Branding: August 2009 Archives

Barefoot Product Naming and Branding is a Paradox

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The growing trend in running barefoot tempts me to make a few jokes about the cost of running shoes during the recession, but I will desist. Fact is, however, that there is a growing segment of the population that likes to run au natural, and of course, the footwear companies have found a way to cash in on this.

In other words, they want to make footwear for people who want to run barefoot. Which is sort of like making swimwear for skinny dippers.

vibram-five-fingers.gifThe brand name that really attracts me is the Vibram Five Fingers. These shoes look pretty cool, but let's return to the name.

Five Fingers.

For footwear?

Some call these the "barefoot alternative," or the closest you can get to knowing how it would feel like to run a marathon like Fred Flintstone.

These shoes, which really have taken up some serious headspace among aficionados of natural running, already have a plethora of catchy nicknames like "VFFs" and "Vibes," but there is just no getting around the fact that feet do not have fingers - they have toes!

But, alas, the Vibram Five Toes just sounds, well, weird. So, somehow or other, the name seems to work.

nike-free-5.0.gifNike is also getting into the mix, offering a stripped down sneaker called the "Free 5.0," but as far I can see, it looks like a plain old running shoe. And nothing Nike offers is "Free."

Now, here's the funny one: the Vivo Barefoot.

This one is really a plain, old shoe that sort of looks like a pair of Grasshoppers. There is nothing "barefoot" about it.

Obviously, these names are illustrative of the difficulty in naming a product that, by most degrees of logic, really should not exist.

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Can Catchy Product Naming Save Crocs from Extinction?

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crocs-logo-symbol.gifIf you haven't heard, the Crocs brand is in deep trouble.

This is a brand that seemed headed for extinction, but like their namesake, have proven that with the help of a little strategic naming they are a brand that can endure the toughest of times. Recent "business improvements" have given Crocs a chance to actually pull itself into the black by 2010.

The Crocs strategy mainly consists of promoting sub-brands, as well as naming around particular product attributes. In fact, new naming may save Crocs:

  • The Crocs Beach sounds a little less frightening, but beside having a different name, they are essentially the same thing as Regular Crocs.
  • crocs-cayman.gif
  • Crocs Cayman are Crocs that further push the "beach" idea (in fact, the water motif is big across the entire web site"). But again, these are pretty much the same thing as regular Crocs, just a little more narrow to stop the wiggle when you walk.
  • As of yesterday, they also offer a new "retro" version called "Crocband."
  • While the Kids Crocs all feature characters we know and love, like Nickelodeon's Dora, Spongebob, and Batman.

However, Crocs main competitor lives across the border in Canada and is called Holeys. And while Crocs have become commonplace in our consumer vocabulary, possibly even becoming generic, it's not hard to see how its Holeys chose their name.

A recent article explores the competition between the two companies that seem to sell extremely similar products. But just like Crocs, Holeys appears to be refining their naming architecture.

coastal-boot-holeys.gifHoleys also appears to be focusing on its sub-brands, which includes the Critters line for kids that is becoming more popular than the Holeys brand name.

In addition, their new Coastal Boot, as well as their Weatheralls, Drifters and Dreamerzs, don't have any holes at all. Holey Moley!

As a simple idea that went from a consumer craze to a free fallin' concept, a small bit of intelligent product naming may just be intriguing enough to save the foam footwear business.

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Technology Branding and Naming: Dead Terms Rounded Up

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There are apparently twelve tech words out there that are officially outdated; I was surprised to see that "The World Wide Web" and "Long-Distance Call" both made the list.

There are a few other, more subtle surprises that have come to light in the last year - apparently "PageRank optimization" has been dead for almost year as has "reciprocal linking" but these are still, admittedly, rather specialized in comparison. While on the subject of specialized names, none of us will miss, "Gopher RFC", "Veronica"", "Finger" or "Archie," all of which, taken together, sound like the names of an ill-fated gang.

appletablet250.pngApparently the term that helped hasten the death of the "World Wide Web" (despite the fact that every second a few million people type "www" into their browser and at least a few must wonder what it means) was the "Worldwide Interweb," a jokey term made up by Steve Czaban (see YouTube Video below) . Collateral damage to the demise of the World Wide Web is the term "Information Superhighway", which is just naff and I believe died a few years ago.

Of course some of these reports of "dead" tech terms are premature. I recently read an piece form 2007 declaring that Microsoft was "dead" and last I checked they seem to be just fine. I do agree with Kris Abel that the name "netbook" is alive and well and should remain in common usage - although I think it has a short shelf life.

I also have been watching with interest the development (or not) of the Apple "Tablet" which some have called the "Apple slate tablet" or the Apple Slate. That term "slate" is finished, as is "UMPC." You can have a "tablet" but a "slate tablet" is pretty much impossible.

Anyway, Steve Jobs seems in no hurry to release either.

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Is Rebranding Australia Worth $20 Million?

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Australia is going to spend $20 million looking for a new logo and brand identity after some disastrous missteps with the country's own marketing.

simon-crean-trade-minister.gifAccording to Simon Crean, the country's trade minister, they are looking for a better way to "define our identity and brand it." This move comes in the face of declining international visitors and a perception that the country is, essentially, a tourist destination rather than an investment opportunity.

Specifically, Crean said that they are interested in moving away from a "lifestyle and landscape" identity towards something that celebrates "our creativity, our ingenuity, our innovation, our spirit of social inclusion, and most of all in the quality of our products and services."

Australians have their work cut out for them. There is no doubt that they are an innovative and hardworking people, but they certainly have pushed the Crocodile Dundee aspect of things for some time now.

australiaposter1.gifStill, the Australian Made, Australian Grown (AMAG) Campaign has been very successful and stakeholders in that initiative have supported the move towards a more businesslike image for the country.

Australia appears to be taking their cues from neighboring New Zealand's "100 Per Cent Pure" campaign that generated an almost immediate 10% jump in visitors to the country and has been effective for a decade now.

The New Zealanders, for their part, are so pleased with the success of the "100 Per Cent Pure" branding that they are now using it to create a "master brand" for the entire country.

Expect to see Australia's new brand image launched in February alongside an advertising campaign that incorporates the recent movie Australia.

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A Parent is Born Pushes Pampers Brand Naming

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Pampers is going online with its Web series named "A Parent is Born." Think 12 webisodes that follow the lives of two regular people (one a wannabe actress) through the last stages of a pregnancy. Pampers claims that the episodes only feature the brand name at the start of the show, the rest is pure documentary.

Pampers.pngOkay, am I the only one who is thinking of the classic poster for A Star is Born? The one with with a shirtless Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson? Surely this name hearkens back to it? The existence of the series has caused some cynical yukking in the blogosphere about guys wearing kangaroo pouches in Walmart.

Anyone who has babies knows that diapers are a product that is virtually recession-proof. In fact, the Pampers brand, has actually seen a 1% increase in sales in the last quarter.

This initiative is part of P&G's $50 million push into so-called "measured media" and should get the Pampers brand name in front of people looking for information about pregnancy in an authentic manner by following a real-life couple. Parents, especially first time parents, are information hungry and splurge on the right diaper (an average of 5 cents extra over store brands) seems worth it to ensure Junior is comfortable.

Pampers diapers, so say the reports, are noticeably more comfortable and, importantly, leak proof, than the competitors. Pampers still are the number one brand worldwide but have traditionally lost ground to their arch rival Huggies in a competition some say is more bitter than the cola-wars.

I like the authenticity of the idea. When a baby is born, a parent is born, although really that time comes when a woman becomes pregnant, as the documentary points out. But this is a non-obtrusive way to leverage the internet to build brand loyalty before the ultimate consumer even has a social security number!

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Will a New Owner Rename the Dow?

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So The Dow Jones Industrial Average, or "the Dow," might actually be sold, which could result in the renaming of one of the most well-known brands in business.

The Business Insider says News Corp, which owns the Dow Jones, is beyond "mulling" over the idea of selling and has hired Goldman Sachs to help with the sale.

Interestingly, the Dow Jones name goes back to the 19th century. In fact, the Dow Jones brought order and honesty to the chaos of the stock market and has been synonymous with Wall Street investing for 125 years. However, the only original stock on the Dow to survive today is GE.

charles-dow.gifThe name itself comes from co-founders Charles Dow and Edward Jones, but it is most often called "The Dow," while occasionally being referred to as the DJIA or the Dow Jones Index.

Now, the New York Times has a post up called "Name That Index" that asks what company could most benefit from having their name associated with the industrial index. Could it possibly be called the Smirnoff Index? Um, doubtful.

I'm willing to bet that no matter who buys the index, the name will remain unchanged. There's just too much equity tied up in it. Literally.

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Greyhound Brand Name Goes Back to England

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The news that Greyhound buses are going to the UK caught my eye this morning, not least because when I think of England, I think of red double deckers and not "riding the 'hound".

greyhound-bus-logo250.jpgBut it's happening. The owner of Greyhound UK also owns the USA Bolt bus brand but chose to use the Greyhound brand name in the UK because ""the Greyhound name has a greater resonance."

That's true, but it's also a distinctly American brand. Still, the Greyhound name holds a great deal of romance for Europeans because so many tourists use them on visits to the USA and American movies have made them legendary.

The Financial Times reminisces about Bob Dylan's lyric "cruisin' down the highway in a Greyhound bus" and the brand owner is well aware of the name's nostalgic resonance. The buses will be named after American songs like "Sweet Caroline," "Peggy Sue" and "Jolene", even though these upscale vehicles really are not much like the trusty Americruisers we all know.

I am interested in the Greyhound name: that word "grey" (which doesn't make it past my American spell checker) is distinctly British.

Americans often favor the word "gray". So why don't we have "Grayhound" buses over here? In fact, the word "greyhound" comes from the Old English word "grighund". "Hund" is the precursor to the word "hound", of course, but nobody really knows what "grig" means.

It certainly doesn't mean "grey": in fact many greyhounds aren't even grey, or, er, gray. "Grig" simply morphed into the word "grey" over time and the name stuck, right down the the gray/grey hound on the side of the buses.

Seems this brand name is coming home.

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Sony Plays with PlayStation 3 Product Naming

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PS3-slim-logo.gifThe new PlayStation 3 is out. And what's more, it comes with a new name and a logo.

Despite it only being a small change from PLAYSTATION 3 to PlayStation 3 (note the capital S), the switch fortifies the history of the PlayStation brand.

This miniscule name change comes alongside a revamp of the current PLAYSTATION 3 system, making it lighter, slimmer and more powerful, hence the "far more suave" nickname, the "PS3 Slim."

The PlayStation name now consistently arches over the entire PlayStation network, including the original PlayStation, the PlayStation 2 and the PSP. Its brand equity only continues to grown despite remaining grounded in the core gaming industry instead of attempting to venture into phones and possibly other products, as was proposed by independent company Sony Ericsson earlier this year.

The gaming junkies have been covertly following the development of the new PS3 quite closely - so close, in fact, that they discovered that Sony secretly filed the PS3 Slim with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) under the company name "Sand Dollar Enterprises," an entity apparently owned by Sony.

This official name change and logo redesign is big news and further proof, if any were needed, that Sony places great equity in the PlayStation name. By making the switch, Sony is aligning itself with the majority of press and gamers out there who already use the PlayStation name.

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Beverage Product Naming: Need to Relax?

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Forget "energy" drinks, now consumers want "relaxation" drinks.

I have already covered the trend towards relaxed names like "drank," which some say can mellow you out as much as marijuana. But now this trend is really picking up.

blue-cow-drink.gifWe have names like "Vacation in a Bottle," "Superliminal Purple Stuff Pro-Relaxation Formula," and "Purple Stuff," as well as "Blue Cow," which is much more relaxing than "Red Bull."

This type of beverage naming is directed towards those consumers looking to chill out. The idea is to create a relaxation drink that would appeal to non-relaxed surfers, water skiers and, believe it or not, cage fighters.

Tim Lucas, chief marketing officer of Funktional Beverages, explains this unique combination by saying, "We're about not being nervous as we jump out of a plane."

Although, if you're not into jumping out of a plane you can grab some iChill or ViB.

Relaxation drinks have been slowly gaining traction since the beginning of the year when Brandfreak declared energy drinks "so 2007."

Maybe the economy has created enough stress for consumers to find a way to relax by any means necessary.

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Old Spice is admirably facing up to what I perceive as some pretty hefty naming and branding challenges. This is clear to see in their new "Residue is Evil" campaign.

The print campaign essentially calls for men who have deodorant residue on their underarms things like "weirdo, stupid and idiot." The new Ever Clear formulation is designed to be (pretty much) clear, although Old Spice stops short of claiming pure clarity. The name itself seems to almost purposely riff on the Everclear alcohol name.
old-spice-ever-clear100.jpg
OK. Let's get this straight. The brand name is Old Spice, which has traditionally been, well, spicy. The brand extension is Ever Clear. There are sub brands within the Ever Clear line that include "After Hours", "Pure Sport", "Showtime" and "Swagger". The tagline is "Residue is Evil. Stop It." The advertising tells men to "Tame Your Pits."

And this is for one brand extension. They also have Old Spice Classic, High Endurance, and Red Zone with related sub brand categories (there must be some residue in there). Then they have clear gels, and sprays. That's 38 antiperspirants, and 17 deodorants. Throw in body washes, body sprays and fragrances and you get a grand total of 88 different products all bearing the Old Spice name.

Fast Company has been all over this, telling us that "Old Spice Smells Like a Billion Bucks" and profiling the people involved in creating these products, which, I must admit, are alluring. But the real question here is whether or not the company can manage so many names and sub-brands. Old Spice has a traditionally nautical image: I can still recall the ads featuring the guy wearing the sailor's cap (there still is a ship logo on the packaging). The brand now seems, with its younger target, to have a landlubber NASCAR ("Take Your Pits on a Victory Lap") extension nonetheless. This features, on one product, the following:

  1. The traditional Old Spice name and typography
  2. The ship logo
  3. The NASCAR logo.
  4. The "Red Zone After Hours" brand extension.
  5. The "Signature Series" sub brand identifier with "Tony Stewart" signature image.
  6. A photo of an Old Spice race car.
  7. The "Impala" car brand name seen clearly on the car bumper at the bottom of the packaging.

Whew.

My thought is that if this works, then Old Spice is going to really expand quickly. But this is a massive amount of juggling. The Old Spice name, in my opinion, has now been stretched as far as it can go.

Let's see what happens.

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Gap, Levis Naming and Branding Harness History

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Gap is making a huge push to reclaim the cool branding space with its 1969 Premium Jeans line. This has the theme "Born to fit": am I the only one who immediately thinks of Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" and the cover to "Born in the USA," which, alongside the Rolling Stones' "Sticky Fingers" must be the last word in iconic denim rock album art? 2009 marks Gap's 40th year in business and they are celebrating by moving away from TV advertising and instead touting their new web site (borntofit.com) and "many nontraditional elements which include a Facebook page, video clips, a realistic online fashion show on a virtual catwalk and an application for the iPhone called the StyleMixer."

borntofit.jpgThe jeans cost under $70 and are a hearkening to the company's "heritage denim". Gap is hoping to use these (pretty cool, sex looking) duds to lure back customers who might have been tempted away by $100+ styles. This major revamp of the company's brand has a lot riding on it: denim accounts for 20-30% of the company's sales. These are "environmentally responsible" jeans that you can get in an array of styles, including "destructed."

Other classic style names that seem like sure winners: Always Skinny, Real Straight, Sexy Boot and Boyfriend. Gap has designed a whole bunch of pop-up stores only selling jeans that are appearing close to their more expensive rivals.

Levi's, meanwhile, has also tried to build equity off its past, which goes much further back than the Gap. It's chosen the Biblical, procreative sounding "Go forth" campaign which Creative Review notes is very close to the award winning Wrangler campaign in feel. "The campaign has been designed to connect the 150-year-old brand with the youth of today, tapping into the fact that this generation is patriotic about the US and optimistic about life," says Dan Pankraz.

They've even hauled in Walt Whitman's "O Pioneers" to drive the point home, but some bloggers are unimpressed: Words About Things says of the new tagline "Go Forth But Don't Prosper." Advertising Age is even more harsh, saying bluntly that "Levi's Target Unlikely to 'Go Forth' and Buy Its Jeans."

I have to say I like the idea of Walt Whitman reading poetry online, but am not sure if he'd be into shilling for Levi's. This is stirring stuff if you are an English teacher who likes classic denim, but I'm not sure it will resonate with the students.

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The blogoshere is full of resentment this morning for Delta Airlines after sicking their trademark lawyers on a small Internet travel company called GoNorthwest.com.

It seems that Delta wants to own the Northwest name, which is going to be rather difficult since more than 10,500 businesses in the U.S. use it. Moreover, because Delta is moving away from the name, the whole exercise seems a little pointless. Garland Pollard of BrandlandUSA says "They are not only wasting an intellectual property asset, they are wasting time and money protecting the wasting of the asset."

Despite there being 366 trademarks for "NW" and "Northwest" in the U.S., Delta is not budging. The bottom line is that the brand name is going to be discarded, but even if it wasn't, there is very little likelihood of confusion.

delta and northwest.pngBy pursuing this course of action, Delta is angering their very own target market. Just as they roll out new planes in Delta colors and try to establish a fresh brand identity, this is creating all kinds of bad press for them.

The problem in this case seems to have more to do with the banner ads on the site that compete with Delta's ticketing agencies. But still, Northwest happily endured GoNorthwest for ten years.

Alas, the realities of the airline world dictate that one big brand dominate customers' airspace. It is a shame to see Northwest go, but as I have said before, them's the breaks.

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Fast Company's list of "The Top Ten Worst Green Brand Names" returns me to the issue of green brand naming in a down economy.

scott-naturals.gifThis issue is made all the more clear by the recent introduction of Kimberly-Clark's new Scott Naturals line, which hopes to attract the ever-growing LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) consumer segment.

The Scott's Naturals web site suggests it can help you "Turn Over a NEW Leaf..." and the tagline on the packaging is "Green Done Right," which really sounds more like something out of fast food branding (KFC's "We do chicken right" comes to mind).

The Naturals line includes toilet paper, napkins and paper towels, but its the toilet paper that really counts here as softness is such a major issue for buyers: eco-friendly brands are seen as more abrasive. Ouch.

The reason the word "natural" is a safe play is because it will outlast the green movement. Even people who do not want to save boreal forests want "natural" products, especially in the bathroom.

But for those who do, the toilet paper uses a high percentage of recycled paper. This means less damage to the old-growth forests that have gotten Kimberly-Clark in trouble with Greenpeace. Greenpeace activists actually coined a name themselves, "Kleercut," which leveraged Kimberly-Clark's Kleenex name, not in a good way.

kleercut.gifHowever, the new Greenpeace ads reference the truce that has developed between Kimberly-Clark and Greenpeace International. According to the Super Eco blog, "By the end of 2011, Kimberly-Clark will ensure that 40 percent of its North American tissue fiber - some 600,000 tons worth - is either recycled or Forest Stewardship Council-certified. At the same time, Kimberly-Clark will no longer purchase any fiber from the Canadian Boreal Forest that is not FSC-certified."

This truce has angered some really hardcore activists, but I would imagine that Kimberly-Clark can hardly wait to rid the world of the Kleercut name and build new, positive associations with the word Naturals.

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Tide's New Product Naming Gets Back to Basics

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The Wall Street Journal is up in arms about the new Tide Basic product name, a less expensive, more "basic" version of the high-end stuff we're used to, declaring that it's proof "of how the sour U.S. economy is forcing mass marketers to shift course."

tide-basic-bigvalue-basiccl.gifThe new tagline is "Big Value. Basic Clean," it costs 20% less than regular Tide and surprisingly, it comes in a yellow, rather than orange, container.

Yes, this is a product made for consumers looking for ways to pinch pennies, but it is also a reaction to the strong store brands that are taking a bite out their bigger competitors. However, as such, it is a new product name that has the potential to attract new customers, while also slowing the exodus of current loyalists.

Apparently, P&G has concluded that it's better to eat your own lunch rather than someone else.

Tide has been steadily losing market share in recent years and Richard Harshaw of the Lodestar blog suggests that "trophy" brands like Tide have to be more adaptive in terms of their pricing structure rather than roll out cheaper versions of their products.

But this may or may not be a good idea - lowering price points often does not get customers back, and more importantly, it negatively affects customer perceptions of quality.

Watching P&G roll out a "basic" version of this product represents, according to Eli Portnoy of The Brand Man Speaks, a "paradigm shift" in branding - a reaction to the fact that even affluent customers are cutting back.

I'm still holding frim to the idea that this is more of a strike against private label brands than anything else. The key is the word "basic." This new product naming positions a top brand name very well within the private label shelves.

Customers are now going to be asking themselves if they want a private label washing power from, say Walmart or Target, or a basic version of an iconic brand like Tide. It's like asking somebody if they want a Toyota Camry with all the options or a "basic" Porsche.

My feeling is that this is a very good way to boost the equity around the extremely valuable ($3 billion in sales annually) Tide brand name while at the same time grabbing customers out of the cheap seats.

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What is it about the name "Twitter" that we love so much - or love to hate?

twitter-logo-word.gifThe microblogging service has spawned hundreds of tie-in software applications and not a few slang terms, from the common, like "tweeple" (a portmanteau of "Twitter" and "people") to the obscure, like "tweskank," a girl who tweets while on a date.

Collectively, these are known as - wait for it - "twords."

Many of the software tools (TechCrunch has a list of the most popular, and there's a Squidoo lens that attempts to be comprehensive) have "twords" for names. Of course, if you're creating a product that's a tie-in for another product, it makes sense to have the names tie in, as well.

While a few of these applications, like Monitter, opt to use rhyme to make their relationship with Twitter known, others use some variations in word choice between "twitter," "tweet," and "twit," but almost everyone wants to include that magic "tw" sound.

There are actually very few words in the English language that start with "tw," and most of them are related in some way to the number two.

The "tw" phoneme comes from the Old High German "zw," and the parallel persists to this day: modern German for "two" is "zwei."

The word "twitter" itself is first attested in English in 1374, also from Old High German. "Tweet," on the other hand, wasn't coined until 1845. Both words are onomatopoetic, imitating the sounds made by birds. This is somewhat ironic, as human tweeters on Twitter make no sound at all.

twitter_bird.gifAnother irony is the fact that "twitter" first appears as a verb; there was no linguistic reason to choose "tweet" as the verb to describe the action of posting on Twitter. Whatever Ev and Biz may think, language and the AP Stylebook are on the side of those who say "I'm Twittering."

Either way, frankly, it sounds silly. But all unfamiliar sounds seem funny to us. That's part of the appeal of the "tw" in Twitter: it's rare and strange.

That makes it this season's equivalent of the dropped vowel so popular in Web 2.0 names from pre-Twitter days. And before you know it, you'll start taking all those "twords" for granted - no matter how difficult some of them are to pronounce.

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Gucci_Logo.gifA judge has barred Paolo Gucci's ex-wife and her daughter from using the Gucci brand name commercially in the United States without trademark approval.

Jennifer (the ex-wife) and Gemma Gucci (her 28 year old investment banker daughter) are attempting to offer coffee, cosmetics and "other goods" using their name and a very familiar looking green and red stripe.

The Gucci name, however, is owned by French luxury goods seller PPR and they have responded to this trademark transgression by suing both women and their licensing agent, Edward Litwak. Essentially, they are seeking damages for marketing products that were "confusingly similar" to the real thing.

The court has ruled that the duo "willfully infringed and diluted the Gucci trademarks." This means that Jennifer Gucci's planned bedding products, which would include the Gucci logo with "variations of the initials "JG" and a repeating diamond pattern with interlocking "GG" are going to disappear. Permanently.

jennifer-gucci.gifBut the ladies may be able to use the Gucci name on products not addressed in the suit if the Trademark office approves.

In the meantime, Gucci America is "entitled to an accounting of profits, attorneys' fees from all defendants and punitive damages" according to the Wall Street Journal.

This news comes to us just after a possible resolution of the Guess-Gucci conflict I wrote about earlier this year.

The good people over at Intellectual Property and Business Law blog lead us through the many reasons why this was a doomed little caper from the outset and cite "Polaroid Corp v. Polarad Elects. Corp, 287 F.2d 492 (2d Cir. 1961)" as the test case. Suffice to say that the defendants have acted in bad faith and sowed confusion in the marketplace.

But the real villain here could be the licensing agent, who just might have assured the two, erroneously, that they would not in fact be shut down by the courts.

No matter what happens, we can be pretty sure that Jennifer Gucci will not be using her maiden name, Puddefoot, to sell anything.

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Luxury Brand Naming on Ketchup?

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Time Magazine asks us today if "BMW should sell ketchup," and the question is actually a good one.

In this down market, people seem more willing to spend money on small luxuries with known brand names than on big ticket items like, well, a BMW. Consumers like to see luxury names even on products that have nothing to do with the company's core offering.

16-armani-in.gifThis might explain why you can get items such as a Dunhill flash drive or an Armani TV made by Samsung or even a "My Dior" Luxury phone by Christian Dior.

But can luxury brand names be applied to consumables? Yes, and no.

Although, luxury brands names like Louis Vuitton are not ready to get into the cracker business just yet. They firmly believe that times will get better and some have noted that there are still many consumers who want to buy one $1500 handbag over five $300 bags.

That said, super premium denim brand names are starting to fade and even stalwarts like Coach and Tiffany have had to think fast.

Coach has a cheerful new product line called "Poppy," with price points 20% lower than their $290 average. While Tiffany has quietly lowered their prices on engagement rings by an striking 10%. Versace, Chloe and Chanel have all done the same thing.

The other tack has been to simply bling out the recession: note the new Moet & Chandon bottles you can personalize with Swarovski crystals, which might come in handy because there may be reason to celebrate.

rolex_logo-green-gold.gifInternet searches for Aston Martin and Mercedes Benz are up 33% over last year and Gucci is up 8%. And the Millward Brown 2009 Brandz survey shows luxury brands actually gaining value over the last 12 months - Rolex alone has enjoyed a 35% increase in the value of its brand name.

So I'm guessing that we won't see a BMW ketchup anytime soon, even though it would probably race off the shelves.

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radio-shack-logo.gifRadio Shack is changing its name to The Shack, but only unofficially. The Shack is apparently a "branding nickname," while Radio Shack will remain as the company's proper name.

One Radio Shack executive told PC Mag:

When a brand becomes a friend, it often gets a nickname - take FedEx or Coke, for example. Our customers, associates and even the investor community have long referred to RadioShack as 'THE SHACK,' so we decided to embrace that fact and share it with the world.
The only problem here is that I really do not know anyone who refers to Radio Shack as "The Shack."

Nevertheless, to help promote the new name, Radio Shack, I mean... The Shack, is promoting the ""Shack Summer Netogether," a live event featuring two 17-foot laptops in NYC and San Francisco.

PC World says that rebranding in an attempt to distance itself from the "Radio" name is probably a smart move for Radio Shack, even though the real problem it is facing in today's market is the size of its stores.

While more and more electronics are shoved into the confined spaces of The Shack, its competitors offer a shopping experience that doesn't force you to check your personal space at the door.

Another blogger sees this as a doomed move, complaining that the name is "less descriptive and forward looking." Plus, basketball legend "The Shaq" might be a little upset at having his name equity violated.

Radio Shack has 97% brand awareness among customers despite the unfortunate pairing of the words "radio" and "shack." With those numbers, the brand name is not going to change. And although it may be referred to as the "somewhat-forgotten-electronic-store-that-people-only-visit-when-they-really-need-to," it is still a brand that has survived quite a few innovations in the electronics industry.

the-new-hut-logo.gifPizza Hut, is another example of a brand that is dealing with a bit of nickname rebranding. In fact, Pizza Hut would have been named Pizza Shack by Dan and Frank Carney if the original store signage in Witchita, Kansas had been large enough for the extra two letters.

My feeling is that Radio Shack knows what it is, and this effort to make it just a little more au courant is a good one. It just happens to be one of those brand names that sticks in the minds of consumers.

As far as the accuracy of the name goes, well, have any of you ever downloaded anything other than music from iTunes?

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UNIQLO: A Retail Brand Naming Strategy That Just Works

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utzoom_090630.gifA recent comparison between the Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo and The Gap leads to the relieving thought that a well managed brand can thrive even during extremely difficult times.

Uniqlo is an Internet driven brand name that thrives on interactivity that is currently establishing a national presence in the USA at an unbelievable rate.

Their brand name awareness strategy is catching on and bloggers and consumers alike are taking notice. Customers are designing logos, downloading free avatars available online and getting real insight into "what is going on behind the brand."

UNIQLO-logo.gifThe new logo and the branding agenda reflects "the ultra-contemporary cool aspect of Japan, its pop culture rather than something traditional and Japanesey" and promotes a "beauty conscious, ultra rational style" that I think is truly cosmopolitan.

German fashion designer, Jill Sander, has also been involved with the brand, creating a cool sub-brand called +J.

What we are seeing here is a brand name that is trying not to just compete with other clothing labels, but with some of the other big brands known worldwide, namely Toyota, Honda, Sony and Panasonic.

All of this sounds strikingly similar to the Gap of a few decades ago.

Uniqlo is attempting to make inexpensive clothing fashionable, cool and trendy again, something the big names at the mall really stopped doing years ago. It's coupling high fashion branding with low fashion clothing.

And its working.

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