the product naming blog

June 8, 2012

When it Comes to Brand Naming, You Really Need to Know Sh#t from Shinola

I'm fascinated to see the arrival of Dallas-based company Bedrock manufacturing in Detroit.

They are setting up an upscale watch company at Detroit's College for Creative Studies A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education in New Center.

Shinola-watch.jpgThe watches look great and they plan on making half a million of them a year. This may actually be the revival of the American watchmaking industry. But the thing that has really caught my attention is the brand name...


Now, some of you may recall that Shinola used to be a shoe polish that saw its heyday in the 1940s. The shoe polish has since disappeared (although it has a Facebook page) but a classic expression that incorporates the name has lived on: "He doesn't know sh+t from Shinola."

The phrase even made it to the big screen in Steve Martin's The Jerk.

Now, one might think that the people who chose the name overlooked this expression, but interestingly enough, they liked it so much it was the inspiration for the name. The expression came up in a "heated brainstorming debate" and it, well, stuck.

Made-in-Detroit-Logo.gifJust as interesting is the equity the Detroit name has. The company chose to set up production of the watches there because they found that "Made in Detroit" actually means something.

The car ads have obviously paid off and brought a certain gritty panache to the city. In fact, Detroit seems to be slowly becoming aware of the value of its name.

When consumers were given a choice between a $5 pen made in China, a $10 pen made is the US, and a $15 pen made in Detroit, they preferred the more expensive pen "Made in Detroit."

Behind all this strategic planning is the founder of the hugely successful Fossil Watches, Tom Kartsotis, so this is no stab in the dark. Apparently, people like Kartsotis really do know sh+t from Shinola.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 7, 2012

Twitter Gives Its Naming and Branding the Bird

NewTwitterBird.pngSo Twitter is giving us all the bird - a new bird logo that is, and CNN calls it "cute and upwardly mobile."

Twitter has done away with the lowercase "t" and "bubbled typefaces."

Now, according to a Twitter blog post, "Twitter is the bird, the bird is Twitter." They go on to explain

Our new bird grows out of love for ornithology, design within creative constraints, and simple geometry. This bird is crafted purely from three sets of overlapping circles -- similar to how your networks, interests and ideas connect and intersect with peers and friends. Whether soaring high above the earth to take in a broad view, or flocking with other birds to achieve a common purpose, a bird in flight is the ultimate representation of freedom, hope and limitless possibility.

Twitter has released lots of do's and dont's around the new bird as well. We are required to use the bird to represent the brand, make sure the bird faces right, and allow for at least 150% buffer space around the bird.

The "don't" list is pretty fearsome: no rotating, coloring, animating the bird and no using speech bubbles or "other marks and logos to represent the brand."

This has let one source to say "the bird is the word," literally.

By the way, the bird's name is "Larry" and is named after basketball legend Larry Bird.

Design Week sniffs that Twitter should have "launched a new brand story," noting that negative reaction to a company's new logo "doesn't happen (as much) when rebrands are led by the story of what's happening to merit a new look, a new name or a fresh approach. Particularly if there's actually something in it for the audience."

I guess so, but then again the new logo is kind of cool.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 6, 2012

End of an Era: Sara Lee Brand Naming Changes to Hillshire Brands

After renaming their international coffee and tea division D.E. Master Blenders 1753, Sara Lee has now renamed its North American business Hillshire Brands Co., which will trade on the NYSE as HSH.

The name comes from the Hillshire Farm brand that was acquired in 1971, which Sara Lee says represents the company's "ambitions for growing our portfolio of iconic brands in the future."

Meanwhile, the name Sara Lee will be maintained for the food service division as Sara Lee Foodservice.

As one would expect, the company will have a new visual identity for its "meat-centric brand and snack solutions."

Obviously the Sara Lee name meant "bakery" to many people, but the Hillshire Brands portfolio includes meat brands, such as Jummy Dean, Ball Park, Hillshire Farm and State Fair as well as two "artisan" brands: Aidells and Gallo.

Hillshire Farm was established in Wisconsin in 1934 by Friedrich (Fritz) Bernegger in New London, just northwest of Appleton. The name still stands for "quality, integrity and superior taste" according to Sara Lee.

This is not the first time Sara Lee has embraced a name change. The Sara Lee name dates back to 1939, but the name itself was changed in 1954 to Consolidated Foods, only to switch back in 1985 to Sara Lee.

I think this marks the beginning of the end for the Sara Lee name as we know it, ushering in a far more streamlined approach to a greatly transformed company. Yet, I am glad the Sara Lee name will remain in some capacity even if I am not expecting to see it on retail shelves anymore.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 4, 2012

Will We Ever Understand Wii U Product Naming?

WiiULogo.pngIt's probably not a surprise to most gamers, but the Wii U product name will remain on Nintendo's upcoming home console.

This is a source of disappointment for some bloggers who are quick to point out that this product naming decision caused much confusion when it was announced in 2011.

By only tacking on the "U," many people thought is was just a tweak on the base unit, "like the DS Lite, DSi and DSi XL launched in previous years" suggests IGN, who already lambasted the Wii U name in an editorial as "too clever for its own good" because it doesn't differentiate the hardware from previous incarnations.

This may lead to a similar situation as the Nintendo 3DS where the company was forced to put red stickers on the boxes to differentiate them from the DS system while also reminding the people watching their TV advertising that "This is not DS. This is Nintendo 3DS."

I blogged about this earlier this year, pointing out that you really have to dig hard to figure out that Wii U is a whole new console. But Nintendo is adamantly sticking to the name, probably assuming we've figured it out by now.

As one blogger put it last month when it looked like the name was sticking around, "The Wii U Name is Final, Deal With It." I probably couldn't have put it better myself.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 25, 2012

Tide Faces a Poisonous Naming and Branding Issue That Many Other Companies Face

Pods.pngThe news that Tide Pods are being swallowed by children because they look like candy is a reminder that flashy packaging and naming can actually have a downside.

Tide has reacted quickly to this problem and is planning to release a childproof container for this summer.

For one, it doesn't seem logical that laundry detergent should have to come in a childproof container, but of course I laud the safety factor here.

I can see the problem, however. The product looks like candy.

Poison control centers are now telling parents to keep it out of reach, away from children. And now, of course, it will come in a hard to open package.

I might add that the word "pod" does have an alternate, edible meaning.

This is the kind of problem that can cause a branding and PR headache. If the product and name remains the same, but if they are put in a childproof mechanism, will this prevent people from buying the product? Will safety and ease of use trump the efficacy of the packets themselves?

Purex.pngNot surprisingly, Tide isn't alone. Purex also faces this problem. Purex UltraPacks come with a child warning, and one executive has said "This is a new form of laundry product and we will continue to join other manufacturers to safeguard and educate consumers on the correct storage and use of these products in the home."

I am sure that this will all come to a happy conclusion, but this is one of those times when safety becomes an unexpected issue.

There are a surprising number of household products that look like candy or food to little people.

Aspirin looks like Altoids. M & Ms look like all kinds of pills. So do Skittles. Mr. Clean looks like Gatorade, grape juice looks like Dimetapp and, if you're stretching it, Comet looks like Parmesan cheese.

These companies all rely on the good sense of customers to keep the product away from the kids.

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Posted by William Lozito at 8:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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