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June 25, 2010

The NCAA Knows the Power of Money, and Branding

For better or worse, the NCAA has been shuffling around schools and conferences for the past couple weeks, but the conference names have gone largely untouched.ncaa_logo.gif

The Big Ten, which formerly had eleven teams after the addition of Penn State in 1990, now has twelve schools. The Big Twelve is now down to ten. Neither of the two conferences executive committees are coming close to changing the names.

The NCAA knows a thing or two about branding. And although some historic rivalries have now been split apart, the names of the conferences will most likely not change. The equity behind the conferences runs deep, and to make a name change now would not be in anyone's best interest.

Think of it, the Big Ten becoming the Big Twelve, and vice versa, now that would really shake things up. It would confuse everyone, from announcers to recruits to alumni. No matter how many schools wind up in a particular conference, the names will stay.

College football is rooted in tradition, as are the names of its conferences. Even though greed can cause a shakeup now and then, brand names will always have high value.

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June 18, 2010

Names Matter. Names Matter A Lot

Yes, as a brand naming company, it is no surprise that we would say names matter.

Actually, names matter a lot. But in the case of the renaming of The Minerals Management Service a name change doesn't matter.

Does anyone think changing its name to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement will make any difference?
I don't think so; Unless the product or service changes with it.

With the Government involved, what are the odds of that happening? Probably close to zero.

Hopefully new director Michael Bromwich, being sworn in at right, can bring peace to troubled waters.

Plus, if the new name was any longer, we would think it was a paragraph.

My vote, keep the name Minerals Management Service, but change the people, change the culture, and change the performance.

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Posted by William Lozito at 11:04 AM

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AT&T Drives for Public Transportation Naming

attseptalogo.pngAT&T is close to acquiring the naming rights to a Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Association station on Pattison Avenue in South Philadelphia.

The cell phone giant would pay approximately $1 million a year for five years, and that money would go toward funding the renovations for the SEPTA installation, and remodeling.

The deal is not official yet, and if SEPTA's board approves the name next week, the station would not change names until August.

This may confuse Philadelphia sports fans, since the station is currently titled "Stadium Stop," with access to Citizen's Bank Park, Lincoln Financial Field, and the Wacovia Center.

With all the corporately sponsored arenas in Philly, the public transportation industry stations might as well benefit from riding that gravy train.

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June 16, 2010

Cigarette Light and Mild Naming Goes Up in Smoke

Soon The Food and Drug Administration will be banning names like "Light" and "Mild" from cigarette packages. It's an effort to curb the perception that these cigarettes are in some way healthier or better for you than regular cigarettes.
This is the first regulation the FDA has put in place since Congress passed legislation to let the FDA regulate the tobacco industry.

For example, Camel will now have color-branded packaging, instead of healthy-sounding adjectives to set apart their products, and convenience stores are already phasing out Camel products with the old naming conventions.

The tobacco giant has already introduced a line of Camel Blues, which is confusing to some smokers since American Spirit, a competitor, already has a line of Blue cigarettes. There is no word yet on a potential trademark battle between the two companies.

Some smokers believe that this branding ban is the first step towards banning cigarettes altogether. While others believe that the new naming will not affect peoples' smoking habits, saying, "People are going to quit when they want to quit, people are going to smoke when they want to smoke," regardless of the new name.

Australia has already passed legislation to outlaw cigarette brand names and alluring packaging on cigarette cartons, and this could be the United States Government's way of following suit. Australia cigarettes have gruesome images on their packaging, and with this new regulation, the U.S. may not be far off from that sort of deterrant.

The ban will go into effect on June 22, 2010.

It will be interesting to see what happens next in the cigarette industry.

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June 15, 2010

Cattle Branding is Just as Important Now as it Was in the Days of the Wild West

brand1.jpgMany of you are probably aware that crime tends to rise when the economy is heading south, as in a recession.

Many of you are probably also aware that one of the first applications of branding in the United States came from ranchers branding their cattle. This branding had many functions, one of which was to identify which ranchers raised the best cattle, therefore commanding the highest market prices and elevating their cattle above commodity status.

Well it looks like these two forces have come together again in 2010.

There is an increase in cattle rustlers in Texas and the rest of the Southwest that are stealing cattle. Some rustlers are considering re-branding the cattle to disguise their theft, but it takes six to eight months for the re-branding to heal.

So the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association are going back to their roots by emphasizing the value of branding. However, this time around it is to prevent theft. As of now, 80% of branded cattle that have been stolen are recovered, but only 50% of unbranded cattle are returned to their rightful owner.

It appears that brand naming still has its value from its U.S. origins of cattle branding.

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June 11, 2010

GM Corrects Chevy Branding Blunder

2010-Chevy-Camaro.pngSurprised? I'm not.

GM has backed away from requiring its employees to call its iconic brand Chevrolet, but not Chevy.

Some would say this is silly. Others would say this was a dumb move.

I say it was a misguided branding blunder.

To GM's credit however, it was a 72 hour branding blunder. GM management wisely cut its losses.

Didn't us branding types learn a long, long time ago not to mess with an iconic brand?

I guess not.

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June 10, 2010

GM Trying to Banish Chevy Naming and Branding

2010-Chevy-Camaro.pngThere are moments in this business when I read a piece of news and literally rub my eyes and check my calendar to make sure it is not April Fool's Day.

The announcement in yesterday's Wheels blog in the New York Times that GM was actually trying to banish the word "Chevy" while keeping the brand name Chevrolet has me thinking that today may well be one of those days.

This (ridiculously horrible) branding decision was posted today under "Odd News." Rightly so. The memo that was sent out to Chevy - I mean Chevrolet - employees indicated that GM wanted to be like "Apple" and "Coke" and have consistent brand naming: "Why is this consistency so important? The more consistent a brand becomes, the more prominent and recognizable it is with the consumer."

Um, dude, I'm thinking somebody needs to get a naming guy in quick.

Even the Australians have pointed out to us this morning that "Coke" is a shortened form of
"Coca-Cola" - sort of like "Chevy" is a shortened form of "Chevrolet."

One of the bloggers at USA Today says, "So, um, we guess there will be a flurry of activity at
Coca-Cola headquarters tomorrow on whether to banish the name Coke. Or might BMW be thrown in a tizzy over whether owners are still referring to their cars as Beemers."

Autoblog has this to say: "Folks, there are bad ideas, and there ones that are legendary in their badness. Unfortunately for General Motors, it would appear that the automaker may very well be lobbying for its own wing in the Dumb Idea Hall of Fame."

They go on to note that has a whopping 5,480 "Chevy" mentions in it and has 1,730 more.

The word "Chevy" carries probably just as much equity as the word "Ford", and probably more than the world "Chevrolet." I mean, do Chevrolet owners really refer to their cars as Chevrolets? C'mon. OK, maybe two of them.

Apologies to Don McLean, but Chevy is one brand name you just can't dump in the levee.

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June 9, 2010

More Men Getting Iced Every Day, Smirnoff Claims It Has Nothing to Do With Their Naming and Branding Promotion

Yesterday The New York Times picked up on the new drinking game called "icing." It's full name is "Bros Icing Bros."

smirnoffice.pngYou can read the rules for yourself, suffice to say that this is a game aimed at the college age demographic and requires players to drink copious amounts of Smirnoff Ice, hence the name "icing." This game has spread out of the frat house to the world of Goldman Sachs and elsewhere. The word "Bros" and "Bro" has been given new life by this game.

Ironically, the Village Voice reports that the entire game is based on how awful the drink is. The blogosphere is full of contempt for the game and the people who play it.

And Smirnoff has denied involvement in the game, and one blogger claims that it was created by two frat guys. The problem is that the game is gaining traction, as one expert is quoted saying "We're gonna see more of this. Now that everything can be delivered through digital media, what's the last authentic thing? Spontaneous experience."

This might be an example of a frat prank gone haywire. Or viral marketing gone wrong. Or right. The fact is, the "Ice" name is now in front of a perfect demographic. Guys who hate the stuff are buying Smirnoff Ice so they will not get "iced" (see the rules).

But, we must repeat, because this game promotes the idea of underage drinking and irresponsible drinking and drinking in public places, of course Smirnoff claims that it has nothing to do with it.

Never mind the Twitter feed, the Facebook group or the many pictures and videos that have cropped up almost instantly. This just sort of... happened. The name Ice has gone into the newspapers and across the Internet. Just by accident?

Maybe so. But I also am starting to think that viral branding and social networking continue to demonstrate a great deal of power.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:46 AM

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June 8, 2010

New iPhone 4, FaceTime and iOS 4 Naming Surprises from Apple

iphone4.pngSo the new iPhone will be called the iPhone 4, and not the iPhone HD, iPhone 4G, or iPhone 4 GS.

This is a name that was not expected, least of all by me (I thought it might be the iPhone 4 GS). It is an easy name to remember but also slightly misleading as, technically, this is not the 4th generation iPhone but it is certainly quite beautiful, thin, and powerful.

What is even more interesting is the phone's operating system has gone from being iPhone OS4 to Apple iOS 4, presumably as a reflection that it will exist on gadgets other than the iPhone, like the iPad and iPod Touch.

The problem was that iOS is a trademarked acronym that Cisco uses for its Internetwork Operating System.

Cisco already sued Apple over the iPhone trademark, so this naming move had to be cleared with the company in advance.

In a statement to the press, one Cisco executive said, "Cisco has agreed to license the iOS trademark to Apple for use as the name of Apple's operating system for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. The license is for use of the trademark only and not for any technology."

Industry observers note that the operating system Apple has would probably be so different from the IOS system Cisco has that Apple could probably get away with the name, but Apple is being careful "to avoid a fight down the road."

They also announced a new video chat application for the phone called FaceTime whose name was purchased from a security company which has just announced a decision to rebrand itself over the next few months.

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June 7, 2010

Sippy Stuff Sells Cool Stuff For Your Sippy Cup, Playtex Doesn't Mind the Naming?

sippystuff.pngHere's some insight into how I spend my mornings.

There is a new company out there called "Sippy Stuff," which offers parents, "Sippy cup cleaning brushes and spout cleaners" and a "sippy secure strap."

Those who have children or deal with children all know the ubiquitous "sippy cup." This is an ingenious cup that cannot be spilled, even if the toddlr hangs it upside down. It's sort of the happy medium between a bottle and a real cup, and it has valves inside it that are difficult to clean.

Still, sippy, irks me. Surely it is trademarked? Nope. The inventor of the sippy cup, Richard Belanger, sold the license to Playtex, who went on to produce the often copied cup under the name "Sipster."

This means Sippy Stuff has a really eye-catching name. The name Sippy Cup known worldwide, and in another naming conundrum, Sippy Stuff also sells labels for your Sippy Cup called Gummi Labels.

Now, Gummi Bears are also quite well known. That name comes from the German Gummibär or "little rubber bear" made by The Haribo Company in Germany. Disney even has a children's series, The Adventures of the Gummi Bears.

So how can Sippy Stuff use the Gummi name? Probably because its a word in common usage--although technically the company is technically calling their stickers "rubber stickers."

Still, I would be very careful if I was the head of Sippy Stuff. Sippy and Gummi are words that are pretty well known, and pretty well associated with their respective product categories.

Possibly Playtex will not mind seeing somebody create products that help them sell more Sipsters, just like Apple lets so many products start with an "i". But what will the Gummi folks think?

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Posted by William Lozito at 7:56 AM

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June 4, 2010

Little Known HTC Naming and Branding Set to EVOlve into Something Incredible

During April I blogged about the HTC Droid Incredible by Verizon, which seems to live up to its name. I was even interviewed in The Chicago Tribune abut it, and I was a little puzzled by Verizon's apparent hijacking the "Droid" name from Motorola.

Since then the two phones have actually faced off against each other in a weird Droid vs. Droid battle (insert geeky Star Wars joke here) and the HTC version seemed to come out on top.

However, now I am starting to think the real unsung hero of this is the HTC name, not least because the EVO 4G (yes, 4 G, hear that, Apple?) is coming out today and it's just beautiful.

The Wall Street Jounal points out that the HTC brand has scored a "trifecta" by offering devices that enjoy flagship status to three of the nations four major carriers (Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile USA). The fourth major carrier, AT&T, has the iPhone as its flagship brand.

HTC has quietly linked itself to Android and Google and Windows. And they simply cannot make enough "Incredible" phones. The phones are now intimately associated with the "Droid" name and the "Android" operating system.

HTC started out making devices for other companies and only decided to promote its own brand name four years ago.

Its association with Windows and Android has catapulted the company into the competitive world of mobile phones, and they are now thinking about making tablets. They also, by the way, have their own social networking platform.

I think that Android devices are going to be sweeping the market this year, and HTC will be the "must have" brand name in this sector. This is proof that an upstart brand name can take major consumer headspace if it can be intelligent about partnering with tried and trusted brand names (in this case Windows and Google) and exciting new names (Android).

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June 3, 2010

Mercury Naming and Branding (Finally) Dies, Retirement Homes Everywhere Observe Moment of Silence

mercury.jpgBrace yourselves, people. Ford is killing the Mercury brand name.

I know, I know. It's a blow, if you are, say, over the age of 80, The Consumerist says that this "news will impact the parking lots of retirement homes nationwide." That's not a joke: The average age of the Mercury Marquis driver is 70, and the cars haven't been produced since 1986.

If you are not in this bracket, however, this is a definite "whatever," moment in naming and branding history.

This is Ford getting rid of a brand that fell between two stools: The New York Times Wheels blog calls Mercury a "brand without a cause." The brand name, which hearkens to the Roman "messenger from the Gods" and whose logo used to feature a winged, helmeted head, was introduced in 1939 and never knew whether it was a dressier Ford or a dumbed-down Lincoln.

James Dean drove a Mercury in Rebel Without a Cause and sales peaked in the late seventies before the the luster began to wear off. Had James Dean not crashed his Porsche, he would be 79 this year, the perfect twilight age to drive a Mercury once again.

Shedding the Mercury name allows Ford to "trim down to fighting strength."

The Mercury and Pontiac brands used to be inspired by the GM "ladder of success" that saw consumers going from one stalwart American brand to the next as their paychecks increased:

"That concept kept customers in the GM fold by having them trade up from a Chevrolet to a Buick or Oldsmobile and then a Cadillac as they became older and more affluent. Now consumers are more likely to gravitate to foreign models, and many probably think the brand name is dead anyway."
Still, as Mike Davis says in a fascinating profile of the brand, the brand name used to be a "Powerhouse and became a victim of jealous infighting within Ford more than anything else."

The brand name used to be a favorite in Southern California and in Europe. But the new mantra for car branding is "less is more." The Mercury brand just cannot keep pace with the changing automobile landscape.

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June 2, 2010

iPhone 4 G and iPhone 4 HD Naming and Branding Wrong: It Might Be the iPhone 4GS

iphone4g.jpgI guess the cat's out of the bag. According to Mac Rumors the new iPhone will be named the iPhone 4 GS.

It seems that accessory maker Ideal Case sent out an email to customers advertising the new "iPhone 4GS" case, causing quite a stir on the Internet as most people thought the phone would be called either the iPhone 4G or the iPhone 4 HD .

The iPhone HD name would stem from the phone's high resolution screen.

However, the iPhone 4G name would have been misleading, it turns out, because it will run on the same 3G network as the current phone 3G.

The new iPhone 4GS name includes an "S" for speed and the 4 refers to "Fourth generation." So, all those bloggers that have been calling it the iPhone 4G might be wrong, but not by much.
We will only know the true name for sure on June 7 at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Never mind that one of the Apple developers calls it the iPhone OS 4 in a press release for the event. The iPhone 4GS appears to be the most likely name.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:31 AM

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June 1, 2010

Sex and the City 2 (SATC 2) = Naming and Branding Bonanza

SATCSkyy.pngOh what a friend the world of marketing has in the Sex and the City franchise. The new movie, which was slain by Shrek Forever After this weekend in terms of earnings, is still raking in the cash despite the terrible reviews the critics are heaping upon it.

I'm sure the girls are weeping into their diamond encrusted Skyy vodka bottles and stamping their Manolo Blahniks in frustration... or perhaps it just doesn't matter. Because this movie is Star Wars for women: they will go see it and love it, even if it stinks. And if it is Star Wars for women, it should be the Avatar for people in the naming and branding industry.

James Bond, Quantum of Solace, had about a dozen product placements. This is nothing compared to SATC I, which had 94 brand names displayed. Its successor references so many brand names and designers that I have literally lost count of the number on Vanity Fair's valiant attempt to keep track of them all.

But there's big news: Apple has apparently been dumped by Carrie for a new HP, a brand naming disaster for Cupertino, in my book. Toyota gets trashed by being included in the round up - but in a bad way.

Suzanne Somers, on the other hand, looks set to clean up. Mercedes, Dior, and of course Manolo Blahnik are practically costarring in the movie. All of these brand names were included in the movie, the producers tells us, "to establish the reality of the world the characters lived in."

Don't believe the producers, to paraphrase, "It's the money, stupid."

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