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November 30, 2011

Is the Minneapolis - St. Paul Brand Name Going Extinct?

MN Postcard.jpgI have been watching with interest the concern shown in the Star-Tribune over the fact that the Twin Cities are disappearing, or at least their names are.

Steve Berg wrote a commentary on the subject a week ago noting that people now simply refer to Minneapolis - St. Paul as "Minnesota."

He goes on to state, "This is a bizarre turn. We live in an era of cities. Metropolitan areas have emerged as the basic units of a dynamic global economy."

He states that if the actual names of our cities are not foregrounded, they will lose a great deal of their identity to the rest of the world.

Minnesota is being used as the actual city name, quoting a New York Times obituary for Tom Kieth, who was featured on public radio in front of a "theater audience in Minnesota, or in other cities on tour."

Paul Stolen from the Star-Tribune argued that the problem was due to "Minnesota Nice."

He says that "each of the two main components of our very own metropolis, Minneapolis and St. Paul, didn't want to offend the other in choosing names for our baseball teams, main university, hockey teams, basketball teams, public radio network, and on and on." So the names became interchangeable and amorphous.

Plus, the name Minneapolis - St. Paul is just too long.

So Stolen and his group tried out a few replacement names like 'Minnpaulopolis' and 'Paulapolis' and then settled on the name 'Three Rivers.'

Of course, that sounds like a town. And I doubt it is possible to change the naming of the Twin Cities this late in the game.

But this is not a naming problem, it is a brand identity problem, something that is being looked at right now by the Greater Minneapolis - St. Paul Regional Economic Development Partnership.

The entire state needs to work on its brand image and, through that, the prominence of the Twin Cities names.

The disappearance of our city names are not unique to our region, by the way.

StoneArch.jpg

How many people simply use the name New York and Manhattan interchangeably? Does anyone call LA by its full name, Los Angeles?

But it is indeed a problem if the Minnesota name just swallows up the names of the Twin Cities.

The Minneapolis name is shorthand for the area's biggest cities. If somebody from out of state is sent to Minnesota to do business, it is understood that they are going to Minneapolis - St. Paul, just like when we say we are sending a Congressman to Washington we actually mean Washington DC.

Should we promote the Minneapolis - St. Paul naming nonetheless? Of course.

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November 29, 2011

Chick-fil-A Enters Into Brand Naming Dispute With T-Shirt Guy

Eat-More-Kale-Shirt.jpgSometimes the world of naming and branding just gets darn ugly when it comes to trademark spats.

The news going around the Internet this week is that Vermont artist Bo Muller-Moore is going head-to-head with the Atlanta-based, Chik-fil-A, fast food chain over the fact that he uses a hand silkscreen to print the words "Eat More Kale" to t-shirts.

The company feels that Muller-Moore is creating a likelihood of confusion with their slogan, which is, of course, "Eat More Chicken."

In a recent letter, the fast food chain states that the artist's slogan "is likely to cause confusion of the public and dilutes the distinctiveness of Chick-fil-A's intellectual property and diminishes its value."

They have successfully defended their trademark against thirty others who have tried to use a similar slogan, but this one has caught the Web's attention because it is such a David and Goliath story.

They want him to not only stop using the slogan, but to hand over his web site as well - www.eatmorekale.com.

We're talking about a fast food chain that is second only to KFC in the chicken biz.

Suing a t-shirt guy.

In Vermont.

I see no similarity in design, typeface or font between the two slogans. I think kale and chicken are easy to distinguish from one another, I probably am going to side with the blogosphere on this one.

Eat More Chicken.png

One blogger targeted Chik-fil-A's mission statement that promises that the company will "glorify God."

Another has posted the Chik-fil-A ads next to pictures of the offending Eat More Kale t-shirts to illustrate just how small time this guy is, and how different the two slogans are.

And other bloggers have some fairly strong language reserved for Chik-fil-A and are calling for a boycott.

A law school professor in Vermont noted that a similar fight erupted between microbrewer 'Vermonster' and energy drink giant 'Monster' which was settled when the brewer agreed to never move into the wacky world of energy drinks.

Muller-Moore is not backing down and has enlisted the help of a local lawyer who really puts it best when he says "At the end of the day, I don't think anyone will step forward and say they bought an 'Eat More Kale' shirt thinking it was a Chick-fil-A product."

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November 28, 2011

Cyber Monday Naming Not As Cool as Magenta Saturday or Camo Thursday

Cyber Monday.pngCyber Monday commences and sales may hit a new record. Think a projected $1.2 billion, up from $1 billion last year.

Black Friday, of course, was a a commercial success this year.

But did you know that the origin of the Black Friday name came from the headaches caused by the traffic jams and crowds in Philadelphia? The police hated the day, and dubbed it accordingly, and only recently has it been repurposed.

The name "Cyber Monday," of course, came about when The New York Times noted that "millions of otherwise productive working Americans, fresh off a Thanksgiving weekend of window shopping, were returning to high-speed Internet connections at work Monday and buying what they liked." 

The Feds have took notice of this day, too, and have nabbed 130+ domain names as part of "their continued crackdown on counterfeit and piracy-related websites."

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have carried on with "Operation In Our Sites", nailing the bad guys who sell and trade counterfeit merchandise unfairly online.

Or, as Gawker puts it, "The federal government has once again made it harder to find the best online shopping spots for all your counterfeit sports jersey and fake Louis Vuitton bag holiday shopping needs. Why? Because they want your family's holiday gift-giving experience to be authentic."

So protection of brand names remains a priority today, rightly so.

But just recall that there are more days to look forward to, and they have even more creative names. Try "Magenta Saturday," created by T-Mobile, who on November 19th were selling cell phones at a discounted price.

Matel's Pink Friday.jpg

Mattel has already held a "Pink Friday" and "Blue Friday" to reach girls and boys respectively.

And one outdoor chain is offering us "Camo Thursdays."

Heck, Amex has even held "Small Business Saturday."

But Green Tuesday is one of the more interesting days. This is from Green America, who offers us environmentally-friendly gifts made from, among other things, recycled nuclear bombs.


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November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving .png

Thanksgiving has come to mean a variety of things these days, such as turkey, football and who could forget balloons the size of ten-story buildings.

But if one were to dissect the holiday, linguistically speaking of course, they would find the word is quite cyclical or maybe even a bit redundant.

Think about it.

Thanks can be defined as "an expression of gratitude." In other words, you are showing or giving appreciation to someone.

In reverse, giving arose from the concept of gifting something to someone, which gifts are really all about showing your appreciation.

So while thanks and giving may be working together to say essentially the same thing, perhaps they are doing so to place special emphasis on what this particular day is really all about.

With that in mind, we are thankful for the time you've given to read this little post and we hope you are in turn equally thankful that it is over. :)

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Strategic Name Development!


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November 22, 2011

Donald Trump Values His Brand Name at a Cool $3 Billion

Donald Trump.jpgThe news is out, Donald Trump's name is worth a cool $3 billion.

Or, more accurately, The Donald says it's worth that much.

Trump also tells us, in his forthcoming book, "Time to Get Tough," that he is worth $7 billion, including his powerful brand name.

Never mind that Forbes says he is worth only $200 million.

This difference in valuation brings up an interesting debate about how to measure brand value

Granted, Trump has done a great deal of work to create a valuable brand, although he has done a great deal to tear down that brand as well.

There are even those who feel that the Trump name on a piece of property is not that valuable. And anyone doing the brand valuation on Donald Trump has to include any litigation against the name, which is certainly a reality.

Trump himself comments on his brand value saying, "My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feeling."

One thing is for sure, the value of his name can't really be seen as a line item among his many assets. Part of the reason is that the value of the name can be totally out of proportion to what somebody might pay for it.

Trump's name might be worth $3 billion to Trump, but to anyone else, it might be worth far less. It seems very unlikely that he could sell the Trump brand for that much money or maybe not.

To put Trump's figure in perspective, one might note that Coca-Cola's brand name is valued around $70 billion.

Trump Tower.jpg

One thing for sure, Trump has a $3 billion ego. Make that $10 billion!

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November 21, 2011

Saab Brand Name to Go to China

Saab112111.pngBack in 2009 I wondered whether or not the Swedish brand Saab, the ultimate anti-brand, might ultimately get acquired by the Chinese.

Well, after many twists and turns, the brand has indeed been acquired by Chinese investors.

Chinese automakers Pang De and Youngman issued a statement that they had purchased "100% of the shares of Saab Automobile AB (Saab Automobile) and Saab Great Britain Ltd. (Saab GB) for a consideration of 100 million euros [US $134.55 million]."

It is reported that the Chinese investors are set to pump $2.7 billion into the brand, but production in Sweden could possibly disappear altogether.

The local Swedish press is wondering when a Swedish car name stops being, well, Swedish.

To many industry observers, the Saab name is almost synonymous with the Nordic country, despite the fact that GM owned it for years. It seems that "Swedish values" can be exported, and infused in cars made thousands of miles away, mainly by non-Swedes.

I would agree, not least because this buy puts Saab cars in front of the massive Chinese market and their ever-growing taste for luxury automobiles.

Said Bertil Morgen, an industry analyst in Sweden itself, "If you buy an iPhone, you know it is designed in California but made elsewhere and by the same measure, it won't be any harder for a Chinese company to retain the brand's Swedish-ness than for an American or anyone else. As long as the core values of the new cars are still Scandinavian, that is all that matters... it is largely irrelevant where it was actually put together."

Since the new owners will probably still produce the cars in Sweden for the next five years, they can still be sold as authentically Swedish.

But the comparison between Apple and Saab does make me pause.

The Apple name is owned by an American company that has its products made in China. If the name was owned by the Chinese, would it be as sweet to computer buyers? We have all seen the little disclaimer on Apple packaging saying that the product was "designed" in Cupertino... but the fact that it was made in China is harder for the average buyer to uncover.

Still, so many iconic car brands are moving away from their country of origin (Land Rover to Tata in India, Volvo to China), that it seems pretty clear that the modern consumer really won't care who builds what where.

How the brand name is positioned is everything.

Can a Chinese firm make Swedish cars? Sure. How do I know? Because Saab lovers all over the world are rejoicing today.

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November 18, 2011

Dodge Shoes Away Hornet Brand Name for New All Compact Car

Dodge Hornet Car.jpgSome brand names just don't want to go away.

The news that the new "all-compact" Dodge to be shown at the North American International Motor Show will not be called The Hornet after all saddened me a little this morning.

This is the first Chrysler Group LLC vehicle to be engineered by Fiat SpA.

Dodge revealed a concept car of the same name in 2006, but this new "all-compact" car is going to get a totally different moniker that Chrysler may or may not announce before the show.

It seemed that The Hornet naming was a sure thing just a few weeks ago.

The car itself looks like a mini, and the sedan version has already been given the name Hornet, at least by the press.

Dodge needs to get into the small car business and with fiat's small car technology it will become a reality.

The plan to give this American car with an Italian soul a quintessentially American Hornet name seemed like a good move.

Heck, the new Hornet even has a Facebook page already.

The Hornet nameplate has been used twice by iconic cars. The car first appeared on the Hudson Hornet in the 1950s, and was known as a powerful racer.

Gremlin Car.jpg

Then, in 1970, AMC released an economy compact car called the Hornet that became the basis for the Gremlin, Spirit and Eagle.

The name therefore has pedigree and is still associated with sub-compact cars, so it is a shame to see it go.

Those famous AMC cars from the 1970s may just have been a little too "way out" for such a modern looking car.


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November 17, 2011

Tamara Mellon Leaves Jimmy Choo With Rights To Her Own Brand Name

tamara-mellon.jpgThe fashion icon Tamara Mellon has left Jimmy Choo.

Mellon's departure has left speculators to believe that she may start her own brand, leading everyone in advertising agog.

Here is a woman who really created the Jimmy Choo brand and who has the looks and savviness and even stared in the ads for the Jimmy Choo fragrance. As the Telegraph points out, "there aren't many chief executives who star in their own perfume ads."

Yeah. Make that basically none of them.

As Vogue's market editor has pointed out "she's incredibly glamorous, but also a successful businesswoman and single mother. She ticks a lot of boxes."

So the loss of Tamara Mellon for Jimmy Choo must be immense (think about how Apple must feel after losing Steve Jobs, but imagine if Jobs was incredibly, mind blowingly beautiful, and you get the idea).

Some people are simply the nuts and bolts behind the brand name.

Mellon has so much cred that we can expect anything from her, not least because Josh Schulman the creative director of Jimmy Choo, may be joining Mellon to form this, as of yet, unnamed brand.

Mellon has a cool £85 million (approximately $134 million) from the £525.5 million sale of the Jimmy Choo business, but this is almost beside the point because anyone in the fashion world would work with her.

Mellon has retained the rights to her own name, which is crucial, and she has long thought that Jimmy Choo could be a lifestyle brand.

I would expect to see her name being used on a more accessible, comprehensive lifestyle brand in the near future.

Tamara Mellon Perfume.jpg

This seems to be the way high fashion is heading in tough times anyway.

Everyone from Aerin Lauder at Estee Lauder (who founded the "luxury lifestyle brand" Aerin) to Karl Lagerfeld, who is gunning for masstige, the stylish but affordable market, with his own line of clothing, are moving from the boutique to the mall.

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November 16, 2011

V.me Brand Name Reminds Me of O.co

V.me.pngSo early next year Visa is going to offer a digital wallet service (think PayPal) called V.me.

You will be able to electronically access your bank account or any or your credit cards, not just your Visa card, to pay for things.

And there will soon be a way for V.me customers to use their accounts at the register.

Visa will tap into their massive user database to jump into PayPal's market.

Visa already has an open developer programme designed to bring in top tech people, in hopes to make this work right out of the starting gate.

But let us return to the name for this interesting and highly competitive product.

V.me.

The idea is to (slightly) dissociate the brand from Visa. Although the logo uses the same colors and will also be presented with an endorsing tagline "by Visa."

This move was possibly made to ensure that people knew that they didn't need a Visa to use the service. All you will need is a username and password to make it work.

The initiative will be funded by sources outside of Visa, so one Visa exec has said "we wanted [the brand] to evoke Visa, and link to it, but without saying Visa."

But... um... the tagline says "by Visa" in really big letters.

And the colors and design are essentially the same. Without actually calling this product VisaPay or something similar, how much more could the design and tagline imply that this is a Visa product?

If the idea is to help customers believe that they do not need a Visa card to use the service, then why not use totally different colors and a name that does not reference Visa at all?

American Express may actually do this via a $100 million fund that is looking at e-commerce opportunities.

V.me reminds me a little of O.co.

Last year Overstock.com changed the company's brand name to O.co because Overstock, like Visa, had a very recognizable name, and thought they would own the letter "O." But people kept going to O.com and the company finally made the choice to revert back to the Overstock.com name.

Domain Names.png

The .me domain just looks, well, a little strange. V.me makes me want to type Ve.me.

The problem here is that people just are not used to these new domains... yet.

Maybe the broad marketing idea is to "verb up" V.me, as in "V.me a payment."



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November 15, 2011

Chinese Brand Names More Topical Than Ever

China Coke.pngRecently the New York Times posted an article entitled "Picking Brand Names in China Is a Business Itself."

The article has received a surprising amount of traction in the blogosphere.

The fact that the consumer goods market in China is growing by 13% and the luxury goods market by 25%, has marketers very interested in what brand names appeal to the Chinese consumer.

So we no longer laugh when we hear that Nike translates into "Enduring and Preserving" or BMW is sold as "Precious Horse" and Coke is thought of as "Happiness Power." Tide? It translates to Taizi, which means "get rid of dirt." And Reebok is called Rui bu, meaning "quick steps."

Some Chinese names have no translation such as Cadillac which translates to Ka di la ke.

But beware! Microsoft's Bing! sounds like "defect" in Chinese and Peugeot (bao zhi) sounds like "prostitute" (baozi).

And Mr. Muscle, the surface cleaner from S. C. Johnson & Son? It sounds like Mr. Chicken Meat.

Everyone from wine makers to reporters in India have picked up on the importance of brand names that translate into Chinese without any negative associations.

Business Insider identified a list of naming translations that resonate with the Chinese consumer.


  • Tide - Taizi, "gets rid of dirt"

  • Reebok - Rui bu, "quick steps"

  • Nike - Nai ke, "enduring and persevering"

  • Colgate - Gao lu jie, "revealing superior cleanliness"

  • Marriott - Wan hao, "10,000 wealthy elites"

  • Citibank - Hua qi yinhang, "star-spangled banner bank"

  • Heineken - Xi li, "happiness power"

  • Pentium - Ben teng, "galloping"


How the Chinese are being attacked by Zombie brands has been a topic of interest to me before. So has the subject of trademark issues in that country.

The takeaway here is that you need specialized help when creating a brand name for the Chinese market.

Plus, you need to know how to navigate the complex trademark waters in that country.

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November 14, 2011

O.co Changes Brand Name Back to Overstock.com

Overstock.com.pngIt seemed like just yesterday (but in fact it was last year), when Overstock.com bought the O.co domain name for $350,000.

The company stated that the new domain name would "enhance its brand recognition and retention, align with current marketing initiatives, and make it easier for shoppers to find the company's products and services online."

The idea was to own the letter "O" and the entire brand would be built around that letter. The name "Overstock," was felt to carry a bit of a stigma.

But this did not seem to work as expected and now the company's domain is going back to Overstock.com.

The company felt they moved too fast with the change, which lasted all of six months. This included changes on the signage of its NFL stadium and an aggressive ad campaign that told us all that "Overstock.com is now O.co."

The O.co domain name will not be abandoned completely. It seems that O.co will still be used internationally and the O.co Coliseum, home of the Oakland Raiders, will continue to retain its name.

So, the stadium will be called O.co but that's not really the U.S. company's name. Which is obviously messy.

The root of the problem? Customers were going to O.com and not O.co.

This seems to be a problem that is quite frequent. "Most people still see dot com instead of dot co. While many feel that this will change in the future as do co becomes more familiar, the reality of the present is all dot co domains will bleed traffic to the dot com," says Domain Shane and he is right.

We are so attuned to typing "com" that "co" doesn't look right.

When Ad Age asked my opinion about the change I identified social media, and its culture of instant feedback, for this misstep on the part of Overstock.com.

Any company can make a branding mistake once, social media or no social media.

But they can't f@#$ up twice.

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November 11, 2011

Will Starbucks Brand Name Transfer To Juice?

Starbucks Juice.pngThe news that Starbucks is getting into the juice business comes as no surprise.

The fact that they offer so many products in their stores including food and cold drinks (lemonade and other juices), has long indicated that they want the brand to mean more to us than just coffee.

They dropped $30 million on a small juice company called Evolution Fresh Inc., which has a large presence on the West Coast. The Evolution beverages will replace the Naked Inc. beverages sold in Starbucks stores, as well as go into supermarkets with evolution.

Whether they rebrand these juices or not, one element of their strategy is to use their presence in the Starbucks stores to generate awareness. The WSJ quotes Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz as saying that getting these juices in front of the 60 million people who frequent Starbucks each week is "equivalent to airing a commercial on the top three television shows weekly." Maybe, maybe not.

Additionally, the company has announced plans to open a new chain centered on wholesome beverages and food that will tap into the $1.6 billion juice market and the $50 billion health foods market.

No matter what the stores are called, "Starbucks has the clout, marketing savvy and name recognition to make its juice and health foods a premium brand and take market share from competitors," or so the LA Times quotes one expert enthusing.

But will they use the brand equity of Starbucks?

It's a tough call, but I would imagine they will in some form or another, partly because it seems obvious that the juice stores will offer coffee and other goodies, and people already see Starbucks as a spot where they can get a myriad of products.

Apple Computer changed its name to Apple, Inc. as it broadened its product line with iPods, iPhones, and iPads. This was a great move despite initial skepticism in the industry that the company would struggle to sell in these new product categories.

starbucks-store.jpg

Juice has long been an open gambit for Starbucks anyway, and as Seattlepi says, $30 million is "chump change" to the coffee giant.

If Starbucks goes into this venture wholeheartedly, they could transform the juice business the way they transformed coffee.

Remember when people thought expensive coffee wouldn't work?

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November 10, 2011

Jenny Craig Changes Brand Name to Jenny

Mariah Carey.jpgThings are happening over at Jenny Craig.

First of all, we're supposed to call it just "Jenny." This name makes the brand a bit more accessible and seems to leverage how well known it is.

Secondly, the new Brand Ambassador is none other than Mariah Carey, who claims to have lost 30 lbs using the famous diet plan. It seems that the singer put on a great deal of weight after the recent birth of her twin sons Monroe and Morocco. In fact, if you include water weight, she claims to have lost 70 lbs.

Today.com suggests that Jenny is trying to be younger and hipper. Mariah is 42 years old, still a top artist, and is very much a celebrity of the moment. Past spokespeople have included Carrie Fisher, Sara Rue, Nicole Sullivan, Valerie Bertinelli and Jason Alexander.

The photos of Mariah for the campaign are a bit heavy on the sex appeal and bling.

But note how Jenny is also using Mariah to partner with the American Heart Association's "My Heart. My Life. Initiative."

This is designed to associate the brand name with health rather than simply dieting. Couple that with the new Jenny-Set-Go initiative which is a 28 day program designed to help people change their eating habits (not a crash diet, mind you).

Carrie Fisher seems to have lost 50 lbs doing the program and Mariah's success is equally amazing.

More than that, both women, including Valerie Bertinelli, have had public struggles with their weight and social lives that people seem to sympathize with. Jenny walks a careful line between just presenting us with celebrities who have lost weight and celebrities who have overcome personal adversity and come out of it feeling great.

I think referring to the program as "Jenny" can work. It makes the entire enterprise look more personal.

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November 9, 2011

The USA Discovers New Brand Name

USA Discover America Logo.pngAn organization formed to market the USA as a travel destination has changed its name from The Corporation for Travel Promotion to Brand USA and is using the web site discoveramerica.com.

Discover America is also the tagline for the new campaign, and the new logo shows the letters USA composed of many multi-colored dots (more on those colors, ahem, later). This initiative has a $200 million dollar budget that is meant to come from the private industry.

The organization's goal is to remove "barriers keeping people from coming here." The company is also telling the world that we are the "United States of awesome possibilities."

Let me state here that many of our forebears saw that America had some awesome possibilities. They saw this as a place to emigrate to, not just a place to visit.

Discover America conjures up immediate visions of Christopher Columbus (or Vikings, or Native Americas). The fact that the country wants to "welcome everyone" also sounds like an update of the most quoted segment of the poem The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus posted inside the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
In other words, this country has some awesome possibilities.

But those possibilities are for those who want to stay. What about those who want to spend a vacation here?

The initiative is also being supported by the Department of Homeland Security and there is the hope that the drive to present Brand USA to the world will help create jobs here that are "outsource-proof."

Note that red, white and blue are not being used in the "percolating" Brand USA logo. The organization defends this by saying "It is not about patriotism, flag waving or chest beating. It is meant to be welcoming, unexpected and inclusive. It celebrates the idea that no one thing defines the USA - but that each visitor interaction and each experience helps create the distinctly dynamic fabric of the American experience."

American Flag.jpg

Um, so the colors red, white and blue can't do all that? Red, white and blue are now just about "chest beating?"

Really?

I would say that it is obvious by the feel of the website, and of course the new name, that Brand USA is trying to drum up both tourism and business.

Those awesome possibilities are therefore possibilities to have a great vacation or, if you like, to make some money.

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November 8, 2011

Has Google Overused the "+" Sign in its Google+ Brand Name?

Google+ .jpgGoogle has dumped the + search operator feature in order to focus on and avoid confusion with Google+, but the +1 button is alive and well.

Confused yet?

Leave aside that Buzz, Code Search, Jaiku and iGoogle's social features will also be tossed by mid-January.

The rise of Google+ has really meant that Google's use of the "+" sign might be a bit confusing for the rest of us. You used to be able to type in "+" before a search word to get results that exactly matched the word, now you just use good old fashioned quotation marks.

The focus and naming of Google+ and its low-level war with social giant Facebook has some of us wondering how, exactly, the "+" works. This is partly because Google is going to use the "+" sign on branded Google+ pages.

This time, the "+" before a brand name will bring you right to the Google+ branded page. So, if you type in "+Google" you no longer get search results pared down to just the Google name, you instead get led to the Google+ Page for the Google brand.

This will spread to other brands, and that plus sign before a brand name will be how you mention a brand in Google+, much like Twitter users reference another user using the "@" key.

This is a problem for power users and is pretty confusing to the rest of us as well. This feature is called Direct Connect.

Google sees this as a way of helping people build connections with brands and I am sure it's a good thing. But the overuse of the "+" sign is confusing, because articles and pages now have that almost ubiquitous +1 button that you can press whether you have a Google+ page or not.

Add into this that there will be icons that say "Google+" that leads to the company's Google+ "presence" and, ostensibly, that +1, and you have a plethora of pluses.

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November 7, 2011

Madonna Embraces Truth or Dare Brand Name for Millennial and Boomers Alike

Madonna.jpgThe announcement that Madonna is launching a lifestyle clothing line called Truth or Dare in 2012 is not really a surprise.

Her Material Girl brand for juniors seems well named and successful. The Truth or Dare line will be aimed at people closer to her age (53), and looks like a way to cater to the needs of, well, her original fans.

What is interesting about it is that the brand is supposed to appeal to women between the ages of 27-50.

This has a few bloggers scratching their heads, with one twenty-something blogger saying "I'm not sure that I can visualize a line that would be appropriate on women my age, as well as my mother's age." The same blogger says that the clothing line should be aimed at women over 45, for whom Madonna, with her timeless beauty, would act as a perfect brand icon.

Truth or Dare is taken from the name of her 1991 documentary, not from the name of the middle school game you played during sleepovers.

I think it has appeal and the name has a close association with Madonna herself.

But I can't help but think that a fifty-year-old woman has to be pretty daring to dress like a twenty-seven-year-old these days. If you do the math, a fifty-year-old woman was 30 when the documentary came out. But wait for it, she would have been 21 when Madonna's first hit came out, "Lucky Star" in 1983.

The twenty-seven-year-old woman buying this stuff was only six years old then.

Madonna stills plans on making music, by the way, with plans to sign on with the same label that gave us Lady Gaga. Now that is an interesting combination of names.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:31 AM

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November 4, 2011

When Tech Brand Naming Skips a Beat

Cool-er.pngYesterday, CNET brought us the "20 Worst Tech Products, Ever" and there are some amusing doozies to be found indeed.

They start out by trashing Qwikster (as I did), and then move on to Cool-er, which has to be the worst e-reader name of a very bad bunch.

How about "Cuil," a very uncool search engine name that did not last long. Or the Samsung :). Yes, people, this is a brand that actually used a smiley emoticon.

They also hit the Eee PC by Asus, for obvious reasons. The iMuffs headset is also up there. Bringing up the rear is the Tivoli iYiYi, an iPod player.

To be fair, tech products live in their own world of weird naming. No, it is not as bad as the weird world of energy drink naming, but it's still pretty bad.

Think about it. Even the good names are pretty strange.

Witness the success of Wii, iPod, iPad, and Walkman. These names are strange looking, but they resonate. The difference between a tech name that works and one that looks ridiculous is really rather small. Or in the eye of the beholder.

One blogger at Input Output has tried to figure out what goes into a bad tech name, noting that names that are unpronounceable, use symbols, overuse the letter Q, are ridiculously obvious, misleading or that try too hard are really a no-go.

Also, amusingly, she notes a few names in the tech world that are "accidentally suggestive/foul." Examples of these are:

  • PublishIt
  • Mate ME
  • ExpertsExchange
  • TouchWiz
  • Panasonic's Touch Woody: The Internet Pecker

The blogger also notes that we actually have names that are so offensive that they warrant an apology from the maker. Here she presents us with an MP3 player called I.Beat Blaxx.

Other bad tech names include "Ping" (again from Apple), the Plastic Logic Que, and the Cisco Cius, which is pronounced as Sce-us and was formed from the first two letters of Cisco and 'us.'


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Posted by William Lozito at 8:01 AM

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November 3, 2011

Long Haul Airline Brand Name Gets Scootitude

Scoot Flight Attendents.jpgIt seems that there is a new budget carrier in Singapore called "Scoot."

The airline industry has had a modern affinity for kooky names, such as Song and Ted or Kulula in South Africa, but these names usually fit companies offering short flights. Scoot, on the other hand, is a long haul carrier.

The CEO, Campell Wilson, says the name is "short and snappy" and it "stands out." He adds that Scoot is "an airline with a different attitude. People with a different attitude - Scootitude." Wilson choose the unusual name because he felt it was "crucial in helping shape the branding and consumer impression of the new company," according to Marketing Magazine Australia.

The airline owes its existence to the rapid rise in long haul flights around Asia and the corresponding demand for a no-frills service.

The WSJ immediately asked what is "Scootitude?" They note that the blogosphere has reacted with disdain, with one blooger writing that it stands for "So Cheap-O Overseas Travel" and another saying that this is the type of thing you say to a puppy.

Branded Skies is even more derogatory, saying that "Scoot is poorly named and dreadfully designed. By its most charitable definition, 'Scoot' is something you say to annoying children when you want them to go away. Less charitably, it's what dogs do to your carpet when their bottoms itch."

Scoot Airlines.jpg

Ouch.

As passengers get more and more used to quirky airline names, it seems logical that these names will make it on to the big jets. Maybe airline naming is continuing on where startup naming has left off.

But Scootitude?

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Posted by William Lozito at 7:53 AM

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November 2, 2011

Is Startup Brand Naming Growing Up?

Bad Name Logos.pngThere is an interesting blog on PeHub that gives us some pretty bad startup names.

They like the name "Cherry" for a company that offers an app that allows you to order a car wash, and they come to you, wherever your car may be. Yes, that's a good name.

But they are not crazy about Aprius, Blekko, Batahug, Faqme, Floop, and Tynt. It's hard to argue with the reasoning here. These are irreverent, obscure names that in some cases (ahem, Floop, Faqme) send out the wrong connotations or are just misleading.

But startup naming just isn't what it used to be, or maybe it is.

There were some pretty good blog posts from before the big crash and certainly before the Occupy Wall St. movement that offered advice about startup naming. Even Seth Godin got into the act by blogging about the benefits of coined names compared to descriptive names. These are easy to remember and, crucially, sticky on Google.

Around 2008, however, the blogosphere started to turn on names like these. Names like "Adaptive Blue" and "Thoof" and "Weebly" and "Yoono" started to look a little, well, juvenile, desperate and forgettable.

Dharmesh Shah offered us the 17 Mutable Suggestions for Naming a Startup last year that were far more down to earth. Shah's last suggestion was to look for "timeless" names over "trendy" names so that ten years from now, people won't say "Hey, they're one of those companies..."

Business Insider is even more no-nonsense, suggesting that your name must be:

  • Obvious to spell, otherwise you'll spend the rest of your life dictating letters over the phone
  • Short so it's easy to say and read
  • Evocative, either explaining what you do or evoking an emotion that's useful to your purpose
  • Memorable, perhaps the most important quality and yet impossible to measure

I might gently add that the very name "startup" is tainted.

I mean, ask yourself if you would really want to work in a "startup" or invest in one? I am starting (there's that word again) to think that people are no longer really interested in taking chances.

They want security, a medical plan, and a guaranteed paycheck.

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Posted by William Lozito at 6:48 AM

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