February 29, 2012
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), the parent of Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza, plans to launch 100 new hotels in the USA bearing the name EVEN.
The new hotel chain will be "health focused" and will push the world of hotels (further) into the the world of wellness and fitness.
I have written before about how spas are now de rigueur for hotels, but EVEN Hotels take this to a new level - think pull up bars and medicine bars in the room (next to the mini-bar? Nope... because
mini-bars may not be installed).
Heck, the luggage rack at the foot of the bed will now be a weight bench.
The rates for these rooms will be slightly more expensive than Holiday Inn's, but will offer travelers "open access, well lit" stairwells to use, for those who want to avoid the elevator and escalator.
But that's not all: "In addition to in-[room] yoga mats, all rooms would be large enough to enable personal exercise routines, the food on offer would be healthy and receptionists could dole out nutritional advice and organize group circuit training."
"As its name suggests, the EVEN Hotels brand will work to put the balance back in a traveler's busy life, leveling out life for the weary road warrior and infusing their home-away-from-home with a healthy lifestyle," says a Fox Business reporter.
About 80% of hotel customers want to keep up with their wellness routines while on the road and "17 million healthier-minded travelers find it hard to stay active and eat right on the road."
HotelChatter has noted a naming trend in which new hotel names like Public, Edition and now Even "hardly even communicate that these are hotels where you can spend the night."
But they add, playfully, "Then again, we're totally ok with hotels moving away from family last names and single-letter names."
February 28, 2012
Recently, Jean Hopfensperger of the Star Tribune interviewed me regarding an influx of nonprofit rebranding initiatives, including Think Small, the new name for a 40-year-old nonprofit in St. Paul, MN.
While there are many reasons why companies undergo name changes, many of the recent nonprofit rebranding initiatives appear to be attempts to create "a more upbeat public image" and increase fundraising results.
For organizations that do decide to change their name, I recommended a few rules of thumb, such as:
- Keep it short
- Evoke a visual
- Make sure it is trademarkable
Click here to read the full article.
It's finally here - the BMW "i."
No, not the hoary "i" found at the end of model numbers that stands for "fuel injection."
Now the "i" is in front of the model number, and is there to "designate the company's new line of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles." The first two models, the i3 and the i8, were debuted in Frankfurt last year.
The futuristic looking, zero emissions cars are priced around $35,000.
Look for a launch in 2013 under the theme "Born Electric," which one blogger says "Aligns well to the components of electric motors, power electronics and lithium-ion batteries."
The Born Electric tagline is being used to great effect on the BMW i website.
Many people may associate the tagline with the famous song "Born Free" but the ad references the concept of "visionary mobility," which Motor Trend has caught on to, asking us "Are you excited about the future of small electric cars or is BMW targeting a future that doesn't exist?"
By the way, what does the "i" even stand for?
February 27, 2012
The news that The Contour Adjustable Bed Company has changed its name to Easy Rest Adjustable Sleep Systems brought back fond memories of a blog I posted almost a year ago about the way the adjustable bed industry is slowly but surely trying to change its image through naming.
The problem? The product name itself conjures up images of hospital beds, and the product is seen as something you buy when a person in your family needs home care.
So companies have been trying to dodge the stodginess of the adjustable bed with better product naming.
Now, these beds are being named "ergo" or "power" beds. Some are naming them "lifestyle" beds and Leggett & Platt uses "power foundations" in their product naming.
So this new company name change moves the product towards "sleep systems," which is good, but it does not do away with that pesky word "adjustable."
I have to wonder if that is not a small mistake. Wouldn't Easy Rest Sleep Systems be just as effective?
February 24, 2012
Quick... what do Apple Inc. and Michael Jordan have in common?
Answer: they are both defending their trademarks in China.
Apple has been struggling with Chinese upstart Proview over the iPad name for a while now and two days ago, Jordan announced he was suing a Chinese sportswear maker called Qiaodan Sports for using his name without his permission.
The name of the company is taken from the Chinese version of Jordan's name and is obviously recognizable in China as such.
In addition, the products that Qiaodan makes bears a logo featuring what looks like a heavier Michael Jordan holding a ping pong paddle. The company even has what appears to be false Michael Jordan stores in China, and is now trying to raise money to be traded on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
Jordan has said "It is deeply disappointing to see a company build a business off my Chinese name without my permission, use the No 23 and even attempt to use the names of my children."
He goes on to say that "This complaint is not about money. It's about principle and protecting my name. Any monetary awards I might receive will be invested in growing the sport of basketball in China."
Qiaodan is one of China's top sportswear apparel makers by revenue and number of outlets, so to see such a high profile group blatantly trading off one of the world's biggest names is, to say the least, alarming.
Qiaodan has put up a petulant notice on its website saying, "The Qiaodan trademark is applied by our company in accordance with Chinese law. We therefore will enjoy an exclusive right to its use, which is protected by law."
We will continue to watch this example of brazen trademark violation with interest.
February 22, 2012
Malt-O-Meal, named one of Ad Age's Hottest Brands last year, is changing its name to MOM Brands as part of a corporate rebranding effort that reflects the wide range of products they now offer.
The company was started in 1919 as the Campbell Cereal Co. before being renamed after its popular Malt-O-Meal Hot Wheat Cereal in 1953.
The MOM name will be the "platform name" for the company's line-up of 10 brands that include Better Oats, Mom's Best Naturals, and Three Sisters.
Malt-O-Meal has seen amazing growth since the 1980s and ranks third in the US ready-to-eat cereal segment.
Chris Neugent, the Chairman and CEO of the company, claims that "Over the last few years, we have more than tripled our market share and we now have more ready-to-eat brands in the top 50 cereal best sellers than either Post or Quaker. We are outperforming the competition and saving consumers money in the process."
MOM was how the company referred to itself internally for years, said one spokesman, so this is a logical jump.
It also, obviously, appeals to the person in the family most likely buying the cereal for the kids, who seem to request cereal more than any other product while in the supermarket.
February 21, 2012
The New York Times has noted that trademark disputes between big and small companies are heating up... and seem far more bitter than ever before.
The real fight seems to be between Apple and Proview over the iPad product name, a story I have been covering for some time.
Here we see another David and Goliath conflict where each side seems utterly intractable.
Proview is an Asian company, down on its luck and bankrupt, fighting for the rights to the iPad name. Its persistency regarding protecting the trademark has involved the Chinese government and threatened not only a profitable relationship between Apple and China but possibly created a murky environment for others defending trademarks in China.
Proview is aware of the equity behind the iPad name and Apple will be in a hurry to settle with them and get back to business as usual.
Proview seems to be seeking considerable compensation from Apple, which illustrates that trademarks have such value that companies like Apple might be willing to pay to use a recognizable name like iPad in China.
Apple has too much invested in the iPad name to let it go in a huge market like China. Apple will hammer Proview as hard as it can legally, and then, should that fail, pay them to go away.
For Apple, changing the iPad product name for the Chinese market is not an option.
February 20, 2012
It is interesting to note that Intel has just lost a trademark dispute that was initiated against a customs brokerage company named Intelport Services, Inc.
Intel has been after Intelport since they sent a cease and desist letter in 2004, that Intelport did not respond to.
The SEC rule on this case is in Intelport's favor: "If the proposed name contains a word similar to a word already used as part of the firm name or style of a registered company, the proposed name must contain two other words different from the name of the company already registered."
Intel argued that the Intelport name is 'confusingly similar,' despite the fact that Intelport is in a different field of goods and services.
The court stated that Intel "did not prove that a prudent person could be deceived... by the two corporate names since the parties provide completely diverse services and cater to different types of clientele."
Intel is vigilant about protecting its name and goes to great lengths to defend its name against companies that are in non-related fields.
Intel has also gone after a travel agency named Intellife Travel, a private electrician in California named Intellectric, and over a dozen more in 2008 alone.
At the end of 2010, Intel claimed the right to the "Intelligent" trademark after firing at a healthcare consulting company that used the term "Intellact."
And then last October Intel went after Intelspec, LLC, a construction and engineering firm.
Intel argued that communications infrastructure for public and private entities is a "primary focus" for Intelspec's business and "given Intel's involvement in communications, the vast use of Intel's products and services by the military and in other engineering applications, and the similarity of the marks, there is a likelihood that those customers will attribute the quality and content of Defendant's offerings to Intel."
I note that www.intelspec.com appears to be down now.
While Intel does have a right to protect its trademark, it sure selected a company name that was bound to be popular in any field.
Intel will win some and lose some trademark disputes, but vigorous protection of its company name is wise.
February 17, 2012
I read with interest an article by CNN stating that "blood diamond," a name with heavy baggage, is about to change its definition.
Most people know the name from the title of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, but it is actually a real term that means a great deal to the diamond industry.
A "blood diamond," is one that comes from a rebel group who has used its diamond sales as a means of overthrowing a legitimate government, or to fund human rights abuses, mainly against women and children.
And it looks like the Kimberly Process, which was launched in 2003 to certify that diamonds sold on the world market do not come from dicey sources, is looking at broadening the definition of a blood diamond.
New chair of the Kimberley Process, Gillian Milovanovic stated "One of the things which will certainly be looked at and which we certainly support looking at and believe should get a close look is whether that definition is still sufficiently encompassing or appropriate given today's challenges."
The spectre of "blood diamonds" has hung over the entire diamond industry, leading the largest diamond producer, De Beers, to create the "Forevermark" that guarantees the diamond comes from a legitimate source.
Luxury brands seem to be doing incredibly well. There is a rising global demand for diamonds as the precious stones are being snapped up by investors, and the wealthy, especially in the developing regions of China, India and the Middle East, who are flocking to jewelry stores to buy the diamonds as a physical asset in these uncertain times.
But if the diamond industry does not start regulating itself better, consumers of luxury products may start being put off by the magic rocks.
February 15, 2012
Chinese authorities have seized iPads in Shijiazhuang and Zhengzhou as part of the on-going dispute over the iPad name. Officials claim they are only enforcing the law because the products are in violation of trademark regulations.
This is an issue I have covered in the past that proves to be a test case for how hard it is to trademark in China.
Proview Technology is the company claiming rights to the name in China. Proview is looking for $1.6 billion, but Apple seems unwilling to pay them for the name, possibly fearing that caving in will create trademark issues for them in the future.
Chinese consumers seem divided on this particular dispute, with many suggesting they change the name of the iPad itself to "MacPad" or "Apple Pad."
But, the iPad naming debacle is not the only problem Apple is facing in China.
Recent reports of worker abuse within the factories contracted by Apple seem to have tarnished this "feel good" brand. Apple, meanwhile, is trying desperately to rebuild its image through labour audits and building inspections.
Most of the right-thinking, liberal, arty types who buy Apple products just don't want to think about kids working eighteen hour days in sweatshop conditions to make them.
China is one of Apple's most lucrative markets and of course where its products are made. They need to set the standard for worker's rights or their brand equity will suffer.
February 14, 2012
Here we go again. The blogosphere is busy trying to convince itself that Apple and UK broadcaster ITV will soon be at war over the iTV name.
Although the Apple iTV has not been announced, the rumor is that ITV has contacted Apple.
ITV has vigorously defended its name in the past, and the arrival of this new TV set has started it all up again.
This is a topic I covered almost two years ago that keeps coming back, partly, because some people like to paint Apple as a bunch of name pirates.
Given the problems Apple is already having in China regarding the iPad trademark dispute, it seems unlikely that they would try to tackle another potential trademark issue.
If Apple goes forward with the iTV brand name a reasonable person would hope that Apple has worked something out with the UK ITV broadcaster.
February 13, 2012
The word "love" has a special place in the heart of advertisers. It signifies both recognition and a strong emotional attachment, as well as brand loyalty.
And some brand names are feeling some serious love as Valentine's Day approaches.
In fact, one group conducted a survey asking the consumer "What brand do you love most" and "Why?" The list includes popular brands consumers easily recognize due to their immediate appeal such as Apple, Sony, and Coke.
At the beginning of the month another group generated a "brand love" index score, with Apple once again on top, followed by Porsche, BMW and Ferrari. Note how they are aspirational brands.
Ad Age is quick to remind us that "Love just isn't enough anymore. In brand relationships, good customer service, high customer satisfaction and even professed brand loyalty won't keep consumers from ditching a product for the competition. In fact, more than half of U.S. consumers did so last year."
Why? Because a whopping 44% of consumers surveyed say they expect more from their brands this year and are willing to switch if there is no delivery.
So, loving a brand and being faithful to it are two very different things.
February 10, 2012
It is interesting to see that the Red Cross has revamped one of the most recognizable symbols in the world.
Established in 1881, the Red Cross is one of the best known disaster relief organizations with over 500,000 volunteers, 35,000 employees and 700 national chapters - its logo is instantly recognizable and has considerable brand equity.
To even suggest a new logo for the Red Cross sounds, on the face of it, ludicrous.
But now, there will be three versions of the logo. The new "button" logo is meant to look more "consumer friendly" and will be used for marketing while the "classic" wordmark, and the "classic" red cross with the wormark will be used in disaster situations.
I like the way Ingenious Rapport interprets this move: "People can get a bit jittery when dealing with iconic brands and it's a fine line between baby and bath water. I personally like the softer, more human approach they've taken and it allows them to be seen as a little less formal and more approachable."
The attractive looking "button" can already be found on the Red Cross website. But, more interestingly, it hearkens back to the buttons worn by Red Cross supporters in the early part of the 20th century.
I think this is a smart move and enhances the perception of the Red Cross.
February 9, 2012
A few days before her Super Bowl performance, Madonna received a cease and desist letter from the founder of "Girls Gone Wild," Joe Francis, threatening to take legal action if she sang her new song titled, "Girls Gone Wild."
Francis, holder of the trademark for the video series featuring co-eds in various states of undress, is furious over the "free ride on the valuable consumer goodwill and brand recognition" that Madonna has enjoyed by using the phrase as a song title on her new album M.D.N.A.
I smell a publicity stunt, as does Donna Ray Berkelhammer at North Carolina Law Life, who points out that "Song titles are not trademarks and cannot be registered as such."
A trademark must be used to identify specific goods or services, and song titles do not do this. For that reason, it is impossible for Francis to have trademark rights to the phrase as a song title, plus, he has not registered the trademark in the realm of music at all.
Therefore, it appears Francis does not have a legitimate trademark dispute here.
Additionally, Madonna has a first amendment right to use the phrase as a title of her song... which is why the MCA Records song "Barbie Girl" (remember that one? 'C'mon Barbie, let's go party?") was safe from legal action by Mattel, owner of the Barbie trademark.
Finally, there was a 2007 single from Ludacris titled "Girls Gone Wild," that Francis did not object to.
In any event, Francis got what he wanted - Madge did not sing the song at half-time and he certainly received some free publicity.
I doubt he will continue with this legal action.
February 8, 2012
It is interesting how the Super Bowl name is treated by advertisers.
"Trademarked and tenaciously defended by the NFL, the phrase 'Super Bowl' is available to just a handful of official sponsors that pay a significant amount for the rights to include the name in their marketing efforts."
The NFL has 22 official sponsors that pay over $100 million annually to be affiliated with the league, allowing them exclusive usage of the Super Bowl name in advertising.
Consumers are expected to drop around $11 billion on Super Bowl related merchandise this year alone, so it is clearly worth advertising around the game.
So how do you take advantage of this consumer spending without sponsoring the NFL?
Many companies use masked references like "The Big Game," for example Pizza Hut offered the "Big Deal for the Big Game." Funnily enough, the NFL unsuccessfully tried to trademark "The Big Game" in 2006.
This year the NFL scored some big hits in protecting its intellectual property in other ways. Several government agencies played a part in "Operation Fake Sweep" which blitzed fake merchandise and domain names.
Government teams nabbed a record-breaking 42,692 items of fake memorabilia and other counterfeit items worth $4.8 million, which is up from $3.72 million last year. In addition, a whopping 307 web sites violating the intellectual property of the NFL were shut down in the process.
Other NFL merchandise the U.S. will never see include the losing team's apparel. Merchandise displaying the New England Patriots as the 2012 Super Bowl champs will by donated to impoverished countries by World Vision.
I'm sure this is much relief of Giants fans everywhere.
February 7, 2012
Walmart has decided that eggs are "Great for You," along with hundreds of other food items.
The retailer is giving its private label healthy products a "Great for You" seal in its effort to convince us that good eating doesn't have to be expensive.
This is an interesting move for the largest U.S. food retailer. The seal is an effort to "implement a transparent, summary icon for its private label brand products backed by rigorous nutrition criteria."
In other words, it helps consumers see at-a-glance the healthier choices - at least as far as Walmart private label products are concerned.
This healthy label will first appear on Walmart Great Value and Marketside items, which includes fresh produce. As a result, the label is intended to reposition all types of foods in the mind of the consumer.
And Walmart has First Lady Michelle Obama to back them up. Mrs. Obama, who has been advocating better eating habits for all, has praised this initiative as a means of ensuring that kids "grow up healthy."
This effort may or may not convince the average Walmart shopper to make better choices in the food they consume, but it will give them an instant way to consider selecting Walmart private label foods.
Time will tell.
February 2, 2012
J.C. Penney is tearing a page out of Apple's playbook to move from being a recognized name, to a brand, according to Forbes.
Robert Passikoff the Forbes reporter comments that "J.C. Penney has become a 'placeholder,' a kind of ACME Department Store of the 21st century where low, lower, lowest pricing has become the price-of-entry, certainly not an emotional differentiator."
J.C. Penney is trying to move away from simply being well known to being well liked by hiring CEO Ron Johnson, the ex-Apple Senior Vice President of Retail Operations, who helped make Apple the retail super brand it is today.
Johnson was quoted saying "I would describe J.C. Penney as one of a handful of great American brands that seemed like it was dormant," but also thinks it is the "biggest opportunity in American retailing."
Remember when Apple was pretty much washed up? Not the super brand it is now? Think hard... think pre-iPod.
J.C. Penney is currently in its pre-iPod days. We know the name, but don't have love for it.
The new strategy is three-fold - drilling right through the fluff to the prices, introducing a new logo, and revamping stores.
Those hundreds of promotions that are run in-store will fall away, as Johnson says, "At some point you, as a brand, look desperate if you have to market that much!" There will be three types of pricing - everyday prices, month-long values, and best prices which will be available every first and third Friday of the month.
The remodeled stores will feature a "Main Street shopping area with a series of 80 to 100 brand-name shops," and the stores will be far more open, light and airy (like, say, I don't know... the Apple store?).
The Main Street area will create a "store within a store" effect, paring down underperforming brands and leveraging the ones that work.
Offering everyday low prices will help create a brand identity for J.C. Penney, although it could be a risky move.
The goal will be to create a brand from a name that has lost most of its meaning to mall shoppers who have ignored the store on the way to the Genius Bar.
I have my doubts, serious doubts, about this strategy working for three reasons:
- It's a change in positioning without changing the product, since it will take years for the stores to be revamped. I sense over-promise here.
- It's tough to wein someone off "heroine." By that I mean, current J.C. Penney customers have been conditioned to buy on sale. I would not be surprised if many current J.C. Penney customers flee to Kohl's and other retail alternatives.
- J.C. Penney will have to attract new customers for this strategy to work which will take time, lots of time, and money.
February 1, 2012
Here's a naming challenge for you. You have a product with a distinctly unfeminine name (like Burt's Bees), and you need to sell a brand extension to young women.
Well, Burt's Bees has faced exactly this problem with some panache and created a new beauty care line called "güd," pronounced "good." To add distinction, the company has stylized the umlaut above the letter "U" creating a smiley face.
Then there is the "güd happens" tagline.
This tagline is reminiscent of "sh*t happens," a common colloquialism. And sh*t isn't so good.
This expression is "an acknowledgment that bad things sometimes occur for no particular reason" and the best thing to do is accept them with a kind of slacker stoicism.
Volkswagen played off the sh*t happens phrase in a series of commercials in 2006, which emphasized safety. For these commercials, Volkswagen developed the memorable tagline "safe happens."
It will be interesting to see how the target market perceives the güd brand tagline and if they can even pronounce it correctly.
Would you pronounce güd as "good" or "guhd?"