Branding: March 2006 Archives

Links Du Jour

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  • - This may be the dullest product name and brand proposition for an airline in the history of flight. No wonder it is being grounded. There may be a place for irreverent product names that reference women's anatomy. Airline travel is not one of them.
  • - Dennis Forbes has a great piece on building the perfect domain name. This is a crucial element of many companies' product naming strategies. Take a look!
  • - Interesting thoughts from a person in the business. I'm not sure it will affect our brand name research, but maybe this is one of those blogs that make you go hmmmmm.
  • - Guy Kawasaki has some interesting tips on how to compete by simply pursuing excellence over competitive advantage.
  • - Interesting take on how to creatively build the perfect brand... and career.

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IHG is hunting for a to add to its collection. Already in control of the mid-priced InterContinental and Holiday Inn brands, IHG's new hotel brand name will be positioned below their Holiday Inn Express offering.

Starwood HiltonI think the new hotel brand name will dovetail nicely with the chain's plans on expanding through China and focusing on growth in the Asian gambling center of Macau, where, by the way, Hilton and Starwood are also launching their own hotel chains.

In my opinion this name development project offers a challenge to the person doing the brand name research and brand naming for the new budget hotel brand -should it be a name aimed solely at the Asian market or be with an universal appeal?

We will find out soon enough, probably within the next twelve months.

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Links Du Jour

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  • - Dr. Pepper has nixed a $5 mil repositioning campaign that featured the "mashup" music of assorted rock and roll bands. Looks like the people doing the name research on this one decided against the weird term "mashup" as it applies to Dr Pepper (a "mashup" of 23 flavors) or else the music was just bad.
  • - Could it be that a treadmill/desk mashup (there's that word again!) is the way to fight obesity while at work?
  • - It's more modern, less wicker-ish. Looks like a slick revamp of a trusted brand name.
  • - Another writer has latched on to our fascination with .
  • - Vicks shows mom getting out of hand in the pharmacy. An irreverent commercial that might add a touch of humor to the staid world of OTC brand names.
  • - Seems to me that some groups just do not deserve to be referenced in popular ads. Linking your product name to anything like the KKK is unwise. There's a point when being irreverent crosses the line into being offensive.
  • - This is the March 28th post, look at the entire collection at . My favorite is the Scott Towel fountain - I think this gives real life to the product's brand proposition in regard to absorbency.
  • - Podcasts are taking over the education sphere, and there are already companies out there that are acting as "podcast consultants". This has to be a new trend in product naming, one is called MPReach and helps teachers and students reach each other with thoughts, ideas, and educational materials via their ubiquitous iPods.
  • - Remember Bazooka Joe? He was the main character in the little comics you got in Bazooka Bubble gum comics that also gave you the opportunity to order x-ray sunglasses and whoopee cushions. He's being relaunched by Topps to the tune of $4 million. This brand name was a staple of my childhood and I'm glad that he's getting another crack at life. Go, Joe!

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In Search of a Brand Name

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What's missing from a country that produces "...three quarters of the world's notebook computers, two-thirds of its personal digital assistants and nearly 70 percent of its liquid crystal display monitors..."?

According to the Taiwanese government, its recognizable brand names. Taiwan feels China "breathing down their neck" as that country continues to manufacture more and more high-tech products.

BenQProbably the best-known technology brands coming out of Taiwan are Acer, (which is the successor company name to Acer), and . I probably don't have to state that these aren't household names yet. Nor are they particularly user-friendly to the Western world.

Acer is probably the best known as the world's fourth largest laptop maker and has a good presence in big box retailers such as Best Buy, CompUSA, and Circuit City.

The BenQ name is derived from the company vison of Bringing Enjoyment and Quality to life. I think this is a decent tagline or slogan, but a rather meaningless brand name.

ASUSI'm not sure what to think about the Asustek brand name, commonly referred to as ASUS. The company indicates that ASUS is from Pegasus, the winged horse of mythology and TeK is the phonetic spelling of tech, for technology.

I don't think it's the easiest brand name to pronounce, however, China's Lenovo sounded strange to me at first but the multi-million dollar media effort is quickly making the name as common as ThinkPad.

In the brand name arena, I think the Taiwanese should aspire to be as good at brand naming as they are at manufacturing high tech products.

For more news on this subject, read this morning's Seattle Times article, .

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Links Du Jour

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Links Du Jour

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  • - Seems as if a little slacking goes a long way in making us more creative.
  • - Pickle Theory: The "perceived value" of your company, and how it goes up and down from when you start the enterprise to when you start making money.
  • - Wal-Mart Recruits Bloggers? Is Wal-Mart using bloggers to counter recent negative PR about the store?
  • - Cheap cold medicines like Sine-Off have often been the base for the creation of methamphetamine, but no more, as Sine-Off changes its formula and its brand to keep people clean. Will it really work?
  • - NCAA March Madness on Demand is in full steam, slamming the critics who sad that on demand video stream sports would never fly. 1.2 million video streams later, we find the doubters were wrong: we are indeed willing to watch sports on the laptop.

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Brand Naming: A Case of a Missing Vowel

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Alphabet SoupMotorola popularized it with RAZR. Reebok pioneered the concept many years ago with RBK.

I’m talking about brand names or product names that have eliminated a vowel.

Check out this interesting article in the March 19th issue of the Boston Globe that identifies many product names that have eliminated a vowel:

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Brand Naming: Operation Swarm or Swarmer?

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Operation SwarmerOperation Swarmer is the name given by the U.S. Military to its new Iraqi initiative, the largest air and ground combat operation since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Let me be clear, I’m not questioning the intended meaning of this brand name (yes, this is a brand name) but, I do question its grammatical legitimacy.

Drawing a metaphor from the agitated movements of a swarm of bees, the concept of swarm may be appropriate. However, the use of swarmer is not. According to the , a swarmer is

1. One of a number that swarm

2. A flagellated motile cell produced by the stalked cell of certain species of stalked bacteria

3. One beehive adapted for swarming from which a swarm is sent forth

Since there are more than 1500 troops involved in this operation, the first definition cannot apply. And, because we are talking about soldiers and not biological weapons, the second definition is also out.

The third definition only fits if all the troops are coming from one concentrated location and heading in a concentrated manner to another as a single entity. While this might have been semantically appropriate for the original Operation Swarmer (a series of airborne maneuvers in 1950 in North Carolina after which a swarm was deployed to Korea to provide airborne capability to General Douglas Macarthur) it is not the case in Iraq, where troops are coming from all over Iraq by air and by land to swarm in on one northern operating area.

Eats, Shoots & LeavesI have no way of knowing who in the U.S. military developed the brand name Swarmer, but some brand name research may have been in order. I have a feeling it wasn’t Dick Cheney. Dick, as you know, is more practiced in the fine art of English. After all, he .

For more information, Bill Roggio's The Fourth Rail blog has a detailed account of and this blog post has some commentary about the Operation as well.

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Brand Naming: The Alphabet Soup of Naming

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Alphabet SoupI’m pleased that the March 17th article, When a Drug Maker Creates a New Pill, Uncle Sam Vets Name, has shed light on the challenges and difficulties of developing a new drug brand name.

It’s fair to say that naming a new drug is likely the most challenging of naming assignments. However, I think those of us in the brand naming game could say that about most of naming assignments since clients seem to want short, evocative names, that are trademarkable, and agreeable to management up the food chain within the organization.

With anywhere from 240-280,000 U.S. Trademark applications per year and only 80,000 words in the typical college dictionary, this makes our work challenging, interesting, rewarding, and most of all, fun. I’m reminded of the famous Confucious saying, “Find something you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” That’s how the Strategic Name Development team feels about its work.

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Trademark Squatters May Have Already Stolen Your Name

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China FlagA March 7 article on , which I found helpful, advises US companies who plan on doing business with China in any capacity to immediately trademark all of their brand names in that country.

Chinese name hijackers are trolling about looking for brand names they can quickly trademark taking advantage of China’s "first to file system" regarding trademarks. The problem is compounded by the fact that many US companies are unaware that there is simply no such thing as an internationally recognized trademark.

As you may recall, I discussed in and , the challenges Starbucks is having in China protecting its trademark and logo and the many thousands of dollars in legal fees associated with this.

The phenomenon of stealing product names is a throwback to the well known scam of , where unsavoury computer geeks snapped up well known product and company names, added a .com and registered them, forcing the real companies to buy back their own domains at inflated prices. A typical name trademark in China will set you back about $1000. I consider that a good move.

For some additional information about trademarking and squatting, visit , which I find very insightful and detailed.

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BratzI found a recent article that points out what parents of little girls everywhere have already discovered: Barbie is "dead", and long live the Bratz, the "Girls with a Passion for Fashion".

At least one Standard and Poor analyst has that the Barbie brand has been "permanently weakened" by the new Bratz: a gaggle of clothes-and-makeup obsessed, pouty-mouthed dolls that look too cool (and too edgy) to even bother stealing Ken from goody-two-shoes Barbie.

BoyzntheHoodBrand names ending in a letter "z" gained popularity with the advent of the 1991 "Boyz n the Hood" movie. This naming technique is used across many categories:

  • Oreo Cookie Barz
  • Jim Beam Sourz whiskey
  • Twizzlerz Sourz
  • Chainz puzzle game

But don't' forget the Kraft's Cheez Wiz, which has been enjoyed by generations of children and adults, existed way before the "Boyz n the Hood" movie.

BratzThe name Bratz, with its use of the "z" to signify the edginess of hip hop urban life, fits nicely into the street 'tude that is sold to young kids. The Bratz' online and offline sales material use words like kickin' cool, superstylin and scorchin as opposed to the much more wholesome sales copy used to sell Princess Barbie.

One woman academic says the Bratz look like a "pack of sultry hookers", but admits that Barbie is now "for babies" and the edgier, . Their creators, MGA entertainment, sold 50 million dolls and moved $600 million of in their first three years of existence (2001-2003).

Sorry, Barbie, I think at 50 years old, you just can't keep up - even now that you have a to play with. Today's young girl doesn't want the wholesome cuteness of Barbie, she wants the brattiness of the Bratz - and no boyz allowed.

For more on Bratz check out these blogs:

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Brand Naming: Where are the BMW Brand Police?

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The BMW Company LogoForgive my indulgence in a little , but I find it heartening to discover that even the world's largest manufacturer of premium automobiles has trouble controlling how consumers translate its name.

Or is this a precursor to the much talked about concept these days of the "consumer owning the brand"? It's predicted that with the advent of Web 2.0 social networking companies such as , the balance of power is shifting from companies and institutions to consumers like you and me.

BMW AG, of Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, or in English, Bavarian Motor Works, is, in German pronounced "bay emm vay."

In North America, however, BMW cars are commonly called "bimmers," (in the German language, the correct pronunciation of the term "bimmer" is "beemer.")

“Beemer" is adapted from the early-20th-Century British pronunciation of BSA, another motorcycle that was often racing against BMWs. Over time, the term became closely associated with BMW motorcycles, however.

Eventually the beemer pronunciation of the word was attached almost exclusively to its auto. And from there, Beemer transmogrified into a cornucopia of uncontrollable cross-cultural translations.

In Russia, for example, the car is considered a Bummer – which, in the U.S., is analogous to a bad drug experience.

In Lithuania, on the other hand, consumers actually feel safe driving in a sturdy Bambalis - a name that is achingly similar to the German word Bambus, which means bamboo.

In Greece, the Ultimate Driving Machine is a Beba – close in pronunciation to the German verb beben which means to shake, quake or rattle.

I find it most disheartening, in Mexico, drivers can park their BM just about anywhere – which, according to our American Miss Manners, is not the proper thing to do with one’s bowel movement (BM).

For more variations on how BMW Beemer is pronounced in different cultures, check out The Bimmer’s Bavaria on .

BMW enthusiasts, I think, will find these blogs very interesting: , , and .

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Product Naming: Doublemint May Make You Do a Doubletake

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Doublemint2.psdWrigley’s has introduced its very first new non-gum product in nearly a century. It’s called , a mint that comes in Wintercreme and Mintcreme, a similar nomenclature to the rest of Wrigley’s gum flavors (Doublemint, Freedent, Winterfresh). I think that the Doublemint brand name extension will, stick with the consumer (pun intended).

Wrigley’s sees this as an innovation on the very popular , which was launched in 1914.

I suppose that the move from gum to mints is partly in reaction to similar brand introductions from Wrigley’s arch competitor , which offers consumers Certs Cool Mint drops and Certs Powerful Mints as well as a host of gums -- such as Trident, Dentyne, Splash and Bublicious.

I think that the Doublemint Twins mint brand is a shrewd move, because it leverages a well-known brand name with an icon of American advertising since the 1930s: the Doublemint, which will be trotted out this time to promote the mint.

For additional information on Wrigley’s Doublemint Twins mint product, visit the and the .

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Product Naming: The Ma Bell Name Just Won't Die

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Name"Ma Bell lives". That's what I said in my September 1st blog post of AT&T's decision to call the combined AT&T and SBC merger, AT&T. Of course, I had no idea of AT&T's intention to also acquire BellSouth.

It had been called Ma Bell for decades ever since its 1899 acquisition of the (the REAL Ma Bell), which in turn had been started by Alexander Graham Bell himself, two decades earlier. The smaller companies that accrued from the 1983 anti-trust lawsuit became known as “Baby-Bells”, even though they had nothing to do with either Alexander Graham Bell or the Bell Telephone Company, and we just went right on calling AT&T "Ma Bell", even though it was no longer the mother of all telephone companies and its association with Bell Telephone Company was the stuff of history books.

NameSo, it seems to me that saying you have to pay “Ma Bell’s” bill is a little like saying you want to get something out of the “icebox.” Fact is, calling the phone company Ma Bell just dates you, because the term has been dead for almost 23 years, since before mobile phones, before cordless, before the Internet.

Nonetheless, as AT&T eyes a takeover of BellSouth Corp, the press has been trotting out the Ma Bell moniker. The Chicago Sun-Times says and MSNBC, a company that was not even conceivable when Ma Bell was broken up, tells us .

NameI think if the deal does go down, AT&T should revamp its logo (again) and bring back the Bell that started this all in the first place and bow to history by saying to the world “Ma’s Back”.

Who will AT&T acquire next? Watch out remaining Baby Bells!

For more information on the merger, visit the following blogs:

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Product Naming: Paris Hilton Smells "Hot"

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Paris Hilton fragranceParis Hilton wants it all. And now she has a scent for all: and .

Hers are more in a long line of fragrances bearing , including offerings from Sarah Jessica Parker, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, and Beyonce Knowles. Although the celebrity fragrance market is becoming pretty crowded, I don't think that bothers someone like Paris Hilton, since nothing seems to bother her.

I also have to wonder if people are buying these scents to smell like the luminaries they're named after...or to be like them. It's probably both. However, perfumes and colognes are one of the best examples of aspirational brands.

Donald Trump fragranceThese days, I think people are fascinated by Paris Hilton and whatever brand she associates herself with. But will guys buy a scent that is named after a female sex symbol? You bet they will. Wearing a Paris Hilton scent trumps the (cologne). My guess is that the Paris Hilton brand name will be worth 5 share points in the fragrance and cologne markets.

I prefer the new Yardley creation “”, a fragrance for both men and women. A scent with a name like that tells you exactly what you are getting: a scent to wear out for a good time.

To read more about celebrity fragrances, check out what Robin K has to say in her blog about perfumes, "".

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Heineken LightLight beer lovers should prepare themselves for a new brand soon to hit the markets: Heineken Premium Light. This brand is aimed squarely at the late twenty-something crowd of guys who like high end beer. The Heineken Premium Light name may not sound inspired but according to the , there may be more here than meets the eye. First, Heineken has not simply offered up another ”light” beer (eg. Heineken Light), it has offered us a premium light beer, and there is indeed a difference.

Heineken has noted a gap in the light beers market at the premium end, a gap currently being filled by Heineken’s brand (aimed at women), while mainstream light beers from Bud and Corona battle it out at the lower end of the scale. Heineken Premium Light is meant to attract the Bud or Corona drinker who wants to “trade up” to something a little more sophisticated. Heineken will go against Michelob’s Ultra Amber with a slightly higher price position and an emphasis on “smooth”.

I wonder why Heineken has shied away from offering us a light beer in the past. Could it be a focus to avoid diluting the Heineken brand?

One marketer noted that both beer and soda companies have been traditionally shy to take the leap to light - Coke’s first diet drink was Tab, not Coke Light, and Bud’s was , not Bud Light. But sooner or later, even a pure brand like Heineken has to get thirsty for larger market share.

If you're thirsty for more beer, check out and .

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