Naming: April 2009 Archives

worry-about-swine-flu.gifA few days ago we reviewed possible name changes for the virus scare sweeping the globe most commonly referred to as Swine Flu.

As mentioned in that post, several groups were distressed over the name unjustly causing negative backlash towards pork products and even swine themselves.

Coming to the realization that Swine Flu is actually a strand of H1N1, a subtype of Influenza A, U.S. health officials have dropped the Swine Flu name in favor of the more descriptive "2009 H1N1 flu."

Despite its commercial name, Swine Flu, there has yet to be a pig with a confirmed case in the United States. And according to a USA Today article, the H1N1 strain is "a mixture of genetic material from other swine, bird and human flu strains."

Now whether or not the rest of us choose to adopt the new name for this potential pandemic has yet to be seen, but what this clearly shows is that names matter.

There is an automatic association that every individual draws from a name and when it comes to a virus that no one wants to be associated with, it seems to be better to accurately descriptive rather than contagious... well, you know.

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For some reason the countries down under and North America seem to be at quarreling over branding and naming this week.

First there was the Eskimo Pie issue between Canada and New Zealand, and now Australia is upset with U.S. donut giant Krispy Kreme.

Icedvovo.gifAn Australian company called Arnott's has cried foul over Krispy Kreme's use of the trademarked "Vo-Vo" biscuit (cookie) name, which was originally registered in 1906. One variant of the Vo-Vo line is the Iced Vo-Vo, which is apparently an "iconic" piece of "Australian culinary heritage."

Krispy Kreme has meanwhile released the "Iced Dough-Vo" doughnut as part of its Australian inspired "Fair Dinkum" doughnut line (this is an Australian expression which means "fair enough" or "truly fair"). Arnott claims that its product, the Iced Vo-Vo, and Krispy Kreme's product, the Iced Dough-Vo, sound much too similar for it to be a simple coincidence.

The Australian head of Krispy Kreme attempted to justify Krispy Kreme's naming rights in a statement that is best reprinted in its entirety: "The word 'iced' is pretty well used, and the word 'dough' I don't think has got anything to do with what Arnott's do, and the word 'vo', I'm not sure what it means, but it goes well with 'dough.'"

Um, well, not really. The beloved Vo-Vo has legions of supporters in the blogosphere, from the one who has declared "No-No Not The Vo-Vo" to another Aussie who says he wanted to name his first born "Iced Vo-Vo."

Krispy Kreme Australia claims that these items are a "tribute" to the real thing. Tribute or not, a trademark is a trademark and one man's tribute is another man's infringement, which does not go a long way in conveying the"sincerest form of flattery."

Krispy-Kreme-Logo-09.gifHowever, this disagreement seems to be coming to the appropriate end, as a truce has been declared and the name is being removed from Kispy Kreme products.

Australia can expect a new name on May 11. Now that's Fair Dinkum, if you ask me.

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Jaffa Sweetie Brand Naming Not So Sweet in Iran

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oranges-pic.gifRecently, Iranian shoppers were confronted with oranges that were apparently grown in Israel despite an Iranian ban of Israeli goods that dates back to 1979.

Before then, Iranians were happy to eat over 40 tonnes of Israeli oranges a year, but the seemingly innocent appearance of "Jaffa Sweetie Israel-PO" oranges was enough to make one Iranian official declare that "rogue elements" were trying to "disgrace the ruling government."

As it turns out, those "rogue elements" were unscrupulous Chinese middlemen, who illegally used the "Jaffa Sweetie" brand name on their counterfeit fruit.

The problem was exacerbated by the fact that "President Ahmadinejad inadvertently distributed the fruit during a two day goodwill visit to the town of Salam in southern Iran."

The Chinese and Iranian investigators have counter-claimed that they actually bought the real thing in Israel and simply forgot to remove the stickers before sending them on to Iran. One then must wonder if it is the brand naming of the oranges or the oranges themselves that is the actual problem?

The Iranians claim they want no part of "Zionist" oranges, but if the Chinese investigators are correct, then they have been eating them via China, branded as Jaffa or something else, for some time.

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Is the Swine Flu Name Offensive?

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swine-flu-mask.gifIt turns out that the name "swine flu" is considered to be offensive by Israelis. The Deputy Health minister in Israel has said publicly that the use of the name is insulting to Muslims and Jews and has suggested it be renamed "Mexican Flu," given that the outbreak started in Mexico.

The Paris-Based World Organization for Animal Health, alongside irritated pork producers, has also said that the name is inaccurate, as it contains avian and human components and no pig has yet died from the disease, nor can you get the disease by eating pork.

They suggest that it be called "North American Influenza," following the naming scheme of "Spanish Influenza," which references the location of the initial cases.

It's a tricky problem. Obviously "swine flu" sounds very frightening (and thus is wonderful for newspaper headlines), because it seems to echo bird flu or avian influenza. Calling this North American Flu just does not have the same ring, because North America really already has its own flues.

There is just something more frightening about linking a dangerous flu to an animal. And of course, nobody who sees the pig as profane would like to be in danger of dying from a disease that bears its name.

I also might add that if the name does morph into Mexican Flu that we would start seeing protests from that region of the world.

Nonetheless, the name is not new: in 1976 there was a terrible outbreak of the swine flu at Fort Dix and predictions back then were dire indeed.

There is always the chance that the media may choose to use the virus' actual name in light of this controversy, but virus naming at the scientific level is extremely complex, so unfortunately we will all likely be washing our hands a few more times a day to elude the ________ flu.

Any suggestions?

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Eskimo Pie: Derogatory Brand Naming?

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A Canadian Inuit tourist in New Zealand has been in the news recently for her outrage over finding "Eskimo Pies" for sale. The term is considered by the Inuit people to be derogatory and her indignation has caught the attention of the blogosphere.

eskimo-pie.gifMany people don't view "Eskimo" as being a derogatory brand, especially when you consider the name's heritage. Its presence in New Zealand reaches back to 1955, and in the USA, its country of origin, it goes back to to 1922, although Eskimo Pies are no longer are available here.

The New Zealand diplomat to Canada has lamented the controversy as well as the "rednecky" comments made by Kiwis on local radio stations.

However, one thing is clear, there will no name change. Cadbury/Pascall and Tip Top, who market the product, says ""Pascall Eskimos are an iconic New Zealand lolly and have been enjoyed by millions of New Zealanders since they first hit shop shelves way back in 1955" adding that they sold "19 million individual Eskimos" last year, making it a top seller there.

The tourist, Seeka Lee Veevee Parsons (21), plans on sending an Eskimo Pie to the Canadian Prime Minister, which I am sure will keep this story in the news a while longer.

indian-motorcycle.gifI personally support her stance in principle and understand that the word Eskimo is offensive to some cultures, keeping in mind that I have written about my excitement for the return of classic brand names like Indian Motorcycles, realizing that the word is fraught with negative connotations.

Along those same lines, I also believe that the brand name "Eskimo Pie" probably should not be abolished as far as the ice cream treats are concerned. There is simply too much equity tied up in it and the word Eskimo is not generally construed as demeaning.

The word "igloo" for instance is used for ice chests. The word Indian, as displayed by Indian Motorcycles, is commonly in usage where it doesn't imply anything demeaning.

All that said, if you're products are going to target the global market, I would definitely not recommend creating a new brand name that includes a term with the potential for being derogatory to any possible consumer.

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Political Brand Naming Challenges Here and Abroad

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putinka-vodka.gifIt appears that Vladimir Putin may be the next ice cream czar of Russia, because the new ice cream bearing his name seems to be flying off the shelves.

Putin also has a meal named after him, as well as a Vodka called Putinka. Of course, the vodka makers deny any connection to Putin, claiming that Putinka references the lesser known meaning of "the best fishing season."

The Russians seem to have a penchant for naming food products after statesmen, even if those statesmen are from the U.S. There is a somewhat questionable ice cream ad being run that leverages Obama's likeness to sell ice cream.

The Copyranter blog has a pretty good list of other Obama, W, and Hilary brand naming riffs.

Going back to Russian brand naming, Putin also has a miracle cabbage with mushrooms named after him, while Russia's president, Dmitri Medvedev, doesn't even have a vodka of his own. One Russian explained that, "Mr. Mendvedev is not a vodka personality."

Okay, but then what kind of personality conjures up cabbage and mushrooms?

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shot-glass.gifMezcal-illegal.gifI'm wondering if grubby is the new thing when it comes to spirits product naming and branding.

The news that vodka sales are in decline comes just as we see a rise in alternative, tougher tequila and mezcal brand naming. Despite the fact that some may protest the demise of vodka, the vodka field is overstuffed with competing brand names.

There are now over 75 different flavors, including a pickle flavor. The head of Pernod Ricard even said that there are "too many flavours launched one after the other - something like twice a year recently." I'm assuming that he's talking about ridiculous flavors like artichoke and home brews like Skittles vodka.

Never mind the Go Vodka tubes or the vodkas sold in test tubes with names like Rampant TT.

I think is safe to say that the rise of Tequila is an indicator that consumers want something that screams authenticity as well as affordability. Vodka is an essentially tasteless drink that is associated with the Absolut sipping upper middle-class of the last couple of decades.

In hard times, you just don't feel like pickle flavored vodka, you want something grungy and tough.

Proof positive is the rise of the Mexican distilled spirit mezcal, and a new brand of it named "Illegal."

I would hazard that even three or four years ago it would be impossible to sell mezcal to anyone or sell people on its artisan qualities.

Now, we're seeing bars devoted to it. And names like "Illegal" scream out "I am alternative. I am edgy. I am real."

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Automotive Product Naming: Ghostly, Funny

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Today we have some good and bad news in the fabulous world of car naming.

First, the good news. The Rolls Royce Ghost is back. As a legendary car name that was used between 1906 and 1925 it became synonymous with the roaring twenties. It is a bit smaller than the Rolls Royce Phantom, but togther, these names form the "pinnacle" of the RR product line.

RRGhost-car-name.gifWe can expect to see this name reappear later this year replacing the RR4 code name and the unofficial "baby Rolls" moniker that has hung on this particular model.

I might note that the Ghost name originally was released during a booming era and in today's much leaner times, some buyers may find these names a little eerie. Is it possible that older buyers may not be comfortable cruising around in a Phantom or a Ghost?

Even if they are, they can be thankful that the brand name of their car was not left to the Chinese automakers responsible for the "funny" automotive naming news.

The Shanghai auto show just got under way and the Jalopnik blog can't resist listing the ten silliest brand names of the day, including the Geely King Kong, the Geely Beauty Leopard and the Tang Hau Detroit Fish. Not to mention the Tang Hua Book of Songs and the strangely spelled Cherry Eastar (actually a mashup of the words "east" and "star").

Obviously these names have a different and probably better resonance in China, but I'm thinking that before they look at exporting, some serious name changes are in order to compete with the RR Ghost.

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denizen-hotels.gifLittle did I know that when I blogged about Hilton's new Denizen brand name that I was not only looking at a case of what might be huge corporate espionage, but also some pretty silly naming.

Last week Starwood filed suit against Hilton for corporate espionage: it seems two Starwood executives stole thousands of files (perhaps over 100,000 electronic files alone) pertaining to Starwood's luxury W hotels. These files just happened to include the "den of Zen" concept that Starwood claims is theirs, which Hilton used for it's Denizen brand naming.

"The wholesale looting of proprietary Starwood information, including a step-by-step playbook for creating a lifestyle luxury hotel brand, unfairly enabled Hilton to launch a new brand in only nine months instead of the usual three to five years," fumes Starwood's general counsel.

So, in other words, the genesis of the Denizen brand name might not have been Hilton's touted "citizen of the world" definition; rather it is simply a play on the "den of zen" or "zen den" idea that might have been in Starwood's files.

I personally cannot believe this is true. Surely Hilton would not think that the average traveler would associate the word "Denizen" with the word Zen, would it?

The word denizen does not remind me, even vaguely, of Zen peacefulness. It's like saying the word constable reminds restaurant goers of the word table.

I don't doubt that the Starwood deserters who allegedly brought their information to Hilton said that "Zen" simplicity is the mantra for austere times. I just question whether or not somebody mashed up "den of Zen" into "Denizen" just to get the word Zen into the brand naming.

If this lawsuit gains traction, and "Zengate" becomes the hotel industry's Watergate, then this may end the Denizen brand. And I must say that the use of the word, from the outset, seems a bit forced.

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Is the World Ready for Octomom Brand Naming?

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There are some moments in the naming and branding business that are quite inspirational. There are others that are amusing. And then there are those that makes us roll our eyes.

Nadya_Suleman.gifThe news that Octomom, aka Nadya Suleman, has trademarked her celebrity name in order to create a product line and documentary is one of those eye rolling moments.

I must admit that she is wise to do so, of course, because there is probably equity in her name that will forever be associated with prodigious (and prodigal) stupidity, cupidity and selfishness.

However, the Octomom brand name probably has a fair chance of selling diapers and baby clothes to those looking for novelty or people who have twins, triplets, etc.

The documentary, which will follow her kids until they are eighteen, will probably also find a viewership, but one has to wonder wether we will get to watch for eighteen years or will have to wait eighteen years to see how things turn out for this unusual family?

The problem (and here is the real hair puller) is that the name has already been spoken for by a video game company. Mobile developer Super Happy Fun Fun (a company name that is another eyebrow raiser) has an OctoMom game for iPhone that is currently called "Fertile Myrtle," which has been described as "much classier," whatever that means.

So its Octomom vs OctoMom and Fertile Myrtle, is it?

TGIF.

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NASA has decided to name the living quarters on the International Space Station "Tranquility," much to the disappointment of comedian Stephen Colbert, who won a NASA sponsored online poll to have the "node" named The Colbert.

treadmill_colbert.gifHowever, there will be a fancy treadmill on board bearing his name: Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT). He really can't complain about having an acronym spell his name, can he?

It seems Orbitect, the company that makes the COLBERT, is more than pleased with the new name, as it was originally slated to be labeled the "T2," which made some employees think it was associated with the Terminator movies.

Still, TV Guide submits that "Democracy is dead," since Colbert did indeed win the naming contest by a "landslide" after Colbert strongly encouraged his viewers to vote for him.

The name Tranquility was in fact the eighth most popular name, referring to the location where the Apollo astronauts landed on the moon. The NASA inspired "Serenity" finished in second place and it is quite unclear why Tranquility received the golden ticket.

Realistically, we all should have known Colbert had no chance, because as one spokesman put it, NASA doesn't "typically name U.S. space station hardware after living people and this is no exception."

Nevertheless, blogger Olivia Munn is trying to get NASA's Chex Mix named after her. I truly doubt that she has any real hope, but at least we all have the COLBERT, which from a product naming perspective (and please forgive me...) is out of this world.

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Company Brand Naming That's Just Crazy

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crazyeddie.gifAnyone who is over the age of thirty-five and grew up in New York state recalls Crazy Eddie, whose prices were "insane."

This chain of inexpensive consumer electronics stores came to a very public end in 1989: the founders went bankrupt, Crazy Eddie himself, Eddie Antar, was thrown in jail for 7.5 years for fraud and his nephew, Sam Antar, spent six months under house arrest.

Sam himself says that bringing back the Crazy Eddie name is like "Starting a new investment firm called Bernie Madoff or a corporation by the name of Enron? It's nuts." He adds that "The name has a vile, ugly history - because of the crimes we committed. We lost investors millions of dollars."

In fact, they conned investors out of over $200 million and the stores have long since been scrapped.

The fictional Crazy Eddie character has been wisely trademarked by Radio DJ Jerry Carroll, which means the ridiculously amateurish commercials will probably not see life again. But the name, however, was up for sale on eBay and its current owner, Jack Gemal, purchased it for "less than the price of a Prius."

Now, Crazy Eddie is finding new life online, with new electronics stores and licensed products.

A Crazy Eddie Express appears to be in our very near future, with fifty stores planned. This, despite the fact that a high profile Danny DeVito film is in the works about Crazy Eddie - just in case anyone has forgotten about the massive fraud he committed twenty years ago.

Blogging Stocks says that despite all the "bad karma" around the name, there is still equity in its instant recognition twenty years after the company was closed and the owner jailed - Crazy Eddie still means "low prices." People still remember (and love) the commercials and any name recognition in the congested world of slash price electronics is a good thing.

This goes right to the heart of the question of whether name recognition beats name reputation among consumers. Crazy Eddie may have ripped off his investors (and let's face it, it's hard to feel sorry for people who do business with a guy named Crazy Eddie), but he sure did sell his stuff for less.

And why were his prices so low? Well, because he was, you know... Crazy.

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Does Quality Brand Naming Ever Truly Die?

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The acquisition of legendary, but now defunct, brand names like Sharper Image, Linens 'n Things, Circuit City and Fortunoff by "asset recovery specialists," otherwise known as liquidators, is a lesson in the value of good brand naming that lives on after the stores are closed.

This is not exactly a case of Zombie Branding, this is more of a reincarnation of brand names that we all know and love from better times gone by. And often this rebirth happens so fast, it's like they never left.

circuit_city_logo.gifCircuit City's name went to the highest bidder for about $6.5 million (including the brand name, trademark and web presence), which is expected to bring "significant recovery for the sellers' estates and creditors."

Rumors about what would happen with Sharper Image have been around for a while, but Linens 'n linens_n_things_closing.gifThings is already living on as a web presence, with plans to bring branded goods back into stores soon. The cost for this unforgettable name? About $1 million.

It can all be kind of depressing, but at the same time interesting to see just how durable a brand name can be, even when the taint of failure lies heavily upon it.

What I find most intriguing is the concept that those who buy these brand names have a legal responsibility to offer services and products of the same quality previously offered by their former (now bankrupt) owners.

To offer products and services of lesser quality could be construed as "trademark misuse" and "result in a loss of rights," according to the New York Times.

Although, I have to wonder how that would be enforced, given that so many once revered brand names have found new lives as Asian imports.

Still, the average customer buying something that bears the Linens 'n Things brand name has a right to expect quality. And for those truly memorable brand names, there is little reason to ever assume otherwise.

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The Obamas have a dog. And the dog has a name

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obamadog-bo.gifA lot of tails were wagging yesterday when the arrival of the Obama family's Portuguese Water Dog was finally announced. The new first dog, a gift from Teddy Kennedy, was quickly given a simple, one-syllable moniker: Bo

We like the name Bo for a lot of reasons:

  • It's only two letters

  • It's easy to pronounce

  • It's unique but not pretentious

  • And the family had some reasonable rationale for selecting the name (a cousin's cat, 'Bo Diddley')

But perhaps we are most enthusiastic about 'Bo' for the simple reason that it is a very elastic name, with a lot of potential meaning. Which is much more than we can say for his predecessors Barney, Buddy, and Millie.

Potential positive associations ...

  • The name, Bo, is said to derive from the French root, beau or beaux, meaning beautiful or favored

  • BO are the first two letters in the word, bone - as in throwing one to the Republicans

  • 'Bo' is also an abbreviation for bourgeoisie - which would confirm Obama's commitment to the middle class

  • Bo is the first name of beautiful Bo Derek - who remains a '10' even though she is a republican

  • first-dog-bo.gif
  • Bo is short for the Latin, Bona Fides, which means the real thing - as in a pure bread Portuguese Water Dog

  • Bo rhymes with a lot of great words, including Joe (Biden) and a.f.l.c.i.o

On the minus side ...
  • BO is a common abbreviation for 'Body Odor' - a condition that Obama's friend, Harry Reid, has accused White House tourists of having

  • BO are the first two letters in the word, bonus, as in AIG bonus

  • In the Oxford English Dictionary, Bo finds its origins in a haunted castle, Bo Hall, from which hails the boogie men

  • Bo is the name of an ancient Chinese people, almost extinct, and known for their 'hanging coffins'

  • BO are the initials for a leading on-air conservative - the pugnacious Bill O'Reilley
oreillyno-bo.gifAnd while these pre-existing associations for the name Bo will pop up, over time, there will be new ones as well.

Personally I'm excited about the malleable BO phoneme root and all that can be done with it. Expect to hear a lot more Bo by Bo about Beltway Bo as as he gets to know the media bro.

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Brand Name First Mover Advantage vs. Deep Pockets

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netscape-logo.gifThere is a lot to be said about obtaining the first mover advantage in a new product category, but without a quality product or the financial support necessary to compete, there is little hope of maintaining the product's initial success.

Laura Ries suggests that "It's better to be first than it is to be better" in her latest book War in the Boardroom, co-authored with Al Ries. I would add to this that it is better to be first with a better product.

The Ries' indicate that Microsoft's ability to appear first with the 16-bit operating system explains their dominance. What the Ries' thesis overlooked is that Microsoft was not first to market with a graphical user interface (GUI) operating system (Apple was), but Microsoft kept plugging away and now dominates the operating system market with a Windows GUI product.

ie-logo.gifThe Ries' also failed to mention that Netscape, the first browser, was introduced in late 1994, while Internet Explorer was introduced in August of 1995.

Once again, with Microsoft's shear financial power, it continually chipped away at Netscape to develop the market leading Internet Explorer browser, although Firefox has been successfully gaining market share at Microsoft's expense the last couple of years.

Being first to market, or first mover advantage, makes marketing and business sense, except if you have a competitor that excels at emulating the competition and has unlimited deep pockets.


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The Tastiest Buzz caffeinated drink name is yet another example of how energy drink naming seems to work in its own (albeit, rather large) corner of the marketing world. So many energy drinks are appearing on the shelves that it's become a necessity for the names to be designed to be instant conversation pieces.

tastiest-buzz-energy-drink.gifThis newest one has an interesting web site that showcases the drink's only flavor: Cranberry Citrus.

Supposedly, this energy drink gives you the same buzz as one cup of coffee.

However, the people over at Bevnet are not so sure that this is in fact the "tastiest" buzz possible and takes issue with the drink's decision to label itself a "premium caffeinated beverage" when it is really just another fruity energy drink.

One blogger created a sort of hit list of energy drink names and I note that almost all of them reference drugs, drinking or sex, just as "Tastiest Buzz" does (a "tasty buzz," for those of you unfamiliar with the world of marijuana, is a good high).

And who can forget the jokers who created the Cocaine energy drink?

Still, it is a $10 billion market that is infested with names like Crunk and Pimp Juice. Run of the mill naming just doesn't seem to cut it for kids who are searching for a little buzz...

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Naming and Branding 2.0: Hotelicopter is Real!

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hotelicopter.com.gifOK, so the joke is on us. I ranked the Hotelicopter as the silliest piece of April Fools' naming this year, but it seems this is real... well, sort of.

No, it's not a whirlybird hotel, but instead is a new hotel search engine - Hotelicopter.com. And what definitely would have been a truly dumb hotel name and concept is actually a pretty cool sounding domain name.

The very slick viral video really caught my attention, as well as over 300,000 other people's, who have already checked it out.

All in all, it was hailed across the world as one of the best April Fools' jokes of the year, which in turn filled their blog with people curious about the name and the product.

It was a brilliant hoax that burned right through Twitter and Facebook via its Facebook Connect app.

hotelicopter.gifIn fact, the Hotelicopter idea already had some serious play even before April 1: Hotel Chatter picked it up and even posted pictures of the "interior," even though they called it "bs."

The Facebook group today is filled with red faced joinees, many of whom have linked it to their site.

This is an example of how Web 2.0 tech and social media can create hype around a product that may or may not even exist.

Something as obviously absurd as the Hotelicopter is just irresistible to social networkers looking for the next "omg wtf lol" link to share.

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Totally Texty: Brand Naming Comes Clean

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A new hair poduct aimed at teenagers uses texting language to pretty good effect. The shampoo is called Totally Txty and it has two formulations: texting.gif"ddg," or "drop dead gorgeous" for girls, and "ytmn," or "you're the man now" for men.

The name appears to have naturally emerged as Totally Txty researchers came to the conclusion that text speak is now a viable brand naming option.

There is no doubt that texting has become part of everyday life, as even the Pope is texting people.

In addition, the new version of "CLUE: Secrets and Lies" also incorporates texting into game play.

At the end of last year AdAge ran an article entitled "It's Time for Brands to Embrace Text Messaging," which outlined the importance of the texting language to marketers. The article also pointed out that nine out of ten teens text, noting that some of them prefer texting to talking and half of them can actually complete text messages while blindfolded!

Brands ranging from Snickers Snacklish to Mountain Dew have already embraced the medium.

Although, as referenced in our proprietary Cell Phone Product Naming Research conducted late last year, Motorola appears to have risen and fallen by way of a texting like 4LTR naming nomenclature that started back in 2004 when it released the RAZR.

The Totally Txty brand seems to be following suit, shifting from using texting as a vehicle to spread the word about a brand, to texting being the brand. Watching to see if Totally Txty and Snickers Snacklish follow Motorola's texting ups and down, this will definitely be an interesting product naming technique to keep an eye on.

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Taking a Look at Vook's Kooky Product Naming

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vook-image.gifThe New York Times has run an article on the new "Vook" (or vook.tv) - a book that might help revolutionize the publishing industry by including video elements.

First, there's that pesky non-com naming thing again, which has already caused some irritation. If you want to successfully launch a new product, you need a dot-com.

Second, I think that we are getting closer to the era of digital readers, but we are not there yet. And with product names like "Vook," not too many serious authors are going to be won over.

It may be ground breaking technology, but the name itself just doesn't fit.

Vook is supposed to be pronounced like "book," which rhymes with "look," but is more naturally pronounced similarly to "kook." That slight differentiation may be a brand killer.

It just sounds wrong.

The fact that vook sounds different than book is one example of a name that is holding back the popularization of digital readers, but brand naming difficulties are nothing new to the e-reader industry.

Kindle is at the head of that list. Plastic Logic's reading device unfortunately follows suit.

As I previously mentioned, the era of digital readers may be in our near future, but we have yet to make that momentous transition from pen and parchment to the LCD screen. And product names like Vook are not going to push any popular authors to make the switch any faster.

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sasha-malia.gifThe long awaited first dog is due in just a few short days. And although there has been a lot of deliberation over the breed (Portuguese Water Dog or Labradoodle), and much discussion about the source (adopted, not purchased), there hasn't been too much talk about the name.

One exception to this was a February 25 People blog post in which Michelle Obama did note that her girls were struggling a bit with the branding:

"Oh, the names are really bad. Frank was one of them. Frank! Moose was another one of them... I'm like, no, come on, let's work with the names a little bit."

Since then, we've heard nothing about the dog's name and are worried about leaving Malia or Sasha to solve this problem on their own.

So just in case you are reading our blog, Sasha and Malia, here's a little naming advice for naming your new dog:

  1. First, pick a name that is easy to pronounce. If people can't pronounce your dog's name, it will not make many friends. Caroline Kennedy's dog Pushinka didn't have many play dates.
  2. kennedy's-dogs.gif
  3. Don't name the dog after any of your dad's friends. Some people are not flattered by being compared to a hairy little animal that barks at strangers. And even though he barks a lot, Barney Frank really wouldn't appreciate the kind gesture.
  4. barney-frank-barking.gif
  5. Make the name unique. Anybody can name their dog Max or Sam or Buddy. You need a unique name for a unique dog that will be living in a very unique home. Chelsea Clinton had a unique name for her cat: Socks. But her dad didn't follow this rule and named his dog Buddy. Guess what happened to Buddy? (RIP)
  6. bill-dog-buddy.gif
  7. Don't be silly. That naughty Georgie Washington had more than 30 dogs and gave them goofy names like Sweet Lips, Tipsy, and Mopsey. But because they didn't have TV and internet back then, no one was watching how he named his dogs. They will watch you.
  8. george-washington-dog.gif
  9. Finally, do your homework. Make a list of the key things you like about your dog. Then do some research and come up with names that match the list. Here are a few places to go for suggestions:






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It seems that most of you will be able to read this as the Conficker virus turned out to be pretty much what I thought it would be: all name and no pain.

Although, April Fools did manage to bring about some pretty good naming and branding.

Today on the Apple Core blog there is a remembrance for Apple's famous "Rosebud" hoax as well as the software utopia offered by Xanadu. Interestingly, both of these names refer to things that are desired, but not attainable.

However, this year Google, who is always up for an April Fools' Day prank, rolled out Gmail Autopilot, which promises to send responses to your email for you using CADIE, or Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity, which was designed to index your brain.

Gmail-autopilot.gif

Not to be outdone, Yahoo gave us the Ideological Search, which filters your personal beliefs. Google then fired back with Brain Search Beta.

But Yahoo and Google weren't the only ones getting in on the April Fools' day naming and branding fun this year, here are a few other interesting branding ideas that have hit the web.

A few newspapers declared themselves to be "Twapers," claiming they decided to stop print production altogether and switch to Twitter.

Someone else decided to start up a Flickr knock off called Smellr, which is "like Flickr but for your nose."

FunnyOrDie.com claimed to have been bought by Reba McEntire and renamed itself "Reba or Die."

Xbox came out with Guitar Hero: "Alpine Legend," a yodeling application, while the Economist decided to start a theme park named Econoland.

Apple also gave us the MacBook Mini.

And Microsoft suggested to its employees that its new search engine, Kumo, be renamed Omuk - leading at least one blogger to declare that she preferred the new name. This news came after Microsoft had already announced a Wood Paneled Xbox 360, an Xbox Live Board Game, and a Wireless Helmet.

However, I think the award for most ridiculous April Fools name goes to the jokers who gave us the video of a "flying hotel" called a "hotelicopter."

That's even dumber than the Smellr, and the fact that hundreds of people want to take it for a spin makes me wonder if everyday isn't April Fools' Day here in Marketingland.

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Today might see one of the greatest internet April Fools' jokes ever played out as we all await the wrath of the Conficker virus, which as I write this might be turning millions of PCs into malicious bots and wreaking havoc on the web.

Conficker has already earned the title of the "Paris Hilton" of botnets because it has aroused so much interest despite really having no more substance than other less well known viruses.

computer-virus.gifThe actual name could be a rearrangement of the domain name trafficconverter.biz, which is where the worm came from in the first place.

But from a linguistic perspective, I think the name may be a Portmanteau. Conficker appears to combine the German verb "ficken," meaning to fornicate, with "con," the Latin root for "with." When combined, the name strongly suggests that this virus really f**ks with your computer.

The Daily Muse says: Conficker: Nightmare Be Thy Name, and if this thing lives up to its name, today may spell trouble for anyone courageous enough to cruise the Internet.

One thing that Conficker does for sure is violate accepted virus naming conventions. These were put into place back in 1991 by the Computer AntiVirus Researcher Organization that divides a name into the following:


  • Family_Name.Group_Name.Major_Variant.Minor_Variant[:Modifier].
Still, thousands of viruses disregard naming conventions and there really are no accepted standards in place.

This is what happens when Virus naming is left to chance. The public simply selects the name that is easiest to remember. This means that viruses like Bugbear also get names like Tantos, and software is sold to kill both.

However, ten years ago, the same virus may have had 25 or more names. Now, the naming rights go to the anti-virus company that discovers the wretched thing, and never to the evil genius who invented it.

There also might be confusion as to whether the thing is a worm or a virus.

Right now, the name virus is a generic term "that includes all the malicious ways your computer can be attacked." But there is in fact a difference between a virus and a worm.

A virus gets into your computer via hardware or software and attaches itself to program files.

A worm does not need to attach itself to a program to function and attacks networks rather than local files.

Whether this thing is a worm, a virus, or an April fools' hoax, let's all hope that it doesn't live up to its name.

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