Branding: June 2011 Archives

Fair or Foul: How to Name a Sports Team

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Winnipeg Jets, NHL.jpegDuring a recently announced move from Atlanta to Winnipeg, the professional hockey team formerly known as the Thrashers asked themselves a very important question: what do we call ourselves?

In yesterday's Fox News business edition, our Chief Linguistics Officer, Diane Prange, was asked about the name change.

Just like most newly developed brand names on the market today, the target market is key. And in professional sports, the target market just happens to be made up of large groups of very passionate fans.

"We think getting all of your constituencies involved in a decision makes a lot of sense," said Diane Prange, chief linguistics officer at brand-naming firm Strategic Name Development. "They have to own it, they have to love it and you want to make them feel good about the process."

In the end, the Thrashers adopted the Jets name, which may sound familiar as it was the name of a previously jettisoned hockey franchise in Winnipeg that currently goes by the Phoenix Coyotes.

To read the full article and learn more tips on naming a professional sports team, click here.

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What secretary suggested a name for a famous book publishing brand?

What iconic snack name is derived from the Spanish translation, "little gold?"

WalmartPenguinDoritos.pngThe first Walmart store opened in Rodgers, Arkansas. Do you know what year the first Walmart store opened?

The secretary to Allan Lane, founder of the Penguin publishing brand, suggested the Penguin name since it met Lane's criteria of being "dignified and flippant." The first published book under the Penguin name released on July 30, 1935.

Who isn't aware of and or eaten Doritos, the "little golden" chips, which became a registered trademark on July 27, 1964.

In a tiny hamlet in the Northwest corner of Arkansas, on July 2, 1962, with a population less than 6,000 people, Sam Walton started a retail revolution that today consists of over 8,500 stores globally.

For more significant branding events that occurred in the month of July, go to This Day in Branding, starting July 1st.

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FDACigaretteWarnings2012.pngThe big naming and branding news of the day seems to be the grisly, graphic health warnings that will be required on cigarette packs starting in September 2012.

This marks the first change to the warnings in 25 years. The warnings the FDA will require include nine different text warnings and color graphics.

These graphics include, "a man smoking through a tracheotomy hole in his throat, a horribly diseased lung, mottled teeth and gums, a man breathing with an oxygen mask and a man's body with a large scar running down the chest."

The warnings will cover the top 50% of the front and rear panels of the package. They will also appear on cigarette ads, covering at least 20% of the ad's area.

FDACigaretteWarning2012Baby.pngStudies have shown that graphic ads are more effective than print ads (duh) and they are more persuasive in encouraging people to quit. But this does not mean they will actually do so - it seems that raising the costs of the packs or imposing draconian workplace rules is more effective.

Tobacco companies have threatened lawsuits, arguing that this is a violation of their free speech rights and, importantly, makes the actual brand name on the box "difficult, if not impossible to see." The images also "demonize" a legitimate product by eliciting "loathing, disgust, and repulsion."

The interesting thing to note is that serious smokers still buy packs with graphic images to get their "fix," but the graphics have a marked effect on those considering taking up the habit. This, in turn, offers us an interesting case study on how consumers react to naming and branding and associated imagery.

FDACigaretteWarning2012KillsYou.pngThe fact that companies see the images as a threat to their brand name is understandable. Most of the equity on the package lies there, and whatever image is tagged across it diminishes that.

I am certain this will cause a decline in the number of cigarettes bought by first time smokers, but I also have to wonder if being tied to an ugly image will bring down the equity of some of the biggest brands.

There is no other industry that faces quite the same challenge, as cigarette companies try to highlight the brand name on the packs to make it is as attractive as possible.

Now, it seems to me there will be no way to promote the name without customers seeing images of dying babies or cadavers.

Surely this will change how we perceive these brand names? As of next year, The Marlboro Man will now have to share ad space with "fat naked post-op scar guy." Ouch.

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iCloudCommunications.pngIn April, I noted that Apple was probably going to be using the iCloud brand name as part of its effort to create a more effective MobileMe offering and break into the nebulous world of cloud computing.

The name was made official on June 6.

On June 9, Apple found itself being sued for using the iCloud name by iCloud Communications, a Phoenix-based voice-over IP provider, leading at least one blogger to point out that Apple seems to ride roughshod over companies whose trademarks they happen to want.

Mobile Burn published part of the complaint and it's worth reading.

The goods and services with which Apple intends to use the 'iCloud' mark are identical to or closely related to the goods and services that have been offered by iCloud Communications under the iCloud Marks since its formation in 2005. However, due to the worldwide media coverage given to and generated by Apple's announcement of its "iCloud" services and the ensuing saturation advertising campaign pursued by Apple, the media and the general public have quickly come to associate the mark "iCloud" with Apple, rather than iCloud Communications.

The complaint goes on to note the other trademark lawsuits that Apple has dealt with, like the famous Beatles Apple Corps battle, the iPhone dispute with Cisco and the mighty problems they faced getting use of the the Mighty Mouse trademark.

Apple, which is probably licking its wounds over the patent fight it just lost with Nokia, is probably not going to take this sitting down. And they probably won't have to.

Apple acquired the iCloud domain name and the US trademark from a company based in Sweden called Xcerion.

More than that, amazingly, the Phoenix company has never registered the trademark. It seems inconceivable to me that a technology company would not protect the iCloud mark given Apple's obvious propensity for names beginning with "i."

But possibly when the Phoenix company founded the word "cloud," they didn't think it sounded too techie. "Surely Steve Jobs won't be creating Apple clouds," the company's lawyers must have assured them.

Um, wrong.

As another blogger says, "Given the 'due diligence' Apple has done in registering the domain names, getting the Google juice, Apple might already be saying 'iCloud is my cloud'."

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CharlieSheen.pngI promised myself I would not blog about Charlie Sheen, but since I have already written about Kim Kardashian changing her name it only seems fair that I give some thought to Sheen.

In particular, his decision to try and trademark 22 catchphrases. Such as, "Sober Valley Lodge," "Tiger Blood" and "Sheen's Goddesses."

At the end of May, Sheen added "Sheenius" and "Masheen" to the list. This was after he made a rap song with Snoop Dogg called "Winning." And it's that term that I'd like to focus on, partly because "Park Your Nonsense" is not worth my attention.

You see, we regular people who are not blessed with "Adonis DNA" and are not "living the Sheen dream" (yes, these are on the list), are actually likely to use the term "winning." So how can Sheen claim it?

A very interesting blog in Inventor's Digest takes a sober look at how many states offer protection for a celebrity's catchphrases and slogans. This meant that Johnny Carson could prevent a toilet company for trying to use the the phrase "Here's Johnny." Just check out "Carson v. Here's Johnny Portable Toilets, Inc., 698 F.2d 831, 218 USPQ 1 (6th Cir. 1983).

The key here is preventing a "false suggestion of a connection" to the star. If others use the term "winning" in a way that suggests Sheen's endorsement of its use (say on a product or piece of clothing), then there is room for legal action. And thus, amazingly, Charlie Sheen has room to say that he is actually practicing due diligence when trying to trademark things like "I am not bi-polar, I am bi-winning."

Sheen, however, is going to discover that several trademarks actually exist for the word "winning," despite the fact that he has an immense list of goods and services he wants to link his trademarks to.

What is far more likely is that Sheen will be encouraged to trademark the phrase in the entertainment sphere (he's already looking for "spoken word, comedy, music, celebrity, and entertainment") and that's it.

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The End of Brand Naming?

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Brands.pngI have been sitting here for some time sipping coffee and digesting a blog post by Al Ries in Ad Age, who predicts that "brand advertising is on its way out."

The problem, as he sees it, is that as a brand grows stronger, it starts to associate itself with more and more products - Crest goes from toothpaste to mouthwash and whitener; Starbucks goes from coffee to, well, pretty much everything. Likewise, car companies are touting car models, not the automobile brand.

He ends rather glumly: "And so it goes. As a brand expands into different varieties and different categories, the brand itself loses its ability to stand for anything specific. And if a brand cannot stand for something specific, it cannot be advertised in an effective way."

Hmm. My first thought is that there is no question he is right. But when I think of truly powerful brands - say, Apple, or Virgin, or Sony, or, for that matter, Starbucks - I think about the fact that all of them manage to balance off the number of product categories and markets with the resonance of the brand.

I keep asking myself if Al isn't just returning to the time honored arguments around brand dilution via product extension that we all study in college. Yes, many times adding more offerings creates more exposure for the brand, but the meaning gets diluted. For many companies this is not necessarily a bad thing. The problem is ensuring that each new product brings in new customers and does not unduly cannibalize existing ones.

Many companies, like Nike, manage to walk the line perfectly. The more interesting idea here is to look at the ways in which a brand name is managed as the product offerings expand. The more congruent these are, and the more each product jibes with the others, the less likely it is that the equity of the brand name will lessen.

Apple Computer, for example, moved to being Apple Inc. relatively painlessly. In fact, this was a step forward for the company.

This has something to do with the idea of push vs. pull advertising. The more you have to convince customers to buy products, the less power your name has. The more you convince them that everything you offer has a "wow" element (Apple does this well), the less you have to tout functional attributes.

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KimKardashianKrisHumphries.pngI have written before - with some awe - about the value of the Kardashian name.

The Kardashians are, according to the LA Times, a "branding machine" worth $65 million last year. Kim leverages about $12 million a year off it in "brand value" according to Forbes.

Now, Kim wants to change it. To, um, Humphries.

She is getting married to basketball star Kris Humphries and wants to do the traditional thing. As one of the acolytes in Kamp Kardashian has (rightly) pointed out, "If anything -- Kris should change his name to Kris Kardashian."

Others hope she does not hyphenate her name. I'm not even going to bother typing out what that would look like, because it will immediately make me imagine what it would look like on a perfume bottle.

This may be a means through which Kim, the (far) higher earner in the union, can accommodate her husband. Kim's mother, Kris Jenner - what's with all these people whose names start with K? - has said that "She needs to be Kim Kardashian because she's worked so hard to get where she is."

Ditching the Kardashian name is likely to cause some family strife, as Kim's mother is really the brand manager for the sisters.

Celebrity Blend assures us that this is not a biggie:

Celebrities do this all the time. They change their name legally, but audiences will still refer to them by the name they are famous for. We may understand your dismay, Jenner, but her name and the money she's tied to is a part of a brand. When her name ceases to exist on paper, it will surely live on in our TV's (sic).

Well, that's a relief.

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