh."
Gizmodo really rolls up its sleeves and bashes it, sarcastically saying its "the worst, pseudo-pornographic, retro-futuristic garbage marketing dollars can buy." Ouch.
Will Comcast emerge with it XDignity? We'll have to wait and see.
February 3, 2010
What happens when your local mountain has a Satanic name? Some Contra Costa residents in California are trying to change the name of Mt. Diablo because it is "profane and derogatory."
The effort is spearheaded by Oakley resident Arthur Mijares, who has suggested the mountain be renamed "Mt. Reagan" after former President Ronald Reagan.
Now, I have to wonder, is having a mountain renamed after you a good or bad thing? Would the Reagans see this as kind of a backhanded compliment? As in, the first person this guy thought of when he wanted to give a better name to "Devil Mountain" was The Gipper?
Mijares is serious. He feels that many of the social ills in the area are due to the mountain's name, although at least one local official thinks the fellow is a "crackpot."
Mijares is already on the local Alcohol & Other Drugs Advisory Board. He brings to the job a deep faith and an experience as a recovered addict. He's also brought his name change fight to the United States Board of Geographic Names.
One problem is that the devil seems to be everywhere. The Diablo name is on the local high school for instance, leading one irritated graduate to say "I went to Mt. Diablo, home of the devils. I'm not a bad person and I highly believe in God, but come on."
An editorial in the Contra Costa Times also notes that if the mountain is renamed, there are some other renaming challenges ahead: "How about Reagan Valley? Reagan Unified School District? Reagan High School? Reagan Elementary? Reagan Boulevard? Reagan Health Care District?" All of these bear the Diablo name at the moment.
February 2, 2010
Omni Hotels is rolling out a new boutique hotel brand: Mokara, starting with the Watermark Hotel & Spa in San Antonio.
This is a luxury brand that Omni seems to be slipping under the radar. They have used the name Mokara for some time in reference to their spas. It seems that a spa is now a must-have in the hotel industry, and Omni has learned that running their own spas and taking control of the associated branding is adding to their revenue.
With this move, we are seeing the spa branding take over an entire segment of the company's brand portfolio.
A Mokara is a kind of orchid that is known for its seemingly rejuvenating properties.
This is a distinctly Asian sounding name that seems perfect for a spa and, I suppose, a small hotel with a large spa attached. The Mokara brand is only two years old, I am fascinated to see the success Omni has found with it.
Will the name work? Well, it at least has meaning.
I still like Capella as a boutique hotel name, and this Mokara name has the same kind of musical resonance.