December 31, 2010
With 2010 in the rearview mirror, it's always tempting to look back and reflect on the times we've had and the smiles we've shared!
But when that's all said and done, it's time to celebrate the serendipitous meetings, chance opportunities and fresh expectations that a new year brings.
So here is to a year that deserves to go out with a bang and one that demands an unforgettable entrance.
From the entire team at Strategic Name Development, we wish you all the best in the Brand New Year!
December 30, 2010
Sears is selling iWork, but it's not what you think.
The blogosphere is scratching its head over the name of toolsets that Sears is offering that use the familiar brand name and extremely similar typography.
The iWork tools brand was granted a trademark in the EU on November 29, 2010.
This is very surprising since the Apple iWork software suite has been registered in the EU, US, Canada and other countries since February 2008 and the Apple iWork software suite has been marketed since 2005.
The similarity of fonts between the tool set naming and branding and Apple's product simply leaves me wondering what the tool maker was thinking.
To add insult to injury, Sears sells the Apple iWork product as well.
Although both product lines complete in different categories, it's hard to believe that Apple will not challenge the tool trademark given its history of aggressively protecting its trademarks since this brand name is so well known.
Or perhaps the company in Spain, Lakot, S. L., that was awarded to iWork toolset EU trademark worked out an arrangement with Apple. Think money.
December 29, 2010
Today The Huffington Post has an excellent article up about how the Democrats are being constantly outbranded by the Republicans.
Watching how the Republicans took their health proposal, called the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" and turned it into "Obamacare" is good reading for anyone, now matter who you vote for.
The point is, some brands just don't get it.
Take beds for instance. Mattress branding has long been the joke of stand up comedians (will they really arrest you if you take off that label on the bottom of the thing).
But even worse than mattress branding is bed branding. And below that we find adjustable beds. This is essentially a good idea that nobody really likes.
We all know you can buy adjustable beds, but nobody does. Why? Because of the association with hospitals and old people.
This is the brave new age of "lifestyle."
Sealy, Tempur-Pedic and Select Comfort Group are calling these "lifestyle beds" after being reminded that customers do much more than sleep in bed.
Hollondia International, and Israeli company that sells luxury mattresses in the U.S., even offers a new Trio bed, which they refer to as the "Yoga" bed.
Instead of getting out of bed to stretch, with this bed you can adjust it to make the head and feet lower than the back, to "arch and stretch" the body, just as in a popular yoga pose.
You may laugh but these guys are on to something. One of the biggest marketing breakthroughs of recent years was the Heavenly Bed offered by Westin in the 1990s... remember that? And what about Memory foam?
The adjustable bed category is only 2% of the market. My feeling is that if we can make La-Z-Boy chairs with computer docks and built in fridges part of mainstream life, then adjustable bed companies ought to be able to rest easy.
December 28, 2010
And so we return once again to the strange world of tablet naming with news that Motorola wants to name its heavily rumored new tablet the "Xoom."
They have been filing the trademark all around the world, so a launch at the Consumer Electronics Show seems inevitable.
They even trademarked the name in New Zealand, one of only nine trademarks they have ever registered there.
However, it appears that the domain xoom.com is taken by a money transfer service.
Motorola has been doing very well lately, brought back to life by the Android system.
The "Xoom" mark was applied for as "mobile computers and related accessories, namely, docks, cradles, mounts, holders, stands, carrying cases, covers, protective or decorative covers, batteries, power adaptors, cables, connectors, headsets and speakers; hand held computers, lap top computers, tablet computers, electronic notepads, computers, mobile data communications apparatus."
They have also quietly put out an unfriendly iPad video.
We know that an Android tablet is long overdue and it can't be something that Apple is looking forward to with great relish given the success Android phones have had against the iPhone.
As one blogger points out, it is odd that the brand name "Droid" is not being used.
A Motorola Droid Tablet would really be a logical use of the Droid naming that has been successful since day one.
December 27, 2010
The eagerly anticipated Playstation phone is almost certainly going to be named the Xperia Play according to Pocket Now.
The original name was rumored to be Xperia Z1 as a "homage" to the gizmo's "Zeus codename," but it looks like Sony Ericsson has decided to follow other manufacturers' leads and drop the confusing alphanumeric nomenclature for catchy,
easy-to-remember brands like Samsung's Galaxy S, LG's Sentio and HTC's Driod Incredible.
Pocket Now found three other filings for European Trademarks on behalf of Sony Ericsson: Xperia Neo, Xperia Duo and Xperia Arc.
Gamers have been dying for more information about this phone since October.
Last week Sony Ericsson launched a Playstation app for the iPhone and the Android in Europe that allows users to "brag about their gaming accomplishments and get news from the company through their smartphones" according to Hayley Tsukayama in the Washington Post Faster Forward Blog.
In a last minute update, Pocket Now confirmed via Xperia X10 Blog that Sony Ericsson's PR firm registered the ".com, .net, and .org versions of the XperiaPlay domain."
This seems to confirm the Xperia Play naming.
CNET is already wondering why they don't just use the Playstation brand on the device and I tend to agree.
The association is absolutely clear - this is a gamer's phone and using the Playstation name would leverage that. The blogosphere has already started calling this the Playstation Phone.
I suppose the Xperia naming might capture the attention of the over 15 crowd.
In any event, we can look for it in April.
December 23, 2010
At the close of another year, we gratefully pause to wish you the special gifts of this holiday season - Peace, Joy and Lasting Happiness. Merry Christmas!
December 22, 2010
Today we take a moment to look back on some of the spectacular failures of 2010, and bid a sad farewell to some well loved brand names.... as well as a few stinkers.
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, "Some brands spread joy wherever they go, some spread joy whenever they go."
Yahoo! Finance has a list of 20 companies that "cratered" in 2010, and this includes Blockbuster, a brand name that seemed as much a part of the strip mall culture as Uno Restaurants and Urban Brands, which also failed.
Classic brands that your parents loved also went over the rainbow: Pontiac went to the wall (with Mercury) as did MGM.
Swoozie's is gone, too, and we do not miss the name a bit, nor do we miss the Hummer.
The Walkman also rocked out this year, as did Mr. Goodwrench and Dalton Bookstores.
The really big casualties included A & P and Newsweek.
But new brand names fared even worse than the classics. The sad fact of the matter is that most new products failed in 2010, according to a survey by Accept Corporation.
Reasons for failure include neglecting to incorporate the "Voice of the Consumer," and not aligning the product with company strategy.
These remind me of some of the really classic blunders, like Cosmopolitan Yogurt and Bic Underwear, which will forever remind us that in the world of naming and branding, victory is fleeting.
December 21, 2010
BMW is testing out a new ad that burns their brand name into the retinas of viewers.
It has already been tested on audiences in Germany using a studio flash unit generator set up behind a movie screen.
The flash goes off at the end of an ad where champion motorcycle racer Ruben Xaus intones, "Close your eyes and you will see it. Close them now."
Sure enough, if you close your eyes, you will see the letters BMW temporarily.
This is essentially the same effect you get from looking at the sun or, well, a flash, but this is the first time it has been used in advertising.
Already a few people are wondering what the long term ramifications would be if many more companies adopted this gimmick.
People seem to find this a little "creepy." The flashes only range from 1/1,400s to 1/3,000s but there is a clear worry that the flashes could cause epileptic seizures among audiences.
The flash can be worked into the narrative of the ads - in this case, it was from the headlights of the BMW bike.
The ad faired well with the German audience, with many reporting that the ad impressed them.
The bigger question is whether or not audiences worldwide will appreciate this new "subliminal" advertising.
My feeling is that it might work in Europe, but it probably will not make it to the U.S. - it just has "frivolous lawsuit" written all over it.
December 17, 2010
It's that time of year again when we spend a few moments wondering what the next gizmo from Apple will be called.
In this case its the iPad.
Many people feel that the new version of this device will be called iPad 2 for obvious reasons.
As is usually the case with anything from Apple, the Next Big Thing is meant to be transformative. The iPad 2 will bring Mac Users and iPad users closer, it is hoped.
The new, rumored to be, photographed case promises us that it will have all kinds of new powers.
The only problem, points out one blogger, is that Apple has yet to call the second incarnation of a product "2."
The second iMac was just an iMac, the second iPhone was just an iPhone.
So... what will be calling the new iPad, should it appear in January (as we all believe it will)?
Whatever we call it, the current iPad is likely to undergo a subtle naming change as well.
It could be named "the original iPad," or "iPad 1 G," or the "first generation iPad" or maybe
even the "iPad Classic," which is doubtful.
Nonetheless, by renaming or re-referencing the current iPad, Apple would effectively be giving a new name to the iPad 2.
Which, logically speaking, would still be just an iPad.
December 16, 2010
You have to laugh when a company finds a way to create a tagline out of the WikiLeaks drama.
A Pakistani company has managed to create an ingenious billboard selling feminine hygiene products: "WikiLeaks... Butterfly Doesn't."
As one local paper says, "Advertisements for sanitary pads are known for a lot of things - including elaborate phrases about wings, comfort and wearing white clothes without looking over your shoulder - but rarely for a sense of humour."
This is probably the first ad that leverages the world's interest in WikiLeaks and it has gone viral in a big way.
The newspaper goes on to quote the author of a book that looks at the evolution of advertising in Pakistan: "When it comes to current affairs in advertising, at the end of the day it is about striking a chord - which is not a novel concept in itself!"
December 15, 2010
Everyone in the world of basketball are asking themselves this question today: "Who are the Brooklyn New Yorkers?"
It turns out that back in September, a large Philadelphia Law Firm had the name trademarked along with the tagline, "We Come to Play."
The URL brooklynnewyorkers.com has also been snatched up.
The drawings and logo makes it clear that this is meant for a basketball team based in Brooklyn, and we also know that the New Jersey Nets just happen to be looking for a new name.
Says one blogger: "ARE YOU SERIOUS?" This blogger suggests the name The Brooklyn Knights because because people from Brooklyn like to refer to themselves as Brooklynites.
Which is just a darned good name.
This makes me wonder - if you come from Brooklyn, are you actually a New Yorker? Can you BE a Brooklyn New Yorker?
Brooklyn has such a unique identity that to refer to a "Brooklyn New Yorker" sounds almost disingenuous.
Another blogger puts it this way:
"New Yorkers" is too obvious, too lacking in style, so substantive it drowns in itself. Electing to make this the face of the franchise represents a colossal waste of an opportunity. Hopefully this either isn't their option, or is only one of many.
I say fuggedaboutit.
December 14, 2010
The new Big Ten logo and division names are out and, well, we can't say that the fans have gone wild.
The logo itself looks "okay" according to some bloggers, or, "interesting" according to others.
Interesting in a bad way: "That's a bland and unassuming adjective, and it should be used by those whose preference is to refrain from stating what they're really feeling..." Ouch.
According to the release:
Its contemporary collegiate lettering includes an embedded numeral '10' in the word 'BIG,' which allows fans to see 'BIG' and '10' in a single word. Memorable and distinctive, the new logo evolved from the previous logo's use of negative space and is built on the conference's iconic name, without reference to the number of member institutions.
According to one irate blogger:
The new logo looks like the name of a Saturday morning cartoon. The font reminds me of the meaningless doodles the girls used to cover their Trapper Keepers with in sixth grade. And the pastel blue color makes me hungry for cotton candy at a country carnival.
And yet another blogger says it looks like it "took about 25 seconds to make," which is a common complaint among angry bloggers who have decided they don't like a new logo.
And these are the civilized complaints.
Of course, the name Big Ten is inaccurate because it now contains twelve teams, and there was talk of making the move to "Big Twelve," but there was simply too much equity in the Big Ten name to make the change.
The divisions are now called "Leaders" and "Legends," names that again invoke the wrath of the blogosphere as being "corny."
The league names do not really bother me but the new logo is hard to love.
December 13, 2010
There have been two developments in the wold of naming and branding that will be quite easy to miss this week.
The first is Dell's new logo, which really does look like its old logo until you see the two side by side.
This is a subtle change that I believe is an improvement. It is in "Dell blue" and the change was made to "support smaller applications."
This is the kind of diligence that keeps a brand name relevant and - possibly more importantly - looking relevant and consistent across its usage.
On another, more amusing note, it now seems that we will once again be seeing the AIG name on the clothing of its employees heading to work.
Back in 2009 I reported on how AIG redesigned the logo to make it impossible for people sharing a subway with an unfortunate AIG employee to figure out where the person worked.
This was necessary because these employees were being attacked on the streets after the company became synonymous with the words "massive bailout" and "huge losses."
Now the AIG logo has been "proudly" returned to the AIG employee badge.
AIG feels that it is a "sign of the times" that its employees can wear the logo without fear.
A spokesman said confidently:
"As we have made demonstrable progress toward repaying the government, tempers have cooled, common sense has returned, and our people feel safer."
OK... but I would love to know how many people would like to actually wear one of these in New York, the city that probably still hasn't forgiven Dem Bums (the Brooklyn Dodgers).
December 9, 2010
So it appears that contrary to expectations, Meister Brau was not the big seller at the world's first brand auction held last night at the Waldorf-Astoria.
Only 50 people showed up with additional bidders online.
The biggest bid was for Shearson, which went for $45,000; Meister Brau took in $32,500 with Handi-Wrap picking up $30,000. The famous magazine brand name Collier's sold for $2000 to a kid wearing a backpack.
Computer City and Victrola each went for just $1000. Infoseek was bundled with Big Yank Clothing and Linen Closet, which all sold for $2000. One auction goer called this the "land of broken toys."
But it does prove that even failed brand names have equity.
The auction was held by equity firm Racebrook, with the format of a "Dutch auction" where auctioneers started the bidding high and worked thier way downward.
There were quite a few brands that remained unsold, including "Annie Hall, Cocomalt, Kitten Soft, Kool Shake, Nudit, Permastrate, Pharmhouse, Party Tyme, Relaxacizor, Hot Pants, and Seniority."
An article in Ad Age puts it best: "Happily, recent years have shown us that so-called zombie brands can indeed walk the Earth. The Ford Taurus, Commodore computer, White Cloud and Tab are all examples of once-dead brands that have been resurrected in some form or fashion. Now we'll see if someone can make it work for Big Yank."
December 8, 2010
An article in the New York Times health section has me thinking about not only the final demise of Four Loko, which will be removed from store shelves nationwide on Monday, but also the naming and branding issues that have cropped up since Four Loko and its type have captured our attention.
There is now a clear difference between what we know as "energy drinks" and "sports drinks," and Four Loko may have forever tainted the former.
Energy drinks are essentially caffeinated sugary drinks that people usually use to stay awake to either study or party, like Red Bull.
Sports drinks, like Gatorade, are meant for athletes who need quick hydration.
It is obvious that energy drinks are getting a bad rap because these are the ones consumers mix with alcohol.
But a recent survey showed us that a quarter of adolescent athletes admit to consuming energy drinks - not sports drinks - to improve sport performance. They choose energy drinks because they are tired and they feel that caffeine makes them more alert on the playing field.
Convenience stores do not differentiate, selling sports and energy drinks side by side. And this may taint both categories (which, let's face it, is pretty wacky anyway).
One news reporter uncovered 12 different energy drinks sold at one location "from Amp and Rock Star to Red Bull and Monster, the latter two the big sellers in America," all of them containing massive doses of caffeine which in turn, are being consumed by tired workers and kids.
And some athletes are turning to things like N.O.Xplode - which is a
pre-training energy and performance igniter, said to elevate physical and mental energy.
And now we have energy "shots" like 5-Hour Energy.
The problem is, of course, that we really don't need energy drinks. Most of these drinks seem to overstimulate athletes and even the regular Joe who wants to stay up late. Never mind adding alcohol to them.
My thought is that the explosion of energy drinks is a fad that will probably wind up tarnishing the image of sports drinks.
Energy drinks with heavy amounts of caffeine are already on scientifically shaky ground, and the addition of alcohol to these will probably lead to more regulation.
The trick in the future will be to differentiate the brands that are not really bad for kids from the products that really are.
December 7, 2010
Get ready for the biggest attack of the zombie brands yet.
It's happening tomorrow night at the Waldorf Astoria.
There you will find 150 examples of the walking dead: brands that died but are being given a new chance at life in the country's first trademark auction.
If things go well, we may once again fly on Braniff Airlines, shop at Computer City, or drink a Meister Brau.
The brand names span 13 business categories including personal care, food & beverage, corporate, apparel, home, consumer goods, technology, financial institutions, toys, travel, magazine, environmental, and sports.
As I have written before about zombie brands, when they come back from the dead they are... different. Smaller. Cheaper. Transformed. Niched.
Many of these brands have true nostalgic value, and that's important in marketing, says the New York Times.
We remember brands like Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Sunny Jim peanut butter with a warm glow. Brands like Infoseek and Kiddie City, maybe not so much. Washington Mutual? Um, no.
But the fact is, there has been massive interest in this auction - last month the company behind the auction reported that they had received 20,000 inquiries about it from private label manufacturers and investors.
Meister Brau seems to be the belle of the ball, so this may be the beginning of the beer's resurgence as a zombie brew.
It seems that certain industries - apparel and cosmetics especially - are having a hard time getting head space among consumers and are eager to snap up some recognizable but defunct names, for instance, Sun N' Surf.
BrandlandUSA has a great blog up that lists some of the more recognizable names for sale.
I like the idea of Victrola coming back. It's also nice to see Handi Wrap might be with us again. And it seems a crime to let the Collier's brand go to the dump.
Some brands may not sell at all. As one blogger points out, " Who would buy the Continental Illinois brand when it's associated with one of the largest bank failures in U.S. history? That would be like naming your fishing boat Lusitania."
Tomorrow we'll find out.
December 6, 2010
Today's Wall Street Journal takes a good look at an evergreen subject in naming and branding: should public spaces get renamed after companies and private donors?
Should cities slap naming rights on schools, government buildings, bus routes and train lines in order to raise much needed cash to keep solvent?
It seems that mass-transit lines are "hot," with Apple already snagging naming rights to a train station near one of its Chicago stores (pictured at right).
The dilemma has led one blogger to grouse that "The whole situation raises the frightening prospect in the near future that, instead of riding the Broad Street Subway from City Hall to Pattison, people will take the Coca-Cola Trolley from Pizza Hut to AT&T."
Let's look at this from another perspective. Isn't it amazing - almost miraculous - that private companies would actually step in to help cash strapped governments run public spaces? Surely this must be one of the great benefits of advertising.
Yes, we all know what anti-brand activists like Naomi Klein say about evil companies invading our public spaces. But sophomoric arguments aside, surely there are some real benefits to this?
One blogger has a wonderful piece about Bryant Park in New York, which was infested with drug dealers until private companies and their brands stepped in to make this a restful green space complete with 3,000 unique "Bryant Park Chairs" for weary New Yorkers to rest upon (pictured at left).
Bloggers may argue that "some things are sacred" but surely this includes a place like Bryant Park?
There will always be the contention that public space is an extension of public politics, and having it privatized means we are, in a distant and vague sense, having our democratic values co-opted.
But when the tax dollars run out for highways, train stations and parks, I think it is quite comforting to know that some companies may step in.
December 3, 2010
It's Friday and that means we get to take a look at the loony world of drink naming.
As you all know, I have followed the rise and fall of Four Loko with great interest.
Now, I bring you... Whipped Lightening, an alcoholic whipped cream that you can get in flavors such as German Chocolate, Spiced Vanilla, White Chocolate Raspberry and Tropical Passion.
This stuff is so tasty that it is creating "whipaholics" on college campuses. That would be people who like to drink whipped cream with 15-18% alcohol - if you consume a full $13 can you can get the same buzz as three beers.
This new craze has left poor old Four Loko in the dust, especially because you can use this stuff to top off your Jello-O shots.
Time has already warned us that this may be another "binge drink in a can."
Whipped Lightening - also being called "whipahol" - and its competitor Cream - with the creepily pornographic URL givemecream.com and its tagline "get whipped" - are flying off the shelves due to the curiosity within the 20-30 year old demographic.
As bad as this stuff looks, it is still better than Four Loko - it's hard to imagine that someone could get through more than one canister of this stuff without feeling a little ill.
But really... whipahol?
December 2, 2010
It's very hard to have nice things to say about some technology naming.
However, I am happy to report that a new computing patch that protects inactive computers from viruses has what I might say is the most imaginative name of the year: Nuwa.
Nuwa is "a way to patch these virtual machines while they are offline, so that they are kept up to date in terms of security protection."
What I like about the Nuwa name, is that it is a strong metaphor.
Finally, a unique technology name that actually has inherent meaning behind it.
The research paper that explains the Nuwa tool will be presented at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference in Austin, Texas on December, 10.
Congratulations! You created the best tech name for 2010. Nuwa.
December 1, 2010
A blog in the New York Times suggests that it may be a good thing if your brand name turns into or a verb, or worse, becomes genericized.
This is when people decide to "Google" something... or go "Rollerblading."
The NYT quotes and expert as saying:
What is new is that in recent years some technology companies have begun to think of 'verbing' as a good thing... Their thinking is that there is a strong positive marketing value from verbing, because verbs connote activity and excitement and because widespread use of a mark as a verb extends brand recognition.
Getting your name "verbed" can give you that special edge and that sheen of recognition that many start-ups crave.
My co-worker Bill Lozito has written before about how big companies like LEGO and Xerox have gone to great lengths to ensure that their brand names are not genericized, ensuring that we "copy" something rather than "Xerox" it, for instance.
The International Trademark Association advises its practitioners to always use a trademark as an adjective:
Trademarks and service marks are proper adjectives. Not nouns. Not verbs. A mark should always be used as an adjective qualifying a generic noun that defines the product or service.
But most speakers of English view this advice as counter-intuitive, since we traditionally see brands as tactile nouns, or experiential verbs not adjectives.
Trademark lawyers are finding it harder and harder to prevent brands from being verbed, especially when the marketers who develop those brands have every intention of using them as such.
Technology has turned brands from passive to active. Today, customer engagement is what matters. And one of the quickest ways to get engaged is by being an action verb.
Consider search brands such as Digg, StumbleUpon and Gather. And in social media, Twitter tweets about tweeting and LinkedIn promotes the value of linking.
Even cell phones have gotten in the denominal derivation (verbing) act. In the last few months alone, manufacturers have introduced Captivate (Samsung), Surround (HTC), and Defy (Motorola) - all clearly verbs.
Let's face it. Verbing delights our brains. It tells us something cool and new is going on. It is, perhaps, a language phenomena that we as marketers are powerless to change.
Now all we need to do is figure out how to use a verb as an adjective.