Automotive: May 2008 Archives

Porsche Panamera Product Naming is Hot

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porsche-panamera-thumb.pngDetlev von Platen, the new president and CEO of Porsche Cars North America Inc., has a major challenge on his hands. Detlev is now in charge of getting us to buy the Porsche's first four door sedan, the Panamera.

There are those who balk at the very thought of such a car, but it is a pretty brutal looking beast. Purists who might scoff that the company that gave us the 911 and the 928 should not be entering into 4 door territory have obviously been in denial over the Cayenne, the very popular four wheel drive Porsche that seems like it is named after, well, pepper, but still has a knock off phone version.

The Panamera name derives from the Carrera Panamerican race and is the first 4 door sedan to make it off the drawing board (they even had a four door 911 planned), which is also the origin of the Carrera name.

Why not just call the thing the Panamerican and be done with it? Oh yeah, because Porsche wants people outside of the US to buy the car, too.

PorscheTarga-13_large.pngSo we have the Carrera, the Cayenne, Panamera and of course, the mighty Targa, named after the Italian Targa Florio road race in Italy. The Targa now refers to any protective piece of metal that arches over the roof.

For a German company, these names do not sound very Germanic. Fact is, they sound like surf sports in California, one of Porsche’s most lucrative sales areas. The Panamera especially seems designed to appeal to Americans while holding on to that conquistador product naming structure.

Porsche is slowly but surely doing away with the idea that high end sports cars should stick to alpha-numeric naming.
porsche 911 carrera.png
Fact is, Porsche’s naming in the last few years is absolutely iconic. Carrera and Targa, let us not forget, are names for models of certain makes of cars. Cayenne and Panamera are actual car names.

As for my personal opinion, I think that Porsche’s current naming is red hot.

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Zombie Brand Naming Back in the News

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brimcoffee1.pngThis week there has been a great deal of talk about whether or not a dead brand can live again spurred by an article in the NY Times Magazine on Sunday by Rob Walker. He discusses how some well-known brands, like Brim coffee, stay in the consumer's memory and have equity long after they are no longer available.

Now, some bright sparks are out there collecting those names and bringing them back to life. Turns out that 9 out of 10 people over the age of 25 remember Brim and its tagline line: “Fill it to the rim, with Brim!”

Bringing back dead brand names may be an uphill battle, but it sure is interesting to watch.

What I love here is that Walker reminds us of the lingo around dead brand names; they get referred to as “ghost brands," “orphan brands,” or “zombie brands”. The company Walker profiles is interested in brand names that are dead, “not ailing.” At least one marketing blogger has an interesting take on this, telling us that the Yahoo brand is not dead, but is more comparable to the “walking dead," because Google owns the online search industry. This is a differentiation I have not thought of, most likely because I think that reports of Yahoo’s demise are a little premature.

Nancy Friedman calls bringing zombie brands back to the shelves “The New Old Thing,” while others refer to the phenomena as Dinosaur Brands or Graveyard Brands.

What we have here is a company prompting the “attack of the killer zombie brands.”

Coleco_Main.pngNames that have been exhumed include Underalls, Salon Selectives, Nuprin, Coleco and a list of others. These guys are engaging in what is referred to as “Retromarketing,” and it’s based on the theory that consumers will keep buying a certain brand name as long as it works or its “functional attributes” remain sound.

Walker asks us to witness the revival of White Cloud at Wal-Mart, a former P&G brand name that was eclipsed by Charmin, just like Maxwell House did for Brim.

The only problem is that consumer memory is faulty. We may all recall the Brim brand name, but few of us seem to also recall that it was decaf only. This could mean, argues one interviewee, that a caffeinated Brim might be possible.

Zombie brands also infest the electronics industry because Chinese no-name tech groups love to buy up well-known American zombie TV brands like Zenith and Polaroid to bring out new products. The average consumer, seeing a caffeinated Brim, wouldn't even blink, just like they’d be willing to buy a Zenith flat screen TV.

I have to say that many members of my staff are unashamedly retro in their tastes. We cheered when we saw the Indian motorcycle make a comeback and at least one guy on my payroll wants to chevynomad.pngget a Chevy Nomad.

Good brand names retain their equity over the years, the trick is to decide just how much. The Indian, the Nomad, and even the Beetle are all essentially niche brand names now, although they once were mainstream. Seems to me that so long as you are happy having your zombie brand occupying only a tiny percentage of the consumer landscape that it once held, you’re OK.

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