Automotive: January 2012 Archives

Dodge Dart Brand Name Hits the Spot

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DodgeDart.pngToday, AutoSpies raises its bloggy eyebrow at the Dodge Dart name.

The Dart was one of the stars of the 2012 Detroit Auto Show and consumers seem generally happy with the car's specs and appearance.

AutoSpies, however, brings up a problem with the name by commenting, "In it's day the original Dart was the LAMEST Dodge built and only grannies drove it. They even had special editions called 'Swinger' and 'Demon' and even THEY were lame."

That aura of lameness around the Dart name did briefly make me pause before giving it the nod. But my nod still stands, for a number of reasons.

First, Dodge almost called this car The Hornet. The Hornet brand name comes to us from the 1950's and has survived in various incarnations throughout to the 70's. It is just a little "way out" there and, like Dart, it has been slapped on some cars that are frankly not memorable.

Second, the CEO for Dodge, Reid Bigland, tells us that when they showed pictures of the new car to a target group under 35, "Dart was the overwhelming bulls-eye. These people weren't very familiar with the 1960-1976 Dart. They were just looking at Dart for matching the design and the aero of the current car." Plus, around 4 million "lame" Darts were sold.

Bottom line?

The target market is not aware of the original Dart that was sold between 1960-1976, when most of the consumers likely to buy the car were born.

The admittedly biased DodgeDartCentral.Com recently conducted a poll that showed 51.6% of respondents voting for the name.

Motor Trend says that Dodge "hits the bullseye" with the name, bemoaning the "inscrutable alphanumeric names" GM has saddled itself with.

I believe the Dart name fits the car and will resonate with young buyers, while those who remember the original Dart may simply not be in the market for a car like it.


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Jeep Opens Cherokee Naming and Branding to the Crowd

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JeepCherokee2012.pngThe news that Chrysler will name its new Grand Cherokee concept through an online contest has me thinking once again about the use of crowdsourcing for naming and branding.

This nifty new "stealth" version of the Cherokee looks pretty modern and people interested in naming it can go to Jeep.com/namemyride to submit a name.

This will, I should note, be the name of a limited edition model. Jeep has had other limited edition versions, like the Wrangler Call of Duty, the Wrangler Arctic, Islander and the Liberty Arctic.

Jeep seems "fascinated" by special edition packages, possibly because they lend a sense of individuality to each car and also keep the Jeep brand fresh in the consumer's mind.

This marketing move is not really about the name. It's about the excitement created for the Cherokee brand.

Mountain Dew, Pepsi and Doritos have all learned that they can reinvent their image with the help of consumers.

But to those who think that all brand names can be crowdsourced, I have one word:

iPad.

And another word:

Wii.

ipadwii.pngThese are two of the more successful brand names of the last ten years, and I guarantee that you would not get them from a crowd. Both names were laughed at when they were introduced, and both have endured.

The crowd, you see, does not work with the brand everyday. They do not know brand strategy or consumer insights, or that pesky trademark minefield. They want to create names that look cool and get little uphill from fellow Tweeters and Facebookers. Names that win contests.

Nobody hoping to win a contest would dream up a name like "Wii." It's too out there, too different. Yet it's a successful brand name.

To open your brand to the crowd is to open it to thousands of people who will only take about five minutes to brainstorm a name.

You generate buzz and excitement around the new product, yes, but you almost certainly will not get a successful name like iPad and Wii.

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Ford Thinks Brand Naming is Bunk

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Ford'slogo.pngThe news that Ford marketing head Jim Farley believes that "it's product that matters, not the name" when it comes to selling cars is not exactly a coffee spitter or a head slapper, but definitely a double blinker.

This is Ford we are talking about, the source of some of the biggest brand names in the car business.

Think F-250, Taurus, Fairlane or the Crown Vic, as well as the Pinto and the Probe. Or, for that matter, the Lincoln Navigator and Town Car.

I bring these brands up because Ford now believes that these names don't matter and they need to stick with confusing alphanumeric naming, just when their rivals are dumping that strategy and revitalizing old brand names like the Dart.

Ford, meanwhile, is sticking with MKT, MKZ, MKX, and MKS for their only luxury brand.

USA Today puts it best stating, "Next time you're on the street, ask anyone you see if they know they can identify a Lincoln model."

The fact is, naming matters, especially in the car business. In any business.

Today there is an outcry over dumb, alphanumeric TV names for instance. Consumers like good brand names. And Ford has benefited from this in the past.

Brand Naming Is Bunk.png

Now, to paraphrase Henry Ford's famous quote about history, they are now saying that naming and branding is bunk.

The road to reinventing Lincoln is sure to be a rough one.

Yes, they have top designers, but the names of these cars do make an impact. Slapping a few letters on the back of the car is not going to make consumers love the car.

Sales have declined a whopping 46% percent for Lincoln since 2001. Back then, Lincoln was pushing Town Cars and Navigators, the former which has been discontinued along with Ford's Crown Vic.

Now they want to sell us a billion dollars worth of alphabet soup.

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