the product naming blog

October 7, 2011

Jokes About Apple's Siri Brand Naming Groundless


The Internet is abuzz about the name "Siri" that Apple has chosen for its new personal assistant app on the new iPhone 4S.

The app uses a female voice, and one would assume that the name refers to the Nordic goddess. It also means "beautiful victorious counselor" or "victory."

Unfortunately, news sources are reporting that the word is pronounced in Japan as "Shiri," which means "buttocks" or "ass" in Japanese. This is, to say the least, awkward. And not just for Tom Cruise's daughter who shares a similar name Suri.

The Wall Street Journal has even reported that there is much amusement about the name on Twitter along with jokes about people talking out of their you-know-what.

It gets worse. The word also seems to be the Georgian word for "penis."

The fact is, that this is really much ado about nothing. To begin with, Apple probably will not use the name in Japan and if they do they will write it out in Roman English letters. If that is the case, nobody in Japan will be confused by the name.

This is an issue of pronunciation. The actual word "Siri" in Japanese means nothing. As one blogger points out, "A line of Japanese text may look like this: Siriを使ってください!Or, "Please use Siri!" Brand names are almost always written with their proper alphabet." Note the English letters?

This is really Beavis and Butthead type humor when you think about it.

Lots of words in the English language sound like "ass" and we don't get upset about it. Like, for instance, the word "as." I am sure that if this were launched in Japan, the nuances of the language would allow for the brand name to exist without much mockery.

However, I have not read about what will happen in Georgia.

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August 9, 2011

Nokia Embraces Numeric Product Naming

Smartphone product naming is getting easier and boring.

nokia-phone.gifNokia's plan to simplify its product naming scheme and make it strictly numerically based is partly to tell consumers what they are getting.

As Xbit points out:

Back in the good-old days Nokia used to have pretty clear number-based model numbering methodology that allowed to clearly distinguish between models and their positioning (3 - for mainstream users, 5/6 - for business users, 7 - experimental phones with new innovative technologies and/or in new form-factors, 8 - stylish and luxury handsets, 9 - communicators).

Then in the mid-2000s, the company added letters to their smartphone names and things became confused, not least because modern smartphones are so similar to one another. The new product naming scheme, however, simplified everything with a three digit number.

Nokia really says it best:

People understand the logic behind 'the bigger the number, the more you get' philosophy. Theoretically speaking, if we were announcing a Nokia 890, but it's a bit out of your price range, you'll know that the Nokia 790 might be a more affordable option. Also, used consistently over time, people learn to know roughly what to expect from a model using its number as a reference.

The short term effect of this may be to create a bit of confusion in the marketplace, but ultimately this seems like it brings clarity where there is confusion. Or does it?

GottaBeMobile wonders if this is "consumer enough," when they say, "In an age where we store numbers and contacts and speed-dial on our smartphones, numbers are forgettable, and it would be unfortunate if Nokia's excellent hardware don't gain more market traction in light of the company's recent change to Windows Phone 7 to become more aggressive in the smartphone sector."

They are, after all, going up against the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy S with what is essentially BMW naming.

Numbers are not a brand. Numbers are not a product name.

Numbers are cold, emotionless and difficult to remember.

For B2B maybe. For B2C boring.

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July 20, 2011

Starbucks Learns the Hard Way About The Importance of Trademarking Acronyms in Naming and Branding

Here is a lesson for all of us: when you trademark a brand name, trademark its acronym too.

SDNThumnail.pngJust ask Starbucks, which is finding itself suing a company over the use of the initials "SDN." Starbucks uses this to refer to Starbucks Digital Network, which provides free Internet access for all Starbucks stores through its Web site. The letters also come up on Starbucks' smartphone app.

A small South Dakota broadband service provider, South Dakota Network LLC, claims they own the acronym trademark.

They sent letters to Starbucks to stop using the "SDN" acronym to avoid confusion between the milions upon millions of Starbucks customers and their probably not so numerous customer base.

But the Starbucks' law suit says "Defendant's accusation of willful infringement casts a cloud over Starbucks' ongoing use and development of the Starbucks Digital Network, threatens to cause irreparable harm to Starbucks, and threatens Starbucks' substantial investment in the Starbucks Digital Network."

MobileSDN.pngThis may be so, but a SDN Communications rep has said "We intend to defend our trademark that we secured... We've tried to come to an agreement with them, to no avail. It shocked us that suddenly, they were suing us. We're this home-grown, rural South Dakota company that did its trademark homework."

Starbucks is trying to get the Federal law on its side but this looks like SDN has a case. In fact, Starbucks has drawn first blood, filing suit in Nebraska after getting cease and desist letters from SDN lawyers. Why has Starbucks gone to Nebraska with this? Nobody is sure exactly but the South Dakota company has an office in Nebraska.

The coffee giant assures us that "Starbucks' use of the acronym SDN is only used as a shorthand reference to its Starbucks Digital Network website and is not used to promote Wi-Fi services or any services other than the Starbucks Digital Network website that is available exclusively to Starbucks' in-store customers."

Well, that may be so, but a trademark is still a trademark.

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March 23, 2011

Now Apple Sues Amazon over "Appstore" Product Name


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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December 27, 2010

Playstation Phone Naming and Branding Confirmed: Xperia Play

The eagerly anticipated Playstation phone is almost certainly going to be named the Xperia Play according to Pocket Now.

SonyEriccson.pngThe original name was rumored to be Xperia Z1 as a "homage" to the gizmo's "Zeus codename," but it looks like Sony Ericsson has decided to follow other manufacturers' leads and drop the confusing alphanumeric nomenclature for catchy,
easy-to-remember brands like Samsung's Galaxy S, LG's Sentio and HTC's Driod Incredible.

Pocket Now found three other filings for European Trademarks on behalf of Sony Ericsson: Xperia Neo, Xperia Duo and Xperia Arc.

Gamers have been dying for more information about this phone since October.

Last week Sony Ericsson launched a Playstation app for the iPhone and the Android in Europe that allows users to "brag about their gaming accomplishments and get news from the company through their smartphones" according to Hayley Tsukayama in the Washington Post Faster Forward Blog.

In a last minute update, Pocket Now confirmed via Xperia X10 Blog that Sony Ericsson's PR firm registered the ".com, .net, and .org versions of the XperiaPlay domain."

This seems to confirm the Xperia Play naming.

CNET is already wondering why they don't just use the Playstation brand on the device and I tend to agree.

The association is absolutely clear - this is a gamer's phone and using the Playstation name would leverage that. The blogosphere has already started calling this the Playstation Phone.

I suppose the Xperia naming might capture the attention of the over 15 crowd.

In any event, we can look for it in April.

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