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January 31, 2012

The Cure For Skin Cancer Digs Up Hedgehog Brand Name

Pills.pngScience routinely provides us with wackier names than energy drinks.

Take, for example, the first FDA approved drug to help treat advanced cases of
basal-cell skin cancer, the most common type of skin cancer.

The drug, developed with the help of a group called Curis Inc., will be marketed by Genentech Inc. These seem like pretty standard medical-sounding company names. Curis find cures, I guess, and Genentech looks at things related to genes.

But it gets better.

The drug's generic name is "vismodegib," which will be marketed under the Erivedge brand.

Erivedge. Yup. They decided to keep it weird. Say this out loud. It sounds like a vegetable drink. I'm sure the company wants us to focus on the "edge" in the name, however.

The drug, which will set you back a cool $75,000 for a ten-month treatment, functions by inhibiting the "so-called Hedgehog signaling pathway by binding to a protein called Smoothened."

The above sentence was from a New York Times piece on the new drug, and I just had to know more. I had no idea there was a hedgehog pathway in our body. And Smoothened sounds like something you get at a yogurt bar.

But yes, we have hedgehog genes, including two called "Sonic hedgehog homolog and Indian hedgehog b, previously known as Echidna hedgehog." These are a part of the Hedgehog signaling pathway that regulated your growth as a child. The last inhibitor was discovered in 2009 and was called "Robotnikinin."

Robotnikinin! Now that's a cool drug name! It sounds like a character out of a lost sci-fi fairy tale.

Imagine the head of the FDA had to stand in front of the press and make the following statement with a straight face - "Our understanding of molecular pathways involved in cancer, such as the hedgehog pathway, has enabled the development of targeted drugs for specific cancers."

Then he had to pronounce the generic vismodegib name properly.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:28 AM

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January 30, 2012

Dodge Dart Brand Name Hits the Spot

DodgeDart.pngToday, AutoSpies raises its bloggy eyebrow at the Dodge Dart name.

The Dart was one of the stars of the 2012 Detroit Auto Show and consumers seem generally happy with the car's specs and appearance.

AutoSpies, however, brings up a problem with the name by commenting, "In it's day the original Dart was the LAMEST Dodge built and only grannies drove it. They even had special editions called 'Swinger' and 'Demon' and even THEY were lame."

That aura of lameness around the Dart name did briefly make me pause before giving it the nod. But my nod still stands, for a number of reasons.

First, Dodge almost called this car The Hornet. The Hornet brand name comes to us from the 1950's and has survived in various incarnations throughout to the 70's. It is just a little "way out" there and, like Dart, it has been slapped on some cars that are frankly not memorable.

Second, the CEO for Dodge, Reid Bigland, tells us that when they showed pictures of the new car to a target group under 35, "Dart was the overwhelming bulls-eye. These people weren't very familiar with the 1960-1976 Dart. They were just looking at Dart for matching the design and the aero of the current car." Plus, around 4 million "lame" Darts were sold.

Bottom line?

The target market is not aware of the original Dart that was sold between 1960-1976, when most of the consumers likely to buy the car were born.

The admittedly biased DodgeDartCentral.Com recently conducted a poll that showed 51.6% of respondents voting for the name.

Motor Trend says that Dodge "hits the bullseye" with the name, bemoaning the "inscrutable alphanumeric names" GM has saddled itself with.

I believe the Dart name fits the car and will resonate with young buyers, while those who remember the original Dart may simply not be in the market for a car like it.

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January 27, 2012

Will Nintendo Have to Change the Wii U Brand Name?

wii-u.pngThe news that Nintendo may change the Wii U name is interesting since the Wii brand name has been such a success. Wii U, however, was muddled and silly from day one.

This is really an example of how easily brand naming can become confusing. The Wii U is a new console and the name is just too similar to "Wii." Even hardcore gamers are getting a little confused.

This news comes after Nintendo was forced to add a disclaimer on TV advertisements for the Nintendo 3DS saying, "This is not DS, this is Nintendo 3DS." Consumers were not understanding the difference - that the DS is the old version and the 3DS is the new one.

As one blogger put it, "Apparently adding a single letter or number to an existing product name doesn't exactly convince consumers that the device truly is 'the next generation.'"

I have to agree. You need to dig hard to figure out that the Wii U is a new product.

I suppose Wii II would sound a little strange, but there needs to a be a clear means through which consumers can figure out what they are getting. When you need to put warning stickers on boxes and printed messages on TV ads, you know you have a naming issue.

One Nintendo enthusiast has suggested naming it "The Super Awesome Super Sexy Super Exclusive Machine." So much for crowdsourcing!

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January 26, 2012

Jeep Opens Cherokee Naming and Branding to the Crowd

JeepCherokee2012.pngThe news that Chrysler will name its new Grand Cherokee concept through an online contest has me thinking once again about the use of crowdsourcing for naming and branding.

This nifty new "stealth" version of the Cherokee looks pretty modern and people interested in naming it can go to to submit a name.

This will, I should note, be the name of a limited edition model. Jeep has had other limited edition versions, like the Wrangler Call of Duty, the Wrangler Arctic, Islander and the Liberty Arctic.

Jeep seems "fascinated" by special edition packages, possibly because they lend a sense of individuality to each car and also keep the Jeep brand fresh in the consumer's mind.

This marketing move is not really about the name. It's about the excitement created for the Cherokee brand.

Mountain Dew, Pepsi and Doritos have all learned that they can reinvent their image with the help of consumers.

But to those who think that all brand names can be crowdsourced, I have one word:


And another word:


ipadwii.pngThese are two of the more successful brand names of the last ten years, and I guarantee that you would not get them from a crowd. Both names were laughed at when they were introduced, and both have endured.

The crowd, you see, does not work with the brand everyday. They do not know brand strategy or consumer insights, or that pesky trademark minefield. They want to create names that look cool and get little uphill from fellow Tweeters and Facebookers. Names that win contests.

Nobody hoping to win a contest would dream up a name like "Wii." It's too out there, too different. Yet it's a successful brand name.

To open your brand to the crowd is to open it to thousands of people who will only take about five minutes to brainstorm a name.

You generate buzz and excitement around the new product, yes, but you almost certainly will not get a successful name like iPad and Wii.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:00 AM

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January 25, 2012

Sony Drops Ericsson From Its Handset Brand Name, World Takes Notice

SE Logo.pngSony's new phones launched in Vegas this month were the first in a decade not to bear the Ericsson name. Sony now has its own brand name of handsets, and it will be interesting to see if this helps Sony fare better in the cutthroat sector.

The name change hurt Sony's profits at the end of 2011, when the company bought out Ericsson for $1.47 billion. At one time, the Sony Ericsson partnership was the sixth biggest player in the global market a few years ago, but the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy put an end to that.

Now, as Sony goes it alone, it faces an "uphill struggle" as the mobile phone market slows down. Still, the geekosphere has noted that the new Xperia is "All Sony, No Ericsson." The new naming and branding will be very much aimed at the U.S. market.

GoMo feels, as I do, that the "Sony Ericsson brand name was clumsy." It was simply not a good marriage of brands and now Sony can consolidate its products under its own brand name.

Sony has some wonderful names under its belt, such as Playstation, Walkman, Xperia and Cyber-shot, but they never seem to really score with them. The Ericsson name further diluted these.

Sony should focus on its Masterbrand and very strong line of sub-brands.

Customers know and trust Sony, but one analyst hits it perfectly when he says "The company was never able to differentiate with a strong set of devices at competitive price points and was always seen as a tier 2 supplier to most operators. The handset business was the missing part and will drive this integration."

In English, this means that mobile phones might drive Sony back to the top of the charts, and pull along its other worthy products. Just ask Apple how this works.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:05 AM

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January 24, 2012

Google Allows Users to Add Nicknames to Their Google+ Name

Google+.pngGoogle+ has relaxed its much despised pseudonyms policy by "letting existing members attach an alternate moniker to their profile name and by letting new members sign up with just a pseudonym, provided it is an 'established' identity online or offline."

Up until now, users have been forced to use their real name, much to the irritation of political dissidents or victims of stalkers. So, essentially, you can add a nickname with Google+ as long as that name exists elsewhere online - such as Twitter, or Flickr or, er, Facebook.

Google states that in fact, only about 0.1% of Google+ users submit "name appeals" demanding an unconventional nickname.

Some may say this goes "far enough" to satisfy us. A non-verified nickname is a pseudonym, and pseudonyms, if not kept in check, would grant us anonymity, argues Joe Wilcox.

He claims anonymity online is bad because it encourages phishers and trollers, and compromises our security and community within social networks.

Honesty is the best policy, he says piously, adding "What are you afraid of? I use my real name everywhere, as I have always done. I see that as being in the very spirit of the open - and transparent - Internet. Be who you are, not someone else."

Um, well, OK. If you say so. But this might not work if your crazy ex-husband is trolling the Internet looking for you or if the some mad dictator wants to throw you in a dungeon. Or if you don't take social networking that seriously and just want to have a space where you can call yourself "Flash" or "Chewbacca" or whatever.


Google asking users to submit official documents to a social media site seems sort of, well, Orwellian. And I mean that in a Big Brother, evil way.

Coincidentally, Facebook has recently issued a "Don't be evil" bookmarklet Chrome extension. This is a play on Google's famous motto and allows people to search non-Google weighted pages with more ease.

Google+ claims to have 90 million members, more than double what it had three months ago. Facebook has more than 800 million. Many using false names.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:03 AM

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January 23, 2012

Will Kodak's Brand Name Live On?

KodakLogo.pngI have been watching the slow but sure demise of Kodak for some time now, a company weakened by "creative destruction."

But Kodak the brand name may still have life in it. In fact, it may have to reinvent itself as an intellectual property company and sell its brand name and trademarks to investors.

This has led CNN Money to write an interesting piece on why "Neither bankruptcy nor a liquidation can kill iconic brands," which reports on the news that Hostess Brands is also going to the wall - yes, that means Twinkies may be doomed unless an investor buys the brand name.

And that, of course, is very likely.

Kodak, on the other hand, has such a rich brand name and iconic history that it seems unlikely it will simply vanish.

But as one blogger writes, "It's harder to find any reason to mourn the Hostess Twinkie, which in today's world has all the esthetic appeal and health benefit of a factory-molded block of yellow Styrofoam with a dollop of white drywall spackle injected into it."

Yes, but we all know the brand has a certain retro-junk food cred - Twinkies are to junk food as Starbucks is to luxury coffee. These brands can live on thanks to social media and the ever changing nature of the way we live with and think about brands.

Will Kodak become a "zombie brand?" Well, a zombie brand arises when the original company is totally dead and somebody buys the name and brings the product back in a more niche way - for example, White Cloud toilet tissue.

Ultimately, I think Kodak may successfully reorganize and live on, in a much reduced form.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:06 AM

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January 20, 2012

DC Comics Introduces Interactive Logo Brand Name

DC Logo.pngSo DC comics has a cool new interactive logo.

This logo will have different incarnations across different media and brands. But best of all, it will be interactive in the "digital space."

The logo, which looks like something being peeled back, hearkens to the secret identity that most comic superheroes have.

When you see the logo in certain online spaces, fans can literally "peel back the "D" to expose a character, image, or story that has been applied to the "C," such as a glowing green light that represents Green Lantern."

This kind of malleable logo means that the DC name will be represented in line with the characters and content of the comic books as well as various online platforms. It also directs consumer attention to the brand name itself, encouraging consumers to literally play with the brand and uncover more information about it.

This new logo replaces the traditional circle and stars that many of us grew up with and recognized until the 2008 redesign.

As one blogger points out, the peel back element may be used to "show changes in creative teams. It can be tweaked to only peel back a bit to hint at things that may be coming (event comics, major character changes and the like)."

Ernie Estrella at Buzz Focus calls this the "mark that morphs" and wonders if such a changable logo may dilute brand identity.

The payout here is that by encouraging consumers to play with the logo, or to refer to the logo as a harbinger of future products, you draw attention to the logo and the brand name itself.

Old DC Logo.png

Some fans however do have negative comments about the design itself. One stating, "The old logo, with its stars and bold lettering, had a vague whiff of heraldry or of a military/police type insignia, somewhat fitting for a company that is essentially in the superhero business. This one looks like it belong on a place where you go to get photocopies and boxes for mailing stuff."

DC, for its part, says it introduced the logo after showing it to a number of focus groups and comic book fans.

So, essentially, those comic book readers who don't like it have only themselves to blame.

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Posted by William Lozito at 7:57 AM

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January 19, 2012

Botany Naming Drops Latin After 400 Years

Botanist.pngIt looks like the Latin naming conventions that have ruled botany for the last four centuries are going to come to an end.

All of those double-barrelled Latin names are going to still be around, but botanists no longer have to describe new plants in the ancient language thanks to the recent introduction of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. This is party because botany is starting to be all about chemicals and molecules.

So the overworked plant guy will no longer have to write "Folia persistentia; laminae anisophyllae, foliis majoribus ellipticis" to describe Cordia koemarae. This, translated, means "The tree hangs on to its leaves, which vary by size. The bigger leaf blades are elliptical."

Dropping Latin makes sense because nobody speaks it anymore. Even plant experts struggle with the language.

The Latin naming conventions were put firmly into place in the 1700's when the study really exploded and more people read ancient languages.

Right now the full name of the plant refers to the family, genus species and variety names, with the most commonly used names referring to genus and species.

So, according to one botany blogger, the Montana flower Lewisia rediviva is named after Lewis, as in Lewis and Clark, and "rediviva" meaning "back to life."

Many may miss the clunky old Latin, but new naming conventions and language usage will allow for more plants to be introduced to the world at a quicker pace. Thousands await cataloging in museums and labs around the world.

Flower.pngBotanists can also use electronic journals to tell the scientific community about new plants, another streamlining of the subject.

Some even estimate that half of the plants on earth still need names, with about 200,000 names described to date.

Right now the world sits at a bottle neck of only 2,000 plants getting their official names and descriptions yearly. At this rate, it will be a century before the work is done!

All the while the threat of extinction hangs over as much as two-thirds of the known plants out there. A plant could go extinct between the time it is discovered and the time it is finally given Latin nomenclature.

As Cato the Elder might say, "Rem tene: verba sequentur." (Stick to the meaning and the words will follow).

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January 18, 2012

Atari's Recognizable Brand Name May Be Its Biggest Advantage For Mobile Gaming

Atari.pngDespite exaggerated rumors of the famous video game brand's death, we may see a possible comeback from the Atari brand name.

Most bloggers are happy to see the retro brand return.

Brand awareness among younger people may have diminished but I tend to think that there are enough consumers who remember the brand to make it worth saving.

As one blogger points out, "Say the word Atari to just about any person who's played video games in their life and they'll instantly know what you're talking about."

Popwatch puts it even better, saying firmly that "Atari is returning as a pale imitation of Atari, and it will almost certainly be successful."

Why? Partly because the recognizability of the name will help it stand out in the App Store or Android marketplace, where "discoverability is a big issue for people who are releasing their games" according to the company's CEO Jim Wilson.

The point is that anyone who has a vague interest in gaming is now into mobile gaming platforms. These were unimaginable back in the 1980's when every kid worth his salt had an Atari unit hooked up to the TV.
Back then, the Atari name had such sway that Apple's first brand strategy was to get ahead of the company in the phone book with the Apple name.

Welcome back, old friend.

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January 17, 2012

Ford Thinks Brand Naming is Bunk

Ford'slogo.pngThe news that Ford marketing head Jim Farley believes that "it's product that matters, not the name" when it comes to selling cars is not exactly a coffee spitter or a head slapper, but definitely a double blinker.

This is Ford we are talking about, the source of some of the biggest brand names in the car business.

Think F-250, Taurus, Fairlane or the Crown Vic, as well as the Pinto and the Probe. Or, for that matter, the Lincoln Navigator and Town Car.

I bring these brands up because Ford now believes that these names don't matter and they need to stick with confusing alphanumeric naming, just when their rivals are dumping that strategy and revitalizing old brand names like the Dart.

Ford, meanwhile, is sticking with MKT, MKZ, MKX, and MKS for their only luxury brand.

USA Today puts it best stating, "Next time you're on the street, ask anyone you see if they know they can identify a Lincoln model."

The fact is, naming matters, especially in the car business. In any business.

Today there is an outcry over dumb, alphanumeric TV names for instance. Consumers like good brand names. And Ford has benefited from this in the past.

Brand Naming Is Bunk.png

Now, to paraphrase Henry Ford's famous quote about history, they are now saying that naming and branding is bunk.

The road to reinventing Lincoln is sure to be a rough one.

Yes, they have top designers, but the names of these cars do make an impact. Slapping a few letters on the back of the car is not going to make consumers love the car.

Sales have declined a whopping 46% percent for Lincoln since 2001. Back then, Lincoln was pushing Town Cars and Navigators, the former which has been discontinued along with Ford's Crown Vic.

Now they want to sell us a billion dollars worth of alphabet soup.

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January 16, 2012

Monster Loses "Cable" and "Beats" From its Brand Naming

MOnsterCable.pngThe news that Monster Cable Products has dropped "cable" from its name comes hot on the heels of the news that the popular headphone maker has split with Beats Electronics.

The Monster and Beats partnership created a revolution in headphones, snagging a whopping
53 percent of the $1 billion headphone market and moving us away from headphones that "looked like medical equipment."

Premium headphones are the fastest growing segment of the Monster product line, but the Beats name, which brings with it Dr. Dre's name, is what, arguably, sparked the growth.

Beats.jpgThe Beats by Dr. Dre line is the frontrunner in celebrity endorsed headphones like those from Roc Nation and Soul by Ludacris.

The split apparently occurred because both companies wanted credit for the success of the headphones.

But this might be a situation, like a good marriage, where neither partner can take full credit for the success of the wunderkind offspring.

The headphone market growth is driven by people 24 and younger, all of whom relate to the celebrity endorsement of the expensive headphones, which can easily cost you more than your MP3 player.

Monster has decided to partner with Earth, Wind & Fire, creating a new $229 bud-style earphone called Gratitude that was unveiled last week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). They also introduced a pair of headphones with the Diesel fashion brand name, as well as a set of headphones that "pays tribute to jazz great Miles Davis."

Beats says it wants to control its own destiny and not simply be the tag-on brand to Monster.

But can the two brand names exist without each other? Oftentimes when two brands create a "monster" product, there is a synergy there that is hard to recreate in the consumer's mind.

Monster founder Noel Lee points out that dropping the "cable" name was just good sense, not because headphones now dominate the sales of the company he founded in 1979 to create superior audio cables.

He is not afraid of the ubiquity of the monster name in other sectors, saying, "I think the combination of Monster jobs, Monster energy, 'Monster Garage,' Monster Hamburger - and I saw Monster Sushi in Hong Kong - it's all good."

I for one will watch the future of both brand names with interest.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:02 AM

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January 13, 2012

Let the gTLD Brand Naming Sales Begin

domain-names.pngYesterday marked the beginning of the generic top-level domain (gTLD) brand name gold rush and I am just waiting for the fallout.

The closing date to register the new .brand names is April 12th.

So far the blogosphere has been placating about this, with reassurances coming our way that we won't have to face any branding problems.

Namely, the worry is about an online infestation of cybersquatters and brand name hijackers who will cause chaos with companies and sow confusion with consumers. It is difficult to see the new domain name rush as anything more than a "fraud magnet."

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) has been battling the gTLDs plan for months, and convincing The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to permit certain organizations and businesses the right to have their names exempted from the new domain scheme. Like, say, the UN.

Yes, I understand that we are heading towards a more intuitive Internet even as companies are moving their online presence into social media.

But let's face it. Big brand names have "nothing to gain and everything to lose" from the new expansion in naming opportunities.

In the words of the ANA attorney, "It's just a huge waste of money." Companies are now going to have to buy their names off the market.

The majority of people just use Google to find brand names, so who on earth will just pump the name into the URL? Does that even work? Will it work?

I foresee a major legal mess on the way.

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Posted by William Lozito at 7:48 AM

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January 10, 2012

Siri - Did you know you were the Product Name of the Year?

Siri.pngThe American Name Society has just announced their pick for Trade Name of the Year in 2012 - Apple's Siri.

Almost everyone knows that Siri is the Apple 4S phone's personal assistant application. But interestingly, few agree on exactly where her name came from at what it means.

The Press Release from ANS states that Siri is a modified name for "SRI International, the company that developed it, to create a feminine-sounding name which fits the technology's robotic female voice and leaders many users to think of Siri as it it were a real woman talking to them."

Others, however have opined that:

  • Siri Inc. is the name of the company that Apple acquired in April 2010 from Dag Kittlaus, a Norwegian who is said to have named the Siri application after the famous Norwegian meteorologist and business woman Siri Kalvig, with whom he had worked during his tenure at Telenor, a Norwegian telecommunications company
  • Siri is simply a girls name of Scandinavian origin and it means "beautiful or fair victory"
  • Siri is a Swahili name for a girl that means "secret"
  • Siri in the South-Indian language, Tamil, means 'to smile'
  • SIRI is an acronym for Service Interface for Real Time Information
  • Siri is named for an epic poem in Tulu
  • Siri is the name of Steve Job's favorite vegetable

Of course, the only way to get a definitive answer to this etymological question is to ask Siri herself.

So we did.

Her response?

"My name is Siri. You already know that."

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Posted by Diane Prange at 9:10 AM

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January 5, 2012

Power to the She Tagline Bridges the Grammar Gap

AthletaPowertotheShe.pngThe Gap owned Athleta brand has just kicked off a new campaign with the grammatically disruptive tagline, "Power to the She."

Grammatical disruption, when used judiciously, is an effective communication technique. Moderately incorrect use of the English language can cause your audience to stop and think about what you're saying long enough to absorb your message.

The question is whether "Power to the She" qualifies as moderately incorrect usage. Granted, it's easy to forgive the missing verb, we've seen that before with "Intel Inside," "The World on Time" from FedEx, and "Let's Merry" from Starbucks.

PowerToTheShe;Athleta.pngBut the missing verb, when coupled with the improper use of the third person singular pronoun, she, is jarring.

Add to that an interruptive insertion of a definite article, the, and the bounds of moderation have been mightily magnified.

Thankfully, English semantics are quite forgiving. Even with its three degree gap in regularity, the meaning of "Power to the She" is still discernable.

And better yet, it's ownable.

Other examples of grammatically disruptive taglines or slogans that successfully broke the rules of syntax:

  • Think Different - Apple
  • Start aging smart - Kellogg's Smart Start
  • Be Stronger Connected - CenturyLink
  • I coulda had a V-8!
  • Better by Adobe
  • Let's Do Amazing - HP
  • Winstons taste good like a cigarette should

Even in a highly uninflected language like English, semantics still manage to trump syntax. Placing undue emphasis on grammar at the expense of the message is a wasted effort.

Chomsky's example, a famous MIT linguist, of a grammatically correct yet meaningless sentence (Colorless green ideas sleep furiously) says it smart.

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Posted by Diane Prange at 10:11 AM

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January 3, 2012

This Day in Branding

BrandNamesLogos.pngFor each month during 2011, we created and posted significant branding events by date.

Modestly, we think there is a lot of wonderful content regarding the origin of brand names and other interesting branding factoids.

  • The first Volvo automobile rolled out of the factory on April 14th, 1927. The name Volvo in Latin, means "I roll."
  • Yahoo! was incorporated on March 1st, 1995. Yahoo was first used in the book Gulliver's Travels for a person who is repulsive in appearance and barely human. The founders of Yahoo!, David Filo and Jerry Yang, jokingly considered themselves yahoos.
  • Eggo was first used as a brand name for frozen waffles on April 27th, 1935. It was originally named Froffles, a portmanteau of frozen waffles, however, people started referring to them as Eggos for their eggy taste. In 1955, the company officially adopted their nickname.
  • All-natural foods company Kashi, whose name was derived from the Jewish word for dietary law, kashrut, was granted a trademark on October 22, 1985. Kashi also has many other meanings such as; porridge in Russian, happy in Chinese, energy in Japanese, and shining in Sanskrit.
  • Claimed to be the world's largest coffee and baked goods chain serving 2.7 million customers per day, Dunkin' Donuts began using their latest slogan, "America Runs on Dunkin" on April 10th, 2006.
  • On September 28, 1992, Dairy Queen applied for the trademark "Hot Eats Cool Treats." The slogan was widely used in advertising during the 1990's and replaced the original slogan "We treat you right."

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