Marketing: August 2007 Archives

As a naming consultant, developing product names for brand extensions is a topic that I've written about before... and it's a strategy that is often necessary for a brand to continue growing.

The recent news that Guinness is diversifying into red beer with the launch of their new Guinness Red drink is a perfect example of this kind of brand extension.

For 250 years, Guinness has meant black and white. It's a black beer with a white froth. Now, parent company Diageo is pushing the brand in directions never been before... offering us Guinness bread and even your own froth maker called a "surger."

guinnessred.gif Some drinkers are not impressed... the World of Beer grumbles, "Guinness is stout, plain and simple. Not some Kilkenny knock off, not a weird looking creation which, judging by the photo published online at The Sun, boasts tomato juice as an ingredient, but stout. The black stuff. Period." Yet, other beer bloggers can hardly wait for the weekend to try it.

What's up? Extending a brand name, no matter how old and powerful and well loved it is, is something marketers feel compelled to do.

Even Guinness can't rest on its laurels... it has to offer extensions to customers or be swept away in a tide of microbrews and light beers into the ever smaller space of a niche brand name.

TD Clark's excellent article on the subject talks about how newer brands, like Crocs shoes, are already creating new brand names out of old ones. The Crocs brand is now offering apparel consumers "Crosslite rt" or "relaxed technology" shoes. This is aggressive brand naming at its finest, given the relative newness of the Crocs brand name.

Similarly, Mars is offering us a Starburst Drink... you remember Starburst fruit chews, right? By the way, this is an awful line extension, I think, and is doomed to fail. And current TV is using brand extension strategies to "expand its web presence and increase its marketing efforts."

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Company Naming: Hulu Quits Clowning Around

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When NewsCorp and NBC decided on a joint venture, Google started calling it "Clown Co," and TechCrunch wisely urged them to get a real name, fast.

It hasn't been fast, but the venture does finally have a name: Hulu.

hulu.gifCEO Jason Kilar's explanation of the name is that "Hulu is short, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and rhymes with itself. Subjectively, Hulu strikes us as an inherently fun name, one that captures the spirit of the service we're building."

Those are all true statements about the name, which is probably a coinage, but we thought we'd dig a little deeper.

One of the comments on yesterdays TechCrunch post bashes the name pretty hard: "Worst domain name for a company with more than $100 million dollars behind it. Closest mental association is the Hawaiian term hula. And anything Hawaiian has an 'out there' connotation."

I doubt that Jason Calacanis over at Mahalo would appreciate the opinion that Hawaiian = "out there," even if the statement is geographically true. Isn't hula fun? Certainly going to Hawaii is fun.

The closest real word to "Hulu," however, is actually Azeri (that's the language of Azerbaijan).

When written in Latin script (the alternative is Arabic), the Azeri word for "peach" is hülü. And while it might be a bit dated, peachy is definitely a positive term.

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Has Nokia Laid an Egg with Ovi Product Naming?

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Nokia has just announced a new product name that will cover a range of Internet services called Ovi, which means door in Finnish.

nokiaoviphone.gifThis moves Nokia's focus away from mobile devices to Internet products, music and online gaming, which pretty much puts it head-to-head with Apple and the product naming legend iPhone.

Nokia's answer to iTunes will be the Nokia Music Store; and gamers get N-Gage, a name I wrote about yesterday. There will also be Nokia Maps, which I suppose will go head to head with Google Maps.

All Oy-Vey jokes aside, the Ovi name is almost as uninspiring as Loudeye, the service that Nokia bought and re-treaded to make Ovi.

ovilogo.gif I like the fact that Nokia is trading on its Finnish heritage... it works for the brand name Nokia. Ovi, however, is a little strange to those of us who have been brought up speaking languages heavily influenced by Greek and Latin (that's most of us in Europe, North America and the rest of the English speaking world).

As a name consultant, the first words that come to mind when I hear Ovi are eggs and ovaries. That's no coincidence, because ovi, ovum and ovo are the Greek and Latin prefixes meaning egg.

You can travel to Italy to visit the ruins of the Castrum Ovi, or the Fortress of the Egg if you like. Maybe they should do a product launch there?

Fact is, the prefix ovi is really very well ingrained into the English language as having something to do with eggs and pregnancy.

And that may not be so great for Nokia.

On top of that, in Ohio, OVI stands for "Operating a vehicle while impaired."

Enough said.

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Frenemies in Product Naming

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The word of the week is frenemy: the kind of friend who can hurt you one day and be your best friend the next. Om Malik says bluntly, that "everyone is a frenemy," especially in the online world, where YouTube and MySpace are perfect examples of frenemies; or Google and eBay for that matter.

In the world of product and brand naming, a tried and trusted name can be a frenemy.

jagemblem.gifTake, for example, the Jaguar brand name. Jag knows that it is a brand that seems to appeal to an older demographic. The problem is that newer drivers really don't understand the brand and tend to see it as kind of old fashioned. The Jag name is being a frenemy to the company... and the company's solution is to drop it and put a "leaper badge" in its place.

In Europe, the Ford Fiesta brand name is a frenemy. Ford wants to amp up the car but knows that consumers understand Fiesta to be a reliable bare bones vehicle. Everything about the Fiesta brand name means cheap and dependable, and Ford wants the car to be more than that.

But doing away with the brand name means throwing away years of brand equity, while keeping it means being hamstrung by consumer's perceptions of the Fiesta name.

ngage.gifThere's no question that the N-Gage brand name is a true frenemy to Nokia, who is using it to introduce a new gaming platform following the dismal performance of the original N-Gage initiative.

No matter how great the new products are, consumers are going to associate it with the first generation of duds thanks to its product name.

Closer to home, the name of the new market research agency created by Stan Rapp is going to be "Enguage," a name that is sure to be its creator's worst frenemy, notes The Browser, not least because it sounds like the ill fated Engage.

Maybe having a name change at all is the real frenemy here: Enguage had already bought out the well-named Direct Impact, a corporate name that would have been just fine.

What to do? The Godfather once said, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer." Maybe you should totally dump your frenemies.

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Company Naming Trends: Bubble Trouble

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What do the names "LifeLogger," "Cluztr," "Videoegg," "Opinity," and "Razz" have in common?

Their logos.

Earlier this month, Trevor Elliott at the Eachday blog collected the logos of dozens of companies, most of which fall into the appropriately nebulous category of Web 2.0.

Cluztr.gifWhat all the logos have in common is a speech bubble, and what better symbol could there be for the age of conversation?

John Moore at Brand Autopsy described it as "the real Web 2.0 bubble."

Just as many hip emerging companies use numbers and punctuation marks to replace letters, these companies are using the speech bubble to extend the alphabet.

razz.gifThe name "Razz" doesn't tell you much about what the company does, but if you put a speech bubble around it, then it's clear that it's something to do with talking.

Elliott takes the "enough already!" approach, believing that the speech-bubble logo has been overused along with the lowercase "i" prefix. It certainly does seem to have reached a saturation point, and there's a good argument to be made that using it shows a lack of imagination.

People know what it means. So I doubt we've seen the last of it by any stretch.

Who knows? It could start showing up on keyboards as an extra character, and the US Patent and Trademark Office might have to create a new code just for that shape.

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Company Naming Changes: Much Ado About Nothing?

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When it comes to company name changes, it seems to me that it's Much Ado About Nothing.

By that, I mean the changes from an outsider looking in seem very subtle and make you wonder: Why do they even make those changes?

KFC2.gifFor instance some recent examples are:

  • Aura Gold, Inc. to Aura Minerals Inc.
  • Rocket City Automotive Group, Inc to Rocket City Enterprises, Inc.
  • Computer Associates International, Inc. to CA, Inc.
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC and back again
  • New 360 to Point.360

For more about company naming changes in the Much Ado About Nothing category, please check out our proprietary Company Naming Changes research.

For more on company naming changes, check out other chapters of our proprietary research:

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CBS Sportsline name has been replaced by CBSSports.com.

Bad move, guys.

sportsline.gif The Sportsline company name goes back to 1994 and was finally acquired by CBS in 2004. The name hung on until now because, apparently, CBS was worried about "harming its fantasy football operations."

CBS' association with the Sportsline brand name came about when "CBS launched head first into the dot-com craze and ramped up its online efforts." Killing it, allows CBS to (finally) implement a unified brand name strategy by simplifying its branding across all platforms.

Well, sort of.

I would say that the CBSSports.com name should be shortened to CBS Sports. Adding the dot com is redundant.

CBSsports.gif We get it. I like sports. I like watching sports. I know there's an ESPN.com.

When I think of brand names, I just think ESPN. And www.cbssports.com is prone to errors in typing. I'd put even odds that half the fans don't type the extra "s" and decide to just switch over to www.espn.com after getting the error message.

I have been carefully (exhaustively) tracking company naming changes over the past few years and can say with some finality that company naming is all about congruence, as is brand naming for that matter.

A tremendous amount of name changes occur in the US. In fact, every hour of every business day in the U.S., a company changes its name. Companies that present a single, congruent, easy to remember company or brand name are the ones who are doing it right; ESPN, Apple, Google.

Seems like the NFL got the message, too: Joel Price points out that the NFL.com logo has been sent to the showers on the new NFL website. Seems that he, like the rest of us, likes the "NFL shield without the .com hanging off the side." Joel also argued to drop the .com off the Chargers logo as well because it "didn't seem necessary."

CBS Sports is a legendary brand name, but in this case I think they've fumbled the ball.

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Ingredient Naming Lives On

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activia.gifFirst it was bifidus regularis in Dannon's Activia yogurt. Now it's Optibalance™ in Yoplait's new Yo-Plus™ yogurt.

The power of a fancy ingredient name to help sell a new product, particularly when that product advertises health benefits, has obviously not diminished at all in the past year.

As Yoplait's press release indicates, women these days are concerned with their digestive health, perhaps because the typical American diet contains so many things not conducive to their health.

And, of course, there's something appealing about the idea of getting what you need out of the food you eat instead of having to take something extra for that "occasional irregularity" the commercials used to talk about.

yoplus.gifYoplait takes a slightly different approach to naming its special-ingredient yogurt versus Dannon, which concentrated on the product's effect.

Yo-Plus focuses instead on the product's ingredients: yogurt plus special additives. The "food-plus" approach has been a popular way to appeal to shoppers since Vitamin D milk and "enriched" white bread were introduced.

My only concern is that if other manufacturers create their own "digestive" dairy products, people will get entirely the wrong idea about the purpose of Go-Gurt!

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Company Naming Changes: Choosing a Winning Name

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globes-logo.gif "Often, the choice of a name spells out the destiny of a company or a brand," says Keren Argaman of The Globes, Israel's leading business journal.

I couldn't agree more.

In our proprietary 2006 Company Naming Changes report, we analyzed the major reasons for a company name change... there were nine of them. A company that goes so far as to actually change its name is moving in a new direction, sending a signal out to its stakeholders that its identity has changed and the world should take note.

But choosing a new name can be risky, and the possible meanings associated with each name should be well researched, including semantics, pronunciation, cultural context, and the colloquial language of the location.

kiamotorslogo.gifFor instance, Korean Kia importers became concerned sales would be affected by the resemblance between the brand name Kia and the word Ki, which means vomit in Hebrew. They decided to change the name so that it would be pronounced as Kaya.

During my interview with The Globes, I indicated to the reporter that there are many other instances of naming faux pas.

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The dot mobi dilemma is an ongoing challenge in the world of naming and branding, not to mention tagline development.

Dot-MobiThe dot Mobi blog tells us that sex.mobi is about to go on sale and that big brand names like Zagat.mobi and AAA.mobi have joined the club... not to mention Weather.mobi.

They are poised to break 700,000 dot Mobi names soon and Network Solutions even conveniently has a BuildMyMobi.com site to help developers help people promote their product names in this new arena.

And yet, and yet.

Dot mobi domains are not registering very well in India.

That's a bad thing because although so many people in the developing world use mobile phones to access the Internet, registering a dot Mobi name costs much more than simply redirecting users to a wireless dot com.

Also, the guys at GoMo News have a real bone to pick with the dot Mobi gang, calling them "arrogant." Ouch.

Teething problems aside, dot Mobi will have its role to play in the future of the Mobile Web, a future that was brought that much nearer with the smashing success of the iPhone.

But frankly, it is really hard to say where a dot mobi domain name fits into a product-naming scheme and even in a company's technology naming strategy.

Right now, the best I can say is that having a dot mobi naming strategy should be part of a naming service strategy... sometimes.

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Company Naming Changes - Terms of Endearment

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xohm.gif Our proprietary Company Naming Changes research has found that company naming... and by extension brand naming... is getting more user friendly and endearing.

The trend has continued into 2007, with bloggers decrying Sprint's Xohm Wi-Fi brand name as difficult to remember and not a serious brand name.

Today, brand names have to be promotion friendly and link easily to the business's domain name. This is nothing new: look at Famous Amos.

Pharmaceutical companies are getting the message by putting their brand names on major TV shows and naming them like sports cars to attract an aging and medical savvy consumer base in the USA.

User-friendly naming for 2006 included Inter-Bank's change to TomatoBank, which is a move geared towards appealing to tomato growers and a generation of consumers happy to use computers named after an apple. One blogger says of the bank, "I walked in expecting a great pita and left with a great rate."

WaMu.gif Similarly, Washington Mutual changed its name to WaMu partly because customers had been using that nickname to refer to the bank for years anyway.

In our proprietary Company Naming Changes report we also look at "companies that missed the memo" and actually became less user friendly, as when Equitex went to Hydrogen Power International, Inc. and the Center for Business Research went to The Center for Competitiveness and Prosperity Research.

Sometimes too much of a good thing is a bad thing, guys.

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Product Line Extensions - The Awful and the Brilliant

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When I saw an ad for Crisco Extra Virgin Olive Oil, I cringed.

I couldn't think of a more inappropriate or awful product line extension.

CriscoOliveOil.gifThe Crisco brand connotes:

  • Deep frying
  • Fat
  • Grease
  • Clogged arteries
  • Everything else that extra virgin olive oil is not

What were the people at P&G thinking? I'm convinced that someone at P&G let this out the door when deep down they knew better.

For more on inappropriate line extensions, check out Laura Ries' blog on Hellman's Mayonnaise versus Kraft's Miracle Whip.

Now for a brilliant line extension.

BahamaRumBottles.gifWhat could be more natural than a rum from Tommy Bahama?

  • Tommy Bahama by virtue of its name says warm, relaxed and a casual environment
  • The leading rum brand, Bacardi, is produced in the Bahamas
  • Additionally, what could be more natural than wearing Tommy Bahama clothing while sipping rum in the Bahamas or the Caribbean, the birthplace of rum dating back to the 17th century?

Crisco Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Awful.

Tommy Bahama Rum. Brilliant.

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A Name We Have No Name For

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Reuters has just announced that a Chinese couple tried to name their baby "@." As pronounced in Chinese, the symbol sounds like ai ta, which means "love him."

atworldsign.gif Given that the Chinese government has banned foreign letters and symbols from names for Chinese children, I don't think that the couple is likely to have much luck. And a symbol with so many curves in it might be difficult for the Chinese to write, given how different it is from their traditional style of calligraphy, either traditional or simple Chinese.

We've talked before about the challenge of names spelled with symbols instead of letters. In this case, we have an additional problem.

While many of the symbols we use, like the asterisk (*), ampersand (&), and carat mark (^), have names, there is no name for the @ in English. (One caller to KPBS' A Way with Words radio show suggested "atra," which actually has a rather nice ring to it.)

This in spite of the fact that the symbol is an old one, dating back to the Midde Ages, and was used by accountants to mean "at the rate of" long before e-mail came along.

little-mouse.gif Unlike English, Chinese actually has a name for the @ symbol: quan a (circular a) or hua a (lacy a). In Taiwan, the @ is called "little mouse" or the "mouse sign."

If people reading this child's name conclude that he's called "Lacy A" or "Little Mouse," they'll miss the point his parents want to make.

Better these Chinese parents should use the traditional symbols to write ai ta, I think.

Do you agree?

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In the course of our research into Company Naming Changes in 2006 and into this year, we discovered that companies often change names to build up their brand name.

YPCom.gif Take YP.com's recent decision to distance itself from the very well known... and valuable... Yellow Pages brand name. Despite the ubiquity of the yellow pages name, and its instant recognizability among consumers, YP wanted to broaden its appeal to local advertisers and create a space where it could appeal to new media categories.

When GS Carbon changed its company name to Seaway Valley Capital Corp., Thomas Scozzafava, the founder of Seaway Capital, Inc., noted that the name signified its complete departure from its past ownership. This meant the company could also move in a new direction, and the brand name was starting fresh.

When L.A. CAD moved to U.S. CAD, it was a shift to focus on the company's customer base in civil, mechanical, and architectural design, building engineering, and geospatial industries.

On a lighter note, I was interested to see last week that CNBC had changed the name of its show Morning Call to The Call, possibly at least partly because a show that starts at 11 AM is really not giving us a morning call at all!

RockyBrands.gif Our proprietary Company Naming Changes report looks at how a brand can literally get too big for its boots, such as when Rocky Shoes and Boots, Inc. changed its company name to Rocky Brands to better reflect the fact that it was actually an amalgamation of well known brand names such as Durango and Dickies as well as newly acquired Michelin Footwear and Zumfoot.

And sometimes we see a new company name even reflect a change in climate, such as when PanAmerican Bancorp switched to Sun America Bancorp following its strategic focus on South Florida.

Company naming is intimately associated with brand naming. We would suggest that organizations such as Datameg, who are currently struggling with a name change, take a peek at how others have done it by clicking on the Company Naming Changes Report button at the top of our home page.

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Today, No Brand Name Toy is Safe

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The incredible news that Mattel is recalling toys for the second week in a row is rocking the business world; this time we're talking about 9 million toys, some of which contain harmful magnets that could rip through a child's gut (if swallowed) "like a gunshot."

This news comes just as we are learning that one of the Chinese toy executives blamed for last week's recall has shot himself.

barbie-and-tanner.gif Seems that this may be just the tip of the iceberg.

The bottom line is that because the list of brand names affected is so exhaustive, no name is exempt from suspicion. Time Magazine has weighed in already, stating that: "Toys from brand name companies and brand name stores are potentially hazardous, as are toys from dollar stores."

Safety fears among parents are putting pressure on even the most trusted toy names. MSNBC has the complete list of product names that are affected: Polly Pocket is first on the list, alongside the Barbie and Tanner Playset.

This is a much bigger recall than last week, but goes right to the heart of USA toyland. I think this recall may signal a new turn in our trade relations with China, and certainly mark a boon for toys made in the USA.

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There are two pieces of news from the world of brand naming that have me scratching my head that obviously look good on paper but just don't make a lot of sense in the real world.

First off, the news that Johnson & Johnson is going to sue the American Red Cross over the use of its, well, red cross, is what some might call PR Hari Kari.

RedCross.gif This is like cutting off your nose to spite your chin hairs... a multi-billion dollar company taking on one of the noblest institutions in the world over its use of the red cross because the institution sells a few million bucks worth of disaster kits.

The Patent Barista says it best: "The legal case is on shaky ground, the red cross symbol is universally recognized as standing for medical care, and the PR backlash is going to be ruinous." More than that, I agree with Bill Gallagher... I challenge my readers to even find a red cross anywhere on the Johnson & Johnson web site. Go on, take a look.

C'mon. Does anyone associate Johnson & Johnson with the red cross symbol? In a different world, would it not be worth the company's time to offer the Red Cross money to share the symbol? What better logo and name is there on earth to be associated with if you make bandages, guys?

The most ridiculous name of the week comes from Google, however, who is threatening to unleash upon the world the GooPhone.

I thought it was a sick prank.

At least one report claims that it is set to take out the Apple iPhone because it will offer free service and the company will literally be giving them away. I figure that with a product name like GooPhone you'd darn well better be giving them away.

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Pony Brand Name Rides Again

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I've said it before and I'll say it again: sometimes you just can't keep a good brand name down.

pony-logo.gif One well-loved brand that is coming back from oblivion is Pony Sneakers, which once were worn by Pele, Muhammad Ali and Dan Marino.

pony-shoe.gif This is a brand name that will give anyone who was in high school in the 80s a serious flashback... and it seems that 80s brand names are experiencing a resurgence in general: just look at Camp Beverly Hills, Le Tigre and La Coste... not to mention Jaeger.

In an article posted on George Torok's marketing blog, Kevin Keller states that Pony's problem is that it is trapped in limbo between a fashion brand and a sports brand. On the one hand they want big time athletes to wear their sports shoes, on the other they (briefly) hired porn star Jenna Jameson to represent the name.

I think that there is a good chance that the Pony brand could make it, not least because it has a high degree of recognition among a pretty large target market.

But I think it's a bad idea to offend parents with your advertising, especially when they are the ones who will be buying shoes for school.

Call me crazy, but I really think the only industry that should be using porn stars as brand ambassadors is the adult entertainment industry.

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i-Brand Naming Getting iNfuriating?

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I have written before about the trend of using a lower case "e" in brand naming... as well as most other lowercase prefixes, including "mi" and "u".

iscream.gif The prevalence of the lowercase "i" in marketing and branding, another subject that has been on my mind for a while, has caught the exasperated eye of The New York Times, which published a great article today proclaiming that "For Many Campaigns, the Little i's Have It" and gives us a great list of "i" friendly brand names, including Friendly's iScream (I was waiting for the ice cream guys to catch on).

Ominously, one exec is quoted regarding all this i-copycat brand naming thus: "I original. I flattered. I did this a decade ago."

Certainly Marshall Lager at destinationCRM is getting a bit tired of it all.

Lager says that "We are witnessing a revolution in corporate naming, ladies and gentlemen: the de-interCapping of American business."

Even Microsoft is struggling with this new brand naming scheme, albeit clumsily: the new

Could it be that once Microsoft has gotten around to a product naming trend, you can pretty much declare it dead?

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Virgin America: Brand Naming of Desire

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If you think brand naming doesn't count in the cutthroat airline industry, watch Virgin America, the biggest new airline company name to take to our skies in a long, long time.

valogo.gifPut aside for a moment the fact that almost everyone who flies knows the Virgin name and take a look at how carefully the company infuses brand naming throughout the entire customer experience.

For starters, they don't just have a cool in-flight entertainment system. Nope. They have "Red," named after the color of the airplanes' tails.

They even have mood lighting inside the cabins.

vaplane.gifAnd they name their planes. With cool names. Names like Mach Daddy, Virgin & Tonic, An Airplane Named Desire, Jane (as in Plane Jane, nice) and Unicorn Chaser.

Hear that really loud slapping sound? That's a thousand airline execs whacking their foreheads in unison and saying "doh" upon seeing all the free publicity Virgin has gotten from these names.

Plus, they named their inaugural flight out of LAX "California Dreaming."

Every passenger also gets a username when you take your seat so you can chat (and flirt) with other passengers.

This is all just first class product naming. Book me a ticket on Unicorn Chaser. Good luck, guys.

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If the phrase "I deserve a hot, juicy burger" doesn't make you think about a red wig-wearing man, you're probably not bringing home the bacon... or the Baconator&trade.

Baconator.gifBloggers and food critics everywhere have been writing about the Baconator, Wendy's latest burger release, with one writer calling it "frighteningly, fabulously delicious."

The burger has two quarter-pound patties of fresh, never frozen beef, six strips of hickory-smoked bacon, American cheese, ketchup and mayonnaise.

Blogger Mr. Baconpants called the Baconator the "mother of all bacon cheeseburgers," and another who tried the burger said that it "might have been perfect."

The burger's new brand name has also been receiving a warm reception: VH1's Best Week Ever blog commented on it, saying, "What a name! "The Baconator" It's perfect!"

The Baconator sandwich owes its name to Strategic Name Development.

We worked with Wendy's to develop a brand name that would highlight the impressive amount of bacon in a clever, playful way as well as encompass the substantial amount of beef and cheese. The name brings to mind the well-known Terminator character while the burger's name has taken on a character of its own in television advertising and a Baconator music contest.

"We are thrilled with Strategic Name Development's exceptionally fresh approach to naming combined with their rigorous name research methodology," said Mario Smith, Director, Core Business Innovation New Product Development for Wendy's.

For more information about Wendy's Baconator, visit Wendy's.

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Company Naming Changes: Moving East

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This week's news that China's shares hit a new high underlines why company name changes often are made to appeal to this ever-expanding market.

dragon.gifAnd if you want to appeal to China, you want to come across as green and Asian friendly... something that BusinessWeek wrote about as far back as 2005.

Our proprietary 2006 Company Naming Changes Report profiles companies across the business spectrum that are interested in appealing to Chinese customers and partners, ranging from financial houses to technology companies.

chinasunset.gifEvolve One Inc.'s switch to China Direct and Comet Technologies' switch to China Sky One Medical are perfect examples of companies throwing their focus totally on China.

This month, Nevada-based EASY Groups Limited changed its name to China Bionanometer Industries Corporation.

All in all, at least 23 companies got the memo last year and changed their company name to include the word "China" or "Asia" In fact, the establishment of the dot-asia domain might be what SFGate calls "a new era of social, cultural and commercial cross-pollination on the world's fastest-growing and most populous continent."

This news comes just as many United States businesses are discovering that it is harder and harder to find Asian partners to get into China, despite the fact that laws in this regard seem to be getting looser... and more expensive.

Our report's "East Side Story" chapter outlines China-friendly company name changes that seem to be popping up with some regularity.

picture.gifSeems that Chinese customers want to do business not only with environmentally friendly companies, but also with companies that reference them, their needs, and their culture.

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The Beckham Brand Name Smells of Money

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The Beckham brand name is marching on even if David Beckham himself is benched with an ankle injury.

beckham.gifNext month US shoppers will be able to buy David and Victoria's Intimately Beckham fragrance line.

The launch quietly went off last Thursday and the perfumes have been well received so far: Intimately Beckham Man is a "modern woodsy-spicy scent" while the Woman version smells of "lilies, tuberose, vanilla, sandalwood and orange blossoms."

The ad the Beckhams have been using across the pond, however, might need to be revamped... I simply do not recognize either of them in the picture. For instance, Victoria and David on the Victoria Beckham blog shows a much rougher looking bloke covered in tattoos.

This couple clearly has an empire going: the fragrance line, which includes David Beckham's Instinct is going to ring up $100 million, and Victoria is working on a line of sunglasses and clothing which already includes the VB Rocks denim jeans.

Their photo shoot last month in a seedy hotel probably heralds a new, rougher image for the American market, illustrating that the brand name can easily change with the times, even when Becks isn't on the field.

Will it succeed?

Of course. One gets the feeling that Victoria Beckham is a savvy manager of this multimillion dollar brand name, and we will be bending it like Beckham long after David retires from football (soccer in the US) and Posh Spice is but a memory.

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The Los Angeles Times has been running a series of stories on how savvy marketers are helping to build brand name drugs in patients' minds, often enabling the patient to suggest the drugs he or she wants at a medical consultation.

The so-called sanctuary in which a doctor prescribes a drug to a sick patient has been breached thanks to marketers who are getting to the patients first... in 2006 they spent a cool $5 billion advertising drugs to us.

Fact is, according to the follow-up piece, the marketing work and patients and doctors alike are affected by it, even when they think they are not (doctors often mistakenly feel they are above mundane things like brand name marketing, despite the fact that they tend to like the same expensive cars, soft drinks and gold clubs as the rest of us mortals).

Last week John Russell of the Indianapolis Star noted that brand name drugs are the "new stars of TV," with characters routinely mentioning certain brand names: Tony Soprano takes Prozac, Doctors on ER shout for ReoPro and when a character is feeling amorous on 30 Rock, he takes Ciallis, an erectile dysfunction drug made by Lilly... as are the preceding drugs.

The drug industry is not completely happy with all this: the jokes about Botox and Viagra and Xanax obviously do not help their brand name equity.

pillbottles.gif But at the end of the day, new drug names are designed to be memorable: InNexus' new drug is the DXL 625, which the Arizona Central says "sounds like the name of a luxury car."

We are an aging nation that fills more and more prescriptions yearly... and the more brand name drugs we have at our fingertips, the better.

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Coveted items such as cash, big screen TVs and shiny new cars tempt viewers and contestants on CBS' game show "The Price is Right." Perhaps when the show returns this fall for its 36th season with new host Drew Carey, public universities will be the new hot item.

A nationwide naming controversy is in the news this week as Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, health insurance company-of-choice for 1.8 million Iowans and South Dakotans, offered a gift of $15 million to the University of Iowa's College of Public Health - in exchange for renaming the college after Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.

BlueCross.gif Traditionalists say slapping a corporate brand name on schools could undermine the independence of the researchers, and naming buildings after corporations hasn't always gone so well in the past: back in 2005, students and faculty at Boise State University protested when the school introduced Taco Bell Arena as part of a $4 million deal, arguing the fast-food company exploited farm workers.

Terry Burton, a Vancouver-based consultant with a database of over 28,000 naming opportunities and gifts at universities and nonprofits, says "We're close to the tip of the sword for an AT&T School of Business or a Kodak School of Digital Communication."

Very close, Burton... the University of Texas in Austin named two facilities after corporations this year, one of which is the $25 million AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center. The Texas Board of Regents decided, however, it will not rename colleges or academic buildings to avoid any overt commercialization.

Here in Minnesota we have the Cargill Building for Microbial and Plant Genomics.

In The Matchmaker, a play by Thornton Wilder, there is a quote "Money is like manure; it's not worth a thing unless it's spread around encouraging young things to grow."

Using this line of reasoning, corporations apparently see value in attaching their name to a prestigious program - they have a vested interest in seeing a college succeed as the graduates may become their employees.

Right... or they want brand recognition. Or both.

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Gas Stations Need Better Brand Naming

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Gas stations notoriously have a hard time achieving brand name loyalty from customers.

Why? Because we are simply not loyal to gas stations, despite the fact that we all recognize the various brand names.

We may insist on the same brand name cola or perfume but when it comes to gas stations, we'll take just about anything.

Gas is gas, right? (Imagine Coke&trade saying "cola is cola" or Google saying "all search engines are pretty much alike.")

We are really loyal to car brand names, but not to the stuff we put in the cars.

This has led many gas station brand names to take some desperate measures to lure customers, like offering all kinds of activities at the station itself as well as additives to the gas you pump into your car.

Guys, guys... it's not about the gas. It's about brand naming!

gulf.gifAt least one company is getting the message: Gulf Oil LP is switching the 11 stations it owns along the Mass Pike from Exxon to its own brand this month on "one of its biggest moves yet to promote New England's only major locally based gas brand."

They are also getting the Citgo stores along the Pike to switch to the Gulf brand name... what a breakthrough.

Ironically, Gulf is really a ghost brand that bears no real relation to the famous oil company of 1901.

Gulf Oil was bought in 1984 by Chevron and Cumberland Farms Inc. bought rights to the brand in 1994 to set up Gulf Oil LP jointly with Catamount Petroleum Corp. Chevron still owns the name.

Using the Gulf name along the Pike is all about trying to encourage New England customers to show some regional loyalty.

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fp-logo.gif Today's news that Mattel's Fisher-Price is recalling one million Chinese made toys is going to add further fuel to the anti-Chinese sentiment growing within the American consumer market... not that it will do much to stop Chinese exports into the USA.

What strikes me is that Fischer-Price is such an utterly American brand name: One of my staffers grew up near East Aurora New York, where Fischer-Price formerly made its famous toys before outsourcing most of its production to China.

This recall, the first in almost ten years for them, is going to illustrate that no brand name is above suspicion.

dora.gif Moreover, Big Bird, Elmo, Dora and Diego are all blue chip toy names, and they are all tainted now. Thomas the Tank Engine and Hasbro's Easy Bake Oven are also suspect... is nothing sacred?

These are legendary brand names, not random cheapies cooked up in Shanghai.

Some bloggers point out that there is no need to panic and the Chinese juggernaut is a monster of our own making.

I agree.

But shoddy workmanship is killing famous brand name equity in the USA... and don't get me started on what counterfeit watches going for as little as $12 must be doing to the luxury brand name segment.

We like our cheap stuff and we like our knock offs, but I have to say that in the foreseeable future, products not made in China have a perfect means of creating a nice niche for themselves against the Chinese export tsunami.

USA.gifThe words "Made in USA" are going to sound especially sweet to nervous mothers shopping for their preschoolers.

I'm thinking that if you have a company name that references pretty much anything USA, put it prominently on the box and make sure customers know where your factory is located.

The great Chinese strategist Sun Tzu used to say "attack weakness, avoid strength", and China has just shown its Achilles heel.

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A new study has discovered... surprise, surprise... that your brand name and company name are vital when it comes to "obtaining acceptance and avoiding failure" in the marketplace.

This, of course, is not news to us at Strategic Name Development, but it is interesting to see just how much a company name matters when it comes to buying cars.

That importance carries over to pretty much anything else.

alphabet.gif As Alexandra Weissner pointed out yesterday, branding and rebranding are simply vital components of your company's success model, and the associations we make with a brand name or a company name really carry the day in the long run... a lesson that was just learned by none other than the Pentagon.

Strategic Name Development has been tracking company name changes for some time now and are acutely aware of the critical importance customers and employees place in a name.

Naming, after all, is our business, and we know it's important... it's just nice to see that others share our perspective.

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