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January 31, 2011

Sara Lee Cooks Up a Great Naming and Branding Strategy

Sara Lee Corporation.pngB2C Marketing Insider points out that Motley Fool has called 2011 The Year of the Spin-Off.

They note that Sara Lee is "doing it right" by keeping its core food business under the Sara Lee name and spinning the beverages into a new unnamed company.

This means that Sara Lee will stand for what we know it for: cakes, rolls, pastries and meats.

The brand name's equity will remain where it started, and its other interests will be renamed so as not to dilute the mother brand, which is that of a "simple bakery."

sara-lee.pngThe beverage company will be pretty substantial, carrying brands like Douwe Egberts, Senseo and Pickwick. Beverages brought in $4.6 billion last year to the company, and these brands obviously deserve to be supported.

But the Sara Lee name needs to be separated from these to retain its meaning to customers. This is a case when "less is more."

Sara Lee has been careful to keep the food brands apart as well. The rapid success of Ball Park brand hot dogs to, er, top dog, has been a case in point.

Sara Lee, according to Brandweek, is highly consumer-centric in the management of its brand names.

The Ball Park name gets the spotlight, because the target market of moms and teenage boys does not associate coffee cakes with hot dogs.

Sara Lee has learned that while its brand name is almost synonymous with success, too much of a good thing can be harmful.

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January 27, 2011

Super Bowl Naming and Branding Going to Be a "Monster"

XLV.pngAs one blogger puts it, "What better brands to play in the Super Bowl than the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers?"

Just saying this aloud really makes any football lover, really anyone even dimly aware there is such a thing as the NFL, sit up and take notice.

Just repeat after me: The Packers and the Steelers are playing in the Super Bowl.

This is just a magical pair up between two teams that are really emblematic of what football is all about. It is almost impossible to come up with two teams with the same level of brand cache (maybe the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins trail behind).

Who wants to miss a match up like the Packers vs. the Steelers?

GvsS.pngAs NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol has enviously said, "This is going to be a monster."

Even their domain names say it all. While the New York Jets use NewYorkJets.com, and the Chicago Bears use ChicagoBears.com, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers simply use Steelers.com and Packers.com.

These two have two of the most avid fan bases in the NFL.

Some commentators are quietly saying that the teams themselves are really not stellar, but "it's the brand names that dazzle."

Not only are the franchises legendary, the names have real resonance.

"Steelers" evokes the "strength of steel," while the "Packers" name comes from Green Bay's chief livelihood - meat packing. That may not sound very romantic, but who wants to play football against a bunch of meat packers? More than that, its the oldest team name in the NFL, dating back to 1919.

Prepare for the numbers of this Super Bowl to jump over 90 million this year... and much of it will be due to really powerful naming and branding.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:04 AM

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January 26, 2011

Suzanne Somers Learns the Hard Way About the Downside of Naming and Branding

Suzanne Somers has discovered that there can be legal ramifications to lending your name without being sure of what you are offering.

Somers.jpegSomers is usually quite a brilliant businesswoman but this time she seems to be facing a bit of a problem with John Shannon Bouchilon, who invested in the proposed project of a chain of stores branded "Suzanne's Kitchen."

Somers and her business partner, John Y. Brown, former Kentucky Governor, raised about $1 million in investors money to start the venture, while none of their own money was at risk.

Unbeknownst to Bouchilon and the other investors, there was not an operating or a licensing agreement in place yet between Somers and Brown when they opened the first store, while having destructive disagreements of their own on various operations of the company.

It turns out that Suzanne and her husband Alan Hamel, her partner in licensing for products that she endorses, fought over basic elements as well - like if the stores should serve organic food.

The disagreements resulted, as Bouchilon's lawsuit maintains, in the downfall of the business after just one store had been opened.

Suzanne has the support of Brown, who was originally a defendant on the suit as well but has since been dismissed. He claims that she was an "energetic" supporter of the company, but was brought down by her husband - the same fellow who convinced her to leave Three's Company.

The disagreements are at the heart of the case, not least because Bouchilon feels that Somers did not tell him there were such core elements of business strategy that needed to be ironed out.

Obviously, the investment depended upon Somers being an active and supportive part of the company.

This can be the downside of lending your name to food chains - when things go wrong, it's the person whose name is over the door who gets sued.

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January 25, 2011

Marilyn, DiMaggio Naming Rights Sold

Here's some unlikely news. Baseball great Joe DiMaggio and iconic film star Marilyn Monroe have had rights to their names and image snapped up this month.

marilyn-joe01.pngThis is all the more interesting because the two were briefly married in 1954 and Monroe remained the love of DiMaggio's life until her death in 1962 (he had roses delivered to her grave three times a week for twenty years and never remarried).

DiMaggio is certainly one of the best baseball players who ever lived.

Known as "Joltin' Joe" and the Yankee Clipper, he was three time MVP and thirteen time All-Star. More than that, his famous 56-game hitting streak has never been beaten.

Joe's name and image will be developed by MODA Licensing, Inc for a "broad range of consumer products."

Monroe, of course, needs no introduction.

A Canadian - American group has acquired the rights and image of Monroe for an undisclosed sum, and we can expect to see her image adorning apparel, jewelry, cosmetics and fragrances.

We may even see a reality TV show based on her life called "Who Is the Next Face of Marilyn Monroe" - does that even make sense?

The enduring appeal and brand value of "delebs" (dead celebrities) is on the rise. Steve McQueen, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix are all viable names that are being touted by the likes of UBS, Montblanc, Citroen and Fender guitars.

Rumor has it that the Monroe name went for a whopping $30 million. To date she has over 357,410 fans on Facebook.

Businessweek sums it up nicely by saying that "In Death, Endorsements Are a Girl's Best Friend."

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January 24, 2011

ACORN is Back - and Only the Name Has Changed

NYCC.pngBacked by hundreds of thousands of dollars in union donations, NYCC, New York Communities for Change - a rebranded version of the controversial ACORN has taken over the Nevins Street headquarters in Brooklyn.

ACORN stood for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

It's new name, New York Communities for Change, isn't much different. Aside from it's geographical specificity, both acronyms shout the same imperative: Change the Community.

We wonder is anyone at the organization formerly known as ACORN did due diligence on the new acronym which also stands for the well-known New York Comic Com (An international convention held annually at the Jacob Javits center).

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Store Brands Get a Workout From Michelle Obama

Store brands versus name brands are an evolving story.

michelle-obama-lets-move-4251.pngNew research now indicates that store brands are getting serious traction - a whopping 44% of grocery shoppers surveyed believe store brands are of better quality today than five years ago and 39% would recommend a store brand to others.

This comes down to attractive packaging, savvy naming, and good old fashioned quality products.

There are 62% of customers that believe there is no difference in quality between store brand name name brand dairy products, and 61% feel the same way about canned products.

Now, only 19% say name brand products are worth the money (name brands still dominate drinks and personal products).

This comes to us just as Walmart announces they are upping the store brand stakes by making store their brands healthier - an initiative they have taken with none other than Michelle Obama.

walmart_great_value.pngThey are also further lowering prices on their Great Value brand.

We sure have come a long way from the generic products of a decade and a half ago.

Store brands are on the rise and part of this is due to the fact that they enjoy the same kind of brand naming and in-store marketing of name brand products.

"Eating Right," "O Organics" and "Archer Farms" are brands in their own right and are perceived by customers as alternate choices to brands they already know.

Just a couple of weeks ago I wrote about a Taiwanese study that indicated that using no-name products had a detrimental effect on people's self esteem.

But I have to wonder if this applies across the board, and if generics with actual store names on them make up the difference?

In any event, customers seem to be happy enough.

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January 21, 2011

McDonald's, Vermont Make Up Over Maple Naming and Branding

McDonaldsOatmeal.pngA couple weeks ago I watched with interest as the Vermont Agency of Agriculture decided to take on McDonald's over the use of their use of the word "maple" in its new Fruit and Maple Oatmeal.

It seems that this offering only has maple flavoring and not real maple syrup. State law in Vermont demands that the name therefore be removed from the product.

This of course immediately caught the imagination of the blogosphere, who jumped on the fact that McDonald's offers "natural maple flavoring" but not "natural maple."

McDonald's market in Vermont is small, but Vermont's interest in maple syrup is huge because it gives the USA 46% of its maple syrup - that's 710,000 gallons of the sticky stuff.

Vermont is therefore very touchy about the use of that word "maple" - last year I discussed their spat with Log Cabin, who claimed to offer All Natural Maple syrup that just wasn't that natural.

According to FitPerez, this is a Maple Mess.

Not to worry, the mess has been sorted out. Yesterday the press announced that customers in Vermont would get pure maple syrup or sugar to add to their oatmeal if they so desired starting February 1.

The Governor of Vermont, Peter Shumlin, has promised to stop by one of the state's 28 McDonald's outlets on that day to get a bowl. How sweet.

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January 20, 2011

Weird Candy Naming Gets Too Close for Comfort for Toxic Waste Nuclear Sludge Bars

So it turns out that the Toxic Waste candy brand's Nuclear Sludge Bars are just a tad, you know, toxic. For real.

ToxicWaste.pngIts distributor is pulling the candy off the shelves after California officials found lead in the bars - 0.24 parts per million versus the .1 parts per million that the FDA will accept.

The sub brands that have been recalled include Toxic Waste Nuclear Sludge Cherry Chew Bar, Toxic Waste Nuclear Sludge Sour Apple Chew Bar and Toxic Waste Nuclear Sludge Blue Raspberry Chew Bar. 

The sad thing is that the candy's tagline is "Hazardously Sour Candy."

There have been no reports of sickness from the product but the FDA is not taking chances.

NuclearSludge.pngAt least one parent blogger is curious why a candy with such a name would get any traction with kids, but she is quick to point out that candies with names like "Boogers" and "Sour Flush Candy" seem to get the nod from kids.

And yes, there is serious irony here.

But lets understand that weird candy names get kids' attention. Whether we are talking about Fruit by the Foot Flavor Kickers, Nose Hose, White Chocolate Maggots, Harry Potter Cockroach Clusters, Toxic Waste Hi-Voltage Bubble Gum or Gummy Maggots, candy naming can get even weirder than energy drink naming pretty darn quick.

Given these names, calling your semi-poisonous treat "Toxic Waste Nuclear Sludge" is really almost being conservative.

This is not surprising.

Studies have shown that what we perceive as disgusting is really a culturally transmitted set of beliefs.

It takes time for children to develop the same kind of repugnance for disgusting food concepts that adults have, and until then candy makers will try to walk the line between what is seen as horrible by mom and dad and what is perceived as kind of cool by junior.

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January 19, 2011

Naming and Branding Across Social Networks Can Be Tricky

A Wall Street Journal blog article has me thinking about how naming translates into the online world and especially, the world of social media.

BigThreeSocialMedia.pngKatherine Rosman's look at how useful it is to have a Twitter name that is just your single-name (@Bill) is especially illuminating.

"An easy-to-remember username is a stylish totem in the tech world. Single-name sign-ins are cool because they're hard to come by." she says.

This is the cyber equivalent of a vanity plate, and the more you can spread that single name across multiple social platforms, the better.

"Being @you, especially on a social media site that becomes a mass-market success, proves you are an early adopter, in on the ground floor of the next big thing."

This especially counts on the "big three" social networks; Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Your online moniker is so important that many people even change their middle name on Facebook to promote a cause or idea.

So, I will agree that having an easy to remember, early adopter name in the world of social networking can be an instant benefit and part of any good social media strategy to build a brand (including your personal brand).

But there are small caveats to think about.

The first is, most customers aren't really concerned about how much of an early adapter you are. Only a few people "get" that.

SocialMediaTalking.pngNaming a start up now invariably means thinking about the domain name and the name on the various social networks, among many other things.

But total and utter congruence outside of the world of social media (and even inside it) may not be all its cracked up to be.

Your domain name might, in fact, be different than your company name - it might say what you do (GoGumdrop.com could become CandyForParties.com). Slavishly trying to match your domain name to your real name might be a waste of time given the way we all shorten links anyway and the way search engines function.

The point is, the names we choose to use online can be rather varied.

Consumers are savvy and they appreciate savvy social networkers and marketing.

It seems to me that when you start thinking about how your brand name will be represented online, we should start thinking about creating a family of names that offer a full profile of the company or the person, rather than one name in different guises.

A cupcake brand may, for instance, have the name Jones Cupcake Company. On Facebook its group could be Jones Cupcake Lovers, on Twitter it could shorten to @JonesCakes (A long name like @JonesCupcakeCompany eats too many letters) the URL could be PartyCupcakes.com and the LinkedIn could be the company name.

Each name would be slightly different to align itself better with the kind of identity the company promotes for itself in each sphere.

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January 18, 2011

Starbucks' "Trenta": Naming and Branding The Mt. Everest of Coffee

iced_coffee_starbucks.pngStarbucks now offers us the "Trenta," which is a whopping 31 ounces.

This, as one blogger notes, is one measly ounce away from being a Big Gulp.

"Trenta" is Italian for 30 and it weighs in at 10 ounces more than the "Venti," which is the next biggest coffee offered by the chain.

This massive cup of coffee actually is bigger than your stomach, and the new offering is bringing down (yet more) rage from nutritionists and Starbucks haters everywhere.

Over in the UK, a blogger for the Guardian calls this a "bucket" of coffee.

We should note here that the Trenta is meant for the iced coffee, iced tea and iced lemonade offered by the company, but the fact that it is there will prompt a few jokers to try scaling a few mega-cappuccinos.

At least this isn't the "Porn in A Cup," a 10 shot espresso monster served by a renegade coffee shop in Brooklyn that still only comes in at 20 ounces.

StarbucksLogo.pngFilling a Trenta cup with espresso simply does not bear thinking about.

This news comes to us just as more and more bloggers are lining up to bash the new Starbucks nameless logo which features only the mermaid. This is the company's attempt to go iconic à la Apple and Nike.

Now, many writers are defending the new logo as a logical progression in the company's representation to customers.

The PSFK has a list of branding experts who approve of the new logo now, positing that it creates a "different bond" with consumers," it is "well-executed" and the timing of its release - Starbucks' 40th birthday - is excellent.

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January 17, 2011

Naming and Branding Crucial for Tablets in 2011

An new academic article out of Australia in Marketing Letters is worth noting today in conjunction with industry worries that the flood of tablets in the market is going to make consumers turn to brand names they know and trust.

Tablets.pngAt this month's CES in Las Vegas, a whopping 80 new tablets were introduced.

This means that Apple has some serious competition. Common sense would indicate that the iPad brand has an edge with First Mover Advantage.

The prediction is for about 55 million tablets to be shipped this year, with 10-15 million of these not coming from Apple. This is transformative and a big moment for marketers.

Apple, for all intensive purposes, gave us this product a year ago, and a year later we have 80+ imitators.

AppleiPad.pngWill Apple lose massive market share?

The article indicated that packaging on the shelf - purely visual indicators - does not draw customers. Verbal cues and brand names seem to have much more weight.

This means that no matter how flashy the new tablets are, unless we know and trust the brand behind it, they are going to struggle. All the more important for companies to hitch their tablets to a memorable name.

Right now, only three names stand out for me; the PlayBook from BlackBerry, anything bearing the Droid label, and the target="_blank"iPad.

Watch this space.

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January 14, 2011

Hipster Naming and Branding Not Cool

I have been stewing over this post for two days, ever since I learned that a mysterious start up wants to name itself Hipster.

Hipster.pngNever mind that I thought Hipster was one of the banned words for 2011. There are a number of things that we need to consider.

First of all, I think that it can be universally agreed that the term "hipster" connotes somebody who we have almost universal dislike for. To call somebody a hipster is, in fact, to insult them.

A new book entitled "What Was the Hipster" not only ridicules the hipster, but posits that it is a dying breed. This is obvious; that even hipsters don't like being laughed at by the rest of us.

Granted, the word has been with us for some time (Norman Mailer wrote a 1957 essay on the hipster, but had it in an utterly different context), but the scorn we have piled upon today's pale and hairy slacker version has ruined the term.

Even the term hipster as it applies to a cut of blue jeans gets its fair share of flack on the Internet.

The additional problem is that the word as we use it is a meme.

The founder of the company says this:

"I feel that the term 'Hipster' has been used so frequently in recently years, that it seems to have lost virtually all meaning - its kind of like a blank slate to project whatever 'Hipster' image you want.  We're now left with an easy to spell, memorable name that makes most people laugh."

I beg to disagree.

The word hipster is simply not a blank slate. Yes, we laugh when we hear it, but we are laughing at a type of person who is most times easy to mock. The word is loaded with meaning, and all of it is negative.

It is a good word for a thing most people don't like or want to be.

It also, by its very nature, will go the way of all memes. It's core reason for being will disappear. It will, however, continue to have a certain vibe, the way the word "hippy" still is emotive but is rarely used simply because the flower children grew up.

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January 13, 2011

Naming Legislation Can Hurt

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal had a great article about how in the recent years, it has become important to Congress that they put the most catchy, popular, emotional name they can think of on the bills it trys to pass.

The HAPPY Act, The PATRIOT Act and the ASPIRE Act all come loaded with meaning.

CongressSeal.pngThese names give the bills an "edge," that helps them get passed since there are thousands of bills proposed each year and only a small percentage, about 3% pass.

But some lawmakers feel these names are an abuse of the language and distort what the Acts are really about.

A few months ago an article was published entitled "A Bill's Name is Part of the Game" in the Medill Reports. In it, George Owell is quoted: "Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable."

One expert pointed out that "The title of the legislation is more important than what the legislation actually says. It's really unfortunate, but that's how it works."

These names are a kind of marking. People do not want to vote against words with "security" in them. Emotive phrases like No Child Left Behind create a knee jerk reaction.

Just recently President Obama learned the hard way how effective naming can be with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

obama-signs-bill.pngThis unmemorable name was quickly redubbed Obamacare by its opponents.

And this renaming made passing the bill much more difficult - even supporters of the bill have a hard time recalling its official name, but Obamacare is hard to forget.

The events of a few days ago have led some to posit that violent words that slip into political discourse (The Job-Killing Health Care Law Act) might have terrible consequences.

Whether you agree or not, this might be an example of just how effective naming can be,
and how it affects the world we live in.

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January 12, 2011

Quora (Not Quorra) The Next Naming and Branding Digital Marketing Goldmine?

It is always hard to see what the next big thing will be in social media and marketing, but it might be a good idea for anyone interested in promoting their brand name online to check out Quora.

Quora1.pngIt's a simple question and answer site that looks like a mashup of Yahoo! Answers, Twitter and Facebook (in fact, four
ex-Facebook staff work for the company).

Or, as one blogger put it, it's a mix of Twitter and Wikipedia.

The name Quora is the plural of the Latin word "quorum," which means "the minimum number of people needed to make a decision." One of the founders quips that Quora was "the only name where the guy would sell us the domain."

Membership has surged lately with some sites positing that it might become a great digital marketing platform because a heavy presence on Quora allows your brand name to become a thought leader in its field.

Some writers are a little skeptical about Quora, saying that crowdsourcing answers to questions is nothing new (Reddit and Digg do something similar).

Still, the sudden popularity makes one think. One respondent on Quora itself joked that the reason the company suddenly has so much attention this week is because "people are Googling the character Quorra from Tron and misspelling her name."

This is obviously not the case - the Quorra character's relationship to the site is purely coincidental, according to Quorra's co-founder Charlie Cheever in a great how-to blog from Pocket Lint.

Scott Goodson in Forbes says that now Quora has no "overarching brand name" and yet now the floodgates are open.

This is a way for a brand to really connect with consumers by giving them answers to questions specific to their industry.

It might be the next place your brand name needs to be, or not.

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January 11, 2011

Naming and Branding Can Make You Feel Good About Yourself

An interesting new study from Taiwan confirms what some of us probably already believe: generic products can make you feel less good about yourself. Or at least less deserving of a good salary.

MacvsNot.pngStudents were asked to estimate their future earnings while using either a real Mac computer or a knock off, and those using the clones felt they deserved less.

Even more fascinating, men using generic phone batteries felt less attractive than their brand name battery using peers.

Has there ever been a stronger endorsement for the unconscious power of a good brand name?

It seems that there are more than just a few products that need to have a brand name for us to trust them.

Fact is, even people who promote the use of generic products have been aware that our main connection to brand names is an emotional one, that in the end comes at a premium price.

Yet we when we act on that knowledge and go generic, we wind up feeling bad about ourselves.

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January 10, 2011

Has VW Damaged Passat Naming and Branding?

The new, much touted sedan that VW has to offer America will be... drum roll please... a Passat with a face lift.

VWTeaser.pngThis comes after a speculation - engineered by VW - that the new offering would be a whole new car with a new name.

The VW consumer web site had an alluring picture of a car under a sheet with the teaser "The sleeker, roomier, all-new, German-engineered 2012 ______."

Car and Driver wasn't fooled: "As to that blank, the adjectives "sleeker" and "roomier" point to the retention of the Passat name, since you can't have a sleeker and roomier ______ if there was no un-sleek and cramped ______ that came before it."

And other reporters were not impressed, "When VW announced the name to a packed room of journalists, there was a noticeable (and audible) sense that we'd all been put on for a few years."

VW2012Passat.pngThe retention of the Passat name (up until now they have called it the mysterious New Mid-Size Sedan or NMS) is due to its high brand name equity and "good reputation" in the U.S.

The more interesting news is that VW can now add "Made in the USA" to this car's sales material as the new Passats will be built in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The Passat may be a well known name but VW cars themselves are not seen as much of a bargain in the U.S.

The new car will be made more roomier and more American friendly but it still faces stiff competition from Japan.

Because the new models will be made here, however, they can be made less expensively... and this may be good news.

Nonetheless, I do not think it was a good idea for VW to deceive the press and consumers into thinking that a new model was being introduced.

In one move they may have managed to link dashed expectations to the new USA made Passat.

This is a shame, as building this car in the U.S. might make consumers warm to a name that has seemed a little exclusive - and foreign - until now.

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January 7, 2011

CES Offers Good, Bad, Ugly Tablet Naming

CES.pngThe Consumer Electronics Show seems to be all about tablets that are designed to steal market share from the iPad.

Some, like Toshiba's Tegra powered tablet, have yet to be named but are still being shown to an eager press.

Fujitsu also has an unnamed tablet coming out soon.

But there is a cavalcade of new names to add to the tablet list.

Dell's Streak is an Android Tablet that bears a decent name, although one does not want streaks on the tablet's face. Nor should one go streaking with a tablet.

The BlackBerry PlayBook is actually not a book (or an eReader, although you could read eBooks on it), it's a tablet.

Panasonic, for its part, has given us the VIERA Tablet which is not to be confused with its similarly named televisions.

Tablets.pngIn fact, Panasonic calls this a "tablet-type terminal" that makes it primarily a touchscreen controller and screen for software associated with a TV.

The name that seems to be getting the most attention this far is the Darwin-inspired Galapagos tablet from Sharp, but some bloggers say its technology needs to adapt to the needs of US consumers.

The Motorola Xoom, which I have written about before, seems to be getting the vote for the worst name in the show.

But there is also a tablet with a name that may even be worse: the Zood from a Korean company called iStation offers 3D viewing, but its likely to make Steve Jobs see red.

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January 6, 2011

Starbucks Bets Its Siren Can Replace Its Naming to Lure Customers

StarbucksLogo.pngStarbucks has dropped its name and "coffee" from its logo in what looks like an attempt to copy Apple and Nike with a nameless, ubiquitous logo.

The green and white siren that lures sailors from the seas to a mock paradise, and millions of coffee drinkers from the sidewalks to Starbucks locations is all that remains.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz says of the change,"We've allowed (the siren) to come out of the circle in a way that I think gives us the freedom and flexibility to think beyond coffee."

This is the fourth logo change since the first store opened in 1971.

StarbucksHistory.pngOver the years the siren has become progressively bigger and more pronounced but of course the news here is that Starbucks has such belief in its brand name that it is willing to remove it from the cup and the signage.

More than that, the black lines and coloration inside the logo have also been removed, making it look almost like a stamp or watermark.

Said one pro, "Color is the element with the highest recall and we have become very associated to green, black and white," and I tend to agree.

The blogosphere reacted with a mixture of disbelief and outrage.

One industry watcher has called this a "make-under." A marketing exec noted that "Brands die and their brand-names and logos die mostly not by big screw ups, like (new) Coke and the GAP, but by the death of a thousand cuts over time," and this may be one of those "little things."

Some suggest that Gap should use the "discarded bits" of the logo.

Another added "What's it going to be - the coffee formerly known as Starbucks?"

The New York Daily News quotes an expert who feels that Starbucks is not quite big enough to shed its name yet. They also have a poll asking readers if the name is needed or not, and has them deeply divided in a three way split between the yeses, the nos and the don't knows... a bad sign.

Starbucks is a great brand, but I'm just not sure all customers will hear the siren's song forever.

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January 5, 2011

Don't Blame it On Rio for Plagiarized Olympic Branding and Logo Development

Rio216.pngI have been following the quiet uproar over the Rio de Janeiro Olympic logo for a few days now.

The new logo looks to some as if it might have been plagiarized from the Telluride Foundation, which is a Colorado charity headed by none other than Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf.
FoundationandMatisse.png
There are also whispers that it draws a little too heavily from Henri Matisse's painting "The Dance" (pictured at right).

Brandchannel weighs in on this, saying that the logo does look like a rip off but notes that logos featuring people holding hands are very common and concludes that this is not plagiarism because there is a clear cultural and physical inspiration to the logo relevant to Rio.

I'd add that I can't really think of anything wrong with finding inspiration for a logo in classic art - surely the Mona Lisa and the Statue of David have graced many corporate letterheads in various guises over the years.

Additionally, even a cursory look through the Internet provides us with many more examples of logos featuring figures holding each other or embracing.

Design Crave even has a poll up where you can vote on the matter, with the most popular choice being "An overused, tired concept YES, plagiarism NO."

The agency that created the logo says they did extensive research to ensure what they created was unique, but in my opinion no amount of research would be enough to avoid these charges.

This motif has been used many, many times and it does seem to fit the Olympic spirit. It may not be hugely original, but this is not plagiarism.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:05 AM

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January 4, 2011

Naming of Drugs Will Drive You Crazy

The New York Times Freakonomics blog has an interesting post about drug naming that explains why so many drug brand names "are loaded with x's and z's."

Pills.pngAccording to one expert, these letters make them "more visible" in the crowd of competing pharmaceuticals. "If you meet them in running text, they stand out,"
said another industry leader.

The trend of creating strangely spelled drugs is relatively recent, of course, because of the flood of new drugs being introduced to the market every year.

In fact, the naming of drugs is like the naming of cats, says the British Medical Journal. Drugs get three names; a chemical name, a generic name and a brand name.

This reflects the poem by T.S. Eliot, called The Naming of Cats: "You may think at first I'm mad as a hatter/When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES."

But finding that brand name is an art as well as a risk: "The right name can give a drug cachet. The wrong name can lead to serious medical errors."

The errors occur when similarly spelled brand names are prescribed, like Toradol versus Tramadol, or Clozapine versus Clanzapine.

Nonetheless, we can still expect to see strange names that will grab our attention, as well as some new, aggressive advertising that will also raise a few eyebrows.

Let's face it, making drugs interesting and memorable that solve things like Incontinence is pretty tough.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:56 AM

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January 3, 2011

Naming and Branding Words That Will Fail in 2011

2010 was a big year for naming and branding.

BigTen.pngCustomer Think has already listed the top five brand identity and logo changes in 2010; They include CNN's Spanish channel, Girl Scouts, Continental-United Airlines, Seattle's Best, and the Big Ten Conference.

I wrote about many of these changes and am inclined to agree that these changes made the most impact in 2010.

TigerBP.pngFox News, for its part, has selected the Top Brand winners and losers of 2010, which includes Tiger Woods and Sarah Palin who get the thumbs up; while BP and Mark Zuckerberg, not so much.

If you believe the Tiger Woods brand deserves a thumbs up for the year 2010, then I have a bridge I want to sell you (Brooklyn Bridge).

But things change and as we look to 2011, and we should remember that some words and names will invariably fall by the wayside.

Forbes has a great list of the "worst words" on diet, exercise and body image for example, that will have to be excised from marketing speak this year ("cellulite" is up there, as is "shaping").

On the other hand, we also now have a pretty good idea of what words work in the world of social networking and which ones do not.

According to CNN, 2010 was a great year for coined words like "Obamacare," "WikiLeaks," "lamestream," and "sexting." My favorite was "Snowmageddon." We can't forget about "Refudiate," which was up there as well.

These neologisms have what one linguist has called a "low life expectancy" mainly because their social relevance seems doomed.

Finally, we have words that need to be banished in 2011.

Lake Superior State University, as per usual, has a definitive list for us which includes; "Viral" as in "viral video," "epic" as in "great," and "fail" used as a noun or adjective.

I agree.

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Posted by William Lozito at 10:59 AM

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