September 30, 2011
In recent months I've come to respect Lady Gaga. I think that this is an extremely savvy person who has created an incredible brand name.
It therefore always intrests me when I read about people who are trying to cash in on the brand she has created, without her permission.
Case in point is a suit filed in New York City yesterday against an outfit called "Excite Worldwide" that wants to trademark the name "Lady Gaga By Design."
It is absolutely clear that "Lady Gaga By Design" is never going to see the light of day. Excite Worldwide wants to offer us everything from Lady Gaga jewelry to Lady Gaga fragrances .
From the suit:
Defendants are aware that their applications will never be granted in the absence of plaintiffs' consent, which defendants have been told will never be given. Nevertheless, defendants continue to try to 'squat' on plaintiffs' rights by filing frivolous applications.
Never mind that Lady Gaga (her real name is Stefani Germanotta) has already registered her stage name for everything from clothing to ring tones. She is also working on a new clothing collection with her younger sister Natali Germanotta.
The strange part of the story is that nobody knows why these jokers are doing what they're doing.
All this does is delay Lady Gaga's trademark application for using her own name on her jewelry and fragrance products.
As one of her lawyers told the press, "As long as someone is ahead of us on line - even if they are on life support - they are still blocking us."
September 29, 2011
The separation of Netflix's DVD-by-mail business with the Qwikster brand name was done clumsily.
It was so poorly done that it feels intentional. I said as much to the Wall Street Journal MarketWatch reporter.
On the day of the Qwikster name change, Monday, September 19th, we conducted research with 500 consumers randomly selected nationally.
I'm still scratching my head over this marketing blunder.
I have been following this sad but interesting story about the Tavern on the Green brand naming for two years now.
When the fabled restaurant went out of business, the brand name was valued at $19 million. After a quick dispute with the owners, it was established that the name itself belongs to the city of New York.
The brand has now been sold for $1.3 million for use on restaurants outside of metropolitan New York.
Interestingly, the name now can also be used on food products.
These products cannot be sold in the New York area without getting the city's permission, but this does mean that we might actually see some interesting Tavern on the Green products in our supermarkets in the near future.
Licensees of the name will have to donate a portion of their revenues to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. This means that the Tavern on the Green brand name now has a social conscience.
The question that is on my mind is whether or not the buyers of the name, Tavern International have negotiated a good deal. At least one blogger feels that this "$1.3 million bargain will exponentially surpass the 2009 $19 million appraisal of the name's brand value."
This is because licensing the name for a variety of products could be worth a tremendous amount of money. Lawry's condiments make more money than the restaurant that created them, as do the frozen pizzas licensed by Spago.
The original Tavern on the Green restaurant, of course, is now closed. So, we might be in the strange position of seeing a chain of restaurants making a great deal of money off the name while development of the original restaurant lags.
My feeling is that the original restaurant will come back in some form. It might be only as the flagship store for a nationwide brand, but I think for most tourists to New York, that would be just fine.
September 28, 2011
Today we have seen the launch of the new Kindle Fire, a product that is meant to go "head to head" with the iPad.
Think of a small (BlackBerry PlayBook size, 7") color tablet reader that can ride the coattails of the popular and successful Kindle eBook reader.
Much effort went into creating a smokescreen around the name. There were interesting code names passed about, like Coyote and Hollywood.
Amazon also tried to throw us off the scent by registering some (apparently bogus) domain names like KindleAir.Com, KindleWater.Com and KindleEarth.Com. These obviously are a subtle reference to the four eternal elements but whether they will ever be used is up for grabs.
I was never a big fan of the Kindle name but I have to admit that it has done very well for itself. The Kindle Fire name is actually pretty obvious, and I am relieved to see a tablet name that doesn't use a variation of "pad," "tablet," or "book."
The blogosphere seems to like the name, with one blogger saying that if the product fails, it would go out "in a blaze of glory."
But I must say that I will still think of this as a jazzy eBook reader rather than something that could take on the iPad.
The Kindle brand name really means "reader" to me. Tablet computers are so much more than that.
September 27, 2011
If there is one word in the world of naming and branding - and frankly in any other world that speaks English - that has been overused, it is the word "awesome."
It is very easy to call something awesome. Many people online admit that they use the word too much. And yet, because the word is used so often, it lacks meaning.
In one sense, the word has been genericized. A new book that was recently reviewed in Intelligent Life magazine asks us how the word awesome "conquered the world."
It first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1598 and it was used for "someone feeling awe" instead of that thing that inspires it. But by 1664 actual things were starting to become awesome. Usually, those things had something to do with God.
By the 1980s the word had taken on its current (meaningless) meaning.
It has also infected advertising. There is a recent campaign that pushes the idea that we should replace the word "awesome" with the word "vaginal." This was done to sell Summers Eve vaginal cleansing products, and it literally makes fun of the meaningless of the word.
Go to Facebook and you will find a group for the word awesome which is mildly amusing. There is a video out there of an octopus that some say is truly worthy of the word, but I say is more surprising than anything else.
Finally, you can go take a look at a blog called 1000 Awesome Things that features today's offering as "the core of a cinnamon roll."
What can I say? Awesome is dead.
September 26, 2011
I just love a tagline that won't die.
In this case, we are talking about the famous Wendy's tagline "Where's the Beef?"
This tagline, if you can believe it, came out in 1984. Yes, that's right, it's the same year as the famous Apple "Think Different" ad.
It is really amazing because the meaning of Wendy's advertisement has not faded a bit. The phrase was so popular that it was used by Mondale in a presidential debate.
Now, Wendy's is bringing it back alongside a website with the URL wheresthebeef.com. I suppose it doesn't even need to be said that the Internet wasn't even a gleam in anybody's eye when the advertisement was originally coined.
For those of you who might not have been born when the "Where's the Beef?" ad came out, it simply featured a grumpy old lady played by Clara Peller asking the famous question as her friends looked at a "big, floppy" bun offered by a competitor. The idea was that Wendy's was where you got real beef burgers, and we were all getting grumpy with burgers that offered anything less. But the "single" Wendy's burger that was being sold in the ad then is nothing compared to the monster burger Wendy's is pushing now.
The new line of Dave's Hot 'N Juicy Cheeseburgers answers the question, finally. The new ad campaign is entitled "Here's the Beef." The name "Dave" references Wendy's founder Dave Thomas.
These burgers are meant to promote the idea that the legendary hamburger maker would have certainly lent his name to these creations. The ads even feature the real Wendy - Dave's daughter - as well as actors playing Wendy has a child and her father.
In a very real sense, the ads bring back one of the great hamburger icons from yesteryear. Said one executive attached the campaign,"We posed the question 27 years ago, and here's the answer. Everything going forward is about the answer."
I'm just glad to see that we finally know exactly where the beef is to be found. At Wendy's.
September 23, 2011
I note with some interest today that none other than the Federal Reserve is discovering the power of positive naming.
According to one blogger, "The public relations guys at the Federal Reserve have learned a trick. Financial journalists, dealing with numbers and lots of grey matter, often struggle to brighten their copy. Throw them a snappy name for a new product and they'll run with it."
Some erroneously feel that it actually refers to the Beatles song "Twist and Shout." The "Twist and Shout" reference seems to be dominating news feeds across the Internet.
There have been some gloomy reports about what this means from a financial point of view, but I am not really interested in that.
The name "Operation Twist" has a really interesting background. Apparently, in 1961, a few weeks after the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, the Federal Reserve created a similar plan that they wanted to call "Operation Nudge" (as in, "let's nudge down interest rates").
However, Chubby Checker had just released "The Twist" on American Bandstand in 1960 and it became a number one hit. Thus, "Operation Nudge" was shelved and " Operation Twist" became the new name for the Fed'sstimulus program.
I just think that kind of rocks.
September 22, 2011
Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, apologizes again for the Qwikster brand name.
Watch his latest apology below:
So Ben & Jerry's has created a "tasteless" ice cream name in its new "Schweddy Balls" flavor.
This actually pays homage to a Saturday Night Live sketch but that doesn't seem to wash with the conservative group One Million Moms, a group trying to get people to write the company in order to stop distribution of "Schweddy Balls." The name is "vulgar" they say and "not exactly what you want a child asking for at the supermarket."
Others say the ice cream doesn't taste very good, with testers at the Huffington Post concluding it is "disappointing" and a few others complaining there are not enough "balls in the ice cream."
One blogger says "if you don't like the names Ben and Jerry's gives their new ice cream flavors, just don't buy it. When you decide to start a bunch of fanfare over something as trivial as this, you diminish yourselves, plus give Ben and Jerry's free publicity."
Seattlepi points out that it's often very hard to argue with an angry mother, noting "these moms have had it up to here with the ice cream maker's antics, mister... Don't make them turn this car around. And you just wait until your father gets home."
Jokes aside (although it is very hard to put jokes aside on this one), Ben & Jerry's has always tried to break the mold when it comes to ice cream naming.
I think that it should also be noted that Ben & Jerry's has quite a few flavors that they have taken off the shelves after a relatively short life cycle.
One look at the Ben & Jerry's "flavor graveyard" shows us all kinds of dead flavors, like "Economic Crunch" and "White Russian."
I think that this is one of those flavors that will soon be gone simply because its relevance is clearly limited.
But let's face it - this kind of delicious boutique ice cream is really meant for the "Cherry Garcia" college crowd, not toddlers.
September 21, 2011
It's interesting to note that Hyatt Hotels now has a new brand name called Hyatt House.
This new extended-stay offering renames and revamps their Summerfield Suites and Hotel Sierra acquisitions.
One look at the living spaces that the Hyatt House offers and we see why the name is relevant: we're talking about executive apartment living.
There is a great room, lobbies, areas for socializing, kitchen islands and breakfast bars. Add to this free Wi-Fi as well as an amazing assortment of electronic gadgetry and you have a truly home away from home experience.
However, the really interesting thing to note here is that the Hyatt House name was actually used for Hyatt's first hotel in 1957.
While the name is being revived, the logo is fresh and a little bit irreverent with a modified H. The press release describes it by saying, "The new logo, an iconic double lowercase/uppercase "H" with a curved square flag in a bold blue hue, was chosen as distinctive in the category but connected to the overall Hyatt brand."
The biggest question might be why that word "house" has not been used before in extended stay hotel brand naming when research shows that travelers want an experience that really does feel close to home. The kitchen, for instance, is the centerpiece of many of the living spaces and there are what they call "residents-like touches" that pepper the bedrooms.
Extended-stay offerings are now the most profitable of the Hyatt portfolio. The shedding of the Summerfield and Sierra brand names is to be expected because the Hyatt Masterbrand is just so strong: Hyatt is now the 14th largest US extended-stay chain with 54 properties, with Marriott is number one with 597 Residence Inn properties.
This gives Hyatt intriguing brand space. The word "home" is far more welcoming and intimate then the word "residence" and its alliterative pairing with Hyatt makes it more approachable as well as memorable. And as Hyatt states, "The name Hyatt House was selected as an identifier that signals a residential, welcoming, personal and hospitable experience."
It's clear that this is literally meant to be your home away from home, and that's what travelers want. A residence is simply just not enough anymore.
September 19, 2011
I think it's ironic, very ironic, that Netflix is rebranding its DVD by-mail business "Qwikster."
Why? It's infinitely slower than downloading movies. It's anything but quick. Since when is "snail mail," how the DVDs arrive, faster than the electronic downloading of movies, which are almost instantaneous?
Only a "gangster" would named their "snail mail" service "Qwikster".
After dramatically jacking-up prices and losing 600,000+ subscribers, the company makes this dumb brand name change. The company should have name the service "Slowster" or "Stick-it-to-you-ster."
Come to think of it, referring to the company as "gangster" is probably an insult to the Mafia.
Netflix wake up!
Heineken is getting ready to rollout a new global visual identity, its first in a decade, to differentiate the company from the beer brand.
Interestingly, the redesign will focus on the presentation of the Heineken name, which will appear in capital letters next to a red "spark" which represents the "spirit and energy" of its 70,000 employees around the world.
Moving to all caps for the corporate identity is a nice way to differentiate it from the mostly lowercase font used on its beer bottles and, which will remain unchanged.
The new representation of the company name harkens back to the way it was written after its founding in 1864 (see left).
Its great to see a visual identity evolution that goes back to its roots and has a reason for being, rather than change for change sake.
Its also a nice departure from some of the major corporate re-designs from the last few years that have moved to all lowercase without the strength of reasoning that Heineken has for moving to all uppercase. AT&T, Xerox and PriceWaterhouseCoopers comes to mind (see right).
We expect Heinekin's new corporate identity global roll out next month.
I am reminded of the company's "Give Yourself a Good Name" campaign that suggested to consumers that by buying Heineken they would enhance their own reputations as well as be reaching for a brand with a good name.
To a large degree, Heineken has always known the power of its name. Its marketers are fully aware that customers like to associate themselves with the well-known, high-end beer.
Great move Heineken. I'll drink to that.
September 16, 2011
I have written about the move to have high fructose corn syrup referred to as "corn sugar" by producers before.
There is an obvious reason for this - "corn sugar" looks a lot more appetizing then "high fructose corn syrup."
Now, it seems the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned the corn industry to stop using the term until it gets regulatory approval.
This is bad news for the corn industry, who wants to distance itself from the "high fructose corn syrup" name due to the fact that scientists have linked the product to obesity, diabetes and a slew of other health issues.
The Corn Refiners Association has already been using the term "corn sugar" on TV and on two websites - cornsugar.com and sweetsurprise.com. The problem here is that The Corn Refiners Association is not selling a product, but rather an industry.
The FDA can and will go after companies that misrepresent or mislabel ingredients and products, and will indeed go after companies that call high fructose corn syrup "corn sugar." Of course, beet and cane sugar producers are up in arms about this.
One FDA representative says, "It would be affirmatively misleading to change the name of the ingredient after all this time, especially in light of the controversy surrounding it... If we allow it, we will rightly be mocked both on the substance of the outcome and the process through which it was achieved."
The problem here is that obesity is a growing concern in the US. Thus, the naming of sweeteners in general is an extremely sensitive issue. The corn producers know this and have created advertisements that are meant to ease our fears.
I, of course, am not a nutrition expert. However, the product seems to be coming out of a pretty bad pedigree. At one point it was called "Frankenfood" because it is not a natural product.
The received wisdom in this is that this product is simply not great for you but for that matter cane sugar is also not recommended.
We do not need any more prompting.
September 15, 2011
Guy Kawasaki caught my attention today by reposting an article titled, "Bad is Good: Why a Negative Brand Name Could Turn Out to Be the Biggest Positive for Your Business" from the OneOfaKindPreneur blogger Mariam.
Mariam believes there seems to be some "perks" around having a bad brand name. Since it helps you "stand out in the clutter" and "creates a daredevil image."
According to Mariam, examples of bad brand names would be "FatBoy" bikes from Harley (clutter killer) and "Axe" deodorants (daredevil).
You also can get yourself into the news with a bad brand name, like "Witty Shit" did when it launched as a startup for people looking for one liners and slogans. It also is meant to be a good choice for challenger brands - "Hell Pizza," gets people's attention in a very competitive market.
Of course, Mariam points out, the offering has to be "rock solid" or the bad brand name could backfire on you.
For starters, I do not think FatBoy is a bad brand name for a Harley. Or that Axe is a bad brand name for a deodorant. In fact, these are edgy names that I think are very well placed. Hell Pizza? Hah. How about the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que? The latter, at least, is immensely popular.
A genuinely bad brand name is just that - bad. And not in a good way.
In a bad way.
The Cigar Museum, for instance, has instances of truly bad cigar brands. Like, Chump, or King-Dodo, or Smudge. Or the horrible brands that made it to Fritinancy on the Bad Brand Names list a few years back, like Xsensible shoes, Samsung Rant or bumGenius cloth diapers.
These are real stinkers.
Of course, you could toss into the pile the horrible names that come out of Asia mostly due to bad translation, like Clean Finger Nail tissues and Cat Wetty hand towels. Leaving aside terrible URL names, such as publishit.com and penisland.com, we get to Elephant Balls brand name for billiard balls and Ayds diet candy.
If you want more examples of truly bad naming, there are more. Yes, I know, names like Cock Soup and Shito Mix and Fart Juice come to us due to bad translations, but if you want bad brand names, these ones make FatBoy and Hell Pizza look pretty awesome.
Of course, both Wii and iPad could easily be considered horrible product names, but in the world of naming and branding, context is everything. These are at least names we can remember.
There is simply no way you can argue that many of these truly horrible brand names help sell the product.
Edgy names? No problem, however Zit Soft drink just ain't edgy. It's silly.
September 14, 2011
I'm always interested in what Kleenex is up to, especially since Kleenex is one of those brands that fights genericization tooth and nail.
The coined name Kimberly-Clark Corporation developed for "facial tissues" was Kleenex, but of course we all know any "facial tissues" as... Kleenexes.
The new Kleenex Cool Touch campaign, however, caught my eye not only because the name is attractive, but because there is innovation around the brand that appears to be effective. The tissues literally cool your skin when you touch them to your face, and are apparently incredibly soft.
Kleenex assures us that "The launch of the new product innovation will be supported by a multi-million dollar integrated-marketing program that includes traditional TV advertising, online marketing and social media outreach, in-store communications, and an aggressive consumer sampling program leveraging the brand's successful 'Softness Worth Sharing' program."
It's the Softness Worth Sharing program that really intrigues me. Starting October 1, consumers can go online and sign up to send a "Share Package" to a friend (note how this sounds like "Care Package"). This campaign is being brought back to life after a million people sent friends these free packages last year.
A million people sent each other Kleenexes - I mean facial tissue? Really?
Aside from some nifty in-store campaigns that associate Kleenex with the end of love and relationships (we all have used them after being dumped), this is part of the brand's online strategy that does what I think is quite difficult. It sends people to their computers to find out more about a humdrum product like facial tissues.
Bloggers love it not least because you can track the sharing - you can see who copies you and sends on a Share Package to a friend or relative after receiving yours.
This kind of innovation, I believe, is helping to position Kleenex as a unique brand, and create an ongoing emotional connection with the product.
September 13, 2011
It will be interesting to see what happens to the hundred year old Superga brand in the coming months now that the Olsen twins are the brand's creative directors.
Superga is an Italian tennis shoe. The company that was founded in 1911, is based in Turin and named after a small nearby hill. It boasts that it is the "people's shoe of Italy."
Most Americans are unfamiliar with the brand, but certainly know who the Olsen twins are. They plan on launching a new line of the shoe soon and co-branding it with their own label, The Row. The Olsen inspired line comes out this spring and the twins plan on quadrupling the company's sales over the next four years.
The twins plan on getting the shoes on the "right people's feet" and creating what seems to me a low-end fashion cache for the sneakers, which retail from $60 - $150. They are working with Steve Madden, who owns the North American license for the brand, who claims that the twins approached him about the brand because of their personal interest in it. Their plan is to move the Superga brand "back to its roots" in the USA, creating what looks to me like a competitor for Converse.
Superga is owned by BasicNet Spa, an Italian shoe maker. The twins will "oversee all creative and marketing initiatives, as well as have oversight for distribution." But I think that the Row brand name and the Olsen's visible support for Superga is what will drive sales.
What the Olsen's seem to do best is lend an immediate fashion allure to a brand that might otherwise slip under the radar. Their own labels are sold in Walmart, and I can see Superga making it in there under the Olsen banner.
The name Superga sounds eerily familiar, I must say. Sure enough, there is a Basilica of Superga on top of the hill located near the Po River in Italy. It's 672 meters above sea level and hold many of the tombs from the kings of Savoy.
But beyond that it also reminds me Lady Gaga, an association that surely cannot be lost on anyone involved in this deal.
Does Lady Gaga wear Supergas? Not sure, but we are already seeing news that fashion maven Alexa Chung is "gaga" for them. Maybe the Olsens should give Lady Gaga a call?
September 12, 2011
Get ready for a blog that sounds like a Dr. Seuss story.
Twitter is suing Twittad, a marketing company that uses Twitter for sponsored advertising tweeting. Twitter is angry over Twittad's sloagn, which is "Let Your Ad Meet Tweets."
The sticky part here is that while "tweet" was trademarked in 2009, Twittad's slogan was trademarked in 2008. Twitter's complaint states:
"... it appears that Defendant has used LET YOUR AD MEET TWEETS solely as a generic phrase to refer advertising in connection with Twitter itself, and as such it is incapable of serving as a mark, rendering the registration subject cancellation on that ground. Alternatively, if Defendant is able to establish use of LET YOUR AD MEET TWEETS as a mark, its registration is subject to cancellation based on Twitter's preexisting rights in the TWEET mark."
Twitter actually does not have the word "tweet" registered in the US, though it does have "retweet" and "cotweet" registered.
Twittad founder James Eliason says this is a "timeline issue" and his company was using its slogan "well before the word 'Tweet' became widely used in the Twitter ecosystem."
Twitter feels that Twittad's slogan exploits the public's association of "tweet" with "twitter." Twitter told TechCrunch that:
"Twitter's organic growth has taken many forms, including a widespread, dictionary-documented association of the word 'Tweet' with the use of Twitter. It is in the best interests of our users and developers for the meaning of 'Tweet' to be preserved to prevent any confusion, so we are taking action to protect its meaning."
The problem is that "dictionary documented" is not the same as a registration. As TekGoblin says, "As a fellow Twitter user, I do not care about who uses the word Tweet in any manner of speaking or advertising. I have no worries making the assumption that this "Let Your Ad Meet Tweets" campaign will ever amount to anything to a point that will change the very meaning of tweet itself."
This argument, I think, would be a watered down version of what might be presented in court.
September 9, 2011
So it seems that corporations, brands, celebrities can now block their names from being used as part of a .xxx domain name.
September 7th marked the beginning of the "second sunrise" on registrations for the .xxx domains and will last for 50 days. In this time, you can make sure your name - or your company's name - is not associated with pornography.
Of course, you will have to pay to do this. From $150 to $300.
However, ICM Registry, in charge of this initiative, claims that it has reserved 15,000 domain names "on the request of international governments and other agencies, including names of cities and well-known politicians, such as the US President and the British prime minister."
They also have assured us that they are blocking celebrity names. Celebs ranging from Angelina Jolie to Donald Trump can rest assured they will not have .xxx registration. One ICM executive said, "We didn't want to have the embarrassment of AngelinaJolie.xxx coming up at the launch of the new domain."
This launch will come this year yet, on December 6th. Other names that have been banned?
"AngelinaJolie.xxx, OlsenTwins.xxx, Madonna.xxx, BritneySpears.xxx, KimKardashian.xxx, HalleBerry.xxx, WinonaRyder.xxx, JustinBieber.xxx, BradPitt.xxx, CharlieSheen.xxx, SimonCowell.xxx, GeorgeMichael.xxx, EltonJohn.xxx, VerneTroyer.xxx, DonaldTrump.xxx and OsamaBinLaden.xxx."
Elvis is also hands off.
Wait a second. Osama Bin Laden's name can't be used in a porn site but mine can?
This sounds all very interesting, if not a little annoying for those of us who don't have the time to contact ICM and make sure our names are not being pornographied, but I would like to know if variations of celeb names have also been protected.
For instance, AngelinaJolieMovies.xxx. Or HotPixofBinLaden.xxx? If every single variation has also been protected, then I think the amount of no-go domains will rise exponentially.
OK, you cannot associate a celebrity name with the domain, but what of Angelina.xxx?
You cannot use GeorgeBush.xxx but I am sure you could use Bush.xxx. Which would be kind of, well, weird. Even in the pornography world.
Celebrities have been afforded this registry-reserved privilege, but interestingly, corporate trademarks have not been given this same protection.
This is bad news for Coke (coke.xxx will surely attract druggie sex freaks) and also for celebrity shows. Now, deviant wrestling fans can log on to WWWF.xxx.
September 8, 2011
Close the doors!
Get your chainsaw and shotgun and, um, wallet ready! It's that time again... when we review the attack of the zombie brands!
Yes, zombie brands are always with us, living among us and coming back to our shelves after their deaths the same but... different.
Zombie brands are discontinued brand names that have been acquired and relaunched differently or in a more boutique format. I wrote about the first zombie brand naming auction last year and the return from the dead of brands like Brim, Underalls, Salon Selectives, Nuprin, Coleco. These are brands that we just cannot permit to RIP.
Now, we find that the zombie brand names are reappearing in China at a furious rate, bought back to life by overseas companies that are launching them with real flair.
These are truly the undead of naming - brands that disappeared from the face of the earth decades ago and which have lost even retro appeal in the West. Such as, British trenchcoat brand Aquascutum, think Burberry's zombie competitor. Or Kent & Curwin, another brand from Britain that used to make regimental ties and school uniforms and still has a tiny presence in the UK but dozens of stores in China.
These brands have what I would call "zombie clout," people in China are taking a liking to them despite having almost no exposure to them - ever. This is further evidence of how a brand can be launched in China from scratch simply because the brand is westernized.
Zombie brands have taken to the air - we now have news that the Montine watch brand is back. After a fabulous life in the 70s and tremendous sales in the 80s (a watch was sold somewhere in the world every minute, they claimed), it died, only to come back recently in in-flight magazines.
And Cutty Sark is coming back to liquor stores, possibly near you, but also in South Africa and South America with a new label and a newly shaped bottle and exclusive formats. This is classic zombie strategy - relaunch the brand and focus on new markets with slightly altered products than what came before.
But the ultimate zombie brand has to be the HP TouchPad, which was dead and buried as of August 18 and now... well, you know...
September 7, 2011
Apple is in the news today for aggressively defending its trademarks (surprise, surprise).
But there are two snippets that are really quite interesting.
The first is that Arizona's iCloud Communications has quietly (I mean, silently) changed its name after kicking up a fuss back in June over Apple's new iCloud brand name.
I covered this and remember thinking that it seemed ridiculous that the iCloud name was never trademarked by the Arizona group, an omission that Apple's lawyers most likely took notice of.
After indignantly saying "Apple has a long and well-known history of knowingly and willfully treading on the trademark rights of others," iCloud Communications filed a notice of voluntary dismissal of its case with the US District Court of Arizona and is now referring to itself as "Clear Communications."
The weird thing is that the Facebook picture for the new company features the name "iCloud Communications" and when a reporter called iCloud, er Clear, for a comment, somebody answered the phone with the greeting "iCloud Communications" and then quickly reversed himself, saying that was just a "bad habit."
Apple has no comment on this, as usual, but I think that iCloud Communications was probably paid a tidy sum to rethink its company naming, not least because the new iPhone 5 pre-orders are starting in Germany with iCloud and iOS 5 as part of the package.
Apple has also been busy in China, sending a letter to the Fangguo Food Co. for its logo that "depicts a circular apple, replete with leaf and stem, with the bottom left quarter missing."
Aside from the fact that the logo also contains Chinese characters, one might point out that Fangguo Food Co. actually sells apples. But the logo has also been registered for notebook computers and games, thus drawing the attention of Cupertino.
Apple says they just need to remove "conflicting elements" in the logo - like the leaf - and all will be well, but the owner of Fangguo says this will make his logo look like a bomb.
I can see that. A bomb with a bite taken out of it.
The owner, Zhao Yi, also points out that when he started the company he had never heard of Apple (which is really not much of a defense). The logo was created in the 1980s and Zhao Yi has no plans to enter the computer market. Nonetheless, he is not taking this lying down.
He handed out 1,000 questionnaires at the Fourth China Trademark Convention asking volunteers if they thought the two logos resembled each other. The results are forthcoming.
If you ask me, the logo kind of looks more like the Apple power button.
September 6, 2011
Here is a fact I bet you did not know - Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) produces about 70% of the world's cinnamon and has 85% of the world's market share. Think about that next time you shake some on a latte!
Now, the Sri Lanka Export Development Board is branding their cinnamon as "Pure Ceylon Cinnamon" to get the fragrant product the kind of cache that Pure Ceylon Tea has.
Said one executive recently, "Branding of Pure Ceylon Cinnamon and promoting it as a global brand in target markets is very important to highlight the main characteristics of Ceylon Cinnamon and differentiate Cinnamon from Cassia to gain the competitive advantage.
Accordingly, Ceylon Cinnamon will be introduced to the international market as a branded product which reflects a combination of several intrinsic characteristics."
Sri Lanka sold $85 million worth of cinnamon to the world last year and has since seen a whopping 32% growth in the industry.
The biggest problem the cinnamon industry faces in meeting this ever increasing demand is a shortage of skilled peelers. Because of this peeler shortage, they are trying to capitalize on the equity of the Ceylon name. In other words, brand name equity will make up for more production.
Should more peelers be attracted to the industry thanks to the value of the brand name (and the attendant high wages) the country could double its production without planting a single new tree. The Sri Lanka Export Development Board thinks it can increase export earnings from products and services to $15 billion annually through careful management of the brand and the production of more product.
But cinnamon peeling is an art that has been handed down for generations in Sri Lanka. The country produces 16,000 tons of cinnamon annually, while providing the livelihood for 260,000 families.
And the biggest buyer? Mexico, who claimed 49% of it in 2010.
The Sri Lanka Export Development Board planned two Pure Ceylon Cinnamon brand promotion events in the USA and Germany in 2011. The first one was at the International Food Technology Fair in New Orleans last month, the next will be in October during the ANUGA Trade Fair in Germany.
I think that this is an interesting move. The name "Ceylon" is already understood in the US and connotes exoticism. Also, this brand name initiative might help employ thousands more people and bring an ancient art to a new generation in this tiny island nation.
September 2, 2011
The Labor Day name clearly communicates its reason for being with it descriptive nature.
However, I'm willing to bet that its actual origins are mystery to the majority of us who enjoy this extended weekend every year.
In fact, Labor Day was first celebrated on September 5, 1882.
And while it was in recognition of of a parade organized by Peter J. McGuire, the co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, his inspiration came from "a parade staged in support of the Toronto Typographical Union's strike for a 58-hour work-week" in Canada.
So if you run across one of our neighbors from the north this weekend, be sure to offer your thanks for a little extra sleep on Monday and a proper send-off to summer.
Have a great Labor Day weekend everyone!
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September 1, 2011
In November of 2006, Nintendo released the newest of its five video gaming consoles to somewhat mix reviews. Originally rumored to be named the Revolution, many consumers we disappointed to hear it announced as the Nintendo Wii.
The name, in fact, inspired a surge of Wii Wii jokes online. However, Nintendo supported their product naming decision explaining that:
"Wii sounds like 'we,' which emphasizes this console is for everyone. Wii can easily be remembered by people around the world, no matter what language they speak. No confusion. Wii has a distinctive "ii" spelling that symbolizes both the unique controllers and the image of people gathering to play."
As of last month, the Wii is leading both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 in sales worldwide and "in December 2009 broke the record for best-selling console in a single month in the United States."
The point is that when you're offering innovation, it may be a little uncomfortable to introduce it with an innovative product name, even though that is more often than not the most beneficial thing to do.
Another very well-known example is the Apple iPad.
Upon first being announced, the iPad was associated with parody monikers such as the iTampon. Interestingly, even before its release, MadTV aired a skit that linked the Apple iPod to feminine hygiene products, calling it, what else? The iPad.
Yet, similar to the Wii, Apple's iPad flourished despite early product naming reservations from consumers.
By combining a quality product with a distinct and possibly evening provocative new name, both Nintendo and Apple were able to gain prime ownership in the mind of consumers for their respective categories.
So don't be afraid to make a splash with a brand name for a new product.
If you have a truly innovative product, be bold. It may not always feel like love at first sight, but after a little wining and dining, there is a much better chance for a quality lovefest.