Technology: March 2011 Archives

Google's New Naming and Branding +1 Nightmare

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plus-1-image.pngToday we are going to look at a naming and branding nightmare.

I'm talking about the new Google "+1" feature that is Google's attempt to take headspace away from Facebook.

Instead of pressing the ubiquitous Facebook "Like" button next to a search result or article, you can now press a "+1" button and thus "+1" it. Google users can now be, according to Inside Facebook, "generous with their +1's" (that would be numerous pressings of the +1 button).

I'm not sure this feature will catch on.

Note that when you go to the Google Blog article that explains the feature, they say things like this: "The beauty of +1's is their relevance." And then they show you how to "get started +1'ing the stuff you like."

See the problem? This is an apostrophe nightmare right from day one.

I mean, "+1'ing?" Who would have guessed? And how do you make a plural with an apostrophe?

Google+1.pngIt gets stranger. Now, you can specifically search things that have been "+1'd." As in things things that "have been +1'd by those in your network." This means, that "+1'd" is the past tense form of "+1."

Do you see now why we do not make numbers into verbs? Using an apostrophe to create a past tense is a no-no. It should be +1d. But, of course, that looks wrong.

And are we really going to have people saying to each other that they "plus oned" something? Really? This definitely does not make it through the spell checker!

Never mind that people doubt whether we really need this thing.

Facebook does not seem very worried, that's for sure: "With no add-on for publishers available yet, it's clear that Google has a long way to go before they put a serious dent in the massive lead that Facebook already has when it comes to measuring consumers' interest in content around the web."

Yeah, well, when they do, I'm not +1'ing anything.

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Now Apple Sues Amazon over "Appstore" Product Name

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Who will stop the madness? It looks like Apple is now going to sue Amazon over its term "Amazon Appstore."

As I have written before, Apple is extremely protective of its name "App Store" and is already in an ugly lawsuit with Microsoft over it. As Nicholas Deleon at Crunch Gear asks, "The question here is, is "app store," or any of its variants (App Store, Appstore, app store, etc.), generic enough to not warrant a trademark for Apple?"

This essentially puts Microsoft and Amazon in the same seat: as allies against Apple. This move by Apple is being called a preemptive strike against the rollout of Amazon's mobile app marketplace, according to Xconomy.

The entire world of app sales is in fact quite chaotic, according to the Wall Street Journal.

BlackBerry, for example, has an App Marketplace and other places where one might pick up apps for an Android phone seem to be little better than yard sales. The Amazon Appstore has about 3,800 applications and seems to be riding on the back of the Microsoft lawsuit that claims that the term "app store" is in fact generic, despite Apple's 2008 trademark of the name.

The Washington Post weighs in on this, with Hayley Tsukayama saying there is no likelihood of confusion between the "Amazon Appstore" and the "Apple App Store."

However, Amazon will probably change the name to something like "App Shop."

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TheBeatles_Apple.pngOne of the oldest conflicts in the world of product naming and branding was finally resolved last year when the Beatles gave permission for iTunes to sell their music.

This brought an end to a dispute that has gone on for decades between Apple Inc. and Apple Corps, the Beatles music label.

The actual legal sparring between the two companies ended four years ago, but now Apple is filing to take over the Granny Smith apple logo that every Beatles fan knows so well.

Patently Apple has found filings for 14 international trademark classifications in areas like "computer hardware, online social networking services, mobile phones, musical instruments, games, clothing/headgear, advertising, education and broadcasting." This transferal of the famous logo was part of the 2007 settlement between the two companies, but obviously Apple Inc. wanted to wait until the music was available for their use before going through the process of filing and protecting it. This is, in effect, just tying up loose ends.

Applealbum.pngThe actual list of things Apple might use the logo for is broad, certainly far more than the Beatles ever envisioned back in 1968.

This is partly due to Apple's notorious thoroughness in protecting its trademarks, but also makes me wonder when we will see this logo.

Surely Apple won't just use it on iTunes? It is doubtful that the Apple logo we all know and love will change, but I have to wonder if this might make its way into other offerings.

I, for one, am excited by this development because I am eager to see the logo make a comeback.

I am not going to call this a "zombie brand" because online music is really where it is at for the Beatles, and Apple Inc. is a far better home for the logo than on some shelf in England.

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ApplevsMicrosoft.pngMicrosoft and Apple are fighting again. This, of course, is really business as usual, but now things have taken a weird twist.

Microsoft, in the middle of a court spat with Apple over the name "App Store," complained to the court that Apple's defense was written in a font that was too small.

This is not a joke.

Apparently, you are allowed to submit 25 pages of defense material in 11 point font, and Apple chose to ignore both rules, scoring an additional 10 pages.

According to one source, Microsoft filed a motion that said: "Apple's response brief is 31 pages, including the table of contents and table of authorities, and on information and belief, is printed in less than 11 point font."

Remember doing that kind of thing in college?

AppStoreLogo.pngMicrosoft wants its own "App Store" and is arguing that Apple can't trademark this term as it has become generic. Apple has 15 days to hand in a shortened defense document sporting the correct font.

Apple says that Microsoft is "missing the forest for the trees" and points out that while "apps" is in common usage, "App Store" is not.

They say that their trying to own the name is just as legitimate as, say, trying to trademark the name "Windows," which was also in common usage before it was trademarked by Microsoft.

In their defense, Apple consulted with a linguist who established that the public generally associates "App Store" with Apple. They further argue that there are plenty of "noun plus" names out there that are trademarked, like Shade Store, Swag Store and The Paper Store.

Names like "Books on Tape" and "Vision Center" also take words in common usage and trademark them. "App Store," therefore, is like "The Radiator Store," according to Apple.

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The iPad 2 and Alphanumeric Product Naming

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ipad2.gifSo I didn't think Apple would go with the iPad 2 product name. Frankly, I didn't think they'd go with the name iPad when it was first introduced.

But I have been thinking about the name, as have alot of bloggers, and lo and behold an interesting blog comes out about numbers and brand naming.

"As history goes, number-letter combinations have held religious, superstitious, mythical and, of course, mathematical significance. Some would argue that numbers are the most universal form of language," but when it comes to the iPad 2, one writer tells us that all Apple really cares about is the number "2," because they've already defined the product category by establishing the iPad brand name.

A quick perusal of the brands Apple offers shows just how dependent they are on alphanumeric naming. Now there is some scholarly research that argues heavily in favor of alphanumeric naming, but it also shows us that word names are more useful to customers on products with a "high need for cognition." In other words, Apple buyers pretty much know the products. The iPad 2 is a fine name for them because they are so well steeped in the brand that a really exciting new name is just overkill.

Still, the crucial problem is managing the names and making sure that customer cognition stays where it ought to be. Apple supports its brand names with a lot of advertising, ensuring that its legions of fans are well aware of even the slightest brand tweak.

Those brands that do not have the luxury of such recognition might want to think twice about alphanumeric naming when it comes to developing new product names.

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