Marketing: December 2011 Archives

AmEx Swerves into Online Payment Brand Name

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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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Rolex Defends Brand Name Against Dumb Deli Owner

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RolexDeli.jpgShawqu Ali, a New York deli owner, is shocked to hear that the elite Swiss watchmaker Rolex has filed a trademark infringement suit against him for calling his sandwich and beer spot "Rolex Deli."

Imagine his shock when he learned that his use of the name, and the similarity of the Rolex font on his awning and signage, was being contested by the high-end jeweler.

The deli owner choose the Rolex name because "it's a name that is associated with quality and prestige."

Well, the funny thing here is that Rolex feels the same way about the name!

To add insult to injury, Ali showed a New York Post reporter his "genuine" $200 Rolex that he now is willing to resell. These watches usually start at about, oh, $6,000. Many are able to go for a cool $30,000, so if Ali's watch was the real deal, he could sell it and recoup his losses.

Ali's defense is that "There's nothing Rolex-related on the menu. Apparently, Rolex doesn't know the difference between a sandwich and a watch. Regular people know the difference."

Um, no. It doesn't quite work that way.


Rolex has trademarked the name for basically everything and they jealously guard it because, well, so many people want to rip it off.

Every day of the week, thousands of fake watches are pumped out in China that bear the Rolex name and dilute the value of the brand.

Ali probably has one of these watches. And frankly, any guy moronic enough to rip off the Rolex name is dumb enough to think that two hundred smackers will buy him a real Rolex.

The Rolex name is actually "a portmanteau word combining the second syllable of 'horologie' and the first of 'exquise.'"

None of these attributes apply to, oh, I dunno, Rolex Deli.

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Chinese Brand Name Just Doesn't Travel Well

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li-ning-logo.jpgToday is a grim day in the world of brand naming.

I was tempted to write about the final demise of the Saab brand name, because I have followed the story for a few years now.

What actually caught my eye was another piece of bad news.

Despite an endorsement from Shaq, the Chinese apparel company Li Ning Co. failed to break into the American market.

The company is named after the towering Chinese athlete you may have seen at the last Olympic games. Their aggressive bid to take up headspace with the American consumer seems to have fallen short.

The fact is, beyond Chinese borders, Chinese brands are a challenge to establish. Studies show that 83% of consumers outside of China are unable to name one Chinese brand or company.

China's most valuable 50 brands have a combined value of $325 billion. Compare that to Apple's $153 billion, Google's $111 billion and IBM's $101 billion. Yup. Those three companies alone have more brand value.

The Asia Times, published an article entitled, China's Brands in the Shadows, which quoted a marketing professor referring to the top Chinese brands as "invisible dragons."

There are many reasons for this. From a lack of creativity in the "command-control" structure of Chinese companies to the typical North American reluctance to attach value to things "Made in China" despite the popularity of companies like Apple and Nike who sell Chinese made products.

Another problem may be China's inward looking marketing.

But I might add that there are clear naming problems here.


Think about it. Would you buy sneakers from a brand called Li Ning? It sounds like Lining. As in, "the sidelines."

The country's biggest Internet service portal is called Tencent. Yeah, Ten Cent.

And China's largest casual clothing retailer? Metersbonwe. Try saying that ten times fast or slow.

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SRT Viper Sheds Dodge Brand Name

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SRTViper.jpgIt is not surprising that the 2013 SRT Viper will shed the Dodge name and become the halo car for Chrysler's now stand-alone SRT brand.

The Viper will essentially become the face of the SRT brand and be built in the U.S. by hand, sharing no parts with Maserti or Ferrari.

It is also the first SRT branded product.

MotorAuthority assured readers that the Viper will "continue to be a serious, performance-focused driver's car without the dilution of more practical, mundane concerns that might be introduced if it were not under the sole dominion of the boutique brand."

This is exactly the positioning Chrysler would want. The SRT brand name allows room for the company to build car lovers' cars.

Is this true?

Well, I didn't perceive the old Dodge Vipers as being a type of family car. But the SRT moniker gives it even more cred.

Car and Driver weighed in on subject, stating "As long as the brute is powered by a heart-stoppingly powerful V-10, then we don't particularly care what it's called."

The brand name change allows for those who are into fast cars to get what they want, while those who are more brand conscious also get a boutique-style bonus.

Jalopnik came to an interesting realization stating, "let me get this straight - since Fiat's taken over they've now added three new brand sales channels? Yes, the Italians are monuments to efficiency, aren't they?"

Well, yes.

The Dodge brand has been greatly streamlined, thank you. Look at the way they have moved Ram away from the brand and now created a space for American sports car lovers to invest in a super brand.


The SRT brand strategy is actually very European.

As KickingTires points out, "SRT works similarly to BMW's M brand or Mercedes' AMG brand. Models like the 2012 Grand Cherokee SRT8 or Chrysler 300 SRT8 feature race-inspired performance parts and exterior/interior looks."

Selling everything from family cars to trucks to high-end sports cars all under the Dodge nameplate would sacrifice identity for efficiency, so in fact this is a wise branding move.

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Raiders and Steelers Tackle Brand Naming Fraudsters

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TerribleTowel.pngThe news coming out of the sordid world of trademark infringement has me wondering what some people are thinking.

I couldn't imagine what was going through the mind of the joker who decided to violate the Steelers' trademark on The Terrible Towel by creating The Terrible T-Shirt.

The Terrible Towel, a product of the club, has been sold to fans for 35 years and bears an obvious relation to the the team. The Terrible T-Shirt? Not so much.

One Eugene Berry of Eugene Berry Enterprise decided to sell a crate of The Terrible T-Shirt garments emblazoned with the phrase "The Terrible T-Shirt: A Pittsburgh Original."

Berry had even forged a letter to assure the National Retail Graphics that he had the authority to produce these things.

The judge who deemed them fraudulent noted, "'The Terrible' has been a registered trademark and in continuous use for more then twenty consecutive years [and] illustrates the characteristics of both a fanciful, distinctive mark and of a famous mark."

The Terrible Towel has even been a part of American pop culture. Terrible Towels have traveled to the top of Everest and even into outer space.

So, to rip off the trademark is almost unthinkable.

In my opinion, people who willfully violate trademarks are highly careless. They knowingly, publicly, break the law for uncertain gain proving that they defy normal logic.

The Raiders are, yet, another NFL team who have recently sought justice over the trademark infringement of the Raider Nation mark.

The Nation's Giant Hamburgers chain set up a billboard that uses the team's colors and typography to read, "Raid A Nation's."


This is a not too subtle play on "Raider Nation" and is "phonetically indistinguishable" from that trademarked phrase.

The Raiders have asked the company to stop, but of course they didn't. And now the court has to step in to get rid of the full slogan "When Hunger Hits, Raid a Nation's."

Nation's Giant Hamburgers had even put an eye patch on their cartoon burger, a further rip off of the eye patch worn by the Raider's iconic Raider.

This was not done by mistake, but a purposeful raiding of a trademarked phrase and image.

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Blackwater.jpgShhh. The super secret gang of mercenaries formerly known as Blackwater who killed 17 civilians in Iraq in 2007 and then changed their name to "Xe" is now changing its name again.

This time to "ACADEMI."

Why would a bunch of tough guy mercs ditch the name "Xe?"

Maybe because it was really, really silly? Kind of like a name Dr. Evil would think up?

It was pronounced "Z" as in "xenophobioa" but imagine radioing that one in from your super secret location.

Okay, so now they want to be known as ACADEMI.

ACADEMI's new ruler stated, "The message is that we're changing the company, and the name just reflects those changes. We have new owners, a new board of directors, a new management team, new location, new attitude on governance, new openness, new strategy - it's a whole new company."

He added, cryptically, that "this wasn't a Blackwater-to-Xe change. This was a Xe to Academi change." As in, Xe was the same as Blackwater but ACADEMI is totally different from Blackwater.

One blogger points out that "It's hard to keep up with these guys' name changing but I suspect that is the point."

Most importantly, they want the name to be more "boring," as Ted Wright, the president and chief executive, stated.

Blackwater and Xe just sound so evil.

In any event, the new management ultimately wants to get permission to go back to Iraq, where I am sure they will be welcomed with open arms by the people there.

They might have tried for a more friendly name, as one blogger suggested:

• Mercs' R Us
• Xarbucks
• TMI [The Military Inc.]
• Xpendables
• The Starks
• The Knights Who Say Ni!

I really like Merc' R Us.

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Apple Loses Brand Naming Rights to iPad in China

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Ipad.pngThe news that Apple has been denied the iPad trademark in China is very intriguing.

First of all, this is a costly problem for Apple that illustrates just how important, and difficult, trademarking a name in China is.

Secondly, it illustrates the value of a brand name.

Hong Kong-based Proview Technology claims to have had the trademark for iPad since 2000. Apple was under the impression that Proview had sold its rights to the iPad name in 2006 when it sold the "global trademark" for the "IPAD" name for about $54,000 after their attempt at a tablet failed.

Proview claims these rights did not include rights for China, arguing that their Shenzhen-based company Proview Technology is using a different trademark than the one formerly owned by Proview Electronics.

The Municipal Intermediate People's Court in Shenzhen has upheld this claim.

Proview is now suing Apple for trademark infringement to the tune of $1.6 billion, possibly to help dig their own company out of its $64 million debt.

I agree with one blogger's statement saying, "It must really suck to be the person in charge of securing trademarks for Apple right now."

Some bloggers say this is all nonsense, but it is a great illustration of how difficult even big companies like Apple find trademark law in China, and how it seems that the deck is stacked against foreign companies.


Apple may, therefore, have to sell the iPad under another name in China.

Mashable has a few suggestions including, iCan'tBelieveIt'sNotTheiPad, which was the clear leader in its naming poll this morning.

Another name catching up in the polls? iSlate, a name that was quite liked before the iPad name became official.

Slate Computing currently owns the trademark for the iSlate name, which coincidentally lists one of Apple's trademark specialists on it's board of directors.

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Chrysler Resurrects Dart Brand Name

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Dodge Dart.jpgI am pleased to see that Chrysler's Dodge brand is bringing back yet another well loved name from the past.

The Dart, a new four-door compact sedan that we will see at next month's North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

It's a modern vehicle that is built upon a Fiat architecture that will have "eye-catching exterior proportions set off from every angle by dynamic lines and curves, along with advanced technology, to deliver class-leading aerodynamic performance."

In other words, do not expect a retro car.

Dodge has created a teaser site for the car and it is a far cry from the boxy "Swinger" car of the 1960s.

People generally remember the Dart as a street racer the kids used to amp up in their spare time.

The Dart came in many manifestations from 1960 to 1976, including the Swinger version, as well as the 1968 Slant Six version, known for its endurance and trustworthiness.

One Chrysler executive stated, "The Dart is one of the more positive names in Chrysler's brand-portfolio history. Also, anybody under 40 isn't going to remember Dart and that helps them because they are about to create something new."

This is a very Italian looking car, part of Chrysler's aggressive bid to get into the competitive midsize industry.

The Dart brand name is clearly the replacement for the Hornet name that Chrysler discontinued last month.

I think that the Dart brand is a better fit for such a sporty car. I also agree that very few young people will remember the original Dart, a car that they might only be familiar with from the very cool TV show Mad Men.

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LEGO Forgets Girls In Its Heroes Brand Naming

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Lego Recon.pngGood old LEGO has stepped right into a gender naming issue.

It seems that its new Hero Recon line of toys, which lets you customize your own robot creature online, is a little bit sexist.

The problem?

You can name your new creature from the list of 22 names, but only boys' names are available.

At least one LEGO blogger has responded to this news with a resounding "argh." But LEGO has assured at least one fan that they are working on getting girls' names on the product.

Letting fans personalize a product is always a problem, of course. They will invariably choose course or offensive names, and this has a spin-off effect on the product and, ultimately, the brand name.

Girls may be better suited for the product anyway. One tester at Geek Dad found that his daughter was more inclined to create her own product as LEGO suggests, versus his son, who "didn't feel required to put the pieces on in the generally accepted way. Upside down, in the wrong place, etc., was how he preferred to do it."

Make no mistake, this is a warlike product. The figures get armour and helmets. The website tells us that "Heroes from the Recon unit can wear multiple types of armor and are trained to use different types of weapons and parts - even those used by Villains, like the Lava Blaster and transparent cladding."

While toys for girls seem to be much more pacifist. Think "Sesame Street Let's Rock Elmo," "Fijit Friends Interactive Toys" or "You & Me Friends Hide and Seek Friends Dolls."

Note the preponderance of the word "friend" here. None of the top toys aimed at girls seem warlike at all.

This leads to an interesting discussion around gender-appropriate toys. As one irate blogger says, "Little girls are encouraged to stay in the home and do domestic duties. Little boys fight wars, travel, go into space, construct things - the possibilities are endless."

Boys get the creative, exploring, researching robots. Girls get the "Lalaloopsy Silly Hair Dolls."


A blogger for The Achilles Effect created a very interesting Wordle (computer generated words that appear most frequent) using advertising words aimed at boys in regard to toys.

The top words?

"Battle, power, heroes." Note that last word.

The top words for girls?

"Love, fun, babies, magic, party."

Now, it might be argued that these are natural differences between the sexes, and that boys naturally want to play war while girls want to raise children.

The bigger question, in my mind, is why a company would want to exclude girls at all, especially since the toys are consumer driven.

Frankly, I think that both girls and boys should to be able to play the hero, and I'm surprised at this omission.

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