Automotive: August 2007 Archives

Frenemies in Product Naming

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The word of the week is frenemy: the kind of friend who can hurt you one day and be your best friend the next. Om Malik says bluntly, that "everyone is a frenemy," especially in the online world, where YouTube and MySpace are perfect examples of frenemies; or Google and eBay for that matter.

In the world of product and brand naming, a tried and trusted name can be a frenemy.

jagemblem.gifTake, for example, the Jaguar brand name. Jag knows that it is a brand that seems to appeal to an older demographic. The problem is that newer drivers really don't understand the brand and tend to see it as kind of old fashioned. The Jag name is being a frenemy to the company... and the company's solution is to drop it and put a "leaper badge" in its place.

In Europe, the Ford Fiesta brand name is a frenemy. Ford wants to amp up the car but knows that consumers understand Fiesta to be a reliable bare bones vehicle. Everything about the Fiesta brand name means cheap and dependable, and Ford wants the car to be more than that.

But doing away with the brand name means throwing away years of brand equity, while keeping it means being hamstrung by consumer's perceptions of the Fiesta name.

ngage.gifThere's no question that the N-Gage brand name is a true frenemy to Nokia, who is using it to introduce a new gaming platform following the dismal performance of the original N-Gage initiative.

No matter how great the new products are, consumers are going to associate it with the first generation of duds thanks to its product name.

Closer to home, the name of the new market research agency created by Stan Rapp is going to be "Enguage," a name that is sure to be its creator's worst frenemy, notes The Browser, not least because it sounds like the ill fated Engage.

Maybe having a name change at all is the real frenemy here: Enguage had already bought out the well-named Direct Impact, a corporate name that would have been just fine.

What to do? The Godfather once said, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer." Maybe you should totally dump your frenemies.

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Company Naming Changes: Choosing a Winning Name

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globes-logo.gif "Often, the choice of a name spells out the destiny of a company or a brand," says Keren Argaman of The Globes, Israel's leading business journal.

I couldn't agree more.

In our proprietary 2006 Company Naming Changes report, we analyzed the major reasons for a company name change... there were nine of them. A company that goes so far as to actually change its name is moving in a new direction, sending a signal out to its stakeholders that its identity has changed and the world should take note.

But choosing a new name can be risky, and the possible meanings associated with each name should be well researched, including semantics, pronunciation, cultural context, and the colloquial language of the location.

kiamotorslogo.gifFor instance, Korean Kia importers became concerned sales would be affected by the resemblance between the brand name Kia and the word Ki, which means vomit in Hebrew. They decided to change the name so that it would be pronounced as Kaya.

During my interview with The Globes, I indicated to the reporter that there are many other instances of naming faux pas.

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Gas Stations Need Better Brand Naming

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Gas stations notoriously have a hard time achieving brand name loyalty from customers.

Why? Because we are simply not loyal to gas stations, despite the fact that we all recognize the various brand names.

We may insist on the same brand name cola or perfume but when it comes to gas stations, we'll take just about anything.

Gas is gas, right? (Imagine Coke&trade saying "cola is cola" or Google saying "all search engines are pretty much alike.")

We are really loyal to car brand names, but not to the stuff we put in the cars.

This has led many gas station brand names to take some desperate measures to lure customers, like offering all kinds of activities at the station itself as well as additives to the gas you pump into your car.

Guys, guys... it's not about the gas. It's about brand naming!

gulf.gifAt least one company is getting the message: Gulf Oil LP is switching the 11 stations it owns along the Mass Pike from Exxon to its own brand this month on "one of its biggest moves yet to promote New England's only major locally based gas brand."

They are also getting the Citgo stores along the Pike to switch to the Gulf brand name... what a breakthrough.

Ironically, Gulf is really a ghost brand that bears no real relation to the famous oil company of 1901.

Gulf Oil was bought in 1984 by Chevron and Cumberland Farms Inc. bought rights to the brand in 1994 to set up Gulf Oil LP jointly with Catamount Petroleum Corp. Chevron still owns the name.

Using the Gulf name along the Pike is all about trying to encourage New England customers to show some regional loyalty.

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