Branding: 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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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, 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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Behold the Seiko Ananta.

This is a spring drive chronograph watch that is set to compete head on with Rolex with a price range to match.

That's right, it's a Seiko. But therein lies a naming and branding story worthy of careful study.

First of all, Seiko has long been associated in the American consumer's mind with cheap and cheerful quartz watches, even though their watches have been to the ocean floor, the moon, the Olympics and in numerous James Bond films. As Zero Hedge says, this is their Lexus.

The entire brand is getting an overhaul and they are using this brand as a means of providing a unique experience for their consumers and to prove to the world that they can create top quality watches with real brand equity.

Already seen as a premium brand in Asia, Seiko is redefining itself to the rest of the world as the minutes tick by.

This month The Fashion Watches for Women blog announced that Seiko was the "new hip name in watches." With brand name timepieces like "Orange Monster, Black Samurai, White Knight" that are revered in Asia, it's easy to see the watches booming worldwide.

Peter Farrar, a fashionable watch guru states that Seiko and Armani are now two of the most popular names in timepieces.
The Ananta is really something special. gave it a very high ranking, stating that it is the men's watch to own in 2010.

The timepiece also received much attention at Baselworld 2010, the watch industry's annual trade fair.

Seiko is pushing their brand name into the stratosphere using a smart branding strategy. The name "Ananta" is Sanskrit for "the infinite" and it references the ancient craftsmanship of the orient very nicely. Although some say that people at Baselworld thought the watch was curiously called "the banana.'

More important is the art of "Katana", which they have linked beautifully to the Ananta. Katana is the centuries old trade of sword making. This is referenced in the design of the watch as well as the polish of the case and bracelet.

The Antana website features a video of a sword being made before it splashes into the watch itself. The introduction of this world has caught the imagination of the entire blogosphere. What do swords have to do with watches? It's a forced association, of course, but a massively effective one.

The Swiss may have the reputation for making good watches sealed, but the Japanese have always been able to produce beautiful swords and associated craftsmanship. It's brilliant, really.

This is a case of a brand taking its weakness, association with Japanese watchmaking which is seen as cheap but dependable, and turning it on its head.

I want one.

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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.
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.
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.
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."


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,, 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, 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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AustraliaUnlimited.gifAustralia's new slogan is "Australia Unlimited," while the (unattached) new tourism campaign will use the tagline "There's Nothing Like Australia."

The latter was launched via an amusing, and effective, interactive campaign recently. "Australia Unlimited," however, was coined by the same people who brought us the disastrous "So Where the Bloody Hell Are You?" campaign that many people felt was offensive and promoted the idea of Australia being filled with foul mouthed rubes rather than as an excellent tourism and business destination.

Trade minister Simon Crean said of the new tagline, "Being the 'quiet achiever' is not going to cut it in an increasingly competitive global market...We need to market ourselves better. Australia is known as a great place to have a holiday but it is also a great place to do business."

The campaign will be launched during the Shanghai Expo in China next week, who is Australia's largest trading partner.

The worldwide chairman of the agency that created the campaign, Tom Dery, said in a radio interview (click here for the full interview) that this reflects the "unlimited potential" of the country and will "attract immigration, investment, and promote a lot of things that perhaps people overseas aren't aware we've got in Australia."

I have watched this rebranding campaign since its inception in August of last year. The campaign is taking its cues from New Zealand's 100% Pure campaign, which has been in effect for over a decade and attracted both tourists and business people to the country.

The new tagline does indeed promote the idea of limitless possibilities, although it sounds a tad corporate. But then again, that may be the point. I also find it amusing that the Australians, true to form, can't resist creating a slogan that sounds bigger than that of their Kiwi counterpart.

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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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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."
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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attiphone.pngApple has granted AT&T an extension of its iPhone exclusivity agreement in a "Faustian" bargain that sees AT&T providing "low-cost and truly unlimited data plans for the iPad."

But the extension is only for six months, and then the service goes up for grabs again, much to the delight of Verizon, whose grab for the iPad was purportedly rejected.

If it's in the stars, Verizon could be getting access to the iPhone in 2011.

Last month I wrote about AT&T's decision to drop its name from its logo. This is a part of the company's attempt to become a "lifestyle company," and its new tagline, "Rethink Possible," really reflects this.

This movement to a "lifestyle company" like Apple, seems to be exactly what AT&T has been up to as it faces the possibility of losing its exclusive agreement with Apple to carry the iPhone. Is it a coincidence that this change happens now? I doubt it.

I also think its recent decision to finally rename it's Hulu-esque video portal with the somewhat strange name U-verse online is part of the company's relentless attempt to look less stodgy and more hip. AT&T's TV Everywhere strategy is one that is close to the hearts of Apple enthusiasts, and Apple is everything to AT&T.

Some think the U-verse name is a "placeholder" while AT&T finds a way to repurpose its video site. Right now, not much has changed for AT&T Entertainment users since AT&T launched it last year.

AT&T seems to be paying attention to naming and branding now because the entire industry is reinventing itself.

Already, the wireless industry is radically changing in ways that are hard to fathom. As Marketing Review says,

"A few examples are Sprint working with Ford to put the Internet on the dashboard. Or AT&T working with power companies to read meters wirelessly, saving money on meter readers. There are many examples. Suddenly the marketplace is different with new competition from many companies like Comcast, Time Warner and Cox."
Or Verizon, which really must be a bane of AT&T's existence, having recently received higher ranking than AT&T in terms of brand ranking.
verizonattmap copy.png
Half of Verizon's users want an iPhone and would switch if their carrier offered it.

The problem AT&T faces is one that I have written about before, and it's a brand name issue. People who use iPhones need to be educated about their carrier. If AT&T Mobility loses that exclusive agreement at the end of the year, they are in deep trouble.

Too many Apple users are going to look for a fresher, younger, trendy brand name, like Verizon, just for the sake of it. Another segment of them will fall away because so many iPhone users are fed up with AT&T's coverage.

AT&T is playing a brutal game of catch up.

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