April 30, 2012
Would you sail on a boat called Titanic II? Think about it. Would you really bring your significant other and possibly your kids on a transatlantic trip on a boat with this name?
It seems that Australian billionaire Clive Palmer is betting that enough people would do this to actually build a replica of the original Titanic and name it Titanic II.
Palmer assures us that passengers will be safe because "It is going to be designed so it won't sink. It will be designed as a modern ship with all the technology to ensure that doesn't happen."
Which is what people were told back in 1912 when the original Titanic sank.
Ship naming has been making headlines the past week as the U.S. Navy mulls over plans to rename a ship after slain gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk.
The problem some people are having with these ship names is that they do not follow the accepted conventions that were started thousands of years ago by the ancient Romans and Greeks.
The first is, you never change the name of a ship. The second is, you never, ever name a ship after one that has sunk.
There's no law against doing these things, but years of superstition have cemented these rules in sailors' heads.
Ignore them at your peril. Just as Mark Wilkinson of the UK did, who named his pleasure boat Titanic II. It sunk on its maiden voyage, leading the hapless Wilkinson to fume "I got pretty fed up with people asking me if I had hit an iceberg."
Even when you obey the rules, the naming ceremony has to go off right. For instance, the bottle of champagne you break against the stern had better actually break. The ill-fated Aurora passenger ship didn't have such luck and it was beset with problems ever since.
And many believe that bottle of champagne against the Titanic didn't break. The Titanic, however, didn't even have a christening, which might be the worst luck of all.
Heck, even the movie Titanic II was a disaster.
More than that, the Titanic name is synonymous with a tragedy that killed 1,500 people. To actually recreate the ship and give it the same name is to invite the fury of the gods.
April 27, 2012
Sometimes it's easy to see real product naming problems.
Take, for example, the uproar around the genetically modified corn with the product name "Enlist," but known as "Agent Orange Corn" by its critics.
The genetically engineered corn is immune to a poison in 2,4-D that would be used for weed control.
The poison is perceived by activists as a key ingredient in Agent Orange, the poison that was dumped on hundreds of thousands of people during the Vietnam War and some say could pose a serious threat to human health and the environment.
Surely the new Enlist product name only encourages this connection?
This may be a chicken and egg scenario - the Enlist name existed before the Agent Orange Corn nickname was thought up. But there it is.
Dow AgroSciences wants to introduce the Enlist seeds to the market and if they do, we can be sure that 2,4-D will be extensively used to protect the corn.
But since 2,4-D has been known to harm human beings, causing everything from cancer to reproductive disorders, over 140 advocacy groups are participating in a letter-writing campaign to influence the government to reject Dow's regulatory application for the herbicide resistant crop.
But the corn doesn't seem to be the problem. It's the "drift" of the poison.
All I can say is that I really don't want to eat this corn on the cob on the 4th of July.
April 26, 2012
Call me crazy, but I'm thinking that the Russian guy who is trying to trademark the goatee is probably a few Stoli shots short of a party.
Oh yes, I.V. Pugnach, whose last name surprisingly translates to "scarecrow" and not "ridiculous idiot," thinks the erstwhile goatee is an important part of Russian culture.
He scrutinizes non-Russians who wear the beard, stating they are committing a form of "genocide."
He believes he can charge non-Russians $600 for wearing a goatee.
He's also upset with President Obama for not punishing Gaddafi for wearing the beard and he also believes movie stars should be fined $30,000.
The trademark defines the beard as "the type with no sideburns that covers just the chin and the patch above the upper lip."
One lawyer explains to the Huffington Post that those who sport the beard have no need to worry. In fact, Pugnach would have to show that his beard is distinctive to him.
Is the particular beard distinctive enough that he can require a license, or sue for infringement if anyone else uses it? I wouldn't think so. But that doesn't mean it couldn't get past the licensing board.
If he is a popular blogger, he may have enough visitors on his page that will argue successfully that a substantial portion of the consuming public has grown to associate the beard with him - but the dude looks like Trotsky.
April 25, 2012
The new brand name for the Roanoke region will no longer highlight the "Roanoke" name.
The Roanoke name will obviously officially live on, and is still part of the logo. But I think it is interesting indeed that Roanoke takes second fiddle to the name for an entire mountain range that starts in Georgia and ends in Pennsylvania.
The region's new identity is Virginia's Blue Ridge, a name that leverages the beautiful and widely known Blue Ridge Mountains.
As Bart Wilner, President of The Roanoke Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau, put it, "Claiming the Blue Ridge Mountains as ours keeps us focused on the importance of regionalism and working together to benefit everyone."
Now you can have a "Blue Ridge Day" of hiking, shopping and fishing. The new logo shows blue and green lines forming mountains, or possibly rounded hills. It capitalizes on the "metro and mountain" contrast but also gives a real identity to the area from Natural Bridge to Blacksburg to Smith Mountain Lake to Floyd.
The name originates from the region's trees that are almost a blue color thanks to the isoprene they release into the atmosphere. Australia has the "Blue Mountains" for just the same reason.
The Blue Ridge Mountains have also been the inspiration for numerous country-western songs, ranging from "Blue Ridge Mountain Sky" by the Marshall Tucker Band to "Blue Ridge Mountain Blues" by Earl Scruggs to "Upon the Blue Ridge Mountains" by the Grateful Dead.
I think any objection to the shared use of the name is circumnavigated in the "Virginia's Blue Ridge" name. This area is indeed the part of Virginia located in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
But of course, one would hope that visitors don't get the matter confused and think that Virginia can claim ownership of all the Blue Ridge Mountains.
April 24, 2012
I find it interesting that the E.F. Hutton brand name is making a comeback.
It is one of those iconic brands that we all missed when it disappeared in 1987 after being acquired by Shearson Lehman Brothers.
Now, former Hutton executives including Stanley Hutton, grandson of the founder Edward Hutton, want to bring the brand name back. The resurrection of the company, much like that of PeoplExpress Airlines, represents sound business sense from a simpler era - never mind that both brand names are tainted by failure.
Frank Campanale, former executive and new CEO of E.F. Hutton stated, "We're trying to create a great firm with great culture, something E.F. Hutton had. We have a clean slate."
He went on to say that "It's a fantastic brand and it still has a wonderful legacy, not only with the advisers who loved working there but with the clientele as well."
Campanale had been chasing the name for years, until he ultimately secured it from Retriever Brands a year ago. The name itself has been out there for a surprisingly long time before being revived.
Robert Rittereiser, who was named president of Hutton in 1985, believes the name has a certain cache that should stretch across the decades.
I do think that some of these names still stand for a culture that people miss. Will E.F. Hutton seem too retro for today's investor? Probably not.
Nowadays, most well known financial brands are so tarnished that you really need to go back into history to find one that attracted consumers. I'm glad to see the E.F. Hutton name is with us again.
April 23, 2012
It's hard to know where to start when you read that a company has named a line of sunglasses after Helen Keller.
These sunglasses are sold as a fashionable, high-end product for the ultra-chic but this is no "lost in translation" moment.
The company in question, Xiamen Jinzhi, insists they were aware Helen Keller was a famous blind activist when they chose the name. The company says they named the sunglasses in honor of Keller's "philanthropy and optimism."
The tagline for the specs, "You see the world, the world sees you" is paired with ads that suggest when you wear these sunglasses you'll immediately attract the attention of the paparazzi.
At least one blogger thinks this might have been a "shortsighted idea." Another blog post is even more blunt, saying that this product answers the question "What kind of sunglasses do I wear if I want everyone to immediately know that I'm an idiot?"
Gizmodo asks whether or not a Stephen Hawking treadmill is on the way, which may put things in perspective for some.
April 20, 2012
For some inexplicable reason the small town of Fucking, Austria really wants to change its name which originated from a Sixth Century Bavarian nobleman named Focko.
But this wasn't the first time the residents attempted to change the town's name. In 1996, the change was voted down.
The Mayor, Franz Meindl, explained they "need all of the F**king residents to agree to the name change."
Yes, he really said that.
The gawking first began near the end of World War II, when American servicemen who were stationed nearby first discovered the town.
The 104 villagers of F**king, who refer to themselves as Fuckingers, are tired of the "endless jokes" about their name. One resident complains, "There's snickering, always snickering."
Outsiders have been known to frequently steal town signs and even call the F**king residents as a prank.
"The phone calls are really the final straw" says the mayor. The problem is that they want to call the town Fugging, however there is another village bearing the name 200 miles south, and the mayor of Fugging believes "one Fugging in Austria is enough."
That name has been used in Fugging, Austria since 1836 when they, too, dropped the name F**king.
In any event, Norman Mailer would have been interested to know that there was a town called Fugging.
Mailer first used the word "fug," in lieu of "f**k," in his famous novel The Naked and the Dead. The word was supposed to reflect the coarse language of the G.I.s in World War II without offending the audience.
This led Dorothy Parker to comment, upon meeting him, "So, you're the man who can't spell 'f**k.'"
April 19, 2012
People Express Airlines, better know as PeoplExpress, is coming back.
This brand name has risen from the dead and revives an old argument over whether or not taking on a failed brand name, albeit under new management in a new era, is a good idea.
The start-up's president and COO Mike Morisi says, "The brand is iconic, and what people know and remember about it is low fares, great service and high frequency into markets that didn't have existing service. I think what we've identified is an opportunity to replicate that again."
Morisi, who has worked for PeoplExpress in the past, stresses that this will be a completely new company. The former PeoplExpress charged passengers extra for serving drinks on-board, as well as baggage fees - the new version won't.
One travel industry analyst noted, "Any time you pick a name of a company that has gone out of business, you risk reviving the negatives as well as the positives associated with that brand."
I am sure the new brand owners hope their customers won't remember when the airline was called "People Distress" as it began to fail.
Those of us who do remember the former PeoplExpress might have moved on, because cut-fare airlines have almost become the standard today.
The point is that PeoplExpress is known as the first truly cheap service carrier, and that resonance might be leveraged in the future.
But that specter of failure has one airline consultant scoffing, "This isn't a resuscitation of PeoplExpress of old. It's just some people starting an airline and naming it after one that failed miserably.''
But even in a world of cut price airlines, having a name that still means "bare bones" and "cheap" must have value.
April 18, 2012
Tom Benson, the new owner of the New Orleans Hornets, purchased his basketball franchise on Friday for $338 million.
And now it looks like he is planning to purchase a new team name as well. Or perhaps pick up a free one from the fans.
Benson says the name "Hornets" means nothing to the city. He's asking fans for their help in coming up with a new nickname.
I think he's got a point about the name, Hornets. That name also originated from the team's fans, back when the Hornets were a fledgling team in Charlotte North Carolina. The name was derived from the city's fierce resistance to the British occupation during the Revolutionary War which prompted the British commander, Lord Cornwallis, to refer to it as "a veritable nest of hornets."
Since the announcement of a possible name change, another veritable hornets nest has emerged from the fan base. Truth be told, Hornet fans have some clever team name ideas. And a lot of them.
The following 99 name candidates have been culled from social media and readers comments over the past five days. Since we have not been privy to any of Mr. Benson's marketing plans, we are loathe to make any strategic name recommendations. However, we have categorized the names to make his selection more convenient.
Saints & Sinners
Surprisingly, many of the fans comments called for the franchise to brand themselves as the Saints. But there's a football team that's not too keen on that idea. Here are some heavenly (and not so heavenly) alternatives that might address this spiritual need.
- The Parish
Let's face it, it's hard to hug a hornet. With some exceptions, teams named for these indigenous Louisiana creatures could be slightly more approachable.
- Black Bears
- Mud Bugs
- Mud Dogs
Sugar & Spice
New Orleans is known for it's great food experience. Any of these team names could positively impact the sale of concessions.
- Sugar Cane
- Po' Boys
- Hot & Spicy
- Fighting Gumbos
- Hush Puppies
- Fighting Beignets
Never-Ending Night Life
From Mardi Gras to to New Years this is the city that knows how to party. And based on these name suggestions, apparently many of the team's fans do too.
- Bourbon Street Players
Not surprisingly, a significant number of Hornets fans are vying for the return of the name 'Jazz' to the city from whence it came and more appropriately belongs. But since that brand has been playing well in Utah, fans might consider the following.
These names could potentially broaden the fan base to include the 13 million + Twilight series fans.
- Swamp People
- Witch Doctors
Rather than being the victim of natural disaster, why not promote a team brand that brings disaster to its opponents on the basketball court?
- Oil Spills
- The Flood
- Flash Floods
- The Wave
Real Life Resilience
On the court and in real life these team names reflect a people that fight back and win.
- Fighting FEMAS
- No Limit Soldiers
By the People and for the People
Why not name the team for the people of New Orleans and the heroes who inspire them?
- Gulf Coasters
- Ragin' Cajuns
- Lil' Wayne
- The Bounty Hunter
These team name suggestions defy categorization.
- Who Dat
Don't Stir the Hornet's Nest
Since the cost of a name and logo change can be somewhat stinging,some potential cost-savings could result from limiting the change to a slight variation on Hornets.
April 17, 2012
SlashGear has brought up a subject close to my heart in its new article entitled "Cross-branding is the new Gadget Black."
They list the ways in which the spheres of both automobiles and mobile devices have been aggressively cross-branding.
Sure, we all know the gadget world is okay with this, but who would have thought Audi would be branding itself with a computer chip nowadays - the NVIDIA Tegra 3?
This synergy of two brand names working together enables up-and-coming brands to take on the big guys, or to reposition a brand name in a certain sector.
The Android-Kindle marriage is the kind of brand marriage that may keep Kindle at the top of the
Or think about how effective the Doritos-Taco Bell initiative has been. One California blogger, who persistently tries to avoid Mexican fast food, saw the new Doritos Loco Taco Supreme and broke down admitting, "I was powerless to steer away; I absolutely had to try one."
And then you come across a franchise extension that is a little more unusual than most. For example, McDonald's tried to open a "Golden Arches" hotel in Switzerland. They planned to have 2,000 hotels worldwide, but wound up making only two - for obvious reasons.
It will be exciting to see what other companies begin to cross-brand with one another to create either inherently obvious or silly ties.
April 16, 2012
Apple's iPad naming is under fire in Australia now.
It is a caveat to the nifty "new iPad" naming we got for the next generation tablet device from Cupertino.
Seems that Apple has been advertising the product in Australia as "iPad with WIFI + 4G" (a far more complex name than most of us would like), but the darn thing can't seem to run on the 1800Mhz 4G that Australians use.
Which means it doesn't really have 4G if you're down-under.
Last month Apple agreed to drop the "4G" from its Australian advertising, offering people simply "Ultrafast Wireless" (see image at right) instead of "Ultrafast 4G LTE." They also offered Australians the option of returning their iPads if they felt duped.
Apple then went on to say that Australia's 4G networks were "misnamed" just when the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) suggested that Apple change the iPad naming in that country entirely.
The ACCC added that simply noting that the 4G version of the iPad was "not compatible with current Australian 4G LTE networks."
Fast forward to yesterday, when it became clear that Apple would not change the name of the device.
As TechCrunch says:
The case has two levels of significance for Apple: on one hand, it's an embarrassing admission of one of its products falling short of what Apple claims it can do. That's bad news for any company, but, as with "antenna-gate" and "heat-gate" these knocks always seem to attract disproportionate attention, partly because Apple has played everything so well up to now with its wireless devices.
To date, mediation has failed and the problem will be passed up to the Federal Court in Melbourne next month.
Additionally, Apple may face more problems in the near future as the 4G on the new iPad will probably not work in the UK or Sweden.
April 13, 2012
In an amusing article about the rebranding of California State University, Fresno, posted yesterday, the writer said, "It took a team of researchers and a focus group of 2500, some three years to decide that Fresno State, should really just be, Fresno State".
It seems like there was some confusion about the institution's name as signs around Fresno referred to it as "Cal State Fresno or CSU Fresno."
The new logo features the Fresno State name spelled out in the university's colors of red and blue and features a paw print that echoes its bulldog mascot. This "replaces more than 100 individual logos being used by different campus entities," which gives you an idea of how easily a logo and name can be misrepresented in one community.
Students seem to be reacting well to this move, calling the new brand "simple and clean," with one student commenting that it is "both professional and reflects school spirit and student life."
The tagline, "Discovery, Diversity, Distinction." reflects "what the community and university are all about," commented one professor.
Alas, the school's mascot, Timeout, found out about the news on Facebook, and seems a little upset that only his paw print is used.
That objection aside, this is an interesting case where the common, informal name for an institution displaces the official one.
Companies usually do this to make life easier for customers and stakeholders (here I am thinking of Malt-O-Meal changing its name to MOM).
I wonder how many other universities will do the same thing?
April 11, 2012
It's interesting that the American Marketing Association just released a study called "Brand Love" which looks at brand related elements such as "emotional attachment, linkages to self identity and several other elements."
Getting people to love your brand - rather than simply gain mere brand liking - seems to be the golden chalice, especially for apparel companies such as Nike and Reebok, who often use sports figures to amp up their resonance with consumers.
According to an ESPN poll, Tim Tebow was named the most popular pro athlete this year.
Tebow, a Christian, who recently gave an outdoor service in Texas to 15,000 people, has drawn such a following that one pastor commented, "In Christianity, it's the Pope and Tebow right now."
Talk about brand love.
But sometimes, love can hurt. As seen in the dispute had between Nike and Reebok over Tim Tebow apparel.
The dispute happened just before Nike took over the licensing rights for NFL apparel.
Reebok was attempting to make every last second count by emblazing Tebow's name and number on blank Jets jerseys. It was the creation of the brand-new merchandise that led a judge to block Reebok from selling 6,000 Tebow-Jets jerseys and 25,000 T-shirts that the company hastily stamped out.
Reebok will recall the new Jets apparel and has also agreed to not "manufacture, market, donate or advertise such merchandise."
Tebow's jersey for the Broncos was the second highest-selling jersey on the NFL website last season. Yet, surprisingly, there has yet to be an equally impressive surge in demand for Jets apparel as previously anticipated.
April 9, 2012
Do you own an iPad or an iPad tablet or simply a tablet?
For most of us, the important thing is that we own one period. But then again, most of us are not trademark attorneys.
In a recent Associated Press article, business writer Mae Anderson rightly suggests that the Apple iPad tablet runs the very real risk of becoming a genericized brand name and subsequently losing its very valuable trademark.
To avoid becoming a generic brand, a company's Intellectual Property (IP) counsel may offer a set of guidelines similar to these:
Don't use a mark as a noun, Do use the mark as an adjective
- It's Kleenex brand tissue, not Kleenex
Don't use the mark as a verb
- You don't xerox something, rather, you make a copy of it using a Xerox brand photocopier
Don't use the possessive form
- It's not Nike's new shoe, it's the new shoe from Nike brand
Don't change the form of a mark
- It's Microsoft Windows 2000 operating system, not Win2000
In other words, marketers should not:
Rollerblade, wear Levi's, drink a Coke or line their lips with Chap Stick.Instead marketers need to:
Ambulate (to move about) using Rollerblade brand inline skates, wear Levi's jeans, drink a Coca-Cola soft drink and line their lips with the Chap Stick brand lip balm.
To accomplish this, brand managers in partnership with their IP counsel have created more than enough pages of 'brand guidelines' to fill an iPad or an iPad tablet or simply a tablet.
Yet even marketers with the best intentions break their own rules:
- Google's logo is in constant morph
- Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, told us that Bing has the potential 'to verb-up'
- Vanguard breaks two rules with it's tagline - "Are you investing, or Vanguarding"
- And every company that uses just the brand name URL breaks the rule as well - Wheaties.com, Tide.com, Viagra.com and Sharpie.com
Since our English language is on a collision course with the path of least resistance (think Twitter and text messaging) and since the internet has created a forum for each and everyone of us to use words and brands in the way that most appeals to us, there are very few linguistic barriers on the road to genercism.
This could be a positive considering some of the iPad associations.
April 6, 2012
Many of us have great reason to celebrate this weekend.
Whether you're sitting down to enjoy a meal with the family or hunting for colorful eggs around the yard, we wish you all a very happy holiday!
All the best from the entire team at Strategic Name Development this Passover and Easter!
April 2, 2012
What can be better than spending a Sunday afternoon in August outdoors with your dog and his best friends?
Now throw in some food, music, games and festivities.
And free parking.
That's what's in store this August 5th at the Can Do Canines annual Can Do Woofaroo!
And this is more than just a chance to have some fun with your dog(s) and family. You'll be helping an organization of assistance dogs bring freedom, independence and peace of mind to people with disabilities including hearing, mobility, diabetes, autism and seizures.
In 2009 we partnered pro bono with Can Do Canines to rebrand the organization to reflect its expanded mission and geography. This year we helped them rebrand their summer event.
We can't say enough about this amazing organization that gives so much to both people and the dogs who love them.
Tune in tonight to see them featured on the KSTP channel Made in Minnesota news segment.