Brand Naming: May 2010 Archives

BP Naming and Branding is Mud

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If the BP oil spill disaster will teach us anything in the world of naming and branding, it's that a brand name is just as fragile an ecosystem as a pristine beach or the Everglades. It takes one really big, uncontainable spill to pollute and destroy it.

Laura Ries identified BP's "brand problem" earlier this month, saying bluntly (even for her), "The spill in the Gulf has pulled the curtain off of a company that has been blowing smoke up our butts for years. No consumer, regulator or politician will soon forget this tragedy" and concluding with,

Strong brands with a reputation for quality, safety and honesty are able to survive even the worst tragedies and negative PR stories. Toyota, Tylenol and Goldman Sachs have faced some dark days recently, but for them the future is still bright because the brands are strong. For BP, not so much. A brand with a poor reputation facing one of the worst oil spills ever is damaged goods. No amount of advertising can fix this. Anything BP says will no longer be believed. You can fool us once, but never again.

BP_Logo.pngThe names coming out of this spill are always going to, er, stick to the brand. Think "Oil Spill," "Top Kill" and "Junk Shot."

But from a branding perspective, things have gotten far worse. Aside from the terrible PR this is generating, the Internet is busy tearing up the BP brand name.

24/7 already has a joke article up saying that BP is planning on changing its name. But many a truth is said in jest, because this brand name is now mud. Quite literally.

Right now, its product is "environmental destruction," according to Edward Boches at Creativity Unbound. And the company's PR people are now dealing with a rogue Twitterer at @BPGlobalPR who now has a whopping 54,000 followers and whose satirical, bitter tweets ("Thousands of people are attacked by sea creatures every year. We at BP are dedicated to bringing that number down. You're welcome") are getting retweeted every second. Never mind that this guy, whoever he is, has more followers that BP's real Twitter feed @BP_America or its Oil Spill @Oil_Spill_2010 Twitter feed, the WSJ already has picked up the story with almost palpable schadenfreude.

Add to this Greenpeace's competition to actually rebrand BP (BP= British Polluters, and that's just one of the milder ones, there's also "Bad People" and "Broken Promises" and "Bloody Pillagers"). And for those of us who do not spend all day online, there are literally companies cashing in by selling tote bags, shorts and coffee mugs with satirical BP taglines like "We're bringing oil to American shores."

The damage that BP has done to our coastline is incredible. In return, the damage the Internet is doing to BP's brand name is incalculable.

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Oh, how complicated the iPad has made naming and branding.

I have already written about how people insist on calling iPad competitors "tablets," but sometimes, a tablet is not a tablet.
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Lance Ulanoff at PC Magazine has written a great article about the new Dell Streak. He thinks it has a "nice name," but he queries whether or not or not it deserves to be called a "tablet."

Before I get started, I'd like to say that I think the name is OK but it sounds more like a fraternity initiation prank, than a high-powered computer.

Anyhow, Ulanoff says that this device, which was formerly known as the Dell Mini 5 (bad name), may be larger than your average phone, but it is not large enough to be called a tablet. It only has a 5" screen, as compared to the 7" screen of the HP Slate. Yes, Slate is definitely a tablet.

However, neither is as large as an iPad, which is largely considered the gold-standard of tablets. It has a 9.7" screen.

Ulanoff admits that he is not the "Supreme Court of tablets" but asks the almost metaphysical question: "Where does a phone end and a tablet begin?" seven inches is OK, he says, but five inches is just too small.

His idea? If it can ft in your pocket, it's probably not a tablet.

Dell, however, does not think this is a smartphone. According to Wired, they see it as a "mini tablet."

So I suppose it's a phone that thinks its a tablet.

PC World is not having it. They say it "misses the tablet mark" and insists it's, "Just another Android smartphone."

Zack Whittaker of ZDNet says it's actually a bridge between the smartphone and the iPad, making it a "phone slash tablet come smart-device."

Dell, I'm reminded of the saying, "If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it's a duck." It's a smartphone, not a tablet!

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Dodge Adds Racing Stripes To Naming and Branding

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It had to happen, of course. Dodge had to redesign its logo after it split with Ram, not least because the old logo was, well, a Ram. The new logo will be the twin red slashes from the SRT performance brand. These are meant to symbolize the "sporty character" of the Dodge brand.

dodge_new_logo.pngAt first, the slashes will only appear on Dodge "signage and print materials" while on the vehicles the Dodge name will stand by itself in a new script.

The "twin slashes" will first appear on the the 2011 Dodge Charger and the seven seater that will replace the Durango.

Dodge has had a few false starts - the Viper logo, according to Boing Boing, looks like an "upside-down Daffy Duck."

But a careful look at the new logo really seems to position Dodge as a sports car maker. And the typography on this new logo really looks bold and seems to hearken back to the days of the muscle car. Dodge is clearly trying to attract a younger, more masculine demographic.

I am reminded of a blog written two years ago that posted that Dodge no longer wanted to be a "power brand" and would be looking for a "kindler, gentler image." Some even said that the company was shifting its marketing from "muscle to mileage," but by adding racing stripes to their marque, I would say that Dodge has gone in another direction...

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The trend towards more simplistic naming and branding continues upon the announcement that Atlantic Southeast Airlines has launched a new brand identity "that reflects its strong, forward-moving direction within the regional airline industry."

This subsidiary of SkyWest, Inc. operates 800 daily flights to 113 airports in 31 states and the two companies form the world's largest regional airline.

ASALogos250.pngThe new logo is far cleaner and less quirky than the old one and their tagline, "Stay Connected!" seems to be a play on Internet connectivity and "connection" flights via Atlanta's airport.

It shifts away from the acronym "ASA" (which is still the main word on the domain name, flyasa.com). They are promoting their own name in order to separate themselves from their historic associations with Delta, illustrating the company's expansion beyond reliance on Delta, for whom it often acts as a regional carrier.

The bolder imagery and the foregrounding of the name is interesting, I think. Here is a company trying to create a separate identity, despite the fact that the branding is not directed at passengers, who cannot buy tickets directly from the airline.

This is a move to make the brand more attractive to more partners and I think it works very nicely.

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CA, Inc. Company Name Change to CA Technologies

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Joab Jackson of PC World wrote an article yesterday regarding the CA, Inc. company name. to CA Technologies.
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As you may know, previously the company was known as Computer Associates. But was forced to change their name to distance themselves from the bad press they had been receiving. CEO Sanjay Kumar had just pleaded guilty to fraud charges, and the company wanted to show the public that it was ready to move on.

Jackson contacted Strategic Name Development to get a perspective on company name changes, especially on a CA, Inc. who has changed its name three times in the past five years.

I think CA, Inc. runs the risk of becoming the, "Larry King of company name changes." King has been married to seven different women, and CA Technologies looks to be going down the same trail.

To make matters worse for the company, The Channel Register even surmises that the company will always have to carry the parenthetical moniker, "Formerly Computer Associates."

It will be interesting to see how CA Technologies introduces the new name, and where the company goes in the future.

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I have already posted my thoughts on Starbucks' move to revamp and repurpose the Seattle's Best™ brand name. Their new initiative, however, has me scratching my head.
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They are offering us flavored coffee in the supermarkets via their "Natural Fusions" line, and, amazingly, the Starbucks brand name will be front and center.

Sixty percent of Starbucks customers buy the flavored stuff, and eighty percent of American coffee drinkers buy flavored coffees, so this is a great way to reach a bigger market. It is also a shot across the bow of Maxwell House and Folgers.

The flavored coffee market is a $265 million business, and Starbucks will offer Vanilla, Caramel and Cinnamon flavors.

The only thing is that flavored coffee is to real brewed coffee as, say, the canned mixed drinks sector are to single malt scotch. This is a move that is "way down market" as 24/7 puts it. They go on to say that:

The Seattle's Best move can be defended because it does not carry the Starbucks name and the parent company can wall off the effects that the new product will have on the Starbucks image. The new flavored coffees carry the Starbucks brand, a sign to both the investment community and consumers that the firm is willing to risk sales at its flagship retail stores in the hopes that it could quickly pick up market share and profits in the grocery store business.
Other bloggers are not as circumspect: Sandbox tells us this is the turning point for the company.
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They compare Starbucks coffee to "Boardwalk" on the monopoly board and flavored coffee to the low-end, "Mediterranean Avenue." Saying, "It doesn't matter if you're making the premium quality product. You could make the best quality, gourmet, all-natural, organic, fried pork rinds in the world, but, you're still selling fried pork rinds."

Ouch.

I just cannot understand why Starbucks did not put the Seattle's Best brand name on this new coffee.

Needless to say, I am surprised by this move.

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Does Subway Own the Footlong Brand Name?

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subway-5-dollar-footlong.gifSubway seems to think they own the name "footlong" and they have sent a threatening letter to a small business owner in Coney Island to back it up. His website, www.gotfootlongs.com, has apparently run afoul of Subway, but now Subway says the threat was a "mistake" since, they have only applied for the mark.

Do they really think they own the term footlong? Seriously?

The NPR queried Subway on this and they replied with a snarky message:

Any legal process we go through is to protect the investment our franchisees have made in the brand...If 'footlong' is a name that's been associated with us, it would benefit them that we would take an action like this to protect the association.

Really, Subway? Really?

I think of Subway as selling SUBS, while the word footlong is associated, in my mind, with hot dogs. In fact, a footlong sub really isn't all that big, in my book. By the way, Domain Name Wire did a little Internet research on the site www.footlongs.com, but said that "after typing in that domain I quickly closed my browser. (Seriously, don't go there)."

So, I guess there is yet another, er, area, where Subway will have to enforce its mark.

footlongdogs.gifI have been to dozens of restaurants that sell footlong hot dogs and sandwiches, despite Subway's claim that they invented it in 1967 and only got around to trademarking it now.

This is a term that is embedded in common usage (14,900,000 results on Google, for starters).

I strongly doubt that Subway will get to own it.

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I think the CEO of the Decade, mush be having a rough week down in Cupertino.sadjobs.jpg

First off, Yahoo asks, "When did Apple become uncool?" The article cites Steve Jobs's jealous protection of the iPad trademark, his G-rated apps for the iPhone and iPad, his rough treatment of a blogger who found a fourth generation iPhone and his snarky emails to Apple loyalists as evidence that he might be turning into the Grinch of Cupertino.

Now comes the news that a company in Germany was forced to rename their "WePad" product to avoid a naming and branding hassle with Apple.

The new name will be "WeTab" and yes, it will play Adobe Flash. Sorry Mr. Jobs, but Flash isn't going away anytime soon.

So, the company is going to call it the WeTab, eh? As in, tablet, I suppose. I would imagine that the word "Tablet" is a naughty word around Jobs. He must be reading, with some fury, that Google and Verizon want to make their own tablet computers.

Yes, there's that pesky word again, tablet.

Remember how Verizon has been patiently waiting for access to the iPhone, but Jobs has extnded the exclusive agreement with At&T for six months? Verizon does. So teh carrier has turned to another really big, cool brand name. Google.

And Google want to sell tablets. Not pads.

Some say we need an "iPad Killer" but doubt this collusion will produce it.
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Others say this is in fact the "iPad Killer" and you can bet it will use Android.

Google Android smartphones, by the way, are outselling iPhones now, can't be making Jobs too happy with Google, either. But the point is, these guys are building tablets, and Jobs calls his product a "pad."

Since the iPad name just does not stick with consumers, I wonder, if it might be possible to outbrand the iPad.

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SeattlesBestCoffee.gifStarbucks is using some slick branding to survive the competition McDonald's has offered during the recession.

They have controlled the Seattle's Best Coffee brand name since 2003, but now refreshed the logo and are planning to expand franchising from 3,000 points of distribution to "more than 30,000" by the end of the company's fiscal year.

You'll find it everywhere, from "cafes and cruise ships to bookstores and grocery aisles," as well as in AMC movie theaters and Burger Kings.

The new logo "maintains the brand's historic association with its name and the color red while assembling a number of universal coffee symbols, such as a drop and a cup."

So what we have here is a brand name that Starbucks can use to offer a less expensive experience to users and compete aggressively at the low end of the market "without sullying its own brand name."

Take that, McCafe!

It should come as no surprise that Seattle's Best Coffee has Seattle in its bones: it was started in 1969, originally under the name the Wet Whisker before it became "Stewart Brothers Coffee," eventually changing to Seattle's Best Coffee (with 129 locations) and getting bought by mighty Starbucks.

The Seattle's Best employees have bragged that they have retained the company's identity in the face of the acquisition, with rumors that they did not share their coffee recipes with their new owners.

As of last year there were only 580 Seattle's Best shops, with 480 of them in Borders bookstores. However, the brand is now being used to wonderful effect to compete in market's once below the Starbucks' radar.

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Energy Drink naming and branding is a recurring interest for me, primarily because this is a field where traditional rules do not apply. Energy drinks make anything they touch weird.

An article on Fox News points out that the trend towards energy drinks and alcohol has of course created a whole bevvy of strange beverage names. "Liquid Viagra", for instance, is a drink mad from Red Bull and Jagermeister.

You can also actually order pre mixed drinks, like A:M White Citrus for those early morning drinking urges you get, or late night urges at 2 AM, just in time for the after-party.

Fruit Blast is "fruit punch liqueur" while Dragon Joose is another crazy-named flavored malt beverage.

Then there's Four Loko Watermelon, which one blogger says is "the pinnacle of Bad Caffeinated Malt Liquors, the drinks that the government wants to keep you from, your momma warns you about and your fellow idiot drinkers give you High Fives for chugging."
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Energy drinks and alcohol are a match made in hell, but of course the Coca-Cola knock offs keep coming. Enter Coca Colla, which is sold in Bolivia and is made from Coca leaves favored by the Colla people. Yes, the Colla people, that was not a typo. I'd almost say that the red and white label looks like that of the Coke we all know, but it is just too primitive.

I am sure that the people at Coke are trembling when they hear a government source in Bolivia say, "Soon, people will stop talking about 'God, Country and Coca-Cola'; they'll be talking of '[Andean Goddess] Mother Earth, Bolivia and Coca Colla.'"

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Today I bring you the year's top contender for most ridiculous product name. Ladies and gentleman, behold the "Better Marriage Blanket."

How does this blanket improve your marriage, you ask? By absorbing the foul smell of flatulence, oh, and the "toxic fumes from mattresses and box springs," which has at least one blogger saying "Seriously?"
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I wish I was joking. I am not.

This is a really imaginative nadir in marketing. The idea is that passing gas in the bed can cause divorce so you should buy this thing with it's military grade fabric that comes to us from the technology used to protect soldiers from poison gas.

Fact is, the company can hardly keep up with demand, according to Bnet.

They note that "The phenomenon says something profound about the psyche of the American consumer," but they're just not sure wha that profound thing is.

It is also suggested that you do not give this as a marriage gift, but notes that the word "marriage" occurs six times in the (ridiculous) ad.

Walletpop is loving this, wondering if the twin and king sizes of the blanket refers to the size of the blanket or the size of the problem. The site also offers some alternative naming ideas: "You've Gone Too Fart" and "Bubble Wrap."

Geekolgie says this is, "Officially signaling the end of mankind."

I wouldn't go that far, but it's definitely a turn for the worse.

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So it's official: the Continental name is dead following the merger between Continental Airlines and United Arilines.

The combined holding company has nixed the name and already put out pictures of the new paintwork that will be on the United planes.

And the news is that while the name will be United, "Continental's colors and its livery logo, a gold and white globe-like sphere on the tail wings of its fleet, will remain intact." unitedairplane.png

The Continental name was well known, and many in the Northeast today are puzzling over why it is gone. It was well known across New York, being featured on taxis and formerly on the arena that is home to the New Jersey Nets and Devils.

Continental was also a greatly admired company, and conversely one industry watcher called the United name "toxic" because of its frequent staff issues and bankruptcy.

Scott McCartney of The Wall Street Journal is particularly sad to see the name go, bidding farewell to the "Proud Bird," a hearkening to the company's old 1960's tagline "The Proud Bird with the Golden Tail."

"For many long-time Continental loyalists, it'll be a sad day when the name gets painted over for the last time and a colorful chapter of aviation history is closed," writes McCartney.

Steven Frischling, a blogger of Flying With Fish, is less nostalgic, saying that the plan to merge the United name with Continental's imagery is just plain "confusing."

Since this will make United, the world's largest airline, Frischling suggests a whole new branding nomenclature and the name "Varney Airways," after Walter T Varney who interestingly, founded both companies!

Now, all eyes are on American and US Airways, who might follow suit to counter the United behemoth, but this seems unlikely.

And given the state of the airline industry's mergers and acquisitions, I would be hard-pressed to see an intervention by anti-trust regulators.

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