Industry: August 2008 Archives

Popeyes Branding and Naming Moves Upscale

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The news that Popeyes is revamping its brand name has got me thinking, Popeyes Chicken, that is.

Popeyes_logo.pngPopeyes Chicken and Biscuits is changing its name to Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and will also unveil a new logo, tagline and ad campaign, but will continue on without a possessive apostrophe, which the founder once claimed he was "too poor" to afford.

The new name allows Popeyes to offer a broader menu than just chicken, to a slightly higher paying clientele. It also "reminds customers of the labor that goes into creating the brand's authentic taste."

genehackman.jpgApparently, Popeyes was not originally named after the lovable cartoon sailor, but actually after Popeye Doyle, the drunken, brawling character Gene Hackman plays in the French Connection. It was only later that the company moved to successfully acquire rights to Popeye the Sailor. The problem is that both characters are becoming distant memories to the under thirty crowd and might in fact lead to the "P" in the middle of the new logo becoming all that remains of Popeyes original brand name.

That said, Popeye may actually be a name that has dubious value. Aside from the fact that it was the name of an ill fated missile, it also has some interesting literary allusions.

For one, John Ashberry's famous poem speaks of a Popeye who was "forced to leave the country."

But most notable, Popeye is the name of one of Faulkner's most notorious villains, a character inspired by Popeye Pumphrey, a real-life criminal during the 1920s in Memphis.

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Ghost Brand Naming Haunts Hard Times

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I'm haunted by ghost brand names that often tend to reappear during economic downturns, or so says the New York Times.

The cost of introducing new brand names into the market can be even more frightening than resurrecting the dead, and this has meant that some brands are walking among us that we once believed to be buried.

eaglesnacks.pngEagle Snacks is one example. Surprisingly, 6 out of 10 adults remember the brand. It would cost between $300 and $500 million to get those types of numbers with a new snacks brand, so welcome back, Eagle Snacks.

But there also tends to be a new twist on the beloved brand names that keep resurfacing. Eagle Snacks has added brand extensions named Bursts and Poppers, while the Alka-Seltzer brand has been revived with its own extension called Wake-Up Call.

Even credit card branding has ghost brands that seem to come back as sub-brands or are kept alive, marketed to select groups.

Old car brands might be floating over to Europe and Asia, specifically Oldsmobile, Le Sabre, Park Avenue and Century.

In addition, Miller is reviving its "Great Taste, Less Filling" ads.

6a00e39822b72d883300e553eb0bc48833-320wi.jpgBut the real brand naming comeback of the year is Hydrox cookies, which is a brand that simply will not die thanks to avid consumer activism.

This means thousands of phone calls, petitions and, of course, an online campaign that was started by one loyal cookie fan. Other bloggers have even asked Kellogg's to start a Hydrox-Oreo taste test.

More and more brand naming is getting into the hands of people who just will not let a good brand RIP.

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bg_volltage_winner.pngMountain Dew Voltage has won its DEWmocracy election, handily beating proposed brand names Mountain Dew Revolution and Mountain Dew Supernova.

The DEWmocracy initiative has been a major consumer-driven campaign that collected 350,000 votes (Voltage received 42% of them). Around 1.6 million people visited the site to help design the product, watch indy movies and play games, all of which ultimately made Voltage the "people's Dew" according to one Pepsi executive.

This stuff looks pretty good although there are some bloggers who don't share my enthusiasm.

Voltage and other Mountain Dew brand extensions including Dew's Code Red, Live Wire and Baja Blast, as well as this extensive naming competition, are going to elevate the Mountain Dew brand, which is already known as the best drink to buy when studying late at night.

But this initiative is yet another indicator that some branding is going to depend more and more on social media than it has in the past.

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Pontiac G8 ST Naming Trumps El Camino, Truck Norris

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pontiac-g8-st-1280-009.pngPontiac has decided to name its new sport truck the G8 ST despite a concerted movement by fans to resurrect the El Camino name as part of Pontiac's Tame the Name contest.

There have been irritated grumblings in the blogosphere about the fact that Pontiac actually started with this name, and after 80,000 entries and 18,000 distinct names were submitted, decided to stick with it.

GM claims it "thought long and hard about El Camino," but also noticed a trend in the submissions towards simpler names.

The G8 ST is certainly not the worst names out there, but it does end a big naming contest with a whimper. (The prize was given at random to one of the entrants).

I think that there are a few things that we can take away here.

First of all, truck naming is very difficult. 18,000 names are actually not that many, considering that many of them (like Truck Norris, for example) would be unusable in addition to the thousands of others that would already be taken.

79ElCamino.pngSecondly, taking a name like El Camino out of mothballs might work from a nostalgic point of view but not from a sales perspective. Times have simply changed since the days of the Diablo, the Caballero and other Spanish inspired names.

Fact is, alphanumeric vehicle naming is here to stay, even if people think that the Pontiac G8 ST GXP sounds like "alphabet soup."

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Generic Naming and Branding Ups Its Game

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People are turning to supermarket brands as times get tougher (as many as 60% of us), but that may be a good thing.
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Store brands are no longer the boring stuff of yesteryear. Kroger's "Private Selection" and "Naturally Preferred" look enticing on the shelf, and Kroger, alongside Supervalu and Safeway, all seem to be creating a surge in their private label branding, and it doesn't hurt that their offerings are high quality.

Not only do store brands need the same finesse as regular brands, but as store brands get more popular, they may find themselves growing beyond their home stores.

Safeway's "O Organics" and "Eating Right" brands are really a case in point, and are taking on Whole Foods on its own turf. O for Organics is looking for $400 million in sales and isn't really all that cheap, it's just less expensive than its nearest competitor.

Consumer's rising comfort level with generic grocery naming is likely to spread to generic drugs as well. This means that private labels are going to have to up their game.

According to a WPP report, private label penetration is growing globally at 5% per year.

In Germany and the UK, private labels now count for almost 50% of all products sold, but the United States it's 17% and growing at 7% a year.

It seems to me that the opportunities for naming and branding are coming from both directions: generics will want to use really sophisticated naming practices to keep up the attack and their competitors are going to have to find distinctive brand names to stop the onslaught.


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One look at "The Eating Right" and "O Organics" range of products demonstrates that store brands are doing their marketing homework. People don't just buy these because their cheap: they buy them because there is some really enticing brand names and brand quality.

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Classic Car Naming and Branding for Sale

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packard3.pngThe legendary Packard name is coming up for sale along with a nifty new prototype. Total cost will be $1.5 million including the ten-year-old car, which looks like "an unholy cross between a Jaguar S and a Morgan Aero 8."

The company did not depart gracefully in 1958 and the car is not what one might describe as beautiful. So, it is possible that a better option would be purchasing the Duesenberg brand name, which comes with plans for some nifty looking cars as well as the Estate golf cart, all of which would give you some Jay Gatsby, "roaring twenties" street cred.

It is interesting to note that the expression "it's a doozy" is based upon the Duesenberg brand name, but it seems that the intervening decades since Duesneberg's collapse in 1929 has made this expression rather negative; one only hears "it's a doozy" when talking about some horrible mistake.

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SPANX-Logo-2006.pngOne rarely sees a product where product naming is as crucial as it is with Spanx.

Spanx makes shapewear, which translates to pantyhouse, bras and girdles to the rest of us. Now, I know that no woman under the age of 80 wants to wear a girdle anymore, but shapewear, well, that's a different story!

And pantyhose? Forget it.

slimcognito_midthigh.pngBut a "Slim Cognito Mid-Thigh Body Suit" is a completely different matter . . .

This product includes something known as The Great Divide, which, well, let's just say it's flattering to a woman's posterior.

If that's not your thing, how about High Power control pants, favored by the likes of Madonna and Gwyneth. What modern woman doesn't want more power and control in her life?

Spanx also offers "super slimming smoothing power" and assures buyers by saying "don't worry, we've got your butt covered."

This company, which is something of a start up miracle, doesn't even sell bras, they sell the "Bra-llelujah 'All-Hosiery' comfort bra."

Yes, the name is saucy and the product is pure retro, but it is a textbook case (possibly the textbook case) of how reframing a "dead" product with good naming can create a new market.

Hosiery and girdle makers everywhere take note, Spanx just spanked you.

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scan.jpgStarbucks, which has been hit hard by the economy's downturn (a cause of some levity in the blogosphere), has decided to offer Treat Receipts to morning customers.

These green receipts allow customers to come back to the store after 2 PM to get a $2 (half price) grande cold drink.

What interests me is the fact that a deft, elegant marketing move like this allows Starbucks to offer value to customers without using that particular word; or the words sale, cheap, or half-price."

With Treat Receipts, Starbucks is not giving out cheap cold java, they are rewarding loyal customers with a treat, and that small difference reframes the offering beautifully.

However, I do not think this will be a game changer for the struggling giant, although it is a great way to preserve the brand's equity in the face of mounting financial pressures. starbuckscoffee.png

As Starbucks continues its fight to stay afloat amidst the slowing economy, its main naming and branding challenge for the next year or so becomes getting rid of its image as a daily indulgence. I've read many articles making the point that you can save enough money to put the kids through school, pay off the mortgage or even settle the credit card debt simply by skipping Starbucks and making your own coffee.

I cannot speak to the validity of these claims, but the Treat Receipt offers loyal customers more value without trying to reposition Starbucks' brand name as a budget or low cost option.

Now that's a real treat.

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pepsi.pngThe rivalry between Pepsi and Coke is set to get bitter as Pepsi prepares to beat Coke to the punch with a brand new all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener called Purevia that it is launching in its SoBe life drinks in Latin America.

coke-logo.pngPurevia's chief component is a substance called stevia, which Coke has been working on with agribusiness giant Cargill for a new brand name beverage called Truvia.

Coke, until recently, called the Cargill inspired product by its "trade name" Rebiana.

Confused yet?

Stevia_Rebaudiana.pngStevia based sweeteners are derived from a Latin American plant in the chrysanthemum family which has been used in cultures for centuries.

However, the FDA will not allow stevia to be used as a sweetener in its traditional form, hence the race between the two cola giants to create a stevia based sweetener that can be sold as a tabletop sweetener and used in a handful of products.

So, for the record, we have stevia, which is a "dietary supplement" according to the FDA, but is not an additive. Truvia and Purevia are chemical derivatives of stevia and are additives that have not yet been approved by the FDA, but should be soon.

Truvia was launched recently amidst some fanfare in hope's of taking the wind out of its chief competitor's sails, but . . .

ZeviaCans.pngNow, a new drink called--wait for it--Zevia has beaten them both in the stevia stakes, telling the world that it is "the first stevia based product to offer a truly all natural alternative to artificially sweetened diet sodas." To add insult to injury, one Zevia executive has said that he is concerned that "Truvia and Purevia have strikingly similar names to Zevia which may result in consumer confusion."

So, we have a brand name called Zevia using stevia to conquer Purevia and Truvia, both created by different companies that used stevia (although one company sometimes called its additive Rebiana).

One of these is a dietary supplement, one is an additive, both can be canned and sold. Nothing that is in Zevia can be used as a tabletop sweetener, however, Purevia and Truvia get that privilege. The stevia that is in Zevia, however, can be used anytime you wish, so long as you don't think of it as a sweetner (although it is indeed sweet).

So consider yourself warned: finding stevia in the USA will be hard (thanks to the FDA), but Zevia, Truvia and Purevia are easy to find.

From a name development standpoint, this is one can happen to a client, a naming company, or us when the same morpheme root (via) is used to create a brand name. It is unusual, but it does happen. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out with trademark law considerations.

I'm sensing that there will be tremendous amount of consumer confusion here.

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