Automotive: February 2011 Archives

BMW Enters the World of Eco Cars with "i" Sub-Brand Naming

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BMW has a new eco sub-brand called "i" as in BMW i.

The company's i range will "split the difference between an electric vehicle's zero tailpipe emissions and a plug-in hybrid's gasoline-extended range."

There are two cars slated for the sub-brand. The i3, which will be produced in 2013, will be a small "runabout" while the i8 will offer extended range with the help of a gasoline motor. (Renderings of the BMW i3 and i8 are pictured below)

BMW Renderings.png
These cars have been a long time coming but the official name was announced yesterday in Germany. BMW also has a company in the USA called i Ventures which will offer "vehicle independent services" like smart-phone apps.

One just has to wonder what they are saying in Cupertino about this.

There was a lot of talk that BMW would bring back the Isetta name, which was on their beloved 1955 super-mini. It was never released in the U.S., but you can see them at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

The name would have been revamped to i-Setta, but it looks like the whole thing was scrapped. I would have thought that the i-Setta name would have been rather attractive, but obviously BMW does not want the car to appear like a revamped version of a car from yesteryear (like its Mini).

BMWi.pngThe more interesting thing to think about is how that "i" name will work in a world where we seem to put "i" in front of everything - and have been doing since the invention of the iPod.

I have to wonder just how long "i" naming will remain relevant. I also am curious to know how this brand will sit next to the various "i" brands that BMW already offers us. They have been using the lowercase "i" on their various models for years, to indicate they are fuel injected (BMW 318i). In addition, the BMW iDrive system is a new feature that has been getting the attention of many buyers (and iPod owners).

Six years ago Laura Ries argued that by offering so many different models - including a 4 x 4 - BMW was in danger of losing is claim to be the "Ultimate Driving Machine."

I do not doubt that eco-cars are going to be important in the future, but a small runabout and a car that competes with the Nissan Leaf is likely to dilute that image.

As Autoblog Green says, "We can't help but note that in the accompanying press release, there is almost no discussion of preserving BMW's reputation of being 'fun-to-drive' and a leader in dynamics, and 'sustainable vehicles and mobility solutions' certainly isn't terminology to set the enthusiast's heart alight."

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Code Naming For Ram's New Adventurer Likely to Stay

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The Ram 1500 Adventurer (that's its code name) looks like a pretty solid truck to me. It's a low cost ($23,800) version of the Tradesman and it looks like the name is going to stay despite some statements to the contrary.

The press release has it down as "yet to be named" but I sense that they are floating the name to see how the press likes it. I note that may blogs simply call it the Adventurer and the name fits the youthful, first time buyer demographic that it is aimed at.

Just think about it: your dad may be a "Tradesman" but you still have wanderlust and a taste for adventure. Plus, it carries the same "HEMI V8" engine as the Tradesman - leading one blogger to note that "even if it was rubbish just the name HEMI is enough reason to like it because it's just so cool!"

That HEMI name, a clipping of hemisphere, is a trademarked name for the Chrysler HEMI engine that uses a hemispherical combustion chamber, which has been an object of desire for Chrysler lovers since the 1950s.

Putting it in all-caps highlights its importance and is designed to draw attention to this enduring trademark. Cars with Hemi engines are often collector's items and linking that trademark to this new entry level vehicle is a stroke of brilliance for Ram.

The whole issue of assigning code names to cars that are still in production is an obvious means of drawing interest to a new brand category. I see it most often in the world of computers, where the code names seem to actually fall away when the gizmo is released.

I think of Microsoft's "Vistagami" code name. Apple, on the other hand, has been naming its operating system after cats - a practice that began as code names. Apple's "brick" code name for its aluminum manufacturing process related to the creation of its notebooks thankfully, did not go as far.

I'm betting that the Adventurer name stays because it fits and it would be silly to rename a product that has already gotten such positive attention in the press.

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Ford Sues Ferrari Over F150 Naming and Branding

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Ford is suing Ferrari over the F150 brand name. This is not a joke. Ferrari has not gone into making trucks, but they did want to call their new Formula 1 racing car the F150 to celebrate the 150 anniversary of Italy's unification.

But the name is just too similar to Ford's F-150 truck series, arguably the company's most precious brand name. Ferrari has decided to rename the racing car the F150th Italia.

ferrarif150.pngFerrari initially pointed out to Ford that "Ferrari retains that there can be no way to confuse the one-seater... or even think that there would be a link with another brand," adding "It seems really difficult to understand what has been expressed by Ford."

Nevertheless, Ford has asked Ferrari to recall "all products, labels, tags, signs, prints, packages, videos, advertisements using the F-150 brand."

They also want damages for Ferrari's use of the web site.

Ford has been using that F-150 name since 1975 and has had a trademark on it since 1995.

But there is yet more bad blood here: back in the 1960s, Ford engineered a car specifically meant to beat Ferrari at Le Mans after the company decided not to be taken over by the U.S. giant. Ford broke the Italian winning streak on the course with its legendary GT40.

Ford is within its legal rights here. Ferrari is a highly visible brand name and Ford needs to keep any car company, anywhere, away from the F-150 product name.

I almost have to wonder how Ferrari could imagine it would be able to use the F150 name.

The Italian carmaker's hasty name change is evidence that they knew a grave and costly mistake was made.

I'd also add that the new name has a great deal more flair, and sounds more like a F1 race car and less like, well, a pick-up truck.

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In the naming and branding business, brand loyalty is almost a mantra. So it is with some chagrin that I reviewed two articles that seem to indicate that brand loyalty is quickly fading, especially among consumers who are 25-49.

The problem seems to be that these consumers are able to do hefty amounts of research online about products that they want. No longer can a strong, recognizable brand name swing the buy, it appears.

I am willing to agree that today's savvy consumer is not going to blindly buy products made by one brand name or another - but is brand loyalty actually dead? I think that reports of the death of brand loyalty have been greatly exaggerated.

Hyundai.pngThe fact is, we still see tremendous amounts of it. Hyundai, for instance, has been telling all about its second consecutive place at the head of the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI). Surely Hyundai buyers are between the age of 25-49?

Those same people are busy updating their Facebook pages, and giving further loyalty to a mighty brand name that is pulling ahead of Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn at a rapid rate -- while those same brands also retain a broad loyalty base.

Media brands of all types top the brand loyalty index - Netflix edged out Apple, which has been sitting there ever since the first generation iPod came to us. And again, the major users of these brands are that same demographic that supposedly does not have much customer loyalty.

Today's demanding consumer wants to be "delighted" by innovation, quality and performance. No longer will customers accept a sub par product bearing a well known name.

And, given the sheer amount of brands that we interact with on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis, it seems unlikely that we will be loyal across the board. But should the brand name be married to a great, innovative, "delightful" product, loyalty will and does ensue. This is Brand Management 101.

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Super Bowl Naming and Branding the Big Winner on Sunday

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Super Bowl brand naming and branding is here to tell you that the recession is over, according to CNN.

The ads are no longer about wounded Americans and instead in the familiar territory of "post-adolescent guy humor" bought and created at huge expense. Coca-Cola's "Siege" ad gave us a fantasy world of warring humanoids, while Kia brought us to alien planets. The tagline on a Chrysler ad featuring Eminem, "Imported From Detroit," was a big hit indeed.

VWCommercial.pngThere were big brand names jockeying for position alongside big celebrity names to create an advertising sideshow that almost dwarfed the game itself.

Think Audi, Best Buy, Careerbuilder, Coca-Cola Doritos, E-Trade, GoDaddy, Pepsi, Skechers, Snickers, Volkswagen and Bud Light meet Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian, Roseanne Barr and Ozzy Osbourne. And, oh yes, a mini-Darth Vader who did a brilliant job shilling for VW.

Best Buy handed Justin Bieber a million bucks to promote its brand name alongside Ozzy Osbourne.
GoDaddy gave us new girl to ogle, a move that earned it a great deal of hatred on the internet.

But the real loser this year was Groupon, who decided it would be funny to lend their brand name to making fun of Tibet.

You can get a good round up here and here.

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Naming and Branding Can Make You Drive Recklessly

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Two separate studies out now are pretty darn fascinating.

CrestJohnson.pngThe first is from Buyology and is entitled The Most Desired US Brands Report, which has found significant and startling differences between men and women when it comes to their favorite brands.

Women like Amazon, Sony and Target while men like car brands. No surprise there.

But guess what the all time favorite brand is for men... Crest toothpaste. This beat BMW!

Women, in turn, chose Johnson & Johnson as their favorite brand in spite of a year of repeated recalls and negative publicity.

I'd imagine this has a great deal to do with how ubiquitous these brand names
are in our lives.

The male love of car brands has also been good news to Ford, whose brand is now right near the top in consumer perception.

A separate survey shows that almost half of the respondents actually do not care about car brands at all. Can you guess which half of the population this is?

The second study is even more intriguing. Two Boston College professors have put out a report in the Journal of Consumer Psychology that has proven that Red Bull really does "give you wings."

RedBull.pngPeople playing a video game with the logos of Guinness, Tropicana, Coca-Cola and Red Bull adorning respective cars invariably drove the Red Bull car more recklessly.

The professors call this "non-conscious brand priming," which essentially means that we start to take on the personalities of the brands we interact with.

When we think of Red Bull, we tend to think of "speed... power... hyper... extreme," and drive accordingly.

Which leads to to say... please stay out of the automobile business, Red Bull!

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