Automotive: February 2007 Archives

Transforming Brand Name Cars Into Movie Stars

| 1 Comment | No TrackBacks

GM-bumblebee.jpgIf the names “Bumblebee™,” “Autobot Jazz®,” “Autobot Ratchet®” and “Ironhide®” mean nothing to you, then you're not the target market for the new Transformers movie.

GM is aiming to create an association between its brand name and the movie, linking itself with toy giant Hasbro and the entire Transformers product line, which analysts expect will make a huge comeback this year.

GM-jazz.jpgAutobot Jazz transforms into a Pontiac Solstice, Autobot Ratchet turns into a Hummer H2, and Ironhide turns into a GMC TopKick medium-duty truck. Pretty cool...but some fans are a little miffed about Bumblebee, who, back in the day, transformed into a very recognizable...VW Beetle. Now he’s a buffed Camaro.

More than that, we are likely to see a Transformers line of GM cars. They will not actually transform into anything, but Jessica Barnes reports that they will probably simply be special versions of the above-mentioned models with “an Autobots or Decepticon” on the back.

Transformers-Autobot.jpgBloggers are asking the logical question: will product placement in a kids movie prompt adults to buy the cars? Well, millions of adults actually will be seeing the movie: those who are dragged there by their kids, and those who have already booked their tickets (and probably have a few Transformer toys lying around the basement.)

transformers-image.gifIf VW can successfully place a car in Curious George, then more extensions are likely.

This is another excellent example of the growth of product placement in entertainment, which, according to Mother Jones, was worth $3.5 billion in 2004, a 200% increase from 1994. Some GM brands, in fact, live on only in reruns (and our hearts), like the now defunct Oldsmobile, for example.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Audi A1 Looking for a New Brand Name

| 1 Comment | No TrackBacks

audi_a1.jpgThe recent announcement that the Audi A1 is going to get a revamp and a new name of course got me thinking.

This car is positioned to compete against the Mini Cooper and, interestingly, the Alfa Romeo Junior, a retro-return of the famous 1960’s brand name by the same company.

Preliminary renderings show us a pretty macho looking vehicle built on the VW Polo platform, and it makes me wonder in what direction Audi’s new team will go. Should they try to find a retro name to compete with these entrenched retro small car product names? Or should they offer a more modern alternative?

mini-cooper-front.jpgI’m thinking that this car’s design is modern enough so that digging out a 1960’s brand name or developing one that sounds like it came from decades ago is not the direction Audi will go. Instead, I would guess they will choose either another alphanumeric name or else a name that sets the car apart from the nostalgia lovers.

I do think that the car should get a real brand name, however, seeing as its major competitors which also include DaimlerChrysler’s Smart car and a mystery small car challenger by sister company VW, the king of small car brand names - think Golf, Rabbit, and Beetle, which is probably also getting a makeover.

If Audi is serious about capturing market share in this very competitive segment, I recommend that they don't use an alphanumeric nomenclature but develop a brand name that could become potentially iconic over time.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

A recent posting by Oliver Milman on the Madcomments blog notes that “Spanish is the most likely language to be mangled by English-speaking brands.”

Hence the importance of Global Linguistic Analysis.

He lists a few true howlers, not least the famous “Got milk?” slogan that was translated as “Are you lactating?” and a U.S. airline’s unfortunate urging to customers to “fly in leather” that was translated as “fly naked.”

chupa_chups.jpgIt’s a shame because Spain has some excellent branding work, like the raging success of Chupa Chups lollies, suckers of choice to stars like Britney Spears and Elton John.

The brand name Chupa Chups may sound funny to Americans but is perfectly suited to Spain, much like, for instance, the Kawasaki Bajaj Pulsar 150cc motorcycle revolutionized the Indian motorcycle scene just a few years ago. The fans of this brand seem to be legion in India, with one blogger stating that it “rocks.”

The affordability of the bike along with the perfect name, I feel, just might have prompted top competitor Honda to rethink its entire Indian catalogue of motorcycle brand names, especially the CBZ and Hero lines, which seem to have been quickly decimated by the Pulsar.

scooter.jpgAs more and more Chinese motorcycle brands enter world competition, we are sure to see new brands moving away from copycat sound-alike naming (witness the Hongda Waze competing against the Honda Wave) into a field where great new bikes are coupled with great new brands.

Good motorcycle branding has a real longevity: witness the new Shelby Motorcycle and the new offering by Bombardier. Witness as well the reverence in which people worldwide regard the Vespa brand name, makers of the legendary scooter that is admired even by people who don’t ride them as emblematic of Italian and “mod” culture.

If Asian motorcycle companies want to go the distance on a global stage, I believe they will need to be sensitive to the vagaries of product naming worldwide. The benefits can be sweet indeed.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

cycle worldI have noticed a distinct resurgence in classic motorcycle names and models lately, something that was underlined to me at the 26th annual , which was here in Minneapolis last week before moving on to Chicago and then to Atlanta at the end of the month. As most readers know, I have a special fondness for classic bike brands and was excited to learn earlier that the was making a comeback.

Vespa GT60An assortment of great bikes are on show from the big brand names like Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki — not to mention Harley Davidson. But there were also plenty of classic names like Ducati and Vespa, both of which seem to have retro models out, not least the gorgeous Vespa GT-60 (only 999 produced) which is a limited edition model based on classic 1950s lines. Ducati, for its part, offers us the “”, an homage to the 1977 Daytona winning 750SS.

There were also some brand names that are sure to appeal to the motorcycle enthusiast: how about the Indian company Royal Enfield, a brand from half a century ago that is catching up on its rival Triumph riding on its popular “Bullet” bike, which Gary Charpentier says is the "coolest name in motorcycling."

Ducati New BlueEven the newer brand names like the Buell Blast look retro — reminiscent, says Gary, of bikes made by Norton and BSA and Triumph (the latter was notably absent this year) a few decades ago. "Buell" is an odd name, of course, but not as odd as that of custom bike maker "." I had to wonder who the target market was for these guys.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What Ford Can Learn From Kodak About Brand Naming

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

From Taurus to 500 to Taurus

ford-five-hundred.gifFord is going to rebrand its ailing Ford Five Hundred as the Taurus, hoping to cash in on the incredible equity of twenty-one year old iconic name.

The move has been initiated by new Ford CEO Alan Mulally who clearly saw the folly in discontinuing the brand name, Taurus, that resurrected Ford and led to sales of 7 million cars with the introduction of a radical new design (sometimes fondly dubbed the “jellybean” or the “flying potato”) that eclipsed the Honda Accord and made it seem as if America could actually defend its own turf against the imports.

One of the reasons the company dropped the Taurus name (aside from the fact that sales were declining) was because it did not start with an “F” (go figure), and because it was so closely associated with the Hertz brand name.

And while it’s nice to see the Taurus brand name come back to us, Chris Shunk asks, simply, “In the end, what's more important, a great name or a great product?” and the conclusion is that both matter but a good name works best when it is associated with a product customers really love. The Taurus brand name was badly tarnished because by the end of the last century the cars were stale, just like the Ford Five Hundred is.

Why not improve the car’s engine and its design and make it worthy of the brand name that saved the company and that was, frankly, such a joy to drive? If you want to hold on to the same product naming for twenty years (Civic, Corolla, Camry, and Accord), you have to offer noticeable improvements on the platform year by year, not simply slap the name of a once hot car on today’s non-starter.

Learning from Kodak

kodak-printer.gifA good example of keeping a brand name fresh by attaching it to new technology and products might be the recent announcement that Kodak is getting into the printer business with the Kodak EasyShare All-In-One Printers.

Kodak is going to take on printer giant HP simply by offering users what they have always wanted: cheap ink. Right now, it costs more than champagne. In fact, a swimming pool of the stuff would cost you a cool $5.9 billion.

Kodak’s print cartridges will be half the cost of HPs and won’t expire in your lifetime. This will not only breathe new life into the home printer industry, it will ensure that the EasyShare brand name is fresh and new for years to come.

Revolutionary product + trusted product name = great brand.

Are you watching, Ford?

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Ford Truck Naming Is Super Duty

| 1 Comment | No TrackBacks

ford-f150.gifIt seems to me that the trend in luxury car naming is toward developing an alpha-numeric brand architecture - that much is certain. But not so much when it comes to the naming of pickup trucks, where it may be that the inverse is true.

In the automotive industry, there is one brand name that stands tall: the mighty Ford F-Series, the best selling vehicle in the United States, the most awarded truck in auto history and sales leader in category for 29 years. The brand name was introduced in 1948 and since then over 32 million of these trucks have been sold worldwide, with one sold in the U.S. every 21 seconds.

Is this the triumph of alpha-numeric naming in the field?

Well, Toyota has an answer for that as does Dodge, who are both offering revamped versions of the Tundra and Ram respectively, leading to a panic stricken news reports last week that predict trouble down the road for this stalwart.

The Super Bowl spots yesterday for the brand name were nothing less than the initiation of a fight to hold the number one position in the U.S.

One option is to think up a new theme song for the truck. The other, Ford has discovered, is to get serious about product naming. Look at the top 10 cars in the U.S. for 2006. You’ll recognize names like “Silverado“ and "Ram.”

toyota-tundra.gifThe Toyota Tundra sticks in your mind, too, even if it isn't in the Top Ten (Toyota has the Camry and the Corolla up there). The top of the list is the F-Series, which will be depending on a revamp of its equally boringly named “Super Duty” extension to keep itself up there.

Rather than do away with the equity around the F-Series, Ford has focused their naming on the extensions within the range. The Super Duty represents 40% of the F-Series line, and it has some interesting extensions built in, including the “King Ranch” and the “Lariat Tough-Luxury.”

On top of that, there is the FX2 Harley-Davidson SuperCrew specialty model. These names, all introduced within the last few years, I think, are far more evocative of what the truck is about and their success will drive the truck’s sales.

Superior naming strategies and co-branding deals with companies like Harley-Davidson might just keep Ford on top.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,