Branding: March 2011 Archives

ZippoLogo.pngSo it looks as if Zippo is moving into the risky world of brand name extension. The company is diversifying into men's fragrances, casual clothing, watches, camping supplies and other things not related to smoking.

Okay, I have to say that this all looks fine so far but... men's fragrances? Really? They do know what happned when another lighter company, BIC, tried to make perfume, yes? It turned out to be the kind of failure they teach about in business school.

They say they are turning themselves into a "lifestyle products company" but their predominant association with tobacco is a real challenge. In the past they considered making tape measures, key holders and belt buckles and even golf ball warmers!

But now, the company is really serious. They have developed a travel-retail store design that would fit into airports in duty-free shops worldwide and would obviously contain more than just lighters.

The risk is huge. As a blogger at WalletPop points out, "Remember Smith and Wesson mountain bikes? Colgate Kitchen Entrees? Bic underwear? Harley Davidson perfume? Probably not, because they were massive failures."

ZippoProducts.pngThe reason these things fail is that the association with the mother brand is just too strong. The brand and image of Zippo is rugged and durable, and thus they have started getting into backpacks, sunglasses, wallets, liquor flasks, and playing cards. Walletpop points out that they might ask themselves how to move away from these associations: "Wind-resistant? Emphysemic? Pyromaniac?"

Zippo, whose name was coined because its inventor liked the sound of the name "zipper," was called "probably the smallest billion-dollar brand in the world," in a recent Forbes article.

It boasts the same brand recognition overseas as Nike, Coke and the Olympic rings. This is a good thing, but it will also be a bad thing if people cannot accept that the company can authentically offer them something beyond lighters.

Wizbangpop puts it well: "Zippo might well tread carefully here, if the history of failed products with famous names is any clue to use some caution."

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Red Sox Owners Change Corporate Name

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BostonRedSox.pngThe company that owns the Red Sox has changed its name from New England Sports Ventures to the (much better) name of its marketing arm: Fenway Sports Group.

Ironically, this name is meant to better reflect the company's extensions
into NASCAR and British football (soccer), as the principle investors control Roush Fenway auto racing team and Liverpool FC, the British football club.

Created in 2001, the Fenway Sports Group also happens to own two of the best known sports venues in the world: Fenway Park and Anfield Stadium in the UK. The sports marketing arm will now be rebranded and named Fenway Sports Management.

Seems that "Fenway" is more global sounding than "New England."

Amusingly, the company has already put out a rap video in conjunction with the announcement that is meant to get us pried for baseball season. I'll simply say that the company's real strength seems to lie in sports management and promotion. As one Youtube reviewer says, it's "terrible but at the same time genius." Nice air violin, though.

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Now Apple Sues Amazon over "Appstore" Product Name

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Who will stop the madness? It looks like Apple is now going to sue Amazon over its term "Amazon Appstore."

As I have written before, Apple is extremely protective of its name "App Store" and is already in an ugly lawsuit with Microsoft over it. As Nicholas Deleon at Crunch Gear asks, "The question here is, is "app store," or any of its variants (App Store, Appstore, app store, etc.), generic enough to not warrant a trademark for Apple?"

This essentially puts Microsoft and Amazon in the same seat: as allies against Apple. This move by Apple is being called a preemptive strike against the rollout of Amazon's mobile app marketplace, according to Xconomy.

The entire world of app sales is in fact quite chaotic, according to the Wall Street Journal.

BlackBerry, for example, has an App Marketplace and other places where one might pick up apps for an Android phone seem to be little better than yard sales. The Amazon Appstore has about 3,800 applications and seems to be riding on the back of the Microsoft lawsuit that claims that the term "app store" is in fact generic, despite Apple's 2008 trademark of the name.

The Washington Post weighs in on this, with Hayley Tsukayama saying there is no likelihood of confusion between the "Amazon Appstore" and the "Apple App Store."

However, Amazon will probably change the name to something like "App Shop."

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TheBeatles_Apple.pngOne of the oldest conflicts in the world of product naming and branding was finally resolved last year when the Beatles gave permission for iTunes to sell their music.

This brought an end to a dispute that has gone on for decades between Apple Inc. and Apple Corps, the Beatles music label.

The actual legal sparring between the two companies ended four years ago, but now Apple is filing to take over the Granny Smith apple logo that every Beatles fan knows so well.

Patently Apple has found filings for 14 international trademark classifications in areas like "computer hardware, online social networking services, mobile phones, musical instruments, games, clothing/headgear, advertising, education and broadcasting." This transferal of the famous logo was part of the 2007 settlement between the two companies, but obviously Apple Inc. wanted to wait until the music was available for their use before going through the process of filing and protecting it. This is, in effect, just tying up loose ends.

Applealbum.pngThe actual list of things Apple might use the logo for is broad, certainly far more than the Beatles ever envisioned back in 1968.

This is partly due to Apple's notorious thoroughness in protecting its trademarks, but also makes me wonder when we will see this logo.

Surely Apple won't just use it on iTunes? It is doubtful that the Apple logo we all know and love will change, but I have to wonder if this might make its way into other offerings.

I, for one, am excited by this development because I am eager to see the logo make a comeback.

I am not going to call this a "zombie brand" because online music is really where it is at for the Beatles, and Apple Inc. is a far better home for the logo than on some shelf in England.

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The cigarette industry in the UK is about to ban shops from displaying tobacco products next year.

The Department of Health has instituted a "tobacco control plan" meant to make cigarette smoking a bit more expensive and awkward. More than that, they are thinking about instituting plain packaging on cigarettes, as Australia has.

Cigarettes.pngThis has, of course, been met with some rancor in some parts pf the blogosphere, with the bloggers over at Spiked saying bitterly, "It's official: young people are dumb. They are so unbelievably dumb, so desperate for mental stimulation, that they can become hooked on cigarettes just by looking at the pretty packets and the cabinets they're displayed in."

Of course there is very little proof that displaying tobacco product names in stores will prompt people to pick up a pack, but the UK seems bent upon stamping out smoking by young people.

Says the writer at Spiked, "Above all, it is also stretching credulity to believe that a generation surrounded by iPhones, Playstations, Xboxes, satellite TV and the internet could find mere coloured bits of card - cigarette packets - so tantalising that they are unable to resist the cancer sticks inside."

I have to laugh. Those brand names on the "coloured bits of card" that adorn everything from Froot Loops to iPads seem to sell the product inside very nicely, thank you.

The threat that ciggies could come in white boxes bearing only the name of the brand and a dire health warning should go far with taking some of the glamour out of smoking, if not its dubious appeal.

This is an obvious step forward to public health in the UK and has been lauded by the British Heart Foundation.

But it seems like none other than Kate Moss has the final word here as the supermodel lit a cigarette on the catwalk last week on No Smoking Day, drawing applause from the audience. This led one blogger to comment, "What a shower of wretched cretins, praising this playground act of filter-tipped anarchy."

The UK follows Australia in banning product naming and branding from cigarette packs, and one has to think this is a trend that will sooner or later hit the USA.

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ApplevsMicrosoft.pngMicrosoft and Apple are fighting again. This, of course, is really business as usual, but now things have taken a weird twist.

Microsoft, in the middle of a court spat with Apple over the name "App Store," complained to the court that Apple's defense was written in a font that was too small.

This is not a joke.

Apparently, you are allowed to submit 25 pages of defense material in 11 point font, and Apple chose to ignore both rules, scoring an additional 10 pages.

According to one source, Microsoft filed a motion that said: "Apple's response brief is 31 pages, including the table of contents and table of authorities, and on information and belief, is printed in less than 11 point font."

Remember doing that kind of thing in college?

AppStoreLogo.pngMicrosoft wants its own "App Store" and is arguing that Apple can't trademark this term as it has become generic. Apple has 15 days to hand in a shortened defense document sporting the correct font.

Apple says that Microsoft is "missing the forest for the trees" and points out that while "apps" is in common usage, "App Store" is not.

They say that their trying to own the name is just as legitimate as, say, trying to trademark the name "Windows," which was also in common usage before it was trademarked by Microsoft.

In their defense, Apple consulted with a linguist who established that the public generally associates "App Store" with Apple. They further argue that there are plenty of "noun plus" names out there that are trademarked, like Shade Store, Swag Store and The Paper Store.

Names like "Books on Tape" and "Vision Center" also take words in common usage and trademark them. "App Store," therefore, is like "The Radiator Store," according to Apple.

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The iPad 2 and Alphanumeric Product Naming

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ipad2.gifSo I didn't think Apple would go with the iPad 2 product name. Frankly, I didn't think they'd go with the name iPad when it was first introduced.

But I have been thinking about the name, as have alot of bloggers, and lo and behold an interesting blog comes out about numbers and brand naming.

"As history goes, number-letter combinations have held religious, superstitious, mythical and, of course, mathematical significance. Some would argue that numbers are the most universal form of language," but when it comes to the iPad 2, one writer tells us that all Apple really cares about is the number "2," because they've already defined the product category by establishing the iPad brand name.

A quick perusal of the brands Apple offers shows just how dependent they are on alphanumeric naming. Now there is some scholarly research that argues heavily in favor of alphanumeric naming, but it also shows us that word names are more useful to customers on products with a "high need for cognition." In other words, Apple buyers pretty much know the products. The iPad 2 is a fine name for them because they are so well steeped in the brand that a really exciting new name is just overkill.

Still, the crucial problem is managing the names and making sure that customer cognition stays where it ought to be. Apple supports its brand names with a lot of advertising, ensuring that its legions of fans are well aware of even the slightest brand tweak.

Those brands that do not have the luxury of such recognition might want to think twice about alphanumeric naming when it comes to developing new product names.

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StarbucksLogos.pngSo the new Starbucks logo is now in play, upon the company's 40th anniversary.

In addition to the new logo, we are also getting a Tribute Blend as well as a collection of eight small baked goods called "Petites." I have to say I am intrigued.

Even more intriguing is the way the new nameless, iconic logo is being associated with the return of Howard Schultz and the company's "comeback."

The new logo even gets kudus as far away as China and France (where the company's ever popular Via coffee needs a new name thanks to a sticky local trademark).

Starbucks stock is climbing to a 52 week high and a book entitled "Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul" will be released on the 29th of this month that is essentially a love fest for Starbucks' flamboyant CEO, who is really the coffee industry's answer to Steve Jobs.

Starbucks Tribute Blendâ„¢.pngI mean, the tribute blend is actually called "Tribute."

Now, do not get me wrong. I like Starbucks and I admire the way the company is clawing its way out of the mire. I even like the logo (with some reservations), but I have also spent hours blogging about the company's seemingly imminent demise.

But now, all of these developments seem to be very encouraging. What I see as most encouraging is the way Starbucks is reframing our perceptions of the company.

The title of new book is a great example - as far as I can see, the company is still fighting for it's life against the likes of McDonald's.

What encourages me is the real outpouring of love for the company across the blogosphere.The attention that Starbucks gets is first class - probably because so many bloggers are coffee drinkers.

And the perception that Starbucks has somehow come back from a David and Goliath kind of fight against an unseen Goliath (the economy, trends, health concerns, various competitors, the company's own over-expansion) is really pretty interesting.

Anyway, here's to you Starbucks. Good luck!

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There are some stories in the world of naming and branding that are almost too ridiculous and absurd to write about, saved for the fact that they do illustrate an interesting point about the business.

LadyGaga-MeatDress.pngTake, for instance, the story that Lady Gaga is suing an ice cream maker in the UK for offering something called Baby Gaga - ice cream made from breast milk. Yes, such a product exists. A London shop was found offering the (disgusting) stuff - a concoction of "breast milk, vanilla pods and lemon zest," served by waitresses dressed up like, well, Lady Gaga.

Legal documents filed on Lady Gaga's behalf say that "The references you are making to Lady Gaga are thus clearly deliberate and intended to take advantage of her reputation and good will." Well, this much might or might not be true.

The document goes on to say "associating the Lady Gaga mark with a food product which may be unsafe for human consumption (owing to the risk of it carrying such viruses as hepatitis) is also highly detrimental" to her brand.

Well, this is true, but there might be nothing she can do about it. The ice cream maker, for his part, says these claims are "preposterous and outrageous." Well, he would, wouldn't he?

At least one blogger points out that Lady Gaga cannot claim the word "gaga," since we have been using it to speak to our babies since forever. And, Lady Gaga herself lifted the name from the Queen song "Radio Gaga" (I don't see the surviving members of Queen up in arms about the ice cream, by the way).

As one London news site says, "Having entered the Grammys in a giant womb and performed in an outfit made of meat, you'd think Lady Gaga would be happy to see herself associated with a stomach-churning new product."

I guess not.

The ice cream maker, who runs The Icecreamist Limited restaurant in London, further points out that "A global superstar has taken umbrage at what she describes as a 'nausea-inducing' product... This from a woman with a penchant for wearing rotting cows' flesh. At least our customers are still alive when they contribute to our 'art'."

The ice-cream will be pulled from the shelves anyway due to (seemingly obvious) health concerns so Lady Gaga needn't worry. But I really do doubt that she can protect the Gaga name, even when it comes to something like breast milk ice cream.

The likelihood of confusion just isn't there, and the name Gaga is in general usage.

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Ikea Has Furniture Naming to a Science

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ikea.pngThe more I think about furniture naming, the more confused I get.

An excellent article in the Clarion Ledger takes a look at the names retailers attach to furniture.

Furniture, upon reflection, really begs to be named. You'd rather have a "Jasmine Chair" than "XY 9811 Chair", says the article, and I agree. Designers are so passionate about their furniture that we more often than not see pieces of furniture bearing female names, although there is a "Joe" leather chair that pays homage to Joe DiMaggio.

IkeaBedroom.pngCrate & Barrel also sells an "Astaire" wingback Chair because the shiny leather on it reminded one buyer of the famous dancer. But the same store sells a "Scarlet" couch, as in "Scarlet O'Hara."

Just getting to grips with the names of traditional furniture is complex enough. The Antiques Almanac is very helpful here. Do you know the difference between a bedstead and a high-daddy, for instance? Or what is a commode... really (it's not what you think)?

The couch is actually a term taken from the French, coucher, "to lie down." And a Martha Washington sewing table was named 120 years after she died. And even if you're not into antiques, do you know the difference between a "server" and a "sideboard?"

Ikea has the biggest battle in naming products: they offer 10,000+ differently named pieces of furniture, and their naming system is a science. They create the brand names with the help of a computer and grab names from dictionaries and even birth announcements. Most are single words with Scandinavian origins.

IkeaKitchen.pngBeds get Norwegian place names; seating and dining tables get Finnish place names. Girls and boys names are used for fabric and some office furniture and shelving. Thus, you could get a bookcase called a "Billy."

A full breakdown of the naming system shows us that bathroom things get named after Scandinavian lakes, rivers and bays, while kitchens get grammatical terms.

Or, you could go to this handy online Ikea furniture naming app and instantly create an Ikea furniture brand name. It's funny, but not necessarily accurate.

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iPad2Logo.pngIt's called the iPad 2. That's the official name.

"It all seemed like a name used just as a placeholder, so that we could know the [difference] when referring to the at the time unnamed device. However, it seems that Apple chose to make the iPad 2 the official name of the second-generation iPad" points out iSmashPhone.

iPad2Cover.pngIt sports a 33% thinner design and weighs less that the original iPad, which I suppose will continue to be just the iPad for the rest of its short existence.

There's also a dual-core 1GHz processor, optional AT&T and Verizon models, front- and rear-facing cameras, same 10-hour battery life, and it'll be available in white or black.

Jonny Evans at Computerworld asks, somewhat poetically, "What is the iPad 2?" After pointing out that yesterday the iPad became "obsolete." The iPad 2, he says, "Isn't going to be the revolution. It's going to film it. Make the music for it. Write it. Talk about it and share it. This is a collectively social thought enabler, the reincarnation of the digital connection between the acolytes of augmented reality on this still fairly green planet."

The iPad 2 is going to be a major headache for Android competitors thanks to its power and price, despite Motorola's assurances that the Xoom will weather the onslaught just fine.

iPad2Covers.pngThis might be why Apple has broken with tradition and put a "2" in front of a second generation device... for the first time in its history. Yes, this will invariably upset iPad owners, but the iPad 2 screams to consumers that Apple held the tablet space first.

I am frankly surprised that the company went this naming route, but looking at how upgraded and powerful it is, I can see why they did it.

This is a total rethink of the iPad and it is rightfully pulling in the fence sitters.

So, iPad 2 it is.

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AthenosLogo.pngOne of the new ads for Kraft's Athenos line of Greek foods is getting more than its fair share of flack.

A TV spot that started Monday shows a Greek grandmother (referred to a a "Yiayia") telling her grandaughter she dresses like a "prostitute," but her Athenos dip is just fine.

Kraft knows that their Yiayia ads are controversial but also says the campaign is light hearted and that "any Greek Americans we ran them by thought they were really funny."

The ad campaign shows "blunt, yet relatable Greek yiayias with old-school mentalities share unsolicited opinions of modern situations.

AthenosGreekCampaign.pngThey are designed to appeal to young people and, according the the Athenos brand manager, "emphasize that ATHENOS is the only leading brand of hummus made with 100% olive oil and our Greek yogurt has no preservatives or artificial flavors."

OK, but let's get back to the prostitute thing...

The ad has a perfectly normal looking woman who is possibly Greek-American but could also be a non-Greek in-law using the Athenos product, then gets told she dresses like a prostitute by her Yaiyai.

One expert has called these "a desperate attempt to generate attention" despite the fact that at least one other writer finds them "authentic and amusing" and points out that Katherine Boulukos, "a founder of the Greek Museum in New York City", was consulted to ensure that they reflected Greek sensibilities.

Alas, according to USA Today, Maria Anagnostopoulos, program director at The Greek Institute, says "These commercials are not appropriate from a Greek perspective."

Interestingly, competing Greek brand Chobani has embraced a fan-based social media campaign. Kraft's hope for the Athenos Yiayia campaign was that it would go viral, but this may not be the feedback they want.

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LandRoverLogo.pngLand Rover and Chinese car maker Geely have disputed the meaning of "Luhu" for over a decade.

The name "Luhu" is a romanization of the Chinese characters meaning "Land Tiger" or "Road Tiger" as "land" and "road" can both be pronounced "lu" but are distinct characters.

Apparently there is not a Chinese word for "rover" (unsurprisingly), as Land Rover has been using the "Luhu" Chinese characters since the early 1990s, with some Chinese using "Luhu" meaning "Land Tiger," and for others, "Road Tiger."

In 1999, Geely filed for the trademark to "Land Tiger" with the Chinese Bureau of Industry and Commerce, with it approved in 2001.

In 2004, it was noticed that Land Rover replaced their product description of "Land Tiger" with "Road Tiger" at the Beijing Auto Show.

But when they tried to make it official, they were denied. Since "Road Tiger," in Roman letters, is the same as the Geely trademark: Luhu.

Now the storied British carmaker is suing the Chinese Trademark Appeal Board under the State Administration for Industry and Commerce. They want the Geely mark to be repealed for obvious reasons.

LandRover.pngGeely has not yet used the name but Land Rover is taking no chances.

Geely has further noted that their new car model, the FC-1, will not bear the Luhu name.

This is the type of lawsuit that I am sure will occur many times as overseas companies try to protect their marks in China.

It is difficult to say who is in the right. Surely much of the equity with the brand name in China lies in how it is presented in Chinese characters. The problem seems to lie in the Chinese "first to file" rule that allows locals to snap up brands that might have value in the future.

According to Auto Car News, the well known Land Rover mark might have been possible to protect because it is well known throughout China, but Luhu is fair game even if Land Rover was using it in another context.

Land Rover's decision to sue the actual Chinese Trademark Appeal Board (it is actually the China Trademark Review and Adjudication Board) is its best means of getting the Geely mark overturned.

But things look grim for Land Rover. That Luhu mark is essentially meaningless, and the bloggers are betting that the Chinese Trademark law will prevail in Geely's favor.

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