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June 30, 2011

Fair or Foul: How to Name a Sports Team

Winnipeg Jets, NHL.jpegDuring a recently announced move from Atlanta to Winnipeg, the professional hockey team formerly known as the Thrashers asked themselves a very important question: what do we call ourselves?

In yesterday's Fox News business edition, our Chief Linguistics Officer, Diane Prange, was asked about the name change.

Just like most newly developed brand names on the market today, the target market is key. And in professional sports, the target market just happens to be made up of large groups of very passionate fans.

"We think getting all of your constituencies involved in a decision makes a lot of sense," said Diane Prange, chief linguistics officer at brand-naming firm Strategic Name Development. "They have to own it, they have to love it and you want to make them feel good about the process."

In the end, the Thrashers adopted the Jets name, which may sound familiar as it was the name of a previously jettisoned hockey franchise in Winnipeg that currently goes by the Phoenix Coyotes.

To read the full article and learn more tips on naming a professional sports team, click here.

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June 29, 2011

Sneak Peak - Naming Insights Based on July Branding Events

What secretary suggested a name for a famous book publishing brand?

What iconic snack name is derived from the Spanish translation, "little gold?"

WalmartPenguinDoritos.pngThe first Walmart store opened in Rodgers, Arkansas. Do you know what year the first Walmart store opened?

The secretary to Allan Lane, founder of the Penguin publishing brand, suggested the Penguin name since it met Lane's criteria of being "dignified and flippant." The first published book under the Penguin name released on July 30, 1935.

Who isn't aware of and or eaten Doritos, the "little golden" chips, which became a registered trademark on July 27, 1964.

In a tiny hamlet in the Northwest corner of Arkansas, on July 2, 1962, with a population less than 6,000 people, Sam Walton started a retail revolution that today consists of over 8,500 stores globally.

For more significant branding events that occurred in the month of July, go to This Day in Branding, starting July 1st.

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June 28, 2011

Georgia Persuades Countries to Adopt Country Name Change

Georgia.pngAs part of an ongoing effort to rid itself of the linguistic legacy of the former Soviet Union, the Georgian government is ramping up efforts to be recognized internationally by the English name 'Georgia' and not the Slavic, 'Gruziya.'

The effort appears to be paying off as South Korea was the first country in the world to make the change as announced yesterday.

"South Korea's decision has special significance for us since many of our friends and allies have so far failed to do the same despite their many promises. Of course we understand that technical and financial issues come into play when changing a country's name," said Nino Kalandadze, Georgia's deputy foreign minister.

GeorgiaCountry.pngIronically, the Georgians themselves call their own country Sakartvelo, themselves Kartvelebi, and their language Kartuli - all names eponymously derived from the country's founder Kartlos.

So where did the name Georgia come from anyway?

Some historical linguists believe that the name has ancient Greek or Latin roots. The Georgi were agricultural tribes - a name derived from the Latin root of 'George' which means 'tiller of the soil.'

Another linguistic school of thought claims that Gruziya was borrowed from some form of the Middle Persian varkâna, meaning 'land of the wolves.'

Besides being the birthplace of Stalin, however, Gruziya itself has little to do with wolves. Yet Moscow continues to argue that the Russian influenced, Gruziya, stems from Perso-Arabic roots that have long been adapted by other countries and languages in the Caucasus.

From the distant shores of the U.S. (or is it the U.S.A? or the United States? Or America?) where most of us believe that Georgia is simply a state and that most of us are Caucasians, this name change appears to be just a political ploy.

But I think it goes deeper than that.

The Georgian language has long been admired for linguistic anomalies.

A notable example is the different approach to parental naming as compared to most languages. 'Father' in Georgian is mama, while 'mother' is pronounced as dada.

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June 24, 2011

al-Qaida Brand Name Change Wanted by Osama Bin Laden

OsamaBinLaden.pngNo doubt over the last 5 to 10 years the importance of branding is recognized globally.

I never imagined, however, that Osama Bin Laden would have branding on his mind.

Apparently he wrote about changing the al-Qaida name.

As you may recall, the organization was originally referred to as al-Qaida al-Jihad which translates to "The base of holy war," but the name was shortened to al-Qaida perhaps, by the west. Therefore, Osama felt the US could "claim deceptively that they are not at war with Islam."

Unlike with Blackwater to Xe, I doubt if any brand naming company would ever accept an engagement from al-Qaida to work on a name change.

What do you think?

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June 22, 2011

Grisly Images on Cigarette Packs Set To Bring Down Value Of Cigarette Brand Names?

FDACigaretteWarnings2012.pngThe big naming and branding news of the day seems to be the grisly, graphic health warnings that will be required on cigarette packs starting in September 2012.

This marks the first change to the warnings in 25 years. The warnings the FDA will require include nine different text warnings and color graphics.

These graphics include, "a man smoking through a tracheotomy hole in his throat, a horribly diseased lung, mottled teeth and gums, a man breathing with an oxygen mask and a man's body with a large scar running down the chest."

The warnings will cover the top 50% of the front and rear panels of the package. They will also appear on cigarette ads, covering at least 20% of the ad's area.

FDACigaretteWarning2012Baby.pngStudies have shown that graphic ads are more effective than print ads (duh) and they are more persuasive in encouraging people to quit. But this does not mean they will actually do so - it seems that raising the costs of the packs or imposing draconian workplace rules is more effective.

Tobacco companies have threatened lawsuits, arguing that this is a violation of their free speech rights and, importantly, makes the actual brand name on the box "difficult, if not impossible to see." The images also "demonize" a legitimate product by eliciting "loathing, disgust, and repulsion."

The interesting thing to note is that serious smokers still buy packs with graphic images to get their "fix," but the graphics have a marked effect on those considering taking up the habit. This, in turn, offers us an interesting case study on how consumers react to naming and branding and associated imagery.

FDACigaretteWarning2012KillsYou.pngThe fact that companies see the images as a threat to their brand name is understandable. Most of the equity on the package lies there, and whatever image is tagged across it diminishes that.

I am certain this will cause a decline in the number of cigarettes bought by first time smokers, but I also have to wonder if being tied to an ugly image will bring down the equity of some of the biggest brands.

There is no other industry that faces quite the same challenge, as cigarette companies try to highlight the brand name on the packs to make it is as attractive as possible.

Now, it seems to me there will be no way to promote the name without customers seeing images of dying babies or cadavers.

Surely this will change how we perceive these brand names? As of next year, The Marlboro Man will now have to share ad space with "fat naked post-op scar guy." Ouch.

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June 21, 2011

Online Brand Naming Set to Change as ICANN Approved Branded Top Level Domains

gTLDs.pngBy now everyone knows that ICANN has approved branded top level domains.

By this time next year, TechCrunch tells us companies will be able to buy their respective domains at $185,000 a pop after going through an application process and showing "legitimate claim" to the brand name. "Think .ADIDAS, .HOTEL, .BRUSSELS, .FACEBOOK and the likes."

Applications are open January 12, 2012, to April 12, 2012.

This may change the way people use the Internet as well as change the way businesses think about their online presence. You will now be able to end your domain name with any word as long as you are an "established public or private organization," and not some eccentric rich guy in a basement who happens to want his home page to end in .Apple.

This will obviously have a spin-off effect on brand naming. Now, it seems, every single brand name could be a domain name. We are swiftly moving away from the 22 generic top-level domain names that are currently being used (.com, .org, .net etc.).

From one ZDNet blogger's perspective, this is just a "pain in the rump."

domainnames.pngHe goes on to say that "I can only see it confusing and annoying people while wasting money on domain names that would otherwise never be used."

On the other hand, there will be a "trademark clearinghouse" to ensure that this type of thing is kept to a minimum, according to Government Computer News.

But CNET concludes, rightly I think, that this will not do away with the problem.

"Thus, the blessing and the curse that are new GLTDs: companies get new opportunities to reinforce their brand names, but at the same time it means trademark holders could face expensive new challenges in defending their trademarks."

Maybe cyber-squatters will be warded off by the cost and the lengthy application process.

Techie Buzz has an interesting graphic entitled "From .Com to .Brand" that is worth taking a look at. It shows how long domain names for products will be drastically shortened (http:www.usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/cameras/digital_cameras could get shortened to powershot.canon).

They also indicate that about half the brands that have shown interest are doing so to protect themselves, while the other half are looking for a competitive advantage.

The fact is, this just opened up a whole new world of naming and branding configurations. One place that I think it will have an impact, for example, is the car industry. For years the industry has been going alphanumeric. Now, the temptation will be to actually return to brand names.

Think about it. What looks better - Ford.Mustang or Lincoln.MKXSUV?

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June 20, 2011

Ford to Invest $1 Billion in Lincoln Brand Naming

LincolnLogo.pngIt seems that Ford is willing to put a billion dollars into
re-launching the Lincoln brand name.

This news comes after the company has tried to embrace alphanumeric naming for the luxury marque with a few notable problems.

Lincoln has always been paired with Mercury, which went into retirement last year.

It seemed as if the Lincoln brand name was heading that way, but Ford has had second thoughts, presenting us with seven new models in the next four years and telling the Wall Street Journal that "We are committed to turning Lincoln into a luxury car brand name worldwide." According to the same article, "It hopes to reposition Lincoln as a cross between the on-road performance of BMW AG and the interior comfort and refinement of Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus brand."

I just have to see a Lincoln that rides like a BMW. I mean it.

This seems to be Ford's last chance at being a competitor in the luxury car segment. Right now it lags behind Lexus, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Acura, Audi and Infiniti, which is pretty much every luxury car brand.

The dealerships are being revamped and the cars are (hopefully) going to be a bit less like the Lincoln Continental Kennedy was shot in.

OK, that last sentence was sort of unfair, but you get the point.

This brand needs a repositioning badly, so this move is going to be most welcomed. There is a lot of mileage in the Lincoln brand name and Ford plans on doubling its sales of the cars by 2015 from 86,000 units to 162,00 units.

Can they do it? I suppose so, if the cars are right.

I am a big fan of car product naming and branding and am glad that the Lincoln brand has not seen its last days. This is further evidence that a well known and trusted brand name can be the means through which a company has the potential to regain lost market share.

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June 17, 2011

Apple Faces Lawsuit Over iBooks Product Naming

iBooks.pngIt appears Apple cannot stay away from the trademark disputes. While it is dealing with a trademark infringement suit on the use of the iCloud name, now comes news that the name iBooks is also being disputed.

New York publisher John T. Colby has been using the name since 1999 and has published over a thousand titles under the ibooks name. Apple Insider notes that the ibooks imprint was named "America's fastest growing small publisher" by Publishers Weekly in 2004.

Colby argues that Apple's prior use of the iBook name only applied to their old notebook computer line, and have been only using the name in that context, it is alleged, since last year.

The suit reads, "Apple's use of the mark 'iBooks' to denote the electronic library that can be accessed via its iPad tablet computer and its iPhone is likely to overwhelm the good will of plaintiffs' 'ibooks' and 'ipicturebooks' marks and render them virtually worthless." I agree.

But Apple Insider also did a search for the name and did not find Colby's trademark. It did, however, find that in 1996 Apple secured use of the trademark for "computer [hardware and] software used to support and create interactive, user-modifiable electronic books." Apple has to date, had a whopping 130 million books downloaded through the iBooks store.

It is interesting to note the publisher's stance. ZDNet quotes an article on this, "Colby bought in 2006 and 2007 the assets of various entities owned by New York publisher Byron Preiss, who had published more than 1,000 hardcover and paperback books under the "ibooks" name starting in September 1999, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan today."

Ah, but if we read carefully we do not see that Colby bought a trademarked name. He bought "assets of various entities" that used the name. This is where his claim looks very rocky.

Yes, the publisher registered an ISBN for an "ibook" in 2000, but this is not the same as a trademark registration, and it is almost certain that the publisher knows this. Using a name, putting it in an ISBN registration, or selling things under it does not mean it is protected.

Apple's three trademarks are almost certain to prevail here. It does not matter when Apple decided to use the iBooks name in reference to e-books. They had a right to do so as far back as 1996, when e-books were not really a possibility and the iPad was just a gleam in Steve Jobs' eye.

If anything, this publisher has been getting a free ride from Apple.

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June 16, 2011

Revolutionary Product Naming: Rush Revere Introduces Us To Two If By Tea

TwoisbyTwoTeaBottle.pngWe are an apolitical bunch... except when the political product naming development is too ridiculous to ignore.

That said, I bring you news of Rush Limbaugh's new sweet drink called "Two if by Tea."

It gets worse.

The labels feature pictures of the conservative radio host, Rush himself, dressed as Paul Revere (he calls himself Rush Revere) warning all that "the liberals are coming."

The website for the new sweet tea explains that the name "is a modern twist on the famous line 'One if by land, and two if by sea,' from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem 'Paul Revere's Ride.'"

Thankfully, this is only available online, but still. Rush explains best why he decided to embark on this venture:

In this economy I, ladies and gentlemen, wanted to show - you know I've always said when they give recessions I choose not to participate - I wanted to demonstrate that even in this economy with an oppressive regime like we have standing in the way of economic growth that it can still happen with ambition, with ingenuity, and with desire.

TwoifbyTwoTea.pngHe also assures us that the tea is safe for liberals to drink, should they decide to do so. There are a few flavors that include Original Sweet Tea, Diet Original Tea, Raspberry Tea, and Diet Raspberry Tea.

The sweet tea also features a slogan, "From Tea to Shining Tea."

Rush has posted a letter online telling us about his beliefs, positing that drinking his tea will help preserve the America "we know and love," and he goes on to mention that he is good friends with Paul Revere, who died in 1818.

That's pretty much all there is to say on this one, folks.

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June 15, 2011

iCloud Communications Tries To Tell Apple to Get Off Its iCloud Naming and Branding

iCloudCommunications.pngIn April, I noted that Apple was probably going to be using the iCloud brand name as part of its effort to create a more effective MobileMe offering and break into the nebulous world of cloud computing.

The name was made official on June 6.

On June 9, Apple found itself being sued for using the iCloud name by iCloud Communications, a Phoenix-based voice-over IP provider, leading at least one blogger to point out that Apple seems to ride roughshod over companies whose trademarks they happen to want.

Mobile Burn published part of the complaint and it's worth reading.

The goods and services with which Apple intends to use the 'iCloud' mark are identical to or closely related to the goods and services that have been offered by iCloud Communications under the iCloud Marks since its formation in 2005. However, due to the worldwide media coverage given to and generated by Apple's announcement of its "iCloud" services and the ensuing saturation advertising campaign pursued by Apple, the media and the general public have quickly come to associate the mark "iCloud" with Apple, rather than iCloud Communications.

The complaint goes on to note the other trademark lawsuits that Apple has dealt with, like the famous Beatles Apple Corps battle, the iPhone dispute with Cisco and the mighty problems they faced getting use of the the Mighty Mouse trademark.

Apple, which is probably licking its wounds over the patent fight it just lost with Nokia, is probably not going to take this sitting down. And they probably won't have to.

Apple acquired the iCloud domain name and the US trademark from a company based in Sweden called Xcerion.

More than that, amazingly, the Phoenix company has never registered the trademark. It seems inconceivable to me that a technology company would not protect the iCloud mark given Apple's obvious propensity for names beginning with "i."

But possibly when the Phoenix company founded the word "cloud," they didn't think it sounded too techie. "Surely Steve Jobs won't be creating Apple clouds," the company's lawyers must have assured them.

Um, wrong.

As another blogger says, "Given the 'due diligence' Apple has done in registering the domain names, getting the Google juice, Apple might already be saying 'iCloud is my cloud'."

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June 14, 2011

Hispanic Buying Power Gains A Huge Fan With Procter & Gamble Product Naming

GainDishwashingDetergent.pngI think it is worth noting when consumer products giant Procter & Gamble introduces its first dish-washing soap brand in nearly 40 years.

The Gain product name, a P&G laundry brand with a lower price point, is aimed primarily at the Hispanic market. It seems that the US Hispanic consumer has "different expectations of her dish soap than the general market."

The interesting thing here is that P&G is capitalizing on the growing Hispanic population, the fastest growing demographic in the US and more than that, they seem to be intensely brand conscious and brand loyal.

Between 2000 and 2010 it rose 43% to 50.5 million. And the population has a collective buying power of about $1 trillion. This means that their needs are not easily ignored.

What the Hispanic consumer wants from a dish washing product is a nice scent and Gain delivers this. A quick look at the website indicates that the labeling is in both English and Spanish and more than that there is a range of scents available.

The scents for both products - Original, Lavender, Citrus Splash and Apple Mango Tango - appeal to the Hispanic consumer and what is interesting to note is the broad range of products available in this fairly new product line.

The blogosphere has already caught on to the fact that these products smell pretty good, "Did I mention the scent? It smells so good! Funny thing is now my daughter likes to do the dishes, well not really but she did mention that the soap smells wonderful and she likes it."

Hispanic people who are "Spanish-dominant" are actually more loyal to fairly high-end brands then "English-dominant" Hispanics.

The "Spanish-dominant" segment consists of 15% of the US population are going to wind up demanding more and more marketing spend. And the big winner here seems to be personal-care products.

I note that there is a heavy emphasis on the way Gain makes a person feel while doing the dishes... it's as if the scent connotes luxury.

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June 10, 2011

Bikinis and Branding: Not a Good Pairing?

BillboardAd.pngApparently, a woman wearing a bikini is "inappropriate" for advertising purposes in the Sacramento area.

The model in a recently defaced billboard (pictured at left) was advertising a tanning salon, California Sun, but vigilantes decided to cover up her offensively clad body with a tarp that read "no porn in our town." Ultimately, the offending billboard was replaced with something far more conservative - an ad for an
adopt-a-pet agency.

Let's face it, if you are selling a tanning product, bikinis are your business. And, moreover, the slogan - "So perfect... it just may be unfair," is simply not offensive.

The bikini in question was not especially revealing. In fact, the company took great care to find a rather conservative one. The model is therefore wearing a bikini that reminds me a great deal of the bikini worn in Dr. No, a James Bond film from 50 years ago.

We all know that a woman in a bikini can ruin a perfectly good business meeting. A beautiful woman is certainly distracting. But is a beautiful woman's body actually offensive? What is more offensive, in my opinion, is the slogan that goes with the image.

PETAWhalesAd.pngTake for example the PETA"Save the Whales" campaign. Here we have the slogan "Lose the Blubber: Go Vegetarian," with the image of a larger woman in a bikini skimpy bikini (pictured at right).

Here, we are making fun of people who are simply not that beautiful. One blogger had the following reaction to the campaign:

PETA, you have finally done it. You have made me change my mind about something. Congratulations. However, it won't be to your liking. I'm going out right now get some Kobe Steak for dinner wearing my endangered species ocelot fur coat and if any one of your mink-releasing vegan followers dares to as much as sneer in my direction I'm making a hat out of their bony ass.

By the way, women wearing bikinis have also been scratched out at bus stops in London.

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June 9, 2011

Painkiller Brand Naming a Headache for Bar Owners

A small news piece caught my eye that opens up a fairly interesting naming and branding discussion.

PainkillerDrink.pngPusser's Rum Ltd, a rum manufacturer that hails from the British Virgin Islands, has filed suit against a tiki-themed bar in New York named "Painkiller," claiming "irreparable harm to its brand, unfair competition and unfair business practice."

Pusser's, owns the "Painkiller" trademark for its infamous drink that contains Pusser's Rum, pineapple juice, cream of coconut and orange juice. The trademark is for "alcoholic fruit drinks with fruit juices and cream of coconut and coconut juice." The company also owns the trademarks for "non-alcoholic mixed fruit juices."

The rum company, in effect, demanded that the bar change its name and, further, desist from selling any "beverage, libation or cocktail" called "Painkiller" unless it was made with Pusser's rum. The bar even had to give up its website.

The Painkiller bar as of now, is not really focusing on what these lawsuits mean, as they seem to have numerous other problems with the health inspector.

The bar has changed its name to PKNY and is now working on getting the 101 points it scored on the health inspector's list worked down, including the seven "critical" violations. These include the presence of "live roaches" in the kitchen (5) and poor hand washing facilities for staff (6) who seem to be handling the food with those poorly washed hands (4).

Let's face it, folks. This place is a dive. But it still got sued by a major rum company.

Interestingly, Pusser's applied for the "Painkiller" trademark on April 25, 2011 for "restaurant and bar services," just 13 days after the company filed the lawsuit against the Painkiller bar.

We are now in the era of "copyrighted cocktails" and even hole-in-the-wall joints like this need to watch out.

But a cocktail idea cannot be copyrighted. As a fascinating article in The Atlantic points out, "The publication of a recipe can be legally protected, but the idea of the recipe... cannot."

It appears in this case, that the Painkiller bar was benefiting from the brand equity of a protected trademark.

Can the bar still serve Painkillers? Yes - you can't stop the idea of a Painkiller cocktail from being used in the public domain - but they cannot publish an association with the drink, even on menus or online, without getting permission from the trademark owner and serving the real thing.

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June 8, 2011

Of Sirens and Naming and Branding: The Wii U is Here

WiiU.pngPlease excuse me if I have a few typos in this blog. You see, I managed to expectorate coffee all over my keyboard a few minutes ago. I did this, in fact, just after I read that the new Wii will be called "Wii U."

Yup, that one's a java spewer all right.

Set aside, for a moment, that just a day ago I guessed that the Wii name was finished because it was not associated with HD gaming. This is, in fact, a spec-laden toy that is supposed to be "equally satisfying to both hardcore and casual players."

The mantra of the Wii U is "deeper and wider." The various gaming sites have exclaimed that the "Wii name lives on," although it is "not Wii University"

CrunchGear just says it is "dumb."

One blogger just asked "Huh?" and the asked "Does the WiiU name mean that everyone is still invited to play, but now everyone is now focused on 1 player?" Yet another noted that it has a name that "sounds like a siren."

The silliness of the name even made CNN, noting that "So Nintendo wants to pitch the Wii U as a game system for Me and You and all of Us to play Together in the same room, or also by Ourselves."

One of the executives at Nintendo explained it this way: "It's a system we will all enjoy together but also one that's tailor-made for you... Is it unique, unifying, maybe even utopian? The answer is also yes to all of this."

It is an interesting name indeed and I suppose it leverages the Wii name further. But it is certainly one that would have been impossible to guess. Wii U it is.

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June 7, 2011

Have We Seen The last of Wii Product Naming and Branding?

WiiLogo.pngToday we will be finally learning what the product name of the successor to the Wii is, and odds are it will not be Wii 2.

First of all, Wii 2 sounds ridiculous (it sounds like "We, too" as in "We, too, think that this Wii should not be called Wii 2).

I don't doubt that this will be a pretty nifty gadget, but rumors are that the name might simply be "Nintendo."

This is the eighth generation of the console and it has also been called "Project Cafe" (its code name) and "Wii HD."

We have also seen rumors of brand names like "Stream" and "Beam."

Is this the end of the Wii naming?

It seems that Nintendo is trying to embrace the Wii name and the new preference for HD, which does not seem to be a good pairing as the Wii is a non-HD unit. So it may seem logical that the new name will have "HD" linked to it.

The Wii name seems doomed because of its non-HD associations, and I for one shall miss it. This is a brand name, like the iPad, that I grew to love after first dismissing it, and it has solid brand equity.

My bet is that we have seen the last of Wii.

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June 6, 2011

Overstock.com is Over Optimistic About Its Brand Equity

O.co.pngThe President of Overstock.com, Jonathon Johnson considers the change to O.co analogous to Kentucky Fried Chicken changing its name to KFC.

Sorry. The analogy is overly optimistic.

  • Kentucky Fried Chicken was first used in 1950 and changed to KFC in 1991.
  • On the other hand, Overstock.com was first used in 1999.

Kentucky Fried Chicken had 41 years to build its brand equity which made strategic sense to leverage with the KFC acronym.

On the other hand, Overstock.com is still a young company with brand equity most likely among a small segment of consumers, but certainly not globally.

The companies rational to reference KFC as a model for its global expansion by using O.co is overstocked with optimism.

Ad Age, also asked me to comment on the change which appears today, Monday, June 6th.

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Is Charlie Sheen #Winning With His Naming and Branding Trademark Application?

CharlieSheen.pngI promised myself I would not blog about Charlie Sheen, but since I have already written about Kim Kardashian changing her name it only seems fair that I give some thought to Sheen.

In particular, his decision to try and trademark 22 catchphrases. Such as, "Sober Valley Lodge," "Tiger Blood" and "Sheen's Goddesses."

At the end of May, Sheen added "Sheenius" and "Masheen" to the list. This was after he made a rap song with Snoop Dogg called "Winning." And it's that term that I'd like to focus on, partly because "Park Your Nonsense" is not worth my attention.

You see, we regular people who are not blessed with "Adonis DNA" and are not "living the Sheen dream" (yes, these are on the list), are actually likely to use the term "winning." So how can Sheen claim it?

A very interesting blog in Inventor's Digest takes a sober look at how many states offer protection for a celebrity's catchphrases and slogans. This meant that Johnny Carson could prevent a toilet company for trying to use the the phrase "Here's Johnny." Just check out "Carson v. Here's Johnny Portable Toilets, Inc., 698 F.2d 831, 218 USPQ 1 (6th Cir. 1983).

The key here is preventing a "false suggestion of a connection" to the star. If others use the term "winning" in a way that suggests Sheen's endorsement of its use (say on a product or piece of clothing), then there is room for legal action. And thus, amazingly, Charlie Sheen has room to say that he is actually practicing due diligence when trying to trademark things like "I am not bi-polar, I am bi-winning."

Sheen, however, is going to discover that several trademarks actually exist for the word "winning," despite the fact that he has an immense list of goods and services he wants to link his trademarks to.

What is far more likely is that Sheen will be encouraged to trademark the phrase in the entertainment sphere (he's already looking for "spoken word, comedy, music, celebrity, and entertainment") and that's it.

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June 3, 2011

The End of Brand Naming?

Brands.pngI have been sitting here for some time sipping coffee and digesting a blog post by Al Ries in Ad Age, who predicts that "brand advertising is on its way out."

The problem, as he sees it, is that as a brand grows stronger, it starts to associate itself with more and more products - Crest goes from toothpaste to mouthwash and whitener; Starbucks goes from coffee to, well, pretty much everything. Likewise, car companies are touting car models, not the automobile brand.

He ends rather glumly: "And so it goes. As a brand expands into different varieties and different categories, the brand itself loses its ability to stand for anything specific. And if a brand cannot stand for something specific, it cannot be advertised in an effective way."

Hmm. My first thought is that there is no question he is right. But when I think of truly powerful brands - say, Apple, or Virgin, or Sony, or, for that matter, Starbucks - I think about the fact that all of them manage to balance off the number of product categories and markets with the resonance of the brand.

I keep asking myself if Al isn't just returning to the time honored arguments around brand dilution via product extension that we all study in college. Yes, many times adding more offerings creates more exposure for the brand, but the meaning gets diluted. For many companies this is not necessarily a bad thing. The problem is ensuring that each new product brings in new customers and does not unduly cannibalize existing ones.

Many companies, like Nike, manage to walk the line perfectly. The more interesting idea here is to look at the ways in which a brand name is managed as the product offerings expand. The more congruent these are, and the more each product jibes with the others, the less likely it is that the equity of the brand name will lessen.

Apple Computer, for example, moved to being Apple Inc. relatively painlessly. In fact, this was a step forward for the company.

This has something to do with the idea of push vs. pull advertising. The more you have to convince customers to buy products, the less power your name has. The more you convince them that everything you offer has a "wow" element (Apple does this well), the less you have to tout functional attributes.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:48 AM

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June 2, 2011

Celebrity Naming Debacles: Kim Kardashian To Ditch Her Last Name

KimKardashianKrisHumphries.pngI have written before - with some awe - about the value of the Kardashian name.

The Kardashians are, according to the LA Times, a "branding machine" worth $65 million last year. Kim leverages about $12 million a year off it in "brand value" according to Forbes.

Now, Kim wants to change it. To, um, Humphries.

She is getting married to basketball star Kris Humphries and wants to do the traditional thing. As one of the acolytes in Kamp Kardashian has (rightly) pointed out, "If anything -- Kris should change his name to Kris Kardashian."

Others hope she does not hyphenate her name. I'm not even going to bother typing out what that would look like, because it will immediately make me imagine what it would look like on a perfume bottle.

This may be a means through which Kim, the (far) higher earner in the union, can accommodate her husband. Kim's mother, Kris Jenner - what's with all these people whose names start with K? - has said that "She needs to be Kim Kardashian because she's worked so hard to get where she is."

Ditching the Kardashian name is likely to cause some family strife, as Kim's mother is really the brand manager for the sisters.

Celebrity Blend assures us that this is not a biggie:

Celebrities do this all the time. They change their name legally, but audiences will still refer to them by the name they are famous for. We may understand your dismay, Jenner, but her name and the money she's tied to is a part of a brand. When her name ceases to exist on paper, it will surely live on in our TV's (sic).

Well, that's a relief.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:09 AM

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June 1, 2011

Tablet Product Naming = Pad+Smartphone = Padfone. For now.

PadFoneImage.pngI have been following the naming of computer tablets for some time now, and like every tablet fan I have been waiting for the one that actually has smartphone capability.

This would be a breakthrough product that would make even the most avid Apple fan pause before buying the new iPad. Well, guess what: it's here, but the name seems like some kind of hoax.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you the Padfone from Asus.

It is a challenge to say that with a straight face.

Topcomputertablets.com really says it best:

...If they stick with that name and the logo shown on the Tablet Phone, lawsuit-happy Apple will be all over Asus like white on rice in a Styrofoam cup on a paper plate in a snowstorm. The logo is very Apple-like, and seriously, Padfone? If Apple sued Amazon over their Appstore name, this one has no-brainer litigation written all over it.

Just look at that typography, that applesque font and that name.

The best you can say for it, declares one blog, is that "It's got a terrible name and some horrible promotional videos, but it's a smart idea." You dock your smartphone in the back and voila, everything on the screen gets "supersized."

Engadget summarizes things well, "As silly as it sounds, the name sure speaks for itself." Yes. But we all know there can be only one "pad."

This might not be the final name, points out one blog. I think this is an understatement.

The way this is being presented to us has me thinking that Asus wants to plant the "padphone" idea on us (as in, an "iPad" but with a "fone") before changing the name to something that will not have cadres of Cupertino lawyers scaling the moats.

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Posted by William Lozito at 9:52 AM

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