the product naming blog

April 24, 2012

E.F. Hutton Rebirth Brings Back Classic 80s Naming and Branding

efhutton_logo.pngI find it interesting that the E.F. Hutton brand name is making a comeback.

It is one of those iconic brands that we all missed when it disappeared in 1987 after being acquired by Shearson Lehman Brothers.

Remember the tagline "When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen?" It was even parodied in the 1983 movie Trading Places.

Now, former Hutton executives including Stanley Hutton, grandson of the founder Edward Hutton, want to bring the brand name back. The resurrection of the company, much like that of PeoplExpress Airlines, represents sound business sense from a simpler era - never mind that both brand names are tainted by failure.

Frank Campanale, former executive and new CEO of E.F. Hutton stated, "We're trying to create a great firm with great culture, something E.F. Hutton had. We have a clean slate."


He went on to say that "It's a fantastic brand and it still has a wonderful legacy, not only with the advisers who loved working there but with the clientele as well."

Campanale had been chasing the name for years, until he ultimately secured it from Retriever Brands a year ago. The name itself has been out there for a surprisingly long time before being revived.

Robert Rittereiser, who was named president of Hutton in 1985, believes the name has a certain cache that should stretch across the decades.

I do think that some of these names still stand for a culture that people miss. Will E.F. Hutton seem too retro for today's investor? Probably not.

Nowadays, most well known financial brands are so tarnished that you really need to go back into history to find one that attracted consumers. I'm glad to see the E.F. Hutton name is with us again.

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December 22, 2011

AmEx Swerves into Online Payment Brand Name

Serve.pngIt's interesting to note the arrival of Serve from American Express, which is a PayPal-like, debit card platform.

AmEx's move to debit cards is a bold one, of course, and follows the introduction of offered by Visa, which essentially does the same thing.

The Serve name is interesting for the same reason I did not like the name.

First of all, AmEx uses, which is intuitive. is not, simply because people are not yet used to typing .me quite yet.

I think Visa is a great brand. A classic brand. And certainly one of the most recognizable credit card brands. And there lies the problem.

Just looking at the site makes me think credit, while people who use these services really need to think of it as debit and P2P payment options.

Online payment systems that look like a credit card could be dangerous.

The Wall Street Journal points out that while AmEx has tried many times to broaden its appeal, it is still associated with the "more-affluent" market.


In this naming move, AmEx is trying to move away from their well heeled name to appeal to the rest of consumers.

The colors, typography, and font are all very different styles than what we typically see from AmEx, which gives it a much more modern look.

Still, no matter how well this is done, it is still an AmEx product.

Consumers, most likely, are always going to associate AmEx with credit cards.

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November 16, 2011 Brand Name Reminds Me of early next year Visa is going to offer a digital wallet service (think PayPal) called

You will be able to electronically access your bank account or any or your credit cards, not just your Visa card, to pay for things.

And there will soon be a way for customers to use their accounts at the register.

Visa will tap into their massive user database to jump into PayPal's market.

Visa already has an open developer programme designed to bring in top tech people, in hopes to make this work right out of the starting gate.

But let us return to the name for this interesting and highly competitive product.

The idea is to (slightly) dissociate the brand from Visa. Although the logo uses the same colors and will also be presented with an endorsing tagline "by Visa."

This move was possibly made to ensure that people knew that they didn't need a Visa to use the service. All you will need is a username and password to make it work.

The initiative will be funded by sources outside of Visa, so one Visa exec has said "we wanted [the brand] to evoke Visa, and link to it, but without saying Visa."

But... um... the tagline says "by Visa" in really big letters.

And the colors and design are essentially the same. Without actually calling this product VisaPay or something similar, how much more could the design and tagline imply that this is a Visa product?

If the idea is to help customers believe that they do not need a Visa card to use the service, then why not use totally different colors and a name that does not reference Visa at all?

American Express may actually do this via a $100 million fund that is looking at e-commerce opportunities. reminds me a little of

Last year changed the company's brand name to because Overstock, like Visa, had a very recognizable name, and thought they would own the letter "O." But people kept going to and the company finally made the choice to revert back to the name.

Domain Names.png

The .me domain just looks, well, a little strange. makes me want to type

The problem here is that people just are not used to these new domains... yet.

Maybe the broad marketing idea is to "verb up", as in " a payment."

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April 5, 2011

NYSE Naming Has People Working on Both Sides of the Atlantic

NYSEDBGroup.pngNYSE Eronext and Deutsche Börse AG are still struggling with what to name the "6,500-employee, $5.4 billion-revenue trans-Atlantic combination."

According to the Wall Street Journal, a committee of marketers and legal specialists will be looking at over 1000 names that have been crowdsourced.

The new name will have to satisfy New Yorkers, New York politicians, and regulators on both sides of the Atlantic. With that, there has already been a big push to have the name start with "NY" or "New York."

While Europeans would own the majority share of the company, the German CEO of the combined company is under pressure to give it a German sounding name, although he has already joked that "Oktoberfest" and "The Bog Borse" are out.

Many feel a "neutral name that doesn't scream apple pie or lederhosen" would be the best route. Thus, Global Exchange Inc. was suggested (but is taken already by a human rights group).

Also favored are NYSE DB or NYSE Deutsche Börse. Others want "The Exchange" or even "Thunderbird," which has references for both Germany and the USA.

Earlier blogs on the subject suggested that the name NYSE might get the heave-ho but these new developments make me think that it will stay.

There is simply too much equity in the name. My first thought is that NYSE DB looks pretty good, not least because most people will just call it the NYSE.

On April Fools' Day, of course, a proposed merger between Nasdaq and the NYSE birthed the name NASDAQ NYSE Euronext Group Inc. Frankly, that name is just a mouthful.

Should the Nasdaq bid be successful, however, all bets are off and this new name - or one like it - may prevail.

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March 8, 2011

Morgan Stanley To Drop Smith Barney Naming

According to the Wall Street Journal, Morgan Stanley is probably going to change the name of its Morgan Stanley Smith Barney brokerage unit by dropping the Smith Barney name and effectively putting to rest a 73 year old brand name in finance.

MorganStanleySmithBarney.pngThis is not surprising. The name change will streamline the Morgan Stanley brand that is now under the Citigroup umbrella (couldn't resist the pun).

Alternate names include "Morgan Stanley Advisors, Morgan Stanley Global Wealth Advisors, and Morgan Stanley Global Wealth Management."

I am not sure what the outcome will be, and I doubt that the Smith Barney name will be missed... but one thing is certain - many of us recall the Smith Barney TV ad featurng John Houseman (the mean law professor from The Paper Chase), who solemnly and arrogantly tells us that Smith Barney makes money the old fashioned way: "They Eeeeearn it."

That ad has inspired countless stand ups and was the outward face for a company that was mired in scandals.

The campaign ran from 1979-1986, and Houseman himself died in 1988 after doing many similar ads featuring a buttoned down professorial type expounding the virtues of various products.

It seems hard to believe that the payoff line in those Smith Barney commercials has endured for 25 years.

This may be a case where the brand name dies, but the tagline remains.

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