Brand Naming: April 2006 Archives

Google Brand Name Change: Much Ado About Gu Ge

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GoogleConventional marketing wisdom and common sense dictate using one global brand name for a company doing business globally.

However, "when in China, do as the Chinese do" might apply. Google may have sold part of its soul with the name change in China to Gu Ge (which means something to the effect of "Song of the Harvest of Grain").

But there's another way to look at this: China has four times the population of the US, and its economy is growing three times faster. You do the math.

Gu GeThere's a lot of noise on the internet these days about a backlash over the Gu Ge name in China. According to an article from Deutsche Presse-Agentur, reprinted by Tech Monsters and Critics, about 10,000 Chinese consumers have suggested up to 50 alternative names for Gu Ge, with about half of them favoring keeping the "Google" name.

These 10,000 consumers, as a percent of China's 1,307,000,000 population, is equivalent to comparing the population of Three Fork, Montana or Elk Point, South Dakota with the total population of the United States (299,000,000).

Never heard of Three Fork or Elk Point? That's my point. A New Coke debacle it's not. It's barely a whisper. Google is wise not to take legal action against the www.noguge.com site. Doing so would only make the site a cause célèbre.

Who knows? With the center of gravity shifting to China and India, it's not incomprehensible that Google's global brand name may someday be changed to Gu Ge.

Here are some other perspectives on the Gu Ge brand name:

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Links Du Jour - Wii Brand Name Edition

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Nintendo's choice of "Wii" for the brand name of their next gaming console, which I wrote about yesterday, is being talked about all over the web. Here are some of the opinions I found to be of interest:

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Brand Naming: Wii Wii Wii All the Way Home

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Wii LogoI have to add my voice to the coming from the gaming world over a new Nintendo brand name called Wii.

Nintendo has come out with a explaining the name, which is meant to be pronounced “we” (as in “we all play”). They claim the name reminds us that “this console is for everyone” and that "Wii" can "easily be remembered by people around the world, no matter what language they speak".

But it could be mispronounced "why", or perhaps some would pronounce the two i's separately. If you do, you might get “Why I?”, a question many of us ask ourselves on Monday morning when some gamer is playing with one of these things in the next cubicle.

More likely, it could be mispronounced “wee”, which is just not an association you need with a hi-tech product name.

In some languages, like Welsh, where the “w” is a vowel pronounced “oo”, you might get oooh-eee, which for a game might be OK, but most of us are not Welsh and if you are not, that particular pronunciation sounds like a call for the pigs, another big no-no.

Nintendo says “together, Wii will change everything” but I’m thinking the first thing they should change is the name.

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Links Du Jour

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  • - Some names just beg for controversy, and this one is no exception. I think these guys have done their branding research and are stirring up trouble just for its promotional value. For those of us who don't even like the IDEA of snakes on a plane, the likelihood of actually running into an airborne serpent is low.
  • - Here's a cool way to promote your company name: get it installed into people's GPS units. So, when folks are looking for some address, your logo pops up--presto!--just a block away from their intended destination. Dunkin' Donuts and Cold Stone Creamery have already embraced this technology...
  • - Or at least Steve Rubel predicts. Kind of a funny idea when you consider the product names iPod and Podcast are clearly linked, but with the introduction of BerryCast for the Blackberry, I have to admit I see some grim times ahead for the iPod version. Blackberrys will be easier to use. And you gotta love the name.

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Links Du Jour

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Brand Naming: This Fragrance Was Made for Lovin' You

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KissThe 70's supergroup Kiss is back with a , joining ranks with the many other singers offering with their celebrity brand names.

It seems to me that very few blood spitting, make-up wearing heavy metal bands have the right name for a fragrance. Motley Crue and Def Leopard, for instance, are two difficult brand names to imagine as a cologne or perfume. But, Kiss just happens to have a scent-friendly brand name despite their pretty scary image.

The Kiss line will to include a fragrance, shower gels and body sprays. The ads will link the distinctive make up worn by the band (and its dragon-tongued lead singer, Gene Simmons) with, interestingly, Venetian masks (that’s some good brand research at work).

The slogan will read “You never forget your first…” with the traditional Kiss logo, followed by the tagline “Fragrances Made For Lovin’ You”, referencing the group’s hit song “I was made for Loving You”.

I think this is pure nostalgia branding at work, of course, but Kiss has always been a bit different and the scent will stand apart from the tamer offerings by such celebrities as .

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What To Do When Your Name Is Mud

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SiltSometimes what a small (or big) town needs is a name change.

For instance, what do you do when the name of your town is ?

A whole bunch of residents are unhappy about the name, which dates back to the nineteenth century when trains used to kick up clouds of silt around the fledgling town, leading locals to post a sign by the tracks that warned, “Watch Out For Silt."

Fast forward to 1989 when someone slapped a bumper sticker on his car that proclaimed “Silt Happens”. This was pretty embarrassing, so in 1992 a number of residents tried to get the name changed, which led to a slogan contest in 1999, in which the winner was “Where the Sun Rises with a Smile and Sets in Your Heart."

I think that may be a nice slogan, but people still hate the name. Proposed changes are Ferguson or Ferguson's Crossing, Cactus Valley, Grand View and Grand River.

The town residents vote on it on May 8th. I think Grand River sounds just...grand.

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Windstream - This Brand Name is a Winner

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NameCommunications stalwart Alltel has changed its name to and will trade on the NYSE as “WIN”, allowing it to ‘win’ with customers (or so the new CEO Keith Paglusch hopes).

The company will be formed through the spin-off of Alltel’s communications business and its with VALOR communications, forming a formidable voice, broadband and entertainment brand for the rural USA.

The Windstream name, I feel, is an attractive one and perfectly placed, as the company will function in the “windstream” of this huge merger and of what remains of Alltel itself, which will be a pure-play wireless service for about 11 million customers across 34 states.

I also must say that having a ticker name like ‘WIN” is pretty nifty - it is surprising that it wasn't snapped up years ago following some brand name research by another company.

The typography and fonts, as well as its Web site, look fresh and new, and the green Windstream logo recalls wind, electrical communication and long distance - not to mention the green hills of Southeast America.

Well done and good luck, Windstream.

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Brand Naming: Intel Picks vPro for Its Business Brand

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vProIntel is forging ahead with its strategy to lend its brand to PC functionality rather than simple power through the of its vPro brand platform.

In my post on January 2nd, I discussed how Intel moved away from the nebulous "Intel Inside" slogan towards a more integrative brand name by using the "Leap Ahead" slogan. The Intel strategy supports branded platforms and processor platforms.

Intel's Centrino platform combined a processor, mobile chipset and a wireless chip while Viiv is all about home entertainment on PCs. Intel's new strategy is clearly allowing the company's name to be all things to everyone and, more exciting, allowing it to use branded platforms to support a plethora of smaller, more technical brand names.

For instance, vPro will offer security solutions for business users through offering what Intel refers to as Active Management Technology (AMT) and Intel Virtualization Technology (VT) both of which offer IT departments PCs that are easy to manage and which is more energy efficient.

I haven't always been a fan of Intel's naming strategy, but what we are seeing now is a brand literally honing its personality and becoming much more defined. And what's more, it seems to be working.

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EarthApril 22nd was , which puts into focus Earth-friendly products and brand names for today.

I think that the people at Coolhunting have found an interesting array of Earth-friendly that appeal to those of us interested in saving the planet; they also have directed us to the “” range of disposable plates.

There can be no doubt that social activism and concerns should have a direct link to brand naming and brand name research. At least one has made its entire focus on environmentally friendly products, including, amazingly, and “” from the amusingly and forthrightly named Goodkind Pen Company.

I think the company name is OK, but the product name “woody pen”...may need some work.

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Links Du Jour

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  • - Interesting blog on exactly what readers read when they pull up your web page. Crucial brand research for the web generation.
  • - This famous name from McDonald's past life is now gone. The Mayor's name was a sort of weird miracle of brand naming, and one of Ronald's best friends.
  • - The Pontiac Solstice takes center stage in a New Comic called "The Rush", a traditional and excellent way of placing a brand name among hip consumers.

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Brand Naming: Tsubi Steps on Tsubo for the Last Time

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TsuboSydney jeans label Tsubi is the new up-and-coming fashion brand name from Oz - it even got the nod from U.S. fashion magazine W.

But its rise in the U.S. seems to be roadblocked by a California footwear company with the brand name Tsubo, who is of Tsubi for trademark infringement in the U.S.

The Tsubo brand name has been registered in Australia since 2000 and has been informally petitioning Tsubi to change its name since its first trademark was registered in 2002. Tsubo is also taking Tsubi to court over using suspiciously similar typefaces in some of its brand marketing and a suspiciously similar logo.

Tsubi, you may recall, made its name by sending dozens of rats down a runway during the 2001 Fashion Week in Australia…and I think I smell one of them coming back to haunt them now.

If you love shoes, check out this great . To keep current with up-and-coming fashion brands and news, read , , and .

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Links Du Jour

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The Power of Ingredient Brand Naming

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ActiviaIn Episode 36 of , after a somewhat scatological discussion of Dannon’s new yogurt and its active (some say hyperactive) ingredient, the bacteria bifidus regularis, hosts John January and Tug McTighe conclude that there’s nothing like a new ingredient with a coined name and trademark to sell a product. Just say Now with Sillynameyouneverheardof™ and it’ll fly off the shelves.

Of course, as anyone who has tried to trademark the name of a product or service knows, there are almost no natural words in many categories that haven't already registered, so neologisms, or coined names, are needed.

But I think those special trademarked ingredients do seem to be a big part of the marketing campaigns for dietary supplements and health foods - possibly because everyone is hoping for a magic pill to help them lose weight and stop aging.

So, is this just a clever marketing gimmick by Dannon? One blogger wrote the power of ingredient brand naming in a earlier today.

Be honest, have you ever bought something because it had a new special ingredient with a trademarked name? I have.

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StoliTwo top vodka brands, Stolichnaya and Russian Standard, are fighting over who can legitimately claim to be . I think there's a subtle irony here, as the top accolade in vodka brand naming should be who gets to be Poland’s Best Vodka, since that is vodka's country of origin.

Nonetheless, worldwide consumers associate vodka with Russia and being named Russia’s best would mean to most of us that your brand name is at the top. claims that Stoli ships out the basic vodka mix to Latvia where it is bottled and sold worldwide, and that what we get is not the original Russian vodka.

The double irony is that the Stoli brand name is controlled by French outside of Russia, a group that angrily dismisses these allegations. The ancient (500 year-old) Stolichnya brand name has been under fire before, not least by the Russian government itself, which has gone to court over its use in the lucrative U.S. markets. Russian Standard, on the other hand, was introduced in 1998, but has a large share of the Russian market and, love it or hate it, is Russian through and through.

It seems to me that in a world where production of almost anything is outsourced at least in part, it will be harder and harder to claim what is truly a "home brand": over 50% of a Ford is made overseas, for example, and nowadays most Italian shoe brands - brand names that certainly gain equity through their association with Italy - are outsourced to less exotic places like Bulgaria and Romania.

Drinking Stoli at least makes one feel authentically Russian, even if the Russians themselves aren’t drinking it.

Matthew Barnett shares more insight into what makes a genuine Russian vodka brand name in a recent . Also check out the Irina posted on her blog that unravels the trademarking mystery behind Stolichnaya Vodka.

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Links Du Jour

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  • - Britney has a new scent called "In Control". Possibly not the best product name for a perfume from this particular artist.
  • - Products stuck on web sites mired in OED spellings may be getting short shrift from Google. If this blog is right, brand naming may turn away from the Queen's English once and for all.
  • - There's something about linking the assurance "100 calories" next to a product name that makes it sell. Somebody did their brand research and figured that 100 calories was a splurge but not necessarily a no-no.

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Links Du Jour

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  • - EchoStar may want to "tivo" this decision recently handed down by the courts. EchoStar says it is the "scapegoat" for similar products offering
    the same service.

  • Body Shop's popularity plunges after L'Oreal sale - Consumers are tougher and tougher about the authenticity of their socially responsible product names, and sales prove it.

  • - Marketing for Altoids and Lifesavers brand names is set to be pumped up by Wrigley's, who is also going to put some serious funding behind Creme Savers.

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Tiger Woods Has A Whole New Handicap

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Tiger WoodsThe s-word reared its ugly head again. "Spaz", that is. A recent noted that Tiger Woods has been criticized for saying that he played like a "spaz".

As you may recall, in a January about reclaiming negative language, I wrote about a California company that was marketing a wheelchair with the brand name Spazz, which was creating an uproar due to the brand name's obvious insensitivity in the UK and New Zealand.

If you'd like to know more of my opinion on naming a wheelchair Spazz, check out this Radio New Zealand .

This same BBC article has three links on the subject of inappropriate language to describe the disabled. In the BBC site for its Ouch! Disability Magazine:

Worst Words Vote

  • - See what 2,053 disabled and non-disabled people have to say about some language that is offensive to the disabled. I think some of the examples will surprise you (Also see image on right.)
  • - Here's a side-by-side comparison of how the choice of top ten Worst Words differed between disabled and non-disabled people who took part in the poll.
  • - The BBC's Ouch! Podcast is a monthly comedy show about disabilities, hosted by Actor Mat Fraser and comedian Liz Carr.

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Google ChinaYou may have seen the recent of Google changing its name to enter the Chinese market. Chinese consumers found Google difficult to pronounce.

The new Google brand name in China is Gu Ge, which means "song of the harvest of grain". I'm not sure how the translation of Gu Ge fits in with Google's business, if at all. Maybe the meaning of the name is a metaphor for Google's to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

China has the greatest number of Internet users and that will only continue to grow exponentially. But I think it's fair to say most companies would give strong consideration to changing their name to be able to reach more consumers than anywhere else in the world.

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China Is Developing Its Own Brand Names

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SAIC logoIf there are three things one can be sure about in the future, they are as follows: we will be taxed, we will die, and we will see new Chinese car brands in the next four years.

I found it interesting that state-controlled SAIC Motor Corp, which partners with VW and GM in China, is to launch its own auto brands. The new brand name is not out yet, but they already have a first run slated of 600,000 by 2010.

Ultimately, they plan on pumping out over 2 million cars per year shortly thereafter, and will probably need some brand architecture thinking. SAIC will be using technology purchased from MG Rover to make the new cars.

Watch this space, because whatever brand SAIC introduces is sure to be a winner.

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Toyota Introduces New Inexpensive Chinese Brands

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ToyotaToyota is aggressively looking toward the Chinese market, on offering a new cheap and cheerful car brand name in the coming months for Chinese consumers. The company, which will soon surpass General Motors in sales, would experience a "quantum leap" in sales if the Chinese brands take hold.

I think some in the industry wonder if Toyota will enter China using new brand names altogether, fearing that selling inexpensive cars to the Chinese could diminish the Toyota brand name. Toyota did just that as it entered the luxury and youth markets in the U.S. with Lexus and Scion, respectively.

One thing is certain I'm sure: Toyota will face stiff challenges from Chinese car manufacturers who will not easily hand over this burgeoning market to the Japanese.

As I noted in an earlier blog post, Product Naming: China Wants Your Brand, the Chinese already have the Chery brand name and are aggressively looking to switch from being supplier of choice to foreign companies to offering consumers worldwide interesting, inexpensive Chinese brands that compete with the big guys. I'm sure they will not stand by idly while Toyota takes over their home market.

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Links Du Jour

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LenovoIn a recent blog post on , I mentioned how China's sounded strange at first, but its multi-million dollar media effort is quickly making the name as common as ThinkPad.

Now I know why I have so quickly embraced Lenovo's brand name. The New York Times is reporting that, while Lenovo had the right to continue to use the name for five years, they have quickly moved to remove it completely from their advertising (the IBM logo still appears on the laptop itself) and put all of their efforts into expanding the market's awareness of the Lenovo brand name.

The Times article indicates that there is a pretty wide range of opinions regarding this strategy.

For additional coverage of this story, have a look at:

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Links Du Jour

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Olympic Airlines Changes Name To Pantheon Airlines

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Olympic AirlinesOlympic Airlines will be renamed “Pantheon Airlines” as of October 26 of this year.

Looks like the airline brand has found some , and the Pantheon name seems to be focusing on the brand’s Greek heritage. The new, smaller carrier will be sharing routes with CSA Czech Airlines.

I think a name change makes sense. This decision comes after the company’s ill fated restructuring in 2003 that saw the company renamed Olympic Airlines from Olympic Airways. Two years of mismanagement followed, as well as not a few cancelled flights. In 2005, the company was hit by bomb threats and equipment failure, which seems to have permanently jinxed the brand name.

ValuJetTo reiterate, I think it makes sense for Olympic Airlines to change its name for a fresh start. I'm reminded of ValuJet, after having crashed in the Florida Everglades, changing its name to AirTran.

Follow the for continuing coverage and analysis of this story.

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Virgin ExpressI have high expectations for this new airline brand name. Anything Virgin touches turns to gold. I expect the same to happen here. Virgin Express and SN Brussels Airlines are set to jointly a new brand name in the coming months.

SN BrusselsThe new brand name will be positioned as the "modified traditional" segment of airline carriers with two types of classes: Comfort 1 and Comfort 2, with each class offered under different brand names that have yet to be announced.

This will be an interesting naming challenge, because the comfort category will be further segmented to different target markets, allowing the carrier to expand its horizons.

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Links Du Jour

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Brand Naming: GO Nintendo

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Nintendo GoGamers around the world are anxiously awaiting the launch of the fifth generation Nintendo machine, which will be called “GO” (which means “five” in Japanese).

I wonder how this product name will play since the word is also the name of an ancient board game that has thousands upon thousands of followers across Asia and which is revered in Japan.

I think it would be like Nintendo calling its next Gameboy console "Chess".

This post has stirred up a lot of comments about whether GO is a good product name or not. For more information and to follow this story, check out this post at the blog.

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Future Naming Trends and Techniques

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Bruce Stevens and Colin McEnroe of WTIC NewsTalk 1080 in Hartford, CT interviewed Diane Prange, Chief Linguistics Officer, about future naming trends and techniques.

I thought you’d find the with Diane both informative and humorous. It sounds like NPR’s radio show, but on the subject of naming.

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Recognizable Product Names and Company Names

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There seems to be a great deal of interest in the business press regarding product names and company names.

The press appears intrigued by the name development process and I’m more than happy to demystify the process in a recent article.

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DurangoAt least one feels that we do in fact assign genders to products in the process of naming brands.

  • The Ford Bronco is clearly a masculine name while the Toyota Sequoia is more feminine.
  • The name Durango is also masculine (names ending in “o” in Spanish are masculine).

The article talks about the “leakage” of gendered words into English. Makita Power Tools - whose target market is predominately male but whose name sounds female - had a hurdle to overcome when they came to the U.S. I think that we in the product naming business have been purposely gendering products for years to appeal to the correct target market, and language leakage is only a part of this.

It is no secret that a car like the Jeep Wrangler is clearly designed for the male target market, while the Renault Clio is much more feminine and demure. My recent on HERO Honda’s motorcycle names also shows the increasing moodiness of the male mind when it comes to their favorite brands.

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Is Comcast's Smartplay a Smart Brand Naming Move?

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NameSmartplay might be the brand name for the .

Comcast's new quadruple-play telephone, Internet, television, and wireless business device is probably going to have its own product name, insiders report, after noting that the company has just trademarked the Smartplay name, which can be used for telecommunications and internet services, VOIP, wireless services, and broadcasting.

I think it's a smart and logical move to offer a new brand in this instance, because Smartplay will be co-offered with Sprint Nextel, meaning that it is unlikely that there will be a squabble over product naming.

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Links Du Jour

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Links Du Jour

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NameI learned that Northwest Airlines recently announced the launch of a new regional carrier, Compass.

The airline says it hopes to have its new regional jet subsidiary in the air as early as June and could have as many as 36 small jets flying within five years.

Compass will begin flying between Washington Dulles and Minneapolis in June with one 50-seat airplane. The new subsidiary will eventually fly 76-seat airplanes during its first year, and plans to add at least 36 of the small jets within five years.

Magnetic CompassThere’s a lot to like about the product name, Compass.

  • Short – just two sweet syllables
  • Easy to pronounce, natural English
  • An excellent fit for the travel category
  • Nice tie to the parent brand (Northwest covers two points on a Compass)
  • Plenty of positive visual imagery to make it memorable
  • Perhaps even some emotional bonding (A compass keeps us from getting lost in the proverbial big bad woods)
  • It’s trademarkable – (Actually the registration is still pending, but Northwest’s legal team wouldn’t dare introduce a new brand name they couldn’t bank on, Right?)

There’s so much product name magnetism surrounding Northwest’s Compass, it almost seems to good to be true. But there is one big chink in the armor: differentiation. In other words, the Compass brand name really lacks an identity of its own.

Even though there are no other specific airlines named ‘Compass’ there are 83 other active marks for the exact same name in the U.S. Federal database.

For instance:

  • You can drive to the airport in your Jeep Compass
  • Next, check your Compass Luggage and go through the Compass metal detector at security.
  • (Hopefully you didn’t pack your Compass hunting knife)
  • Then board the Compass flight and take your seat (which has a Compass Life Jacket stored beneath)
  • Sit back and relax in your J.C. Penny Compass suit
  • And after take-off, order a glass of Compass Merlot

I could go on, but out of Compassion for you, dear reader, I will end it now.

For more about this story, check out , and .

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Links Du Jour

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  • - Interesting thoughts on managing the most important brand name in your life: your own.
  • - This blog examines the interesting, forbidden relationship between PR people and journalists. I personally think people doing product naming, thereby trying to get product names mentioned in the media, need to cultivate this prickly relationship.

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Consonants Are Key To Brand Naming

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We conducted proprietary research on all the consonants in the English language to determine consumers’ associations with each consonant.

Some of our research findings were published in a recent issue of . I think you may find our research results interesting and revealing.

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Links Du Jour

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Accoona LogoRecognize the name Accoona? I think you probably will, soon, and I’ll explain why.

Unless you sell seashells by the seashore or something, you’ve probably seriously considered the value of search engine marketing, or at least your business’s organic rankings within Google, Yahoo! or MSN Search. Driving your decisions about SEM, though, is knowing which search engines your customers are flocking to.

In my opinion, being a consumer and using a search engine go hand-in-hand. So I how search engines are branding themselves and uncovered a trend in .

With so many loyal customers of products with Microsoft branding throughout the world, only 11% of search engine users chose MSN Search last November, whereas 70% chose Yahoo! or Google. Why?

In large part, I think the search experience is about satisfying consumers’ curiosities and connecting them with businesses. And I think we have a growing affinity for coined, or created, words for brand names in the technology arena.

I found that search engines launched in the 90’s were much more descriptively named (WebCrawler, Infoseek, and AlltheWeb), since the technology was so new. Recently, however, search engine branding is getting more creative, using coined names such as Kosmix, FinQoo, Quaero, and Accoona.

With constant innovations in the dead-serious business of Internet search, and yet-undiscovered reasons to use search technology, companies are finding new ways to brand a customer’s search experience.

So, where does the brand name "Accoona" come from? Here's what the page says:

The name Accoona is derived from the Swahili phrase, Hakuna Matata, which means "don’t worry be happy." Accoona CEO Stuart Kauder says, "The company name was chosen specifically with the end user in mind. Our goal is to make our users happy by helping them find relevant results to their queries."

Now that's a user experience I'd like to have!

For more insight into the Accoona brand, visit Mark Scholl's . Luis Suarez wrote a nice , and Brian Morrissey at Adfreaks shows how . For more insight into competitor Google's brand, visit the page, this post, and this post by Diego Rodriguez.

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Links Du Jour

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Wal-Mart has just announced a , designed by the and aimed at "young men with an urban flair." Its name? Exsto.

This is a fitting name (pun intended) for the image Wal-Mart wants to present. Exsto is Latin for "stand out, project, be conspicuous, be visible." Just what anyone looking for style wants to do.

Admittedly, not too many of Wal-Mart’s customers speak or read Latin. Many are Latin-American, however, and may think of the Spanish esto, meaning "this." As in "this is the one."

What do you think of the new Exsto brand name?

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Maytag Caught in a Brand Architecture Whirlpool

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whirlpool has just completed the of 115 year old and will immediately start integrating the companies. The hoary old Maytag name came with a $2.6 bil price tag, including Whirlpool’s assumption of Maytag’s debt.

maytagI’ll have more on this Monday, April 3rd. I do know that Maytag will continue to be sold as a Whirlpool brand. The ancillary Maytag brands, like and , will probably remain on under the Whirlpool banner.

Whirlpool has published a special section of their website containing information on the for customers, investors, employees, retirees, media and trade partners.

For more on the Maytag – Whirlpool merger check out Antitrust Review and Home-Tech Talk .

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