Automotive: October 2007 Archives

Is Fortwo a Smart Brand Naming Move?

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logo_smart.gifI am interested to see whether the 2008 Smart Fortwo will be getting good press in the U.S., where people are a little reticent about really small cars.

smart_fortwo.gifThe president of Smart Fortwo USA claims that "It's a new brand, a new car, a new everything, even a new segment - the microcar segment." And the brand name may be catching on with at least some of us.

It's a "smart" move during the times when people are worried about emissions, not least because the new "micro-hybrid" (not to be confused with the new name "microcar") was dubbed the "CO2 champion" in Frankfurt last month.

Cute names have worked before, of course, like the Beetle. But I have to wonder if this shift in brand naming is a strategic move on the part of the company that signals the general acceptance of small being a new big or not?

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Brand Name Repositioning: Hummer and Coke Zero

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Repositioning your brand name can often mean the difference between survival and failure.

Hummer.gifTake the Hummer, for instance. In the age of "Inconvenient Truth," big gas-consuming trucks are a no-no.

GM's new campaign, entitled "Hummer Heroes," is meant to shift the focus to the good deeds one can do with a massive vehicle. GM has cleverly given 19 Hummers to the Red Cross as part of a donation of 72 vehicles.

CokeCans1.gifAnother example is Coke Zero. Initially it was targeted to women, however when Coke execs learned that men liked it as much, the black label was back.

Going "back to black" packaging helped to reposition the brand as masculine and a humorous TV commercial about two brand managers trying to sue Classic Coke for "taste infringement" made it distinctive.

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Mercedes-Benz Adds Sound Logo to New Brand Naming Strategy

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Mercedes-Benz2.gifAs you know, I've been blogging about Mercedes-Benz recently. The fact that company has not only implemented some serious revamping of its brand naming but also added a neat new "sound logo" is worth noting.

Adding a trademarked sound or olfactory logo to a brand name is nothing new and sometimes a bad idea.

What's interesting about Mercedes-Benz's new logo is that it's a solo vocal taken from a recording made by an English (not German) boys' choir. One Mercedes-Benz exec enthused that it is "emotional, elegant and unmistakably associated with our brand."

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Many Daimler shareholders are complaining about the company's name change from DaimlerChrysler to Daimler AG.

LordWimsey.gifThere's certainly nothing inspiring about the "AG" appellation, but Daimler and Chrysler never struck me as belonging together in the first place. The Daimler name evokes Lord Peter Wimsey: upper class, upscale, luxury cars with a good turn of speed (and perhaps a whiff of the turn of the previous century). Chrysler, on the other hand, is Lee Iacocca and the tough neighborhood that is Detroit (no longer really Motor City). LeeIacocca.gif

MercedesBenz1.gifSo I sympathize less with those who object to a change than with those who would prefer to see the Mercedes-Benz name brought back in. Daimler was always a better fit with Mercedes than with Chrysler, and a return to the previous "Daimler-Benz" would doubtless have been preferable to many people, especially, of course, the heirs of Carl Benz. But that wasn't an option, according to CEO Dieter Zetsche.Chrysler1.gif

One advantage the new company name does have is that the company is unlikely to need to change it again to reflect future acquisitions or sell-offs.

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Mercedes-Benz Has New Brand Identity

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Mercedes-Benz is getting a new brand identity on November 1 as well as a new slogan "The Star Always Shines From Above."

MercedesBenz_Logo.gifThe idea is to associate the Mercedes-Benz's star with things other than just cars, like "architecture, people and landscapes, putting the emphasis on uniform imagery." According to Mercedes-Benz official blog post "the new brand identity... revives our entire presence, and ensures an unmistakable image which combines tradition with a future-oriented approach."

Nike_logo.gifSome may call this "branding suicide" but I am not sure. This seems to be an attempt to extend the usage of the logo. Seems to me that Mercedes-Benz is tearing a page out of Nike's book, a company that has successfully decoupled the logo from the brand name, allowing for greater usage of the ubiquitous swoosh.

The Mercedes-Benz's star is well recognized already thus giving the brand that much more resonance.

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Femmoto Lifts Lid on Female Bike Naming

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clubfemmoto_small.gifI was fascinated to read in the LA Times about the "Femmoto" motorcycling event in Las Vegas that was aimed at women, who now make up 10% of the motorcyclists in the U.S.

The name of the event itself is clearly meant to attract females, but it struck me that the brand names of certain bikes on display there also appeal to women. Names that caught my eye were Suzuiki Burgman, Kawasaki Versys, and Kymco Velox.

Aprilla USA has a confidently feminine sounding name, and their product names seem very female friendly: the Tuono, the Caponord, and the Mojito. Italians with their beautiful, sexy language, seem to have a real advantage over everyone else from a brand naming perspective, not least because women are buying more scooters. There is something alluring about a woman on a Vespa, for instance, or on a Ducati (a company that has a wonderful women's racing race team.

These names are so much more refined than those offered by one of the other big sponsors of the event: Harley-Davidson, is a revered name in the industry but is also trying to sell women the "Night Rod."

Fact is, those of us in the naming business had better start being aware that even traditionally masculine brand names like the Kawasaki Ninja appeal to women (it is in fact a favorite among women because it is so light).

A great article on Cycle Trader breaks down women's favorite bike brands, and the results are interesting: Harley's Sportser is the top bike for that company name, while the Honda Shadow is ridden by more women than the goddess Valkyrie (who would have thought?) by a factor of six.

Harley has a tremendous amount of women riders, but names like "Softail" and "Fat Boy" and "Shovelhead" must at least make some women buyers pause.

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logo_renault.gifCar lovers will be pleased to learn that French automaker Renault plans on reintroducing its Alpine brand name on a line of cars coming at the end of the decade that promises to include a "radical sports car."

Alpine.gifWhile Renault plans on introducing 26 new models by the end of 2009, including a new Laguna as well as updated versions of the Vel Satis and Avantime lines, there can be no doubt that true aficionados will be eagerly awaiting new Alpine. The legendary Alpine A110 led the team to victory in the 1973 World Rally Championship, which was something pretty special.

This car that put a serious fire under the Porsche 911, can be found on eBay and aimed right at the classic car demographic. Owning a 1977 Alpine A310 would make you a "member of a much more exclusive club than is available to mere 911 drivers."

I have to wonder, however, how this brand name will work alongside another brand name: Alpine car stereos. It's a brand that appeared in 1978, years after the Renault Alpine was made legend, but is still very much sui generis.

Of course, Alpine the car stereo company, no longer makes car stereos, they make "mobile media solutions," but it’s still a fearsome and coveted brand name.

I think a new, "radical" Renault Alpine 2010 loaded with the latest Alpine sound system would be si bon.

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Brand Naming: Atmospheric Concept Car from Mazda

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Mazda TaikiMazda has just announced its latest concept car, the gorgeous (if slightly surreal) . While the category they're putting it in ("Sustainable Zoom-Zoom") sounds like a badly-translated dinner menu, there are some wonderful names involved. "Taiki" means "atmosphere," entirely fitting for a car with sweeping lines and an all-glass canopy, and appropriate to the ("flow") concept car from which it evolved. The name Taiki also sounds like "tai chi," which epitomizes graceful, flowing (albeit not swift) motion.

Not only that, it has a branded engine, a 16x rotary job called (which sounds like "genesis" and involves technology taken from jet propulsion). And we already know how effective trademarked ingredients are for marketing. Indeed, the car has so much going for it in the naming department that it's a pity it's only a concept car and not available for purchase. It's got Lamborghini's Reventón beat hands down.

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