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September 30, 2010

BAIC Has New Brand Naming, Logo That Looks Familiar

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Beijing Auto has a new brand name and a new logo... and this ushers in a new era of world car production.

It will now be known as BAIC Motors and is growing exponentially thanks to partnerships with Mercedes and Hyundai that helped it produce a whopping 1.27 million cars last year.

They now plan on making autos under the brand name "Beijing" and we can expect these branded cars and jeeps to be released by the start of 2011 in China.

The new brand and logo is fine but it looks a lot like Honda's logo and typography (note the use of red).

China Car Times has a round up of old and new Chinese logos and many of them remind me of logos from brands like Hyundai, Mazda and even BMW.

In 2009 China became the world's largest car market. More than that, the country is actively looking into export options and the government pours money into the sector.

Chinese car sales are booming: sales jumped a whopping 45-55% and the country could conceivably be producing 31 million units a year by 2015.

It is not inconceivable that one day Americans will be driving these cars.


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September 29, 2010

America's Next Top Namer Scholarship Award Winner

The Internet has become a familiar and perhaps even essential tool for many of us both at work and play. It connects us to an endless source of digital information and entertainment, and has been commonly referred to as:

  • The World Wide Web

  • Cyberspace

  • The Net

  • The Information Superhighway
But what if you had the opportunity to re-brand the Internet with a name that reflects your own experiences and observations of how the World Wide Web has affected the evolution of society?

Scholarship-publications.pngThat was the challenge we put forth with our America's Next Top Namer Scholarship designed to encourage college students to explore the creativity and marketing strategy that goes into product naming and company naming.

Just over 200 applicants from 76 schools, including the University of Chicago, Purdue, Arizona State, and Devry along with the Universities of Florida, Minnesota, California, Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Montana, took up the task.

Although there were many wonderful names that made you think, and at times laugh out loud, we were most impressed by the sonorous and colorful brand names created by Stephanie M. Batters of the University of Rhode Island:

  • Digitcity - short for digital city.

    • Likens the internet to a giant modern metropolis where search engines act as roadmaps and each building or home that you pass on the street is its own website
  • Continuus - One, simple three-syllable word that conveys:

    • Connected together

    • Continuous and uninterrupted

    • Us suggests the collective power and social impact that the internet has had on bringing us together

For her thinking, Stephanie has been awarded the $2,500 Scholarship and will have first priority for our 2011 Summer Internship Program.

Congratulations Stephanie and thank you to all of the applicants! We hope that you've enjoyed your first brand naming experience and that it won't be your last.

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Is Brand Naming Being Trumped By Religion?

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Marketing academics at Duke have come up with an interesting paper that states that brand loyalty is an expression of self worth in much the same way religion is.

They suggest that the more religious a person is, the less brand conscious they seem to be.

More accurately, people who have been "primed" to think about religion, in a test environment, eschewed branded versions of what the researchers refer to as "forms of self-expression" like sunglasses, watches and socks.

The conclusion is that selling name brands to religious people is more difficult than selling name brands to others.

The correlation between religion and brand identity is a well studied field. We routinely refer to "brand evangelists" in the field, not least because big brands try to get the same loyalty from people that religions do. Last year, Martin Lindstrom went so far as to introduce a brain-scanning project that "probed the 'branding' secrets of Christianity."

Plenty of blogs have suggested that big brand names create mini-religions around themselves - the Apple Mac being a case in point.

And not so long ago Brandchannel wondered if God Himself needed a rebrand.

The findings in this study, however, suggest something new. Religion, they say, is a means of "self expression," and once that need has been satisfied, brands lose resonance with customers. One blogger takes issue with this.

I am simply not sure if we buy brands strictly to enhance our image. There has to be a point when we believe the brand's proposition. We use a Mac or wear Ray-Bans because these products are actually very good. I enjoy the status they give me, of course, but brands also help us identify those products that will enhance our lives.

And, secondly, I am not sure if religious people think of their religion as a means of "self expression." Surely religion, like choice of brand names, is a personal matter as well?

People who are in a spiritual frame of mind may be less interested in weather or not a pair of sunglasses or a watch actually lives up to a brand promise, or if a brand name has resonance.

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September 28, 2010

Tablet Naming Playfully Evolves with PlayBook and Galapagos

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The world of tablet naming just got a little more cerebral with the announcement that Sharp has unveiled the new Galapagos tablets. These are essentially e-book readers that are only available in Japan (for now).

According to Sharp, the name is "A symbol of the 'evolution' of services and terminal devices that constantly bring fresh, new experiences to the user."

The cloud-based media service that works in conjunction with this gadget is also called Galapagos.

The name has caused a few raised eyebrows across the blogosphere, with one blogger saying it does "not sound very tablet-like."

The Galapagos are islands outside of Ecuador, of course, but the name was chosen because of its connotation with evolution although, as one blogger points out, "the word has also come to refer to systems that have evolved in isolation."

Ominously, the name was also the title of a Kurt Vonnegut novel about a gang of humans who are stranded on one of the islands after a global economic meltdown and which questions the power of the human brain(!)
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This news comes on the heels of an even bigger announcement that the BlackBerry PlayBook is
out, which is set to take on the iPad.

It looks great but I have to agree with CrunchGear, who wonders why it's called a "Professional-Grade" PlayBook?

BlackBerry products are often linked to professional uses, and calling this a PlayBook seems to be an attempt to reposition the brand's traditionally business-orientated focus.

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September 27, 2010

Google, Apple Set to Defend Brand Names and Trademarks

Monday brings two pieces of trademark news that are burning across the blogoshere.

The first trademark issue has to do with UK based Internet channel YouView, which just might sound too much like YouTube for owner Google.

youview-youtube.pngBeachcroft LLP, a UK law firm, has already indicated that the name is "reckless" and that YouTube could "stop [YouView] in its tracks." They add, "'There's no doubt that the use of 'You' coupled with the unusual capitalised character in the middle of the word means that many consumers will think there's a connection between the two,' said [Robin Fry, Beachcroft intellectual property partner]. 'The BBC consortium are playing a dangerous game by trading on YouTube's brand.'"

The name, YouView, actually appears to be a mashup of YouTube and Freeview, which is a "brand that is currently synonymous with digital terrestrial television in the United Kingdom."

Google thus far has refused to comment, but the sheer size of the consortium behind the name (which includes the BBC) is enough to attract Google's attention, I am sure.

In other news, Apple is gearing up yet again to protect its ownership of the word "pod." This time the culprit is a San Francisco startup called Video Pod.

appleipod.pngBack in January 2009, Apple put forward the following statement to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO): "This is a straightforward case of an applicant who intentionally selected and applied for a mark confusingly similar to Apple's famous iPod mark in order to capitalise on the fame and goodwill of Apple's mark." The trial begins this week, and Apple is not backing down.

The startup has been fighting Apple for three years over this, with the owner of the mark saying to Wired.com, "'I'm trying to look at it on the big picture...What I'm hoping to do with this case is to really reach a lot broader of an audience and make it so entrepreneurs and small businesses can use the English language as they see fit in branding their products.'"

It may be inconvenient that every word in the dictionary has been used in a URL and that so many of them have been trademarked, but this is the basis of trademark law. Naming a company or a product legally is simply a difficult task in a crowded market and one does not need to be a marketing expert to see that the word "pod" has serious equity for Apple.

Daniel Kokin, founder of the startup, says of the suit, "'My team started working on the Video Pod in 2000, and it took us years to go from prototype to funded...At that time, Apple didn't even enter our minds as a competitor. Now it's 2010 and I still don't think Apple is interested in video projection, but I'm supposed to rename our product because Apple also uses 'pod'?'"

Um, well, yes. That's how trademarks work.

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September 23, 2010

Chanel Aggressively Defends its Naming and Branding

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Attention fashionistas!

You are not allowed to use the word Chanel as an adjective or a verb or in any "descriptive way."

The company recently took out a full page ad in Women's Wear Daily that read.

A note of information and entreaty to fashion editors, advertisers, copywriters and other well-intentioned mis-users of our Chanel name: Chanel was a designer, an extraordinary woman who made a timeless contribution to fashion. Chanel is a perfume. Chanel is modern elegance in couture, ready-to-wear, accessories, watches and fine jewelry. Chanel is our registered trademark for fragrance, cosmetics, clothing, accessories and other lovely things. Although our style is justly famous, a jacket is not 'a Chanel jacket' unless it is ours, and somebody else's cardigans are not 'Chanel for now.' And even if we are flattered by such tributes to our fame as 'Chanel-issime, Chanel-ed, Chanels, and Chanel-ized', PLEASE DON'T (sic). Our lawyers positively detest them. We take our trademark seriously.

This is an effort to perform due diligence around trademark protection as the Chanel name becomes more and more mainstream and facing the possibility of being genericized during the fashion season in New York.

Dope Ambition warns "when you have the urge to describe any tweed ensemble, any set of pearls, any collection depicting a certain sense of elegance similar to Chanel's, think twice before you describe said collection in such a way" and adds "Chanel is out to get you."

The fashionista consulted a lawyer on this who said even a statement like "Designer X showed a collection of jackets that looked a lot like Chanel's 2004 collection" is a "gray area."

The Huffington Post reports that Chanel has been slapping down misuse of its name since 2004 as well as actively protecting its logo versus large companies like DC Shoes.

There may be some snarky comments made by fashion lovers about this but I am not at all surprised that Chanel is being so careful about its brand.

Trademark infringement and counterfeiting in the fashion world is rife.

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September 22, 2010

Revamped Naming and Branding Dominates Beverage News This Week

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There seems to be a flurry of new naming and branding projects going on in the beverage world.

The amusing news is that we will be seeing a "new can of WhoopAss," a drink that wants to go head to head with Red Bull.

WhoopAss has been around since 1999 but has been on the "back burner" according to Jones Soda Co. The new version has new ingredients including "an antioxidant powder that includes 2.5 servings of vegetables." It has a new color and new packaging (an iron cross that is a departure from the anime design it has sported until now).

Jones said in a recent PR statement that the drink had been "ahead of its time" a decade ago and now it will be a "major part of Jones' beverage portfolio."

WhoopAss isn't the only drink out there sporting a new look: classic apple drink Appy has a new logo. According to one exec at Parle Agro, makers of the drink, "We changed the design of the Appy pack to make it look contemporary and stylish to consumers of today. The new look will appeal to the existing Appy fans, besides generating high recall among young, modern consumers." Appy has been around since the 1980s and they are actively trying to reach the ever growing "on the go" consumer with a new bottle size.

Possibly most interesting is Pepsi's new Sierra Mist Natural brand. Sierra Mist has been around for a while, and the "Natural" moniker seems to be a response to "consumer demand for products made with natural ingredients."

Sierra Mist.png

The PR release states that a "recent study by the Hartman Group confirmed the demand for natural, revealing that the majority of Americans say natural is an important driver of food and beverage choices they make for themselves and their families."

The new Sierra Mist has been "stripped" of "everything artificial" and is naturally sweetened. The product has a new logo, new package design, and a new light green bottle and even a new tagline: "The soda nature would drink if nature drank soda." A TV blitz started on Monday to support the new brand name showing an assortment of "nature experts" - rocks, trees and rainbows - desiring the product.

I am interested to see how much leverage "natural" will have for Sierra Mist. Can we take a classic brand and sell more of it by adding this magic word? Pepsi seems to be betting that this is entirely possible, but will customers believe it?


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September 21, 2010

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Changes Branding But Not Naming to pwc

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Yesterday PricewaterhouseCoopers "refreshed" is branding "to strengthen, and modernize how it represents its worldwide network to its clients, its people and the communities in which it operates."

They have changed their brand to simply, pwc, all in lowercase using a new, brighter color scheme and font. This will be seen on online and offline sources.

The company has been known informally as PwC since its creation in 1998 so this is a logical move.

Brandchannel has a good piece up that includes a video that explains how this will affect the brand's value and "positioning going forward." PricewaterhouseCoopers claims this rebranding will help make PwC the #1 financial services brand on the planet.

My first question is this: when will it be incorrect to use "PwC" when referring to pwc?

Brand New has a blog up entitled "PricewaterhouseCoopersWasALongName" that recognizes that the name does in fact still exist as the official name of the company.

I agree that "The shortening of the brand name will provide consistency and ease of use for PwC firms around the world" and think the PwC vs. pwc will be confusing for quite some time.

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September 20, 2010

Brand Naming vs. Slogans: The Fight Continues?

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Yesterday The New York Times reported on a new piece in the Journal of Consumer Research which suggests that consumers tend to do the opposite of what a slogan suggests, but are immensely more receptive to powerful brand names.

At play, the researchers say, is an unconscious attempt to "correct" for the persuasive effect of slogans by doing the opposite of what they say -- a correction that does not appear to take place with brand names.

This news has been out for a little while of course.

Brand names, it seems, cause "priming effects" or "behavioral effects consistent with those implied by the brand" while slogans seem to create "reverse priming effects," or "behavioral effects opposite to those implied by the slogan."

Consumers see through slogans as "persuasion tactics" while they trust brand names.

But... I am having a hard time accepting the findings. In fact, I don't think they are valid.

Criticizing the effectiveness of slogans is nothing new.

Back in 2004 Businessweek ran an article entitled "Can You Name That Slogan?" that sneered "Businesses spend millions to create a catchy tagline for their products. Too bad consumers don't remember most of them."

Possibly.

But slogans - even the ones we forget - tend to also drive customers to your brand in the first place.

Today Branding Strategy Insider has an interesting post up about the "long slogan advantage" and differentiating between slogans we can't remember and those we believe in.

Slogans are positioning tools that support a great brand name.

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September 17, 2010

Is fbSY Naming and Branding a Whoopsie?

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Friday seems to be the day where I run across the oddities in the naming and branding world.

The news that SYMS Corp, which now owns Filene's Basement, has unveiled three new stores in Manhattan, Westchester County and Long Island with the mashup name fbSY (pronounced fib-see) has me wondering.

The company has been opening the combo stores in New England for a few months but yesterday was the launch of the new name. Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer Marcy Syms has explained the name to the press:

"It's kind of like a shorthand," said Syms. "A lot of companies in this age of Twittering and text messaging have identified themselves with a few letters," she said. "Internally we call it 'fbSY' when we talk to each other, so we just decided we'd make it known to everyone else."

The Manhattan store is on Fifth Avenue, so this is no small news.

At least one NY blogger called it "unpronounceable" while another said it sounded like "what second graders call each other when they cheat on a math test."

I'm not sure what to think. I did not really understand the pronunciation when I first saw the name, and of course this does dilute two very well known brand names - Filene's Basement and SYMS.

It will be hard to imagine people saying "Let's go shop at fbSY."

I suppose once you know how to pronounce the name it may have some cachet, but I'm just not sure.

One thing I am sure of: sometimes the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

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September 16, 2010

Lady Gaga Naming a New Scent, We Hope It Will Not Smell Like Meat

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It had to happen: Lady Gaga is lending her iconic name to a new fragrance.

Get ready for it to appear in 2012 via Coty Inc. There is no official brand name attached to the scent but some "sources" say it will simply be her own.

I have covered many celebrity perfume naming efforts and am not surprised that Lady Gaga is going in this direction... but I have to ask why she chose to release this news so soon after appearing in a meat dress at the MTV Music Awards.

As one blogger asks, "The question now, is whether or not the consumer market will want to smell like Lady Gaga." The association with meat is unavoidable.

Already the jokes are running fast and furious across the Internet, with some wages over at People/CNN suggesting it be called "Bad Rawmance", "Meat Obsession", "Acqua Di Moo", or
"Moo No. 5".

MTV is a little less tongue and cheek, suggesting, "I Will Filet You", "Bad Romance", "Stefani", "Alejandro" and "Telephone".

That's all very funny but I'd imagine she'll simply stick with Lady Gaga or Gaga.

She's in good hands at Coty, whose rand boasts scents by "Celine Dion, David and Victoria Beckham, Halle Berry, Tim McGraw, Kylie Minogue, Shania Twain, and the leading ladies of the hit television series Desperate Housewives."

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September 15, 2010

High Fructose Corn Syrup Makers Want Sweeter Naming

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The Corn Refiners Association (CRA), the makers of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), has asked the FDA to rename their product "corn sugar" in the face of a 20 year low in the consumption of the product in the U.S.

HFCS is one of the biggest sources of calories in the American diet due to its inexpensive price and low freezing point.

The CRA argues that there is little proof that high fructose corn syrup is linked to obesity, and while the FDA considers their application they have launched a nifty web site educating the public about corn sugar, which they argue is no worse for you than other sugars.

As the Associated Press article by Emily Fredrix points out, "Renaming products has succeeded before. For example, low eurcic acid rapeseed oil became much more popular after becoming "canola oil" in 1988. Prunes tried to shed a stodgy image by becoming "dried plums" in 2000."

Yesterday the WSJ asked "What Do High Fructose Corn Syrup and Diddy Have in Common?", noting that corn syrup is now "attempting to join a long line of corporate name-switchers."

The name change would also differentiate HFCS from regular corn syrup.

Marion Nestle, a professor in New York University's department of nutrition, told the New York Times, "High-fructose corn syrup is the new trans fat. Everyone thinks it's poison, and food companies are getting rid of it as fast as they can."

She feels a better name would be "corn sugars" as there are actually two sugars in HFCS, glucose and fructose.

I'll go with that. I did not realize that there was a difference between corn syrup and HFCS, and the acronym HFCS sounds too much like a bank, or a chemical.

Corn sugar sounds natural... after all there is cane sugar and beet sugar.

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September 14, 2010

Walmart Uses Down to Earth Brand Naming, Massive Clout, To Win the Family Mobile Market

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Walmart seems to be betting on the strength of its brand name - and some pretty aggressive pricing - to move boldly into the congested market of cellphone plans.

The Walmart Family Mobile Plan, which will run on T-Mobile's USA network, is a swipe at the bottom of the barrel cell phone market. Think no contracts, cheap monthly fees, all starting Sept 20. From the Wall Street Journal:

"It signals to customers that this is a high quality offering that has the support of a national wireless carrier," said Ravi Jariwala, a Walmart spokesperson. "At the same time, with the Walmart name in there, it says that this offering is going to be of extremely compelling value."

T-Mobile USA and Walmart are using their marketing clout to source some pretty cheap handsets, in this case the Motorola Clique for $249 and the Nokia 1661 for under $35.

This is a huge savings: T-Mobile sells the same Motorola Clique phone for $100 more without a contract.

This is a "postpaid" offering, which has a slightly higher marketing position that "prepaid."

You get a 100MB card called a WebPak that is shared on all lines on the account for data access, and you get additional cards at Walmart as you need them. "Postpaid" offerings seem to have more credibility with consumers, who associate the word "prepaid" with poor service and connection quality.

Walmart's prepaid options are Straight talk and Common Cents.

These names are obviously aimed at the price sensitive, low tech buyer who wants the cheapest communication possible without the hassle of credit checks and so forth.

I think Walmart's offerings are perfectly placed to win over this segment.

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September 13, 2010

Log Cabin, Vermont Maple Syrup Producers Headed for a Sticky Naming Dilemma

I am interested to see the fight that might be developing between Pinnacle Foods, the makers of Log Cabin All Natural Syrup and some disgruntled folks in Vermont who take issue with the way the company uses the word "natural."

LogCabinAllNaturalSyrup.pngVermont Congressman Peter Welch has gone to the FDA with this statement: "While most Vermonters have a discerning eye and palate for real maple syrup, the countless consumers outside of our state who have come to expect quality from natural Vermont products may be fooled by this misleading labeling."

The problem, of course, is that the Log Cabin syrup doesn't come from trees. Log Cabin's version is "a blend of sugar, thickening agents such as xanthan gum, caramel color, and a little bit of actual maple flavor (we're talking 4 percent)." That's not really "natural," say the Vermonters.

More than that, the packaging is meant to mirror the beige jugs that Vermonters use to sell the real thing. The challenge will be that the FDA does not have a solid definition for the word "natural."

One spokesperson said, "In general, labels must be truthful and not misleading, but would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis." Vermont producers seem to own the word "pure" but "natural?" Not so much. And they have not trademarked that ubiquitous packaging.

The problem has become so sticky that the International Maple Syrup Institute in Canada said that its board "was very concerned about the packaging, shelf-placement and sale of this product."

Some bloggers say this is not a big deal, pointing out that the new stuff isn't "made in a log cabin either," and we can all read a label. Moreover, Log Cabin doesn't even use the word "Maple" in its labeling and the ingredient list is clear to see.

I can see how consumers might be confused, but I am not sure if Log Cabin will have to back off. One thing is for sure: this could get messy.

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September 10, 2010

Colonel Sanders To Be Rebuilt into KFC Naming and Branding

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Yesterday marked Colonel Sanders 120th birthday, but fewer people than ever are celebrating.

More than six out of ten Americans between the age of 18 and 25 can't identify him in the KFC logo, and three in ten dont know who he is. Half of this group thinks he was a made up person.

Now KFC is fighting back using its "Facebook presence, Twitter, MySpace, the KFC website and other digital outreach" venues.

The company is planning a year-long blitz designed to resurrect the brand and the Colonel's reputation.

"Colonel Sanders wasn't Kris Kringle, Father Time or Uncle Sam," said John R. Neal, longtime KFC franchisee. "He was a living, breathing, wildly successful entrepreneur who impacted our national cuisine. The Colonel was a marketing genius, even though he had only a sixth grade education. I'm really proud that we are embarking on this effort to celebrate his many accomplishments."

The Colonel's decline in brand name recognition is partly the compny's fault. In recent years they have changed their name from Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC and played around with the logo - even dressing The Colonel in a red apron.

The white suited southern gent who for years was a brand staple for KFC has been made to seem irrelevant to a generation that doesn't associate the word "Kentucky" or "fried" to the brand name.

Now, KFC wants people to uplod sketches of the Colonel as part of a compettion at kfc.com/portrait... you can win $1,100 and the chance to paint a new portrait of the Colonel using a spcial paint containing the secret 11 ingredients found in the fried chicken recipe.

This is an excellent example of how even iconic figures in the world of naming and branding can fade if they're not constantly promoted.

If The Colonel can fade from our memories within only a few years, then any brand icon is vulnerable.

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September 9, 2010

Martha Stewart in Bloody Battle Over Vampire Naming and Branding

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Martha Stewart is now being sued by Vampire Vineyards for "sucking profits" from the wine company through slapping her own Vampire wine labels on her "low quality" Gallo wine.

This has created shrieks of laughter across the blogosphere as well as a few amusing headlines (The Wrath of Grapes is my favorite).

Vampire wines feels that this is a "malicious" smear campaign designed to drag down their brand name on the part of Martha Stewart, who is jealous of her rival's sales in the, er, wine-like-blood category.

Vampire is suing for "trademark infringement, unfair competition, dilution and counterfeiting, and is asking for $1,000,000 in damages."

It will be interesting to see whose "vampires" will prevail.

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September 8, 2010

Consumer Reports: Store Brands on the Rise, Bad News for Name Brands?

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I have watched for some time now the rise of store brands, as has Consumer Reports, who note that the average consumer can enjoy quite a savings by buying store brands, many of which are apparently of the same quality as name brands.

It is interesting to note that respondents 18-39 years old were "particularly likely to question the quality of store brands." Additionally, "at least" half of their respondents "rarely or never buy store-brand wine, pet food, soda, or soup."

Consumer Reports tell us that "national brands won seven of the 21 matchups and store brands won three. For the rest, the store brand and name brand were of similar quality."

I have written about this before, of course.

At the end of last year, name brands were gaining serious ground on store brands by simply creating less expensive versions of the brands we know and love.

But the rise of the private label is here to stay.

Still, 17% of consumers are convinced that name brands are more nutritious.

We saw store brands make big strides in the categories of chicken soup, orange juice (Publix really gets a nod here) and hot dogs.

MSNBC has a good video up about this. Please take a look at just how good the naming and branding is of the store brands.

The packaging and logos are almost just as sophisticated as what the name brands offer. In many cases, the packaging of the store brands is actually more interesting than that of the name brand offering.

Jennifer Schultz at the NYT Bucks Blog has been touting store brands for some time.

Store brands have come a long way from the old "generic" days when naming and branding was absent all together in their creation.

Today's store brands are often made by the same companies who make the name brands.

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September 7, 2010

Drake University's D+ Logo An Example of Harmful Naming and Branding

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By now most of us have read about the apparent blunder Drake University, located in Des Moines, Iowa, has made with it's D+ logo which has found derision across the blogosphere.

People rightly say this looks like students who go to Drake just aren't that smart.

From their web site:

D+.

When it comes to choosing the college that fits you best, there's simply no higher
grade.

Ad Week's Tim Nudd says that this "seems to position Drake as a school whose standards barely exceed total failure."

The university defends itself by saying, "The D+ was not designed to stand alone or represent a grade. Instead, it was designed to be paired with prose and draw attention to the distinctive advantages of the Drake experience."

But it will stand alone - the cover of the prospectus shows nothing but a large D+. The logo has been utterly foregrounded.

Yahoo has had some fun with this, pointing out that the university has defended the logo by saying it "was designed to catch the attention of high school students who are bombarded with college and university materials to the point that they are often in information overload and unable to differentiate among the many institutions that have contacted them."

How many students are in such overload that they lack "the ability to distinguish among institutions of higher learning," wonders Yahoo.

The Awl has hammered this, and published the internal email sent to staff and students defending the logo.

They conclude that the folks who came up with this "got so carried away by an apparent allusion to positively charged molecules that it thought it could either ignore or, alternately, capitalize on one obvious fact: the logo is the grade for pathetically under-average schoolwork, a D-plus."

It looks like the ads are having a positive effect: inquiries are up and teenagers seem to be paying attention.

But at what cost? Does it really pay to have the grade D+ associated with your university? Did the Drake marketers actually show the students and staff what they were considering?

I doubt it.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:00 AM

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September 3, 2010

Xerox Using Major Brand Icons to Change Perception of Its Brand Naming

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Xerox is taking a tremendous gamble in its new campaign that hitches the Xerox brand name to familiar brand icons like Proctor & Gamble's Mr. Clean, Target's Bullseye dog and the Marriott Hotels & Resorts' bellman.

It makes sense at one level, of course: they will graphically remind us how the brands we know and love, trust Xerox to work "behind the scenes" so they can focus on their core business.

This move is a valiant attempt to reposition the company away from just copiers (yes, you read that correctly) and into the world of IT.

But this is Xerox. A company that is synonymous with copying.

This is an interesting example of so-called "borrowed interest" advertising, where one brand name uses the equity of well known brand names to build their own profile.

Xerox is already a huge brand name. This strategy purposely puts this brand in the background, and the risk is that customers will be confused.

For the average person, even a person who does business in the IT sphere, Xerox means copying. Will customers just not "get it?" Will this campaign serve to promote other, equally large or larger brand names? Xerox is doubling its ad spend in a bet that this will not happen.

The campaign begins on September 7th, and I am sure that it will serve as a textbook case of the efficacy - good or bad - of borrowed interest advertising.

I am very curious to see if Xerox can change perceptions of its brand name by using the reconcilability of other brand icons. I am withholding judgment, but if I had been in charge of this initiative, I'd also be holding my breath.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:06 AM

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September 2, 2010

Apple Adds the Ping Brand Name and Drops the CD Logo

Apple gave us a few interesting naming decisions yesterday.

Firstly, they did not ditch the iPod name, as some pundits suggested they might. They also did not embrace the iTV name, sticking with Apple TV, which means that the similarly named UK broadcaster can ask its legal team to stand down for the moment.

itunes-ping-logo.pngOn the other hand, we do have an interesting new name that has come from the "Special Event" held yesterday at the Yerba Buena Center. Ping (which sort of sounds like bing, as in Microsoft's search engine) is the new part of iTunes 10 that "allows you to share with your friends what you're listening to and even share information on concerts and events."

The name reminds me of the way we use the word in common parlance: I "ping" you when I want your attention, the way a submarine "pings" an underwater object using sonar technology.

This is a logical mashup of iTunes and social networking technology and I'm a bit surprised it hasn't come sooner. Even Steve Jobs voiced what probably everyone was thinking when the announcement was made: this is "like Facebook and Twitter meets iTunes."
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The appearance of yet "another social network" has been met phlegmatically by some. But the really interesting part about this is how Ping golf clubs came to an agreement with Apple for an undisclosed sum. Ping's parent company even issued a friendly statement assuring us all that there's a synergy here of sorts: "Like Ping, Apple carries a reputation for innovation and quality."

I should also note that the iTunes logo no longer features a CD, which puts an end to a very recognizable image that has been with us for almost a decade.

I think this is a logical reflection of a change in the way we purchase music. Jobs even joked about the "looming obsolescence" of the CD, something that he is largely responsible for.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:12 AM

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September 1, 2010

Commodore 64 Brand Naming Officially Back from the Dead

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Some names never die. Like the Commodore 64.

Commodore USA is going to release a new computer that is a souped up clone of the trusty old 80's era computer. This has been a long time in the making: according to ZDNET:

Commodore USA announced in March that it was reviving the much-loved Commodore brand, but ran into problems when it transpired that company chief executive Barry Altman had negotiated a licensing agreement with a company -- Commodore Gaming -- that was itself a licensee of the brand. The actual holder of the rights to the brand was Commodore Licensing BV, itself a subsidiary of Asiarim Corp.

In fact, the original Commodore went bankrupt in 1994. This is a true "zombie brand" that refuses to die simply because it has wonderful name recognition.

Some of the old software has lived on via Nintendo's virtual console and Commodore USA is obviously trying to ride a wave that is now over twenty five years old.

The new PC64 (vs the old C64 naming), will be fairly slick.

It "will be powered by an Intel Atom processor while boasting up to 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a SATA 1TB hard drive, with an HDMI output to cater to those who want to hook it up to a HDTV, an optical drive with the choice of DVD/CD or Blu-ray among others."

The Register gives us a lowdown on the history of the computer and the brand name.

The Commodore 64 was supposed to be the computer for "the masses." This reincarnation looks to be more of a niche offering than anything else.

Nonetheless, they claim there has been an "overwhelming demand" for this for users across the world.

Hmmm. I do think there is room for a retro machine like this, but I have to wonder if the new version of the Commodore 64 really bears much of the brand essence of its predecessor.

I think it will enhance the Commodore 64 Brand Equity.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:09 AM

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