Brand Naming: March 2007 Archives

Shelby GT500KRThe automobile blogosphere is filled with joy today over the Return of the King at the 2007 NY Auto Show — King of the Road that is, in the form of the , unleashed once again to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the Arnold Schwarzenegger of muscle cars, the 1968 Shelby Cobra GT500KR.

will once again be associated with the project, which was originally named "Cobra" to refer to the 428 Cobra V-8 under the hood which provided close to 400 horsepower.

The brand name “King of the Road” (KR), which was associated with a car that even today inspires awe, was a direct thrust at General Motors, who wanted their own King of the Road and wound up beaten to the punch.

Today’s car, which checks in with a 5.4 liter supercharged V-8 that delivers 540 horses puts the Carroll Shelby name on the headrests, 40th anniversary badges on the fenders and launches Ford’s Mustang brand name once again under the slogan "Need for Steed" — on the heels of the King will be the .

There will be only 1000 GT500 coupes built, so get your orders in now.... and they are sure to be popular and pricey. The car looks to me — and to the numerous people who have written about it — like a worthy wearer of the King of the Road title. Plus getting Caroll Shelby involved gives the product naming a degree of authenticity.

This is no zombie brand relaunch (think , Ford).

This is a coronation of a hallowed brand name that will ride on the grille of a worthy successor and provide a needed boost for the Mustang brand.

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Fillmore Brand Name Coming Back East

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the_fillmore.gifThe Fillmore name is returning to the New York music scene after a 35-year break.

Counterculture buffs will vividly recall the Fillmore East name, which in its short time of operation (1968-71) hosted legendary acts such as Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa and the Grateful Dead. Lilly Allen will open the Fillmore New York, the new reincarnation of Irving Plaza, on April 11.

The Fillmore East is fondly remembered by many aging hippies but also seen again and again on record compilations coming out from Neil Young, the Grateful Dead, the Who and others. While the site of the original Fillmore seems to be a bank, Irving Plaza will be a wonderful spot to carry on the tradition and memories of the original marquee.

The Fillmore name is currently alive and well in San Francisco and Denver, with an April opening for a Philadelphia Fillmore as well, which is a reincarnation of the Theater of Living Arts.

Fresh apples will be served to people who go see Lilly Allen in New York and Todd Rundgren on April 27 in Philly. At both shows there will be a “greeter,” new decorations and a collectible poster distributed to all concertgoers to commemorate the event.

But some bloggers in Philadelphia are a little suspicious of the name change - the Phillyist, for example, questions “how this change will affect our wallet.”

The company in charge of bringing back the Fillmore is Live Nation, the same company that owns the House of Blues. I think that seeing the Fillmore name back in action, with the same kind of music behind it, is a good thing.

Music venues often suffer from some very forgettable name, but Fillmore is well known to generations of music lovers.

It’s great to see the Fillmore back east.

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The Genetic Basis of Cancer Drug Brand Names

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tykerb-logo.gifThe FDA has just approved GlaxoSmithKline’s new breast cancer drug, Tykerb®. The “kerb” suggests “curb” as in “hold back.” Curbing the spread of cancer is certainly a good thing.

The roots of the name go deep into biochemistry, which is not friendly territory for consumers, but very common in Pharma naming. In case you couldn’t tell, the origin of the name comes from its use to treat cancers involving the tyrosine kinase receptor ErbB2.

gsk-logo.gifThis drug brand name seems chosen to appeal to oncologists rather than cancer patients, who could hardly be aware of the Tykerb® brand name. Apart from the biochemists who created the drug, medical specialists are the only people likely to know what tyrosine kinase is and why receiving it should be an issue.

But to those who understand the relationship between tyrosine kinase and cell reproduction, “Tykerb®” makes it clear which cancers the drug is meant to treat.

That doesn’t give the name any more aesthetic appeal, however. GlaxoSmithKline’s oral chemotherapy drug, Xeloda®, has a much nicer ring to it, belying the fact that there’s nothing pretty about chemotherapy. Tykerb® is designed to be used in combination with Xeloda®.

Taken together, those names are quite a mouthful.

For more information about Tykerb®, check out Kristina Collins' blog post at The Cancer Blog and Ruth Schaffer's blog post at The BioTech Weblog.

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Brand Naming: Chevrolet Resurrecting a Nomad?

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chevrolet_nomad_concept.jpgChevy seems to be set to revive the Nomad brand name for a new 2009 crossover vehicle whose lines do seem to hearken back to the famous 2-door surfer wagon of the 1950s.

It would be an interesting replacement for the Uplander and would be marketed as a counterpoint to the GMC Acadia. This would also be the latest GM car to utilize the Lambda chassis, after the Saturn Outlook, the GMC Acadia and the Buick Enclave. These names could be a foundation for a very unique brand architecture system.

The Inside Line blog was told from industry sources that Chevy’s flirtation with the Nomad brand name is yet another example of “what’s old is new again” but some people say that we should not hold our breaths, that the brand name is not even “on radar the screen.”

chevrolet_nomad.jpgI like the idea of a reawakening of the “Nomad” name, even if it is yet another "zombie brand", which I wrote about on March 24th.

By the way, Read Daniel Gross' insightful articles on zombie brands in Slate magazine here.

The original car may be from a few generations ago but I recognize it from old movies and Nomad does have a catchy ring to it.

The name makes sense, as well, because as far as I can see, it is loyal to its original marquee by being, at heart, a 2-door wagon. It also fits into the automotive trend to bring back favorite brand names from the past, like Taurus and Escort.

The name also fits with the GM brand name “Acadia”: rugged Acadia was the site of the permanent French settlement of North America and hardy Acadians lived a quasi-nomadic and studiously neutral life during the conflicts between the French and British.

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Today’s Simplicity Trend, Not So Simple?

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Today’s trend toward simplicity has not merely taken hold, for today’s time-starved consumer, it grips the very vitals of our being.

Evidence is all around us. Popular magazine and book titles certainly support the theory. Simply look to your local newsstand for publications like:

  • Real Simple
  • Simple Scrapbooks
  • Simple Living
  • Simple & Delicious

radical_simplicity.gifAnd a simple sampling of recent book titles would reveal a spectrum of simplicity:

  • From Voluntary Simplicity to Compact Simplicity
  • From Rational Simplicity to Radical Simplicity
  • From Deep Simplicity to Profound Simplicity

But a society is also judged by what it eats, and nowhere is the simple trend more revealing than in the rash of new supermarket brand names containing the word simple. I’ll mention just a few...

  • Simple Harvest and So Simple - Quaker cereals
  • Simple Selections - ConAgra frozen meals
  • Simple Touch and Simple Measures - flavored oils from Smuckers
  • Simple Delights - snack bars
  • Simple Snacks - from Tree of Life
  • Simple Recipe - Gerber
  • Pure & Simple - yogurt from Yoplait
  • Simplesse - Nutrasweet
  • Simple Traditions - Butterball
  • Simple Sensations - seafood
  • Pure and Simple - meat
  • Simple Solutions - P&G
  • Simple Indulgence - Cadbury Adams

SaraLee_Simple_Sweets.gifAnd very recently, Sara Lee announced its new Simple Sweets line of individual serve frozen pies targeted at empty nesters who want to eliminate leftovers. Yes, a single serve pie does make our life easier, but do we really need another name with simple in it, making the grocery aisle even more complicated to navigate?

The answer is not so simple.

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Trademark Law: the Crazy Arm of Brand Naming

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Slate logoI almost missed magazine’s excellent article on "zombie" brand names which was recently mentioned on The Trademark Blog.

It looks at the return from the dead of many names we all know and love and many of which I previously covered, including the , , and Life magazine.

zombieThere is a whole cadre of entrepreneurs that pick up defunct trademarked names and revitalize them with more or less success. Recent examples include Nuprin, and .

As you may recall, I also blogged about the possible return of the and .

Slate had so many responses to its March 16 article that they posted a part II on March 20, listing yet more Zombie brand names, including , the and the .

Lest we also forget that has been given a new lease on life by Wal-Mart. Food brands that have been repeatedly resurrected are the .

These resurrections bring us into the often very amusing world of trademark protection, the specialty over at . Trademark law is simply a haven for somebody writing a product naming blog and indeed something that every naming consultant should keep up on. Recent problems have leaned towards the ridiculous, however. The least offensive is a tussle two weeks ago between Las Vegas and Midway Games over the slogan "Only Vegas," which Midway infringed on with its "Only in Vegas" slogan.

That was preceded in February by a fight between the and a woman who calls herself and promotes breast feeding. Seems that the National Pork Board was not happy with her t-shirt that reads "the other white milk."

On Friday, Wal-Mart failed in its attempt to trademark "EDLP," the acronym for "Everyday Low Prices." That’s right, they wanted to trademark the acronym.

I already covered the NFL’s attempts to trademark the "Super Bowl" name, but all of these pale in comparison with the news that Anna Nicole Smith’s former partner Larry Birkhead has actually trademarked the phrase from his eulogy to the deceased star "Goodnight, My Sweet Anna Baby" for "use in movies, books, TV shows, internet shows and stageplays."

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Brand Naming: Characteristics of a Band Name

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The Seattle Times has a great article about how band names are in many ways brand names. It shows how many famous bands actually got their names and passes judgment on many of them.

Robert_Trujillo_metallica.jpgl started to wonder if there might be a correlation between a band's ultimate success and whether it has one, two or three elements to its name. Maybe having a simple, memorable name like, say, The Beatles or Coldplay or The Who is a good idea; yet so many of the really big names are comprised of two words: Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Green Day or Sex Pistols.

Now, compare these to those bands with three or more elements in their names: Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Three Dog Night, and Strawberry Alarm Clock.

I don't have the numbers to back it up, but I would say that the bigger the band you are hoping to be, the shorter your name should be. I would bet one or two-word band names are doing far better than the rest. And I am pretty sure that the two-word name gets a lot of support because often times these are, well, musician’s real names, like Alanis Morissette, Phil Collins, Cat Stevens.

Madonna.jpgJust remember that Sting and Madonna combine the best of all worlds: a personal name in one word. On the other hand, naming your band with an entire sentence is the kiss of death.

Speaking of Kiss, shorter names, in my opinion, will be easier to build into brand name extensions after the music's over: just look at how Kiss is doing with its new fragrance.

Hidden Track points out that some really bad brand names have actually been appended to some really good bands. Yes, Umphrey’s McGee may be the worst band name ever, but it is supposed to be a great band.

The AV Club has posted the worst band names of 2006, which includes Poofinger and Rigor Phallus. If these aren’t bad enough, UFOMystic has a blog up looking for “good UFO-related names for bands”: The Abductees and Betty and the Hills caught my eye, but not in a good way.

KISS_in_concert_Boston.jpgIf you are interested, why not check out The Band Names site for more information (where you will find out what UB40 means, or why Foo Fighters is a historically relevant name). If you are in a rock band in need of a name that might become a huge brand name tomorrow, just go on over to the Band Name Generator.

Just be careful: if your band name is too good, like Metallica’s, then some couple may name their child after it.

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Does The Outdoor Channel Need a Naming Company?

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The Outdoor Channel is subtly changing its brand name by dropping “The”: from here on in it will be “Outdoor Channel.”

It is also offering us “a new logo, on-air look, and ancillary branding elements specifically designed to reflect the Network's position as the leading provider of exciting outdoor action, adventure and entertainment.”

This decision comes on the heels of some financial hardships the channel experienced earlier this year and which solidified at the end of the first quarter.

the_outdoor_channel_logo_2.gifThe new logo features an "action black" and "adventure green" color scheme, according to one of the senior people there. The logo looks far more aggressive and shows us, interestingly, two mountain peaks, despite the fact that a quick glance at the programming, it shows absolutely no mountaineering shows.

No, the programming is geared towards mainly hunting and fishing, or what one blogger jokingly calls “pornography for gun lovers.” the purpose of the new logo is to “own the outdoor entertainment space.”

Please do not get me wrong. I think fishing, hunting and shooting are great activities... but they are not much fun to watch without some hook.

I think the new logo and the slightly altered brand name is a step forward, but I hesitate with the word “Outdoor.” I think it may have been created by somebody who has never been outdoors. Stop and think about it for a moment: do we really “go outdoors” when we go to the woods or the streams or the mountains?

Do boaters and fisherman think of themselves as “outdoorsmen”? Isn’t the word a little dated? Isn’t it the term your mother used when she wanted you to “get outdoors and get some fresh air, for heaven's sake.” She meant the backyard, not the Canadian Rockies.

If I were the naming consultant working for Outdoor Channel, I might ask them to look at the name of another hugely successful channel that built its business on documentary films that take place outdoors: The Discovery Channel. Discovery offers what we hope to experience when we explore the world of nature: the unknown, the destination. Its channel name reflects this.

On the other hand, what is probably doing the channel the greatest harm is not its brand name at all. Instead, the problem probably lies in the names of the programs offered:

  • People Who Fish
  • Mossy Oak Classics
  • Guns and Ammo Classics TV
  • Turkey Call and Personal Watercraft

Those shows just do not sound very tantalizing. Yes, there are a few eyebrow raisers:

  • Ted Nugent Spirit of the Wild
  • Speargun Hunter
  • Ready, Aim, Grill

Those show names would make me pause, but these are the exceptions rather than the rule.

Their new program naming really needs a breath of fresh air and fresh names.

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Crowded Out of a Brand Name?

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According to’s April Trend Briefing, “Crowd Clout” is the last available “crowd” name:

Yes, we actually managed to find the last remaining ‘crowd’ moniker out there, joining a crowded space that now encompasses everything from CROWD SOURCING to CROWD STORM to THE WISDOM OF CROWDS to CROWD SPIRIT, covering important trends like co-creation, co-shopping and co-funding.

This is actually something of an exaggeration, however. The USPTO only lists 149 trademarks containing the word “crowd,” and most of them don’t seem to have anything to do with the new enthusiasm for collective activity exemplified by Wikipedia.

crowd.jpgBut more and more companies are looking to harness the power of crowds, and their brand names reflect it:

And let’s not forget the 800 “crowd” blogs listed by Technorati. (The Crowdsourcing blog is definitely one to watch.)

I think is on to something, and we can expect more “crowd” names, and brand names inspired by the concept of “Crowd Clout,” in 2007.

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I think the idea of combining Coca-Cola and L’Oréal is a little frightening.

loreal_coke.gifNeither drinking Feria #93 nor washing my hair with Diet Coke has much appeal. Nevertheless, “drinkable skin care” is the latest thing in nutraceuticals, and Coca-cola has been producing “Love Body” in Japan for a while, and more recently launched “Enviga” in the U.S.

Now it’s Lumaé, a beverage based on anti-oxidant-rich green tea.

I’m in no position to comment on the effectiveness of the product, which won’t be released until 2008. It’s the name that worries me. “Lumaé” obviously comes from Latin lumen, meaning “lamp,” the root word of “illuminate.” It’s a good root on which to base a product name meant to give your skin a healthy glow.

loreal_coke_2.gifThe problem is one of pronunciation. Is the name two syllables or three? The acute accent in French is used to show that you pronounce a vowel separately, e.g. “Loh-ray-ahl” and not “Loh-reel.” That would suggest that “Lumaé” is pronounced “Loo-mah-ehh” or “Loo-mah-ee” rather than “Loom-eye” (which would be the Latin pronunciation).

English has little tolerance for hiatus, the separate pronunciation of two vowels with no consonant between them, and that means English speakers will have a hard time pronouncing “Lumaé” correctly if it’s meant to be a three-syllable name. And if it’s not meant to be a three-syllable name, what’s with the accent aigu?

A final note of warning to Coca-Cola and L’Oréal: the unicauda lumae is a parasite residing in the livers of Iraqi barbel fish.

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wrigley_five.gifWrigley has obviously has been chewing over the declining market share of its brand versus major competitor Cadbury Schweppes and has introduced what president and CEO Bill Perez calls the most revolutionary development in sugar-free stick gum since the introduction of the Extra brand name 20 years ago: a new “chewing experience” named, simply, “5”.

The product name connotes the five senses and will include three flavors: “Rain,” “Cobalt” and “Fire.” The Chicagoist is not sure if a gum can actually appeal to all five senses politely: maybe you hear gum if somebody cracks it or chews loudly.

But that might be just the point, given that gum cracking, bubble blowing teens chew up 33% of the gum sold in the U.S., and preliminary tests indicate that teens are attracted to the gum’s “tingling, cooling or warming sensations” as well as its “sleek, revolutionary packaging,” which reminds the Chicagoist of something far more risqué than sugar-free gum (which, again, is probably the point).

As far as the new product naming goes, I suppose the word “rain” could be a flavor, for the same reason that the word “ice” in brand names is a nice allusion.

But “cobalt”? Would that be cooler or hotter than rain? Or just a little different? It’s hard to say without looking at the packaging, isn't it? It turns out that “Rain” is “spearmint that tingles” while “Cobalt” is “”peppermint that cools.” Wikipedia describes cobalt as a "slightly toxic" element.

The product name and the entire approach is a departure for Wrigley’s, which has been rather conservative in its promotion of its brands (except when it comes to the bottom of Starbucks coffee cups.)

I have not been able to establish whether this new brand name will be featured on, Wrigley's download site for the ever-popular Wii. Alternatively, they might place a board at Wrigley Field, which later this year, for the first time ever, is placing ads on the ivy-covered walls surrounding the outfield.

Maybe the “5” brand name could be promoted during the Police show to be held at Wrigley Field on July 5th. Hopefully, noisy gum chewers won’t be standing too close to me.

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Coca-Cola Asked to Drop Coca from its Product Name

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coke_world.jpgBolivia’s coca growers are demanding that Coca-Cola drop the word “coca” from its name.

It seems that "coca" being part of the most famous brand name in the world is a transgression on the country’s cultural heritage, where the coca leaf plays a central role in everything from tea to toothpaste. Many bloggers have responded with outright disbelief.

Preeti Aroon at Foreign Policy Passport draws a similarity between Bolivia’s (seemingly doomed) struggle to own the word “coca” and Ethiopia’s attempts to protect its various coffee trademarks.

coca-cola_cocaine.jpgHe also intelligently says that this is certainly a stunt on the part of President Evo Morales to legalize the growing of coca, the primary ingredient in cocaine, by repositioning it as “sacred” and an important component of other products (including flours and liquors) the country ostensibly hopes to export.

Coke has noted that the brand name is protected under Bolivian law and it is highly, highly doubtful that the world’s number one brand is going to change anytime soon. This reminds me of the New Coke debacle, one of the most memorable product renaming initiatives in history.

Are coca leaves, in any form, actually in Coke? Coke refuses to say but Aroon has found an interesting link showing that they used to be, decades ago.

CocaColaLabel.jpgEddie at Everything's Corner notes that Bolivia is also trying to get coca removed from the UN's Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. It is interesting to note that while the UN will not let Bolivia industrialize and profit from the Coca name or product, Coca-Cola is indeed doing so, whether coca leaves are part of the legendary secret formula or not.

But this is all moot—there are certain names that cannot be claimed by a country and trademarking the word “coca” will prove to be almost impossible. As Dr. X asks, “What next? Queen Elizabeth tells Royal Crown to drop the word 'Royal?' The American Medical Association goes after Dr. Pepper?”

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Gin Product Naming Getting a Shake-Up

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Plymouth GinWilliam Dowd has an interesting post up entitled "The gin comeback is under way,” while the Authentic Bartender has one that predicts "new flavorings could make gin the new vodka."

Gin product names may be seeing a resurgence, as they seem to do every time a new Bond movie comes out. Bond’s penchant for martinis that are "" has probably been the most memorable tag line ever created for the spirits industry.

Martin Miller's GinDowd’s review of two gin brands, Martin Miller’s and Plymouth, comes to us shortly after . Both brands have had an identity shake up that sees them offered in sleek glass bottles that are almost dowdy compared to the other brand names I mention below. Dowd’s is an excellent review of gin culture and its endless competition with vodka brand names and product names.

Aviation GinLast week Slashfood reviewed another high end gin brand name: , and referred to G’Vine and Bluecoat in the post. What all these gins have in common is that they are vying for top shelf status against very established brand names like Beefeater and Gilbey’s.

It is interesting to see non-England brand names like Aviation (USA) and (USA) and (France) taking shelf space against staples like Seagram’s and Bombay. I also took Dowd’s advice to heart: when shopping for gin, remember to look for "distilled gin," "London dry gin," "dry gin" or "London dry gin” under the brand name: you don’t want to mess around with non filtered gin.

Bluecoat GinAll of these will bring back the debate over whether a martini should be shaken or stirred.

Fools of the Apocalypse has a very strongly worded post up in favor of stirring martinis as well as a ranking of top gin brand names.

Beefeater GinI disagree with his thoughts on the stirred martini, however. A shaken martini is colder, a little diluted and, because it has ice chips floating in it, stays frozen longer. The Fools’ writer can afford to put Bombay Sapphire in a G & T. Too rich for my blood but I am sure that that does make the best G & T possible.

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That Brand Name Is So Punny

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Halfhournewshour_logo.jpgEarlier this year, the Fox News Channel released their version of The Daily Show. Entitled The Half Hour News Hour, Fox has made a bold brand promise to its viewers: Our humor is not cutting edge.

The show’s name hearkens back to the comedy stylings of S.J. Perelman and Robert Benchley, where puns and eponymous riffs were king. But that humor is over 60 years old, and audiences have, since then, refined their humor palate.

In other words: a joke for jokes’ sake just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Sadly the name of the show foretells the dated and, more so, desperate nature of The Half Hour News Hour’s content.

Not good, right? If you disagree and claim that I’m being too harsh, then take solace in the fact that I firmly believe The Half Hour News Hour will succeed.

How so? The answer is simple: the show is making good on the brand promise that its humor isn’t cutting edge, like I said before.

Colbert_Report_logo.jpgBut so what? Fox News’s viewers aren’t the run-of-the-mill pseudo-intellectual, hipster crowd so embraced by The Daily Show or The Colbert Report.

The average audience, instead, is filled with meat-and-potatoes folks, who favor easy potshots over wit.

Barack Obama is black. Ha ha. Bill Clinton is a womanizer. Chuckle, chuckle. Howard Dean is (fill in epithet here). We get it.

And so do Fox’s viewers. And they can’t get enough of it!

Kudos to Fox News for abiding by one of the basic principles behind economics: supply and demand. Or more specifically: give the people what they want.

Edsel_Citation_Convertible_1958.jpgBy giving its audience brain candy humor with predictable punch lines preceded by a product name that is as outdated as the Edsel, Fox News continues to increasingly reinforce its brand identity.

The channel will continue to succeed through its product diversification, outpacing its competitors due to its impenetrable brand.

Boiled down to simpler terms – you may disagree with their politics, but you have to admit: at least they stand for something.

And that’s where they’re cutting edge.

For more insights into the Half Hour News Hour show, check out what The Radio Equalizer, Steven Cupps, and Bob Cesca have to say.

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DaimlerChryslerBenzLogoSometimes the only thing worse than nobody knowing your name is when everybody knows it.

It seems that two shareholders want to drop Chrysler from the DaimlerChrysler company name and instead use Daimler-Benz AG, because any reference at all to the ailing Chrysler business is "detrimental to the image of the corporation and its products," wrote shareholders Ekkehard Wenger and Leonhard Knoll in their proposal.

Wenger and Knoll add that people have been making up unflattering nicknames such as "Doting Daimler" and "Daimler-Crisis," and that hurts the brand name reputation.

Gunnar Heinrich, at the 4 Drivers Only blog, added that seeing a DaimlerChrysler plaque on a $134,000 Mercedes-Benz would be upsetting, given the lack of premium-priced status he associates with the Chrysler brand name.

John Neff at Autoblog chimes in, “What does it say about the state of solidarity within your company when you have one half being referred to as an affliction? Not much.” Neff notes that DaimlerChrysler supervisory and management boards will resist the name change, making it rather unlikely. Still, it hurts public relations.

I think it's in Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler's mutual benefit to end their ill-conceived relationship and build their respective brands. Yes, Chrysler has some great brands in its stable.

LEGG_MASON.jpgLegg Mason, on the other hand, has the exact opposite problem as DaimlerChrysler. Legg Mason is an invisible giant, known and respected only by people in the financial management sector but not by the average consumer. This is despite the fact that it is the fifth-largest money management firm in the world.

Legg Mason is about to spend $4 million over the next four months to change that. And not a moment too soon. People in its home town of Baltimore know the brand name, it seems, as well as a few others, including Citigroup, which are in its fold.

The only press they seem to have gotten lately is from some Playboy bunnies, who managed to beat the Bill Miller's Legg Mason Value Fund with their stock picks last year.

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Naming: From Brand Names to Book Titles

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As a brand name and product naming consultant I am not usually asked to create book titles, but I was interested to note that last Friday industry magazine The Bookseller in the UK released the short list for the 29th annual Bookseller-Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Titles Prize.

book2.jpgThe winner of the oddest book title will be announced on April 13, just before the London Book Fair. Contenders come from around the world, it seems, and included:

  • The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification
  • Tattooed Mountain Woman and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan
  • Di Mascio's Delicious Ice Cream: Di Mascio of Coventry, an Ice Cream Company of Repute, with an Interesting and Varied Fleet of Ice Cream Vans
  • Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence

The heavy favorite to win, however, is How Green Were the Nazis.

book1.jpgLast year's winner was Gary Leon Hill for The People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It. Previous contenders have included Bombproof Your Horse and Living with Crazy Buttocks. The most useful title ever, I feel, was 1992’s How to Avoid Huge Ships.

You can vote at The Register for the weirdest of them all.

Yesterday, the Law Librarian Blog was also inspired to run a contest for the oddest law book title. Nominees include:

  • Blackie the Talking Cat: And Other Favorite Judicial Opinions (West 1996)
  • The Law of Cadavers, Second Edition (Prentice-Hall, 1950)
  • No justice, no piece! : a working girl's guide to labor organizing in the sex industry / by the hell-raisin' hussies who organized the Exotic Dancers Union at San Francisco's Lusty Lady Theater

Before March 23rd, you can be a namer, too. Voting starts April 2nd.

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Despite the fact that it is a James Bond’s favorite, Dom Pérignon is a brand name that seems to have become associated with older men.

dom_logo.gifLegend has it that the product name itself comes from the 17th century monk named Piere Pérignon who discovered champagne.

Despite owner Moët & Chandon’s worries about its image, Dom Pérignon was ranked the “most prestigious” champagne last year in the Luxury Brand Status Index, ranking tops for “uniqueness and exclusivity,” “used by people who are admired and respected,” and “making those who consume it feel special across the entire experience.”

Maybe that’s its problem: Dom is seen as so exclusive and gentlemanly that nobody except James Bond feels like buying a bottle when they just want to relax or celebrate.

dom_eva.jpgDom has struck back with a sexy marketing campaign and a revamp of the bottle and packaging.

Research Studios Paris is helping to design a new “brand language” for the champagne; one of the consultants says “Dom Pérignon is such a pared-down brand, with very little story or myth, that it is all about the detail. If you get the detail wrong then the whole thing doesn’t work.”

2007_Bentley_Continental_GT.jpgThis is often the case in repositioning a brand name: subtlety is key. I think that with such an established brand, insightful brand name research is necessary to assume that the brand’s mythology is leveraged.

Other “older man brands” like Bentley and Cadillac have successfully repositioned themselves to appeal to a younger demographic.

I feel Dom seems to be doing everything right. Possibly we will see Jay-Z lifting a glass soon.

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Connect With Consumers Employing Brand Name Contest

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ritas.jpgNet Plus Marketing has garnered kudos from Marketing Sherpa due to the “Sweet Success of [its] Product-Naming Promotion” for Rita’s Water Ice.

Rita’s introduced a new mix-it-yourself product in Pennsylvania and asked the taste-testers to name it by entering suggestions at the Rita’s TBD website. According to Net Plus, customers came up with more than 1200 product names. The winning name, “Blendini,” is a fitting one for a mixture of Italian ice, frozen custard, and cookie bits.

Naming contests are not new. Crayola’s 1993 “Name the New Color” contest resulted in 16 new crayons, and a 1999 contest replaced “Indian Red” with the more politically correct “chestnut.” A 2003 contest produced “inch worm,” “jazzberry jam,” “mango tango,” and “wild blue yonder.”

do_us_a_flavor.jpgBen & Jerry’s “Do Us a Flavor” contest calls for recipes as well as names, but the winners don’t necessarily go into mass production.

In all of these cases, the real goal is not so much finding a name as connecting with consumers and creating a sense of brand ownership.

Net Plus doesn’t even list finding a good product name among the campaign’s stated goals:

  • Promote the new test product in this limited geographic area.
  • Encourage customer interaction with the product and brand.
  • Capture customer feedback about the new product.

Plus, not everyone has a budget for a naming company.

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starbucks_records.jpgYesterday the New York Post broke the story that Starbucks is going to launch its own record label and wants Paul McCartney to offer the first release.

The new company name will be Starbucks Records and could sell music via in-store kiosks. Of course, it’s unlikely they will actually sell records at all. This looks like retro brand naming aimed at the demographic who can still remember turntables.

Some bloggers think this is a great idea. On the other hand, an interesting post from earlier in the week might give one pause: Stephen Smoliar points out that a recent poll by CRM Buyer shows Dunkin’ Donuts is quickly gaining ground on Starbucks, scoring higher than the well known brand name on “in-store experience” and “quality” and “taste.”

Smoliar quotes the head of Brand Keys, the folks who did the poll: “When you think of Dunkin', you think of doughnuts and coffee. You don't think of CDs, you don't think of sandwiches, you don't think of newspapers.” Smoliar also wonders, “Is America losing its taste for the ‘Seattle trendy’ cachet, if not for the beans and brewing?”

A three part post by ex-Starbucks employees John Moore and Paul Williams on Brand Autopsy and Idea Sandbox dissects Starbucks’ branding efforts and notes that the company is just selling too much stuff: from finger puppets to Barista Bears to, yes, CDs.

Maybe, Moore says, if they want their brand to gain ground on their ferocious competitors, they should ask themselves a simple question about every single brand name extension: “Does this product link directly to coffee?”

I think Starbucks has lost its way, but has what it takes to get back on track, focusing on the Starbucks experience.

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Gap LogoThe new Boyfriend Trouser product name is one of the worst examples of product naming in the last few months for a couple of reasons.

  • First, the obvious: according to Yesterday’s Salad, that word "trouser" makes the brand name sound "like a British B-movie murder mystery," because people who shop at the Gap do not wear trousers; they wear pants, khakis or jeans. I’m not sure that the word "trouser" is commonly used in the singular, although it can be used as a verb (if you are British author PG Wodehouse), as in "he trousered the money."
  • Second, the product name Boyfriend Trouser is not like a woman's "date dress" or her "fat sweater" or her "follow me home" stilettos. In other words, this is not supposed to be the pair of trousers you wear to see your boyfriend. Instead, it is a pair of pants made to look like you stole them from your boyfriend. As Josh Eisenberg points out, the problem here is that you are really not stealing from your boyfriend in this case.

Here's the Gap Boyfriend Trouser TV ad, in case you want to see it.

An insightful blog post on Jewess With Attitude calls for "" — ’s brand naming breakthrough, it seems. JWA asks some hard questions about the Boyfriend Trouser, like, do you buy the pants to "fill the void" if you do not have a boyfriend? On the other hand, JWA points out that if you do have a boyfriend, you could just steal his pants and save yourself $49.50. The JWA blogger asks if you’d be trying to make your current boyfriend jealous by wearing this brand name — suggesting to him, perhaps at a subliminal level, that you are wearing trousers stolen from some other boyfriend? Read the post.

In the meantime, two things seem clear to some bloggers: the eighties are over and with them our obsession with baggy khakis.

Brando suggests that maybe they are meant to actually "make you feel like your boyfriend." Or maybe the Gap is suggesting women wear these to help them find a boyfriend. If that’s what's happening here, it won’t work.

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I have a Product Naming Attitude About Attitude

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Do you ever wonder why a marketer introduces a new product under a suggestive brand name that simply doesn’t do enough to explain itself or differentiate itself?

armani1.jpgThis may be the case for Georgio Armani’s new spring fragrance for men. It’s called Armani Attitude.

First of all, I’m missing the male connection. Men usually aren’t pegged as having an “attitude.” I always thought that realm of emotion reserved exclusively for women.

Second, I’m not sure of what kind of attitude we are dealing with here. Is it a bad attitude or a good attitude? Does the fragrance give you an attitude adjustment? Or is it just that the word Attitude is an available mark that is alliterative with its parent brand, Armani?

Third, I cannot tie the name to the actual scent itself which features a wide range of ingredients and cultural influences.

Armani_dog.jpgMichelle Edgar, from Women's Wear Daily reports, “Attitude features top notes of Calabria lemon and coffee absolute, middle notes of Ceylan cardamom and lavender and bottom notes of China cedar and Indonesian patchouli. Although it's classified as a modern fougère, the fragrance is closer to an oriental scent.”

So, as a consumer, I am left with no other recourse but to then connect the words ‘attitude’ and ‘Armani’ to my personal set of life experiences.

And since I once had a dog named Armani, who certainly had an attitude (despite being male), I can only connote that the scent smells like my dog did. Which wasn’t exactly good.

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ESPN_Cold_Pizza.gifThe Big Lead blog just broke the story that ESPN’s Cold Pizza, which has been slated for a move to Bristol, CT, is getting a name change: ESPN’s First Take.

Some bloggers think the show needed a name change, but some dislike the new brand name. The Big Lead discusses how ESPN gave up on the original format of the show a while back, and now they're throwing away the last bit of brand name recognition. "Cold Pizza" has garnered much publicity over four years, similar to when Coca-Cola underwent a name change to "New Coke."

The very popular Deadspin blog is getting a lot of comments suggesting superior name candidates. Frankly, I think the new name is pretty good and would not doubt that ESPN worked with a naming consultant for this effort. I'm sure there was good rationale to throw out the Cold Pizza name.

captain_america.jpgSpeaking of doing away with recognizable brand names, I was far disturbed to read that one of the most popular brands in the Marvel comic universe, Captain America, was killed this week by a sniper. Even though Freak Comics has already been pleaing for fans to "get over it", his death does give me pause.

Some writers posit that a post-911 Captain America was simply too pure-hearted for the new world, but then again ABC reports that his rebirth is coming in a year or so and in the meantime Marvel will sell large volumes of comic books.

The “Captain America”, which in many ways is an iconic brand name and product name, is a loaded one in American pop culture, and reminds me of Peter Fonda’s portrayal of the hippie biker in Easy Rider who was also killed during troubled times. 67-year-old Fonda is currently partially reincarnating that counterculture version of “Captain America” in the hit new movies Wild Hogs and Ghost Rider.

Some names just never say die, but as for Cold Pizza and Captain America, we say goodbye...for now...

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LEGO Builds Its Brand Name into MMO

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lego_mmog.jpgLEGO has extended its brand name to a massively multiplayer online (MMO) video game developed by NetDevil.

Lisbeth Valther Pallesen, Executive Vice President, Community, Education and Direct Division LEGO Group, is quoted on Kotaku, making the points that:

  • The LEGO brand represents construction, creativity and problem solving - values that compliment the MMOG market
  • By merging the online world of social interaction with physical play, the LEGO brand is providing new experiences for children as well as new and engaging ways for them to interact with the LEGO brand

I heartily applaud this co-branding venture, which brings together two of the best known brand names in toys and online gaming. It also brings the LEGO brand name to the Internet generation, creating an excellent platform for the brand and, possibly, re-introducing it to a slightly older demographic.

There is even the possibility that you can create something with LEGO bricks online and then buy it in the real world, and if 48-150 people had a hand in building that something, LEGO could be looking at some very big sales.

LEGO has been doing all kinds of co branding, of course, last year we covered their foray into food and their co-branding with Star Wars has been incredibly lucrative. Now, as Mike Abundo indicates, “The childhood addiction of many a geek is about to come to life.”

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No_Child_Left_Behind_Act.jpgAs you may be aware, the No Child Left Behind Act requires that students meet certain levels of proficiency. The testing related to this is often refered to "high stakes" testing.

Harcourt Assessment introduced the first formative assessment solution, Learnia™, which allows the teacher to see how the student is learning and allows the student to see how they're progressing.

Learnia™ gives educators the ability to evaluate student performance and weak areas prior to testing. The tool is complemented by Harcourt Assessment’s hands-on support, a variety of reports to choose from, and an online option for test administration.

learnia2.pngThe Learnia™ brand name, created by Strategic Name Development, is energetic and positive, while at the same time technology-driven and easily pronounceable.

“In an industry dominated by clinical names with little marketing appeal, Strategic Name Development partnered with us to create a new brand name that appeals to our customers while clearly illustrating the core function of the product,” said Terry Turner, Senior Vice President of Sales, Harcourt Assessment, Inc.

For more information, click here.

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Ice Taps Popular with Bill O'Reilly

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Remember Pixy Stix, the powdered candy packaged in a wrapper resembling a drinking straw, normally poured from the wrapper into the mouth?

Imagine you have a sore throat and you could use Pixy Stix to soothe it. You pour the medicine in your mouth and it dissolves silently and quickly.

That's what the experience of using Ice Taps® is like. It's the #1 cough soothing medicine in Japan, and now it's available in the U.S.

IceTaps.gifIce Taps® is a unique, convenient, fast-melting granule taken without water to relieve, refresh and rejuvenate sore throats, quite differently than traditional throat lozenges and sprays. The powdered cough and cold medicine comes in boxes of twelve single-serve packets and can be taken straight from the package.

Even Bill O'Reilly and Dr. Laura Schlessinger use it.

Strategic Name Development created the Ice Taps® brand name. Our objective was to create a simple and suggestive name with a refreshing connotation. Ice Taps® connotes the experience of using the product while employing very natural language and only two short syllables.

It's a metaphorical name that cleverly conveys tapping into cool refreshment to soothe your throat.

“Ice Taps® is not only a new product in the cough/cold category, but it represents Solstice Medicine Company's introduction to U.S. consumers and retailers. We are very pleased with the name development expertise provided by Strategic Name Development,” said Douglas Momii, National Sales Manager, Solstice Medicine Company.

To read more, click here.

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red-iPod.gifMya Frazier, Advertising Age, reported that it's estimated that the collective marketing spending on the (RED) campaign by Gap, Apple, and Motorola has been $100 million, and that the campaign has only "reaped in $18 million."

This article prompted heated debate yesterday over the degree of success of the Product (RED) campaign. And both sides have insightful arguments.

Like I discussed in February of last year, I continue to believe in the long term economic value of the (RED) brand name and initiative. In my opinion, the combination of the (RED) brand identity, design, name, celebrity endorsements, and corporate partnerships has immense future value.

I think Product (RED) is smart marketing and here is some evidence why:

  • (RED) has broad awareness and recognition. According to Julie Cordua, VP Marketing, (RED), 20% of the general population is aware of (RED) and knows what it stands for after only 3 months in the market. But with the core consumer, Cordua says, "the person who likes to shop, considers themselves consumers of the world, we actually had significantly higher awareness and greater appreciation for the concept and knowledge of our partners."
  • (RED) is not a charity – it's a business. It's a long-term campaign and its business model is a licensing organization. Cordua, in an Adweek interview, said that corporate partners commit to a minimum 5-year partnership, that it's not a limited promotion, and it's a consumer brand in the making.
  • (RED) targets those who typically don't donate. As Rohit Bhargava said yesterday, "The real issue is that there is a significant percentage of people in the world that just won't be part of something like this [The Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria] either because they don't know about it, or are not inclined to participate. If Product (RED) can get some of those people involved and raise money in the process - I think it has to be considered a success."
  • (RED) is easily identifiable, unique and visually extendible. The color red is associated with emergency, and the AIDS crisis in Africa is definitely an emergency. The logo symbolizes hugging, or an embrace, and partners become part of the family of brands.
  • (RED) is an reason to give money. For some people, giving money to fight AIDS in Africa is not a high priority. Nor is the issue easy to understand. However, in the context of a well-known brand they've already done business with, it's easier. Buy a red iPod Nano and you've helped the world. This expert agrees.
  • (RED) is working. Bobby Shriver, CEO (RED), said the campaign has raised five times the amount given by the private sector in four years. "Highly recognizable companies like Gap, Apple, Motorola are explaining the AIDS crisis - what's the value of that?"

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Does the Honeywell Brand Name Extend to TVs?

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I read with interest that Honeywell International Inc., best known for thermostats and jet engines, will be extending its brand name to flat-panel TVs.

honeywell_image.gifHoneywell is far more well known for building aircraft engines and thermostats; this is their first move into consumer electronics.

They are partnering with Soyo Group, a small manufacturer known for their computer monitors and motherboards. Soyo, by the way, just secured $12 million in credit to “serve its growing channel of retail and OEM partners.”

This TV foray, which will provide possibly $3.84 million in royalties for the Honeywell brand name, is really very minor compared to the $31+ billion Honeywell earned in sales last year, but it is a good brand extension - far better, than, say, the $10,000 H316 Kitchen Computer it introduced in 1969. The TV initiative will bring the Honeywell brand name in front of millions of consumers who might already be aware they are using Honeywell’s products.

flat_panel_tv.gifThe rise of flat panel TV brands has opened the door for other well known American corporate names to partner with low cost Asian producers and take advantage of new markets with price conscious consumers.

In December of 2005, I noted that well loved (and for decades, defunct) TV brands like Zenith, Polaroid, and Westinghouse have resurrected their names on flat panels.

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Starbucks Not Happy About Starstrucks Brand Name

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An Indian coffee shop chain named Starstrucks has earned the wrath of Starbucks, who has found itself embattled in trademark infringement disputes worldwide.

starbucks_brand_name.gifI have already written extensively about Starbucks’ troubles in China, where a pretender pops up, it seems, almost weekly.

This new Indian coffee shop is “glamour themed” and the owner Shanhaz Husain, an herbal beauty specialist, can’t understand why Starbucks is steamed about her company name and the fact she hopes to open 25 stores this year. “My concept's totally different,” she says.

Lewis Green wrote an excellent post about this subject. Green is spot-on when he says, "brand names are only legally protected when they are legally defended when challenged." That is important because, he says, "Starbucks growth and success rests on the familiarity and emotional response that its brand name engenders."

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Will The Escort Brand Name Return?

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The rumor that the Ford Escort might be making a return to the roads has got me thinking about how certain car brand names tend to get re-introduced.

One example: the Ford Taurus. In fact, a lot of the discussion at this year's Chicago Auto Show was about the name changes happening within the automotive industry.

ford-escort.jpgThe Escort brand name was recently compared to the city of Cleveland in terms of consumer appeal: “a sensible car, no frills, gets the job done.” I am sure most people feel the same away about this brand. It's not exactly associated with a passionate love for the car, but rather a classic American name.

Autoblog points out that Escort is probably the best port of call for a new subcompact - the Festiva, Ka and Fiesta brand names don’t have the same cachet for a car based on the Mazda platform.

I think that a combined reintroduction of the Taurus and Escort names would signal a strong move by Ford, but the cars themselves have to be as lovable as they were in the past, and they need to be supported to avoid killing the brand.

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America3.jpgAngus Philips wrote a great article in today’s Washington Post about the America’s Cup, which nether resides in America nor is really very American at all: it was named after the first boat that won the originally British sailing event, the “America,” in 1851.

When the race begins on April 16th in Valencia, Spain - the first time the cup has been contested in Europe - there will be fewer Americans than ever. Only one team will fly the stars and stripes, “billionaire Larry Ellison's BMW Oracle out of San Francisco, and it will have a New Zealander on the helm and a Frenchman calling tactics.”

The race takes two months, costs hundreds of millions of euros and the defending champion is land-locked Switzerland. Welcome to the era of big-time sailing, where big-time brand names jostle for space with country names and top sailors go to the highest paying team.

The top three challengers will be Emirates Team New Zealand (named after the fast growing Arab airline); USA’s BMW Oracle (after a German carmaker and U.S. software empire) and Italian Luna Rossa (sponsored by Prada.)

Americas_Cup.jpgAccording to American Paul Cayard of Desafío Español, however, the Cup is not just a race between big brands: there is still enough nationalism left in the World Cup for fans to feel a genuine charge of patriotism if their country’s yacht crosses the finishing line.

The boat has to be constructed in the team's country and have its “national letters on the sail and the flag.” But big brand names have to play a role since they are the only ones who have the incentive to pour millions of dollars into these races, which explains why some of the biggest sailing regattas in the world have well known brand names attached.

Two of the biggest are The Volvo Ocean Race and the Louis Vuitton Cup, now known as the “America's Cup Challenger Series presented by Louis Vuitton;” which will be available for viewing on Versus, who edged out ESPN for broadcast rights as well as the America's Cup itself.


In the build up before the Cup there will be a contest between French Areva (named after a nuclear power company) and Team Shosholoza (sponsored by T-Systems) from South Africa (Shosholoza is a Zulu word meaning “go forward.")

If you’re interested, you can play the video game,
The 32nd America’s Cup-The Game, which will be released next month. Be assured that gamers will get the same exposure to these brand names as those following the race on Versus.

The Cup, and the yachts themselves, are perfect brand name platforms designed to reach that elusive, wealthy market of sailing aficionados. I think these very recognizable brand names add a familiar touchstone to a race whose rules and tactics may be unfamiliar to most of us.

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Wii Remembered Nintendo Brand Name

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schneider-associates.jpgSchneider Associates just completed research on new product naming that shows while consumer spending was up from $271 billion in 2005 to $285 billion in 2006, 81% of consumers could not identify the brand name of one of the top 50 products launched last year.

This is an all time high for consumers’ lack of name recognition...way up from 57% the previous year. The lesson for this year is that TV still rules the day in getting new brand names out to consumers and free samples lead to buyers: 96% of consumers who “sampled” said they would be “very” or “somewhat” likely to buy afterwards.

Of course, as Kevin Cassidy and the team at the Go Nintendo blog gleefully point out, the Nintendo Wii enjoyed the second most memorable new product launch of 2006 (22%), just behind KFC’s Famous Bowls (24%).

nintendo-wii.jpgPretty good for a launch that, as Nintendo Wii’s blog notes, “didn't feature any shootings, muggings, or poor exploited Chinese men littering Japanese lines.”

Strategic Name Development closely followed the Wii launch with great interest last year and reported on the reactions to the new brand name. We looked at both those who despised the name and those who loved it. It certainly has been a name that garnered a lot of buzz - some people even thought it was a hoax.

It might be debatable whether or not making a memorable name is the same as making a great name. A case in point comes from politics: Hilary Clinton was recently ranked by Adweek as having the most recognized name in wannabe Presidential politics - she was also found to be both “most electable” and, paradoxically, “least electable.” If people recognize your brand name but don’t like it - and don’t buy the product - then you’re essentially treading water.

Madetostick.jpgOverall, of course, the most recognized brand name is Google, followed closely by Las Vegas. If you are trying to make your brand name “sticky” (so its sticks in people’s minds) then remember, as Christine Buske says, that “Being Sticky Doesn't Have to Be Tricky”: just build in a great slogan, choose a great domain name, get out an “irresistible” viral message, and take Guy Kawasaki’s Stickiness Aptitude Test (SAT).

Read more about developing a great product name built on quantitative research based on best practices and using normative data on our brand name research page.

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