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August 31, 2010

Is the iPod Brand Name Ending Tomorrow?

Could the iPod name be on its way out?

It's hard to think of a brand name that has so much resonance could be abandoned, and yet there are some interesting reasons why Apple may drop it.

For one, Beatweek Magazine points out that the brand name is nine years old. Its not "hot" and trendy anymore.

ipod5g.pngThis might even spell the end of the click-wheel, which PC Mag predicts may only exist on the iPod Classic, which will hang on "until the day Flash memory is affordable enough to make a 128GB iPad touch."

Tomorrow, when Apple has its "special event" at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco, we may see them addressing the iPod and it's naming.

If Apple is going to make the new iPods - which have not been redesigned for some time - with feature touch screens (leaked photos indicate this is so), then we may have to say good-bye to some really classic names.

But all that said, I still have trouble believing that the end of the iPod name is at hand.

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August 30, 2010

Facebook Will Have to Face that It Doesn't Own Face Naming and Branding

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Last Friday I noted that Facebook was trying to own the word "book."

Now it seems they want to own the word "face" in light of a new app called FaceCash developed by one of Facebook's "original founders", Aaron Greenspan.

And while they probably will keep the word "book" off limits to people in the social networking arena, it is more doubtful that they will manage to protect the word "face."

Greenspan already has been granted an extension from the USPTO to give him time to respond to the trademark opposition by Facebook, and this story should pick up again around Sept. 22 when the extension winds up.

Trademark holders are advised to aggressively defend their marks but people are dubious about trying to defend "face," as well as Facebook's claim to the word "like" (people can "like" things posted by others by pressing a button on Facebook).

TechCrunch broke this story but Apple may end it.

Apple's new FaceTime feature on the iPhone 4 could wind up in Facebook's crosshairs.

And in that vein, I think Facebook is doomed: the term Face Time is a well known colloquial term.

I think Facebook will protect, successfully, the name book. Face? Like? Not so much.

As Chris Matyszczyk on CNET says: "Will there be a face-off? Might a lawyer perform a face-plant? The possibilities are, let's face it, fascinating."


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August 27, 2010

Can Facebook Prevent its Brand Name from Becoming Generic?

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Facebook is trying to limit the use of the word "book" by other social networking sites, and has filed suit against Teachbook.com, which is an online community for teachers.

Facebook argues that while it doesn't have rights to the word "book," its trademark applies when book is used in a name for social media.

They argue "If others could freely use 'generic plus BOOK' marks for online networking services targeted to that particular generic category of individuals, the suffix book could become a generic term for 'online community/networking services' or 'social networking services.'"

All "throwing the book" jokes aside, Teachbook plans on fighting back despite the fact that a company called Travelbook learned the hard way that Facebook is pretty "intractable" about this.

The point is that Facebook does not want the term "book," which has no relevance to the Teachbook offering, to become a generic term for social networking.

CNET reports that there is a company called Poolhouse Enterprises that has a bunch of apps that run on Facebook that use the "book" term (Dogbook, Catbook, Ferretbook, etc).

The term "facebook," of course, has been around longer than social networking - it comes from the common name of the book given out to Harvard freshman featuring portraits of their classmates.

Many other schools - and boarding schools - offer the same kind of book.

CNET's description of the petition to have the Facebook trademark revoked is worth the read.

My feeling is that Facebook is doing the right thing here and may or may not prevail.

There is no doubt that if other companies use the term "book" it would sow a likelihood of confusion in the marketplace and be disastrous for Facebook.

As I have written before, Google, Xerox, Granola, Margarine and Zipper (to name a few) have walked this path before, now it's Facebook's turn.

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August 26, 2010

Pepsi Max Drops Diet From Naming, Aims for Coke Zero

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Pepsi Max was launched in the USA in 2007 and has been through a name change, packaging updates and two re-launches.

They are now trying to reposition the product by dropping "diet" from the name and adding the tagline "Zero calories, maximum taste" .

This is a direct shot at Coke's rival drink, Coke Zero. But will it work?

Coke Zero, which came out five years ago, is one of the most successful beverages in the companies history, the 12 largest cola brand and four times bigger than Pepsi Max.

The Cola Wars are on (again) it seems.

Or at least according to Ad Age.

Coke has acknowledged that there is "baggage" in the word "diet", which is why they distanced Coke Zero from it. The new ads actually rehash an old 1995 spot that features a Pepsi truck driver and a Coke driver sampling the competition.

The really interesting thing here is how Pepsi responded to Coke's "Zero" with the word "Max".

It seems to me that Pepsi Max (despite having the black trade dress that seems to indicate zero-calories now-a-days) does not really connote, well, zero.

Pepsi Max, to me, sounds like it is a jacked up version of the regular drink--sort of a Pepsi "Jolt", while "Zero" is pretty clear.

I think that the word "diet" and indeed the word "light" both are no-go areas for the colas, but I'm curious as to why Pepsi choose this paradoxical name.

On the other hand, both colas focus on the male demographic. Pepsi Max started as Diet Pepsi Max and the ads were targeted to both genders, but since they have gone to the Max naming the focus has been on men.

And men really hate that word diet. They seem to appreciate black cola packaging, however. And a good look at the packaging shows "MAX" in large letters beside a "0", making it look more like "Max 0".

Still, it does seem to me that the name "Max" might be sowing some confusion out there. Max means "the most", and this stuff is supposed to have "the least"... of pretty much everything.

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August 25, 2010

Bad Acronyms in the World of Naming

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Every so often we do what I am herby calling the Bad Acronym Round-Up or BARU.

Sooner or later, every year, we have to stand back and look at some of the horrible acronyms that have been inflicted on us and decide which ones have to go.

So, here is a (far from definitive) hit list of the worst of the worst from recent times, IMHO.

First of all, Businessweek brings us "Ten Ridiculous New Tech Acronyms" that include GAPE (Google Apps Premier Edition), SAP (System Analysis & Programming), and IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service).

If you doubt whether this one is really ridiculous, try to say it.

They also threw in VFAT, which sounds like "Something you can become if you sit in front of a computer for too long." I agree.

But the list really only starts there.

HDTV Magazine bemoans the horrible acronyms that have plagued that industry, using as an example a TV that is also a "3D BD HD player with WiFi, DLNA, and HDMI 1.4 support". This is just horrible. Translated:

The "BD" stands for Blu-ray disc, so this player can play HDTV discs in 1080p high definition (the HD part, but you probably knew that).

And the 3D means that it can do so in stereoscopic splendor. WiFi is the familiar wireless network connection. (It supports 802.11b/g/n, but only /n is recommended for video streaming.)

DLNA lets you play media files that you have stored on your network, and HDMI 1.4 is the latest version of the high-speed serial connection which includes support for 3DTV. Oh, and this is a portable device that will play for up to three hours on a single charge.

Well, of course. :)

The Huffington Post has some ideas about what LA's new Eli Broad Museum could be called, most of which should be stopped in their tracks.

They offer BAM ( Broad Art Museum) and DOGMA ( Downtown On Grand Museum of Art) and COPACABANA (Center Of Permanently Accessible Contemporary And Broad Acquired New Art).

Um, well, no.

Netorama also had a great post called When Acronyms Go Bad which brings up the howler of the decade - WTF, which used to stand for Wisconsin Tourism Federation.

I blogged on this one last year and managed to keep a straight face while doing it, mentioning that the new acronym is TFW (Tourism Federation of Wisconsin).

Mental Floss really hits it this month, mentioning Iowa's ill-fated DOA (Dept of Aging), which was swiftly changed to IDA (Iowa Dept. of Aging).

The FAA hurt the Sioux City Gateway Airport by giving it the acronym SUX and then offered to change it to GAY (Gateway). They declined, and you can now get T-Shirts that say, playfully, Fly SUX.

SUX kind of...well, you know.... but it's better than what Fukuoka, Japan was saddled with.

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August 24, 2010

Think Pink: Sweet N' Low's Color-Coded Brand Naming

sweetnlowpinkad.jpgToday I am interested in how Sweet N' Low is managing to take back headspace and market share in the congested sweetener market.

As the New York Times reports, the new Sweet N' Low campaign "uses familiar aspects of Sweet 'N Low - the name, the packaging and the color pink - to appeal to new customers as well as to remind current users about the brand."

The illustrations are also pretty funky, with a major focus on the color pink.

It seems that people in the blogospehre generally like the ads, which serve to re-introduce a name we all know, but also to reposition it. And Sweet N' Low has plenty of loyalty - there's even one blog out there dedicated to outing cafes that don't offer it.

The interesting thing is that there is no new tagline, no headline, nothing save for graphic representations of the package and the phrase "zero calorie sweetener." But yet, this works, because customers tend to think of sweetners by color: Equal, NatraTaste, Nutrasweet are made with aspartine and come in blue packets; sucralose sweeteners like Splenda come in yellow, and sacharine based Sweet N' Low comes in pink. And then there's the major Stevia products that come in green, "producing a rainbow effect for the category."

So, if you want to emphasize the Sweet N' Low name, emphasize the color. It's easy and brilliant.

Why? Because Sweet N' Low owns the pink color. The brand is even associated with the Pink panther.

Other sweeteners will have to share, because nobody can take pink away from Sweet N' Low. Even sweetners who essentially have their own color (Splenda) do not own their color the way Sweet N' Low does.

Sweet N' Low owns pink the way Coke owns red. And that's powerful branding indeed.

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August 23, 2010

Madonna's Material Girl Naming and Branding A Trademark Violation?

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Madonna is being sued over the naming and branding of her new Material Girl clothing line by California clothing manufacturer LA Triumph, which has been using the registered trademark since 1997. LA Triumph has sold millions of dollars worth of clothing under the brand name in the USA.

Madonna, for her part, apparently improperly registered the mark last year. This suit comes in the face of Macy's advertising blitz with model Taylor Momsen promoting the new Material Girl line, and thus Macy's is also going to have to defend itself from the trademark holder.

LA Triumph's attorney has noted that his client faces 'a risk of being subsumed by Madonna's profile, obvious worldwide notoriety and massive marketing campaign.'

This is a venture between this signer and her teenage daughter and it revitalizes a name that Madonna has, in the past, tried to distance herself from (she recently asked fans to stop calling her the Material Girl). There are obvious reasons why she needs to dissociate herself from the moniker - the song is 25 years old and the connotations don't fit her more spiritual persona, yet the brand name seems to do just the opposite.

Still, it is an excellent brand name for a women's clothing line, especially given the fact that the clothes hearken back to the 80's.

It is really hard to believe that Madonna did not have the brand name checked out. My only guess is that Madonna herself probably does not feel the clothing line will last very long.

But it is even harder to believe that Macy's didn't do a little research before associating their name with the line.

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August 18, 2010

MAC Learns the Hard Way About Offensive Product Naming

Never underestimate what one blogger can do when it comes to naming and branding.

MAC Cosmetics just announced they would pull their Rodarte Makeup Collection due to a naming snafu that has captured the attention of many of us on the Internet.

mac-cosmetics-logo.jpgMAC is doing this after Jessica Wakeman on The Frisky hammered the company for naming one element of the product line after Juarez, a town in Mexico notorious for its murder rate and the high number of women and girls who are killed and abused there. Back in July she asked "What's next, a lipstick called Bergen-Belsen?"

MAC will not ship the products and instead has decided to donate "projected proceeds" to "charities that benefit the security and human rights crises in Juarez."

In fact, the entire line is offensive to Mexicans - the Rodarte collection features pallid, ghostly hues with names like Juarez, Bordertown, Ghost Town and Factory, all of which play on the economic desolation of the country's border towns.

Yes, even the name Factory was deemed offensive, with one writer saying "In a sweep of total insouciance, for chic U.S. women, 'Factory' is an abstract consumable concept, a shade of mint frost, whereas for Mexican women in maquiladoras, it's a sweaty, oppressive place where they're frequently harassed, threatened, raped, and killed."

This joint brand collaboration has been a disastrous move for both MAC and Rodarte, who at first tried to simply donate all the profits from the line to Mexican charities and now have had to take things a step further "Out of respect for the people of Mexico, the women of girls of Juarez and their families, as well as our MAC Mexican staff and colleagues."

I applaud the company for taking steps to rectify this, but as one blogger suggests, this all may have been an unintentional error: "Both fashion houses were obtuse, but not malicious." More than that, it's rather hard to see how a woman would be attracted to a makeup product called Factory or Ghost Town.

The bigger lesson here? Even a cursory amount of naming research would have saved MAC millions.

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August 17, 2010

Hilton's Got a New Logo, Kind of

Hilton has "spruced up" its logo as part of an effort to align Hilton Hotels globally and make it more "relevant" to consumers worldwide.

HiltonLogoChange.pngThe new logo is very similar to the current one: Nick's Travel Blog sarcastically says "Hilton makes Dramatic, Ground-Breaking Change to its Logo."

Although, there is no denying that a subtle change has indeed been made. The new logo mentions "Hotels and Resorts," which brings the public's attention to the wide span of interests covered by the hotel group, which draws attention to things that might not be obvious to somebody outside the industry.

The new identity emphasizes the chain's leisure portfolio, which includes "70 resorts with more than 32,600 guest rooms in key leisure markets around the world." It dovetails nicely with Hilton's recent "Stay Hilton. Go Everywhere" campaign which highlights the "signature" resort properties around the world.

The new logo also creates "a clearer distinction between Hilton Worldwide, the corporation, and the Hilton Hotels & Resorts brand" and spruces up the color and font which, interestingly, is actually named "Hilton" and was designed specifically for the brand.

This news comes on the heels of some gentle criticism over last year's Hilton Worldwide tagline and logo change which also left some observers perplexed.

I blogged about this in October, defending the name change as giving "a congruent name and identity to a tremendous hotel brand name with 10 sub-brands," quoting Jason Freed on Hotel & Motel Management when he says that the hotel's rebranding was "essential to the future of the hotel brand family's existence."

This new, subtle logo change is yet another step in the direction of congruency.

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August 16, 2010

YMCA Naming and Branding begins its Transition to "the Y"

YNewLogo.pngThis month people are waking up to the fact that for the first time in 43 years the YMCA is opting for a new logo and name.

It is now simply "the Y," which is exectly what everyone has been calling it for years. However, the YMCA nomenclature has not disappeared; you can see it right next to the prominent "Y" that is the organization's new logo.

YMCA, of course, stands for "Young Men's Christian Association" and they are quick to say that this logo change does not mean they are stepping away from their "core values."

Instead, the logo symbolizes not only a focus on basic core areas (youth development, healthy living and social responsibility) but also the diversity of the organization.

Brand New takes a good look at the transition, saying "The evolution is clear: From a hard-angled, tough-looking logo to a round-edged, soft-looking logo that plays well with the rest of the identities of the
twenty-first century in pretty much all capacities."

I like the new identity, and I like the way the "Y" is referencing common usage in transforming what might be a pretty staid brand name.

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August 12, 2010

Proposed United Logo Drops Continental Name, Retains Almost Everything Else

United2.pngThe proposed United Airlines/Continental logo is a pretty simple affair: they replaced the word Continental with "United" and retained the same global mark that Continental has had since 1991.

As Chris McGinnis of SFGate says, "The corresponding update of the combined airline's aircraft livery will adopt Continental's livery, colors and design, including its blue-gold-white globe image on the tail, combined with the new-style UNITED name on the fuselage."

Note how the United name is a modern looking sans-serif font, which diverts from the Continental logo, but is only a subtle change from the old United logo.

Sarah Rufca at CultureMap has written a clever blog that reminds us that both of the original logos were designed by Saul Bass and links us to UnitedContinental.pngyet anther blog that presents a mashup of the Bass versions that seems more recognizable to me but still very retro.

The new logo will do little to console all of the people that will miss the Continental name, which had tremendous loyalty in the Northeast.

On the other hand, the United name, to some, is "toxic." Hence, the new logo, which really uses much of what Continental left behind, including the recognizable globe icon.

As I said back in April, even Einstein would miss the Continental brand name, so it doesn't take a genius to retain the company's colors and mark.

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August 11, 2010

The Chatwal Hotel Brand Name Hits New York

TheChatwal.pngThe opening of The Chatwal in Manhattan opens up an interesting conversation.

This is a high end, boutique hotel located in the theater district that marks the launch of a global brand - expect to see additional properties in the UK and India. As the brainchild of Indian tycoon Sant Chatwal, it is expensive, quite beautiful and already booked out.

Of course, the hotel industry knows the Chatwal name, partly because Mr. Chatwal's son, Vikram, launched Stay.Hotel in New York and the Dream in Miami among many others. Alas, the Dream brand is tainted with financial troubles and Stay.Hotel has not had rave reviews.

However, the point is that the Chatwal name now has to stand for boutique luxury as well as something a bit lower end thanks to the notoriety of Vikram. This may or may not be a bad thing (The Hilton faces much larger problems, I suppose, with Paris), but it does mean that the Chatwal name is going to have to mean many things to many people.

Here the actual name Chatwal goes up on what looks like a flagship property. Nonetheless, the personalities behind the brand name are likely to cast quite a shadow.

How this will play out on the new Chatwal global brand name remains to be seen. Right now New Yorkers will vote with their feet.

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August 10, 2010

Bleep My Dad Says: Offensive Naming and Branding On TV vs. Internet

mydadsaysbook.pngThis is an example when the world of TV show naming meets the wild world of the Internet.

First of all, it's helpful to understand that one of the most popular Twitter feeds has a somewhat offensive name: @shitmydadsays.

To date, this Twitter feed has 1,555,285 followers and counting. It's author also has a bestselling book out called Sh*t My Dad Says, which may have an offensive title but is hilarious.

Apparently the author, a 29 year old freelance writer and Twitter legend, simply writes down pithy statements made by his curmudgeonly, foul mouthed father.

So of course now they want to make a TV show out of this starring William Shatner of all people. But what to call it?

The name has now been changed to "$#*! My Dad Says." And they announce it by calling it "(Bleep) My Dad Says."

bleepmydadsaysshatner.jpgAnd of course parents groups are furious and encouraging advertisers to stay away.

The reasoning? "When you advertise on television, do you want your customers to associate your product with (bleep)?"

But now it seems that most parents are worried about content, and not language. In any event, no real bad language is being used, and the Investigation Discovery network now wants to have a new show out called "Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?"

Shatner, for his part, thinks they should use the real word, which I think is unrealistic.

Frankly, it is all a little sordid but it does make one wonder how they could get around the problem. Obviously the name has to reflect the extremely popular Twitter feed's name, but because that name is offensive it's bound to attract more controversy.

As more and more of our entertainment comes to us via the Internet (there are already two Facebook movies out), I predict there will be further clashes between what we can see on TV and what we can see on the computer.

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August 4, 2010

Morrie Yohai, Inventor of Cheez Doodles Snack, Naming and Branding, Remembered Today

Today we take a moment at Strategic Name Development to note the passing of Morrie Yohai, WW II veteran, thinker, writer, and the inventor of Cheez Doodles.
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He was too humble to take all the credit for the invention, he is pictured here enjoying his creation, but he did claim the name, saying it occurred to him as he and his coworkers sat around the table, tasting early versions of the legendary snack.

This humble inventor died of cancer at the ripe old age of 90.

Yohai's invention brought him to the attention of Borden, the former food and beverage manufacturing company. He became Vice President of its snack food division after Borden bought out his company.

In other words, Yohai became the guy who chose the prizes kids got in Cracker Jack boxes.

But Yohai always remained true to Cheez Doodles, keeping a photograph of Julia Childs digging into a bag on the wall at home.

I might ad that the word "Cheez" has really resonated in American snack food naming and branding.

The Cheez-It actually predates the Cheez Doodle by some years, it was invented around the time Yohai was born.

There's also, of course, Cheez Whiz, which was introduced in 1953 , a few years before Cheez Doodles appeared.

Although Yohai didn't coin the term Cheez for snackers, he undoubtedly left his mark in the snacking naming and branding lexicon.

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August 3, 2010

New York Cosmos Naming and Branding Scores Again After 25 Years

You just can't keep a good name down.
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Goal, The New York Times' soccer blog, points out that the, "Title of the film about the world's most famous defunct soccer team was Once in a Lifetime."

It looks like that is set to become "twice in a lifetime" as the New York Cosmos make their return to the world of soccer after going belly up in the mid-eighties.

"Relics of the past, but with a resonating influence, the name and the brand still move the needle," says one blogger about the team and its return to the Big Apple.

This was spearheaded by the ever-flamboyant Mr. Peppe Pinton who seems to have a newfound belief in the name.

An English group, that champions Pelé as its honorary president, has acquired the name and launched it at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

According to The Times, The team's former star Giorgio Chinaglia said, "The Cosmos name is still a brand name, still after so many years, people still recognize it in Europe."

It is amazing how some team names simply never die, and frankly Pelé himself probably knows full well the power of a legendary brand name in America.

I would guess that soccer's surging popularity in the U.S, a result of the recent World Cup, made the New York Cosmos return much more likely.

In any event, I like to see a memorable name come out of retirement and I will be interested if the fans will follow.

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August 2, 2010

Buick Regal Naming and Branding Turns to Social Media to Attract Younger Buyers

I am watching the reinvigoration of the Buick Regal name with some interest.

This is a brand name that is being essentially relaunched to reach a younger demographic, with a heavy focus on the 35-40 age group, moving away from the traditional Buick target market, usually double that age bracket.
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There are two ads: Autobahn and Discover Beauty that essentially position the car as an American BMW, since much is being made of the car's German engineering.

Most importantly, the car drives beautifully, according to one reviewer.

On Friday the Wall Street Journal Driver's Seat blog posited that the ads really hearken back to the Regal commercials and positioning of the late eighties, that featured the "The American Road Belongs to Buick" tagline.

The Regal name might actually have a few miles on it with younger customers, not least because GM is intelligently, throwing "Buick Remix" parties where people get assigned Flip™ cameras and are asked to record their impressions of the car (good or bad) for eventual posting on the affiliated Moment of Truth campaign website.

Some cynics say that the site may be moderated to some degree, but it does look like Buick is laying it on the line here.

I'm expecting good things - the format of the campaign already has properly positioned the brand name to move forward.

Not to mention, the car itself looks pretty spiffy. It will be interesting to see the kind of reaction and increase in sales this has for the Buick brand.

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