Branding: July 2006 Archives

Links Du Jour 07-31-06

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  • Mastering New Marketing Practices - John Hagel writes about how Brands will become even more important and valuable in this new marketing world, and should make the transition to a new, customer-centric brand promise. This means that a new brand name that resonates with its target market should communicate this promise: “Buy from me because I know you as an individual customer better than anyone else and you can trust me to use that knowledge to configure the right bundle of products and services to meet your individual needs.”
  • Domain Names - Points To Consider When Choosing One - Simon L demonstrates in this post how careful one must be when choosing a domain name for your brand. He suggests a few ideas: incorporating the most searched for term in your market into your domain name, considering the memorable-brand route, and keeping your domain name short, for greater memorability. He also recommends you Stay Away From Hyphenated Domains!

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Want Another Chance to Name a Zoo Animal?

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Baby Elephant.jpgI’ve blogged about other zoo animal naming contests including a recent in Rwanda.

This is the first zoo animal naming contest I am aware of that specifies criteria for baby elephant name candidates.

Here is what the in Springfield, MO. expects from the contest entries:

  • Name should have links to Asia or India.
  • Name should be one or two syllables so it’s easy to get the elephants attention.
  • Name submissions must also include it’s meaning or the reason for the name.

Entries can be submitted until August 26th at

A grand prize will be offered, but was not specified.

Good luck with your baby elephant name submissions.

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Links Du Jour 07-28-06

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  • Norman's World - Tom Peters shares that a recent L.L.Bean order of his was N.I.S. (not in store.) What's interesting is that Leon Leonwood Bean (L.L.Bean) has turned over the reins to his nephew, whose name happens to be Norman Ignatius Stephen Bean (N.I.S. Bean). I don't think Norman has any plans on changing the company name.
  • Concatenation of letter strings can get you into trouble - Geoffrey K. Pullum at Language Log reports on an interesting story regarding the embarassing intersection of linguistics, company naming, and domain names. Italian battery company Powergen Italia's website URL is Yes, they have since changed their company name. Pen Island is a company selling customized pens, and really does have a current web site called
  • Pretentious names for trim - Jack Yan talks about those tricky car names and levels denoted by letters such as L, GL, and S, or a combination, like the Camaro Z-28. These letters or words following the brand name denote how well equipped a car was. Now, Jack says, auto makers are denoting extra levels of quality with created names such as Focus Platinum, Ford Zetec, Renault Scénic, or Commodore Omega. Do you think pretentious names inform the consumer?

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Motorola's New Phone Brands: Too Mch of a Gd Thng?

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RIZRMotorola has just a slew of new cell phone brands.

  • KRZR, pronounced Crazer, perhaps based on the popular phrase "crazy cool"
  • RIZR, pronounced Riser, a slider phone
  • RAZR MAXX, a quad-band phone with music player
  • RAZR XX, a tri-band phone with a 1.3 megapixel camera
  • RAZR V3b, uses bluetooth for voice calls with a home network

I am beginning to wonder if Motorola is taking a good thing too far.

KRZRThe RAZR brand name makes a lot of sense, but the KRZR and RAZR XX, for instance, seem to have taken Motorola from distinctive brand names, de facto back to an alpha or alpha-numeric nomenclature.

I think Motorola runs the risk of encountering what . Their MKZ, MKX, and MKS nameplates were changed after only 6 months in the marketplace because the consumer wasn't getting it. More accurately, they're changing the pronounciation from [mark-zee] to [em-kay-zee].

Admittedly, the Lincoln target market is quite a bit older than Motorola's, but I think it's fair to consider the possibility of Motorola experiencing the same fate as they continue to introduce new phone brand names.

Motorola is a great company with some great phone products, and is on a roll (50 million RAZR phones sold worldwide.) I, for one, hope it continues on that trajectory.

To read more about Motorola's new RIZR and KRZR phones, check out these recent blog posts:

  • - Eric Lin has some inside information straight from Motorola's global launch in Cape Town, South Africa
  • - Berniej says GDBY RAZR HLLO KRZR
  • - John Paczkowski reports that "Motorola CEO to change name to Ed Zndr"
  • - Detailed specs on the KRZR, RIZR, maxx and V3xx

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ZuneOne of the fascinating things about languages, English, French, and almost all others, is how they evolve and change over time. Languages are very elastic and accommodating.

For instance, if you were to watch the 1940's movies on the American Movies Classics channel, you would hear James Cagney and others referring to women as "dames" and a good situation as "swell." Today, "sweet" has replaced "swell", and I'm not sure what's replaced "dame." Any thoughts here?

Earlier today, I blogged about the possibility of Microsoft's new Zune brand name being considered a profanity in French-Canadian slang.

Our linguist language professor partner in Montreal says otherwise. Some 40 years ago, when a mother referred to their son's penis, she was not comfortable calling it that and substituted a made-up word, zoune. For instance, she would say, "Va laver ta zoune", or "Lche de jouer avec ta zoune", which translates to "Go wash your whatchamacallit" and "Stop playing with your whatchamacallit," respectively.

Times have changed. Language usage has changed. Nowadays, French-Canadian moms are comfortable using the word penis with their sons, therefore zoune has lost its reason for being.

Furthermore, the Canadian French speaker would never pronounce ZUNE to sound like ZOUNE, since U and OU are two entirely different vowel sounds in French, but the American pronunciation of ZUNE to rhyme with TUNE would sound vaguely like ZOUNE to a French speaker.

Keep in mind that the next time you're travelling to Montreal and are talking about your new Microsoft Zune, there may be, there just may be, someone thinking you're talking about your penis.

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Brand Naming: Watch Out For Paws and Pause

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Homophones are words which have the same sound but different spellings, such as “paws” and “pause.” English has a phenomenal number of these, though none of them start with X or Z, at least according to Suber & Thorpe’s online .

Homophones are one of the primary sources of puns. If your company’s name has a homophone, it increases the ease with which people can make jokes about it. Some companies deliberately call on the humor of homophones in naming their businesses, like the eyeglass merchant Site for Sore Eyes or a local alterations shop called Sew What.

As I mentioned in my post last week; ; the name of the fictitious company S.O.R.E. was an attempt to invoke the connotations of “soar.” Even if the students had named their project “Soar,” however, the fact that the name sounded like “sore” would have been a drawback. Nintendo’s “Wii” has as a homophone not only of “we” but of “wee.”

SyscoIn addition to the potential for ridicule, homophones leave consumers open to confusion and could hamper brand recognition. A 2000 reported that only 20% of respondents surveyed by Doremus recognized as a food products distributor, whereas 60% appeared to mistake it for tech giant .

CiscoOne suspects most American consumers would mis-identify the shipping company as the discount retailer . Even though none of the four companies has a natural word for a name, they are still homophones.

CoscoHaving your brand mistaken for someone else’s is never good. The point of filing a trademark is to protect your company from this kind of consumer confusion. The USPTO’s trademark search function is actually pretty good at uncovering homophones for search terms, but it’s perfectly legitimate for two companies in different industries to have names which sound alike.

CostcoIt’s just not good for brand recognition. To avoid confusion when naming your own company or product, stay away from homophones unless you’re making a deliberate play on words.

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Brand Naming: Lincoln's MKZ Is Not A Motorola RAZR

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MKXLincoln is changing the name of its new MKZ nameplate.

More accurately, they're chaning the pronunciation from [mark-zee] to [em-kay-zee]. There's a very well-written by Bryce G. Hoffman, in The Detroit News detailing the change. Also changing are the 'MK' components of the MKX and MKS brand names.

I guess MKZ is no RAZR. The latter is easier to pronounce because only the vowel is missing. On the other hand, to pronounce MKZ as Mark Z is perhaps asking too much of the consumer with both a vowel and consonant removed from Mark.

As successful as Motorola has been with RAZR, ROKR, and PEBL, in all cases, removing the vowels, Motorola's planned SCPL (for scalpel cell phone) may encounter the same fate as the Lincoln MKZ. See my May 30th , Brand Naming: Is Motorola's SCPL Cutting Too Much?

Apparently, in the brief 6 months of the Lincoln MKZ and Lincoln MKX brand nomenclature, dealers complained about the brand architecture approach.

For both the MKZ and MKX, keeping the nameplate but pronouncing them differently, which is more in keeping with European and luxury auto nomenclature, it is probably a good compromise. I could just imagine the cost of changing the nameplate to something entirely different and the additional confusion that would create.

Additionally, our proprietary research of all the consonants in the English language has indicated that both the letters X and Z are perceived as innovative. Fortunately, for Lincoln, both letters are used and should work to convey that Lincoln is offering innovative automobiles.

Could this brand naming "stubbing of the toe" have been avoided with some brand name research?

and both picked up on this story earlier today. Check out their readers' insightful comments.

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Tourism Slogans: Manitoba Heart of the Prairies

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Manitoba's Spirited Energy logoFinally, a slogan for Manitoba that makes sense and you can also like.

In an , I noted that Tom Brodbeck of the Winnipeg Sun invited Manitobans to submit alternatives to the Spirited Energy slogan, that by most accounts, to put it mildly, has been very disappointing.

The staff of the Winnipeg Sun Heart of the Prairies as the best slogan to replace Spirited Energy. "This slogan was submitted by George Smith, 72 - born and raised in Manitoba - who owns a trucking company in Winnipeg."

If you apply Al Ries' principle of reverse strategy, that is, can you say that about any other Canadian province, for instance, "Ontario is not the heart of the prairies?"

Yes, you can. Therefore, the Manitoba Heart of the Prairies slogan in unique and ownable for Manitoba. Whether or not that motivates tourism or community spirit is another matter. However, in my view, it's much warmer and aspirational than Spirited Energy.

For the record, here are the top 5 Manitoba slogan alternatives to Spirited Energy, as judged by the Winnipeg Sun staff:

  • Heart Of The Prairies
  • Explore It All
  • Jewel Of The North
  • Where the Adventure Begins
  • Prairie Proud

I've been most bothered by the Spirited Energy tourism slogan versus many others that I've blogged about. The main reason for the point of view is the of trying to serve multiple target markets with one slogan, and the sheer cost of developing the slogan.

Here is a complete list of all of my blog posts on the Spirited Energy slogan:

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Not surprisingly, Pennsylvania residents are disappointed and frustrated by Pennsylvania's new tourism slogan, "I Break for Shoofly Pie".

Some typical comments are:

  • "That's very stupid. I don't even know what that means."
  • "It's the dummest thing I ever heard of."

Another resident suggested that Pennsylvania would be better off with the slogan, "I break for beauty."

For more on how Pennsylvania residents are reacting to the new slogan, please see this .

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Links Du Jour 07-21-06

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  • Knight Errant - In a case of couture in court, Susan Scafidi writes about luxury brand Burberry, and how its revived knight brand logo may be just as tempting to counterfeiters. In a recent case, however, Marco Leather lost its trademark application, a copyright, and $100,000 to Burberry.
  • Side by side comparison doesn’t decide likelihood of confusion - Ron Coleman points out the similarities between Louis Vuitton (LV brand logo) and Dooney & Bourke (DB brand logo) handbags and the resulting trademark infringement case. The lesson for brand name development? If the differences between two trademarks are “memorable enough to dispel confusion on serial viewing” there’s no likelihood of confusion - no trademark infringement.

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What do you think of FEMA’s new name?

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FEMA logoI hadn’t given this question much thought until I was contacted by Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times and Southern California Public Radio.

During her live radio show on KPCC Radio, Monday, July 17th, here’s what I said about FEMA’s new name, Emergency Management Authority, or EMA:

  • If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck
  • The acronym EMA sounds too close to FEMA

Olay logoHowever, the broadened to re-branding in general and I thought I would share some interesting city and country name changes, some that may be familiar, some less familiar:

  • The Gold Coast is now Ghana
  • East Dutch Indies is now Indonesia
  • Bombay is now Mumbai, and of course has been in the news recently
  • Calcutta is now Kolkata
  • Bangalore is now Bengaluru, which by any name, is where many of the IT jobs are going

And do you recall the unsuccessful state name change effort from North Dakota to Dakota, to make the state seem a little less northern and cold?

Panera BreadSome successful brand name changes, in my opinion, are:

  • Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC, because they’re no longer just in Kentucky, sell only fried chicken, and sell only chicken
  • Boston Chicken to Boston Market, to reflect a broader menu
  • Oil of Olay to Olay, since most new Olay products have nothing to do with oil
  • St. Louis Bread to Panera Bread, from the Italian pane for bread

Finally, Atlanta Bread just changed their name to Zaria, which is Russian for sunrise. In my opinion, Zaria sounds more like a drug name than a restaurant name.

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Applebee's LogoAs you may know, Fast Casual restaurants represent a growth area in the restaurant business. Some established Fast Casual restaurants are Applebee's and TGI Friday's.

There are also some up-and-coming Fast Casual restaurants such as Briazz, Corner Bakery, Cosi, and Potbelly.

We were interested in what consumers thought of the aformentioned Fast Casual chain logos and conducted some proprietary research among the target market to find out.

NameRecently, Fast Casual magazine picked up on our Fast Casual logo research study results and reported on them in an article entitled, . If you'd like a free copy of the research study, just drop me an email.

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Columbus: Another Tourism Slogan in the Making

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I've written a lot about a number of recent tourism slogans, both nationally and internationally.

If you'd like to see some of the inner-workings of how one branding consultant, North Star Destination Strategies of Nashville Tennessee, goes about developing a tourism slogan go to answer the survey questions for Columbus.

By the way, we're talking about Columbus, Indiana here. I think that's one of the biggest hurdles they'll have to overcome - being overshadowed by the more prevalent Columbus, Ohio.

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Brand Naming: Students Know Technology Not Branding

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Every year the collects some 1200 high school students in San Jose for an intensive series of site visits, seminars, workshops, labs, and presentations by representatives from major technology companies and universities.

And every year the students are divided into teams to work on Future Solutions projects to solve real-world dilemmas “through the creative use of existing or future technology.” Yesterday, judges from the likes of Microsoft, Google, and HP convened to award prizes in categories such as “Best Business Solution,” “Greatest Global Impact,” and “Best Expansion of Existing Technology,” with one overall winner out of the eleven category winners.

All of the projects were good, but some had better names than others. “Sewergy” and “LugEx” show a better grasp of the importance of branding in today's marketplace than “Implementation of Nanosensors in Regards to Insulin Control.”

The two top contenders for overall winner were both renewable energy solutions. Runner-up TerMight used termites and yard waste to create high-grade ethanol to fuel cars, while the winning project harvested wind power by putting turbines on floating frames tethered to oil derricks.

The name of this project? S.O.R.E.

That stands for Solutions of Renewable Energy, and with the gull-like logo the students drew, it was clear they wanted people to think of the homophone for their acronym: “soar.”

Unfortunately, if the judges are anything to go by, that wasn’t what came to mind. There were numerous “don’t get sore if we don’t vote for your project” remarks from the judges on other teams when it came time to choose the overall winner. If S.O.R.E. had been a real company, its name would have been a serious liability.

They would have done better just to call the project “Soar,” making up a new acronym if they felt they had to. (Acronyms are not the best choice for names, but are pretty common for non-profit and research institutions: think of SETI, or of NYLF for that matter.)

Fortunately for Team S.O.R.E., the project’s name was not one of the criteria the judges used to determine the best project.

These students understood the technology of what they submitted, but like many companies, they overlooked the importance of an appropriate brand name.

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Spaceport AmericaAs you may be aware by now, a sight in New Mexico that will be used for launching sub-orbital flights from Southwest Regional Spaceport to Spaceport America.

Sounds like a reasonable name change to me. This is not an airport, but it is a port that sends you into orbit.

Virgin GalacticHowever, when I learned that Sir Richard Branson of Virgin was involved, I immediately thought, "Why isn't Virgin in the name?", only to learn that Branson's company that will use Spaceport America is called Virgin Galactic. Now this makes sense, since to date, anything Virgin has turned to gold.

Part of the Virgin brand's core idea is "challenging the status quo" and "injecting an element of fun." Thrusting passengers in space for 2.5 hours to experience 5 minutes of weightlessness at $200,000 a ride is certainly "challenging the status quo" and "injecting an element of fun."

Whoever can afford $200,000 for 5 minutes of weightlessness should also be required to donate a like amount to some worthwhile charity. If I were Branson, that's what I would do.

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Manitoba's Spirited Energy Slogan Doomed

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Manitoba's Spirited Energy logoI've been carefully Manitobans' reactions and sentiments toward Manitoba's new Spirited Energy slogan announced in June of this year.

I thought it was a misguided effort then, and I still think it is. Apparently, many Manitobans feel that way, too. Tom Brodbeck of the Winnipeg Sun has reconfirmed that the Spirited Energy slogan has been roundly criticized and ridiculed.

Tom took matters into his own hands yesterday, July 13th, inviting Manitobans to . Just today, Brodbeck reported on some he has received from Manitobans:

  • Manitoba - Heart of the Continent
  • Manitoba - The Jewel of the North
  • Manitoba - Prairie Paradise
  • Manitoba - Explore your Dreams
  • Manitoba - The Centre of it All

Oh, these didn't cost $600,000, which was paid to a naming consultant to come up with Spirited Energy.

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I don't believe it.

In a July 9th , I wrote about a trend of high schools selling naming rights.

CCH LogoI never realized that hospitals were considering the same. The Columbus Children's Hospital has the Abercrombie & Fitch Trauma Center. Yes, they got a $10 million donation, but are they prostituting themselves in the long run?

A&F logoI'm still waiting for someone to sell the naming rights to public toilet seats. Just kidding. But, you never know.

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GoogleDominating the market for a product or service has its down side.

Once people associate your brand name with a particular function, they start using it to describe any product of that type. “Thermos” is the classic example: Merriam-Webster defines “", with a lower-case “t,” as “a container (as a bottle or jar) with a vacuum between an inner and outer wall used to keep material and especially liquids either hot or cold for considerable periods,” relegating the trademark “Thermos” to the etymology section.

Now it’s officially happened to Google. Ever since Google became the predominant search engine, people have been using the verb “to google” to mean “look up in Google.” We've said it before that about the genericization of its name. Now “google,” again with a lower-case G (because English doesn’t capitalize verbs any more than it does generic nouns), has also .

Why is this a problem? Just as “thermos” now applies to insulated flasks made by any manufacturer, “google” could easily mean “look up in any search engine.”

Within the high-tech community, the verb “google” is often shortened to “goo.” The abbreviation leaves the trademark protected, but has much less flattering connotations. I might prefer having my brand eroded a bit, myself.

Just about everyone knows that Kleenex, Band-aid, and Xerox were once brand names.

Lesser-known are the following names that were once trademarked and have now become genericized:

  • Bikini
  • Granola
  • Linoleum
  • Margarine
  • Yo-yo
  • Zeppelin
  • Zipper

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Links Du Jour 07-06-06

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  • Infusion Deluge - This post by Paul Williams illustrates a trend in naming products with the words fusion or infusion. Paul advises against using these words in product naming, since they’ve lost their meaning.
  • The MasterCard OMG WTF Rebranding - Interesting post on the origins of the Mastercard brand name and logo development. Now, the Mastercard Worldwide family of brands has a new logo, too.
  • Microsoft product naming fiasco continues - As the release of Office 2007 gets closer, the unofficial Microsoft weblog reminds us of Microsoft’s poor record of product naming. It’s becoming clear that internal politics and a complex brand architecture can sometimes hinder the development of simple and friendly branding.
  • Your Driver - What's In A Name - Donn Glenn enlightens us with this funny list of product names that golf club manufacturers have devised to appeal to "golfing testosterone". Most of these names sound like a fast food hamburger to me.

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homosoap.jpgThanks to Lee Hopkins of Better Communication Results for reminding us of both the humor and the potential for disaster when using foreign words to name products or brands.

Some time back on this blog I discussed the phenomenon of "," in which Koreans (mis)use English for slogans and brand names.

The Japanese version, “Engrish,” has a long and hilarious history, chronicled at by a dedicated webmaster who lived and worked in Japan for several years.

myfannie.jpgTo be fair to the creators of the products displayed at the website, most are not meant for export, so there’s nothing particularly funny or embarrassing to the people buying them. As long as they’re kept out of the hands of English speakers, there’s no problem.

But such products as “Homo Soap,” “My Fannie” toilet paper and a few others I prefer not to mention but can be found here, remain an important reminder to check on the meaning of any cool-sounding foreign words before using them in public, never mind using them for naming a company, product or brand.

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Ares Spacecraft Has a Martial Name

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NASA logoNaming, be it product naming, or creating a brand name, or company naming for that matter, can have unintended consequences. That appears to be the case with ’s spacecraft naming.

NASA insists, however, that in naming its new exploratory spacecraft the I and II, it had no desire to invoke the concept of war and destruction. They found that is the Greek equivalent of and decided it was a fitting name for spacecraft the final destination of which is the fourth planet.

Did the researchers at NASA forget, then, that Mars was the Roman god of war, and that its red color was reminiscent of blood to those who first named it? I think they may have.

AresAdmittedly the Roman god Mars was a far more respectable deity than Greek Ares, but then again, the Romans were justly proud of their military might. They created a successful and generally well-run empire, while Greek wars tended to be internecine and leave everyone involved unequivocally worse off.

Because most of us in the modern world are introduced to Mars as the proper name of a planet before we learn any mythology, we don’t automatically associate the name with aggression. And it may be that the general public doesn’t associate much with the name Ares, except perhaps to confuse it with the astrological sign Aries.

But I think checking with a few classicists about a proposed name isn’t rocket science. I think it’s disingenuous of NASA to claim ignorance about the connotations of “Ares.”

Rockets can be and have been named after planets before (think of the series), so this isn’t like the Nyx/Nix case I recently blogged about. If they wanted a peaceful name for a Moon-Mars rocket, they could have chosen , the Greek lunar deity. They didn’t.

And, I for one don't find it reassuring.

Note also that NASA is confusing matters with another pair of projects called ARES: a proposed Mars mission, dubbed Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey of Mars, and an office called Astromaterials Research & Exploration Science.

For other perspectives on the Ares name, see what other bloggers are saying:

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