Naming: May 2009 Archives

packard-bell-old-logo.gifI'm sure we all remember Packard Bell, the first American radio manufacturer that morphed into an ill-fated computer manufacturer in the 1980s.

Despite having the dubious honor of being the brand name radio used by the castaways on Gilligan's Island and the even more dubious honor of being ranked by PC Magazine as producing the worst PCs of all time, the company appears to be surviving outside the U.S., having left our shores almost a decade ago.

Its new parent, Acer, just redesigned and recreated Packard Bell's logo and tagline and has the company producing some very interesting computer products.

Packard-bell-new-logo.gifThe logo's coloring looks like it was taken off a Ferrari, which is probably because the Italian car design group Pininfarina helped design their new notebook range. Acer also seems to want to shift the name's focus to "PB" and the new tagline, "Puredesire."

Their marketing color scheme matches the Ferrari red and they describe their top of the range Easynote TR85 as a "piece of art."

Never mind that Packard Bell once had twice the computer returns as its competitors, these new computers really mold the brand into a lovely, upscale niche. In fact, Packard Bell has really been reinvented overseas as a stylish brand. Interestingly, its parent company also owns Gateway, which will be aimed at the U.S. almost entirely.

Even more interesting is the brand naming of the ancillary products. The notebooks include the Butterfly, while there is also a desktop called the iMedia, a smaller iMax Mini and the iPower gaming PC.

Their strategy appears to be a direct swipe at Apple, not only in terms of design but also in terms of its brand nomenclature.

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gm-logo-3.gifThe big joke of the blogosphere today is that General Motors should now be renamed Government Motors now that the Obama administration seems to be readying itself to make the beleaguered company the property of the taxpayer.

Harvard Business is already anxious to change the name as a result of this move. Here are a few of their suggested naming restrictions:

  • It has to be short enough to fit on the front and rear of the car. BMW is much better than Bavarian Motor Works.
  • ... it should reflect an American theme: rugged, individualistic, inclusive. Our company can't carry some namby-pamby moniker like Xeon or Life Dunk. Nope, has to be something like Let Freedom Ring Motor Co., Stars and Stripes Automobile Manufacturing Co. or Declare Your Independence Motors.
  • No People Names (linguistically referred to as eponyms). Too many automakers and models are named after names: Ford, DeSoto, Edsel, Aston Martin, DeLorean. But maybe a historically important figure would be OK. How does Lady Liberty Autoworks sound to you?
  • Forget American Motors. Tried it - didn't work out so well.
News is also spreading that the new Cadillac SRX and CTS Wagon are expected to be launched as GM disappears below the waves, while bloggers note that the company has far too many brand names in its garage to compete with stalwart car names like Corolla and Civic.

I have to wonder, and I'm being serious now, if the name GM hasn't become loosely associated with failure, which would likely make a company name change a necessity.

GM-Building-ground.gifNaming rights to the GM building are another issue altogether. Although, interestingly, the glass cube otherwise known as the Apple Store at the foot of the building may actually effect the value of that renaming project, which in any event, would not help GM at all - GM does not actually occupy the GM Building, it moved to the Citigroup Center.

This is an important fact because skyscraper naming typically falls to the largest tenant. In the case of the GM Building, however, there may be bidders simply because the building is a landmark.

The price for renaming the building is not expected to be too extreme, however, because zoning laws will prevent the new occupant from putting up too much signage.

Ironically, a bankruptcy law firm currently calls the GM Building home. How much worse can things get?

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Restaurants are facing challenging times and are reacting by offering more for less, which results in a spin off effect on naming and branding.

kentucky-grilled-chicken-bu.gifUSA Today reports that KFC, despite being all about "fried" chicken, has a grilled chicken option now. Pizza Hut is also offering far more than Pizza (think pasta), McDonald's is selling coffee, and Arby's now sells Roast Burgers.

Restaurants are trying to be everything to everybody. KFC's new tagline is a prime example, urging us to "Taste the unfried side of KFC," while Cheesecake Factory is selling small portions as well as "Pizzettes."

High end restaurateurs are also invading ballparks in an effort to reach customers and are all slowly coming round to using "Restaurant Marketing 2.0," appearing on food blogs, Twitter and Facebook to find hungry customers.

PFChang'sTreeLogo.gifSam's Chowder House even has a well named "SamCam" that shows web surfers the restaurant's view of San Francisco Bay. And brands like PF Chang's are actually surviving the recession by cutting costs and upping efficiency.

Social media, new media and marketing are the new buzz words for foodies and this means thinking outside of the box, much like Target is by selling fresh fruit and seems to be moving away from its "cheap chic" mantra.

This means that almost every single restaurant sector will be looking for new names for new products as restaurants try to enlarge their offerings and drop prices to entice customers to come en masse.

Everything we once knew about restaurant naming and branding is over. When McDonald's sells coffee, KFC grills its chicken and the guys from Nobu, an upscale restaurant that specializes in fusion cuisine, are setting up stands in ballparks, the times they are a-changing.

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Is Good Brand Naming Better For Your Health?

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prescription-drugs-spilled.gifJust how important is a good brand name? According to a recent article in the Irish Times, people who paid more for branded drugs actually felt better after taking them than those who paid less for absolutely identical generics.

The same piece talks about an experiment where people were given both an expensive and inexpensive version of "SoBe Adrenaline Rush" and then asked to do some puzzles. Those who paid more for the exact same stuff actually completed the puzzles faster.

This might go far to explain why generic heart drugs that are medicinally the same as the branded versions still are brushed aside by many consumers and belittled in some medical journals as not as effective.

Naming and branding goes so far as affecting how people perceive the artwork in a museum - change the gallery's name and people see the art differently.

skippy-peanutbutter-creamy.gifAdditionally, in blind taste tests, consumers unfailingly thought the big brand peanut butter was superior to brands they'd never heard of.

The Van SEO Design Blog has a story about two brands of knock off TVs, Multi-tech and Dyna-tech - same TVs, same price, same everything, save for the naming. Consumers actually got into arguments over which set was better, despite the fact that they were clearly the exact same product.

The fact is, good brand naming has tangible effects on customer's taste, quality perception and even their health.

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redneckbankcard.gifIn today's economic environment, it goes without saying, that banks and financial institutions in general have been receiving a lot of deserved, negative publicity.

Many banks and financial institutions are changing their names to rid themselves of negative baggage. Two that come to mind are:

tightwadbank.gifHowever, there are a couple of banks that are introducing, in my opinion, irreverent names. Two of these were featured in an Ad Age article yesterday.

  • Redneck Bank

  • Tightwad Bank

From time to time, we are contacted by the media for our professional opinion on current brand naming or marketing topics. You'll find my opinion on these irreverent bank names in the Ad Age article.

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Target Puts Its Private Branding on the up & up

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up&up-trashbag.gifTarget is making an interesting move by dropping its namesake store brand and its familiar bull's-eye logo in favor of a completely new brand name:"up & up" - along with a new arrow logo.

This comes after a study commissioned by the Private Label Manufacturers Association found that three out of ten consumers say that they are purchasing more store brands than a year ago.

Target is hoping to make its in-store brand more distinctive, just as arch competitor Wal-Mart adds 80 news products to its own Great Value store brand.

The up & up brand name will appear on 730 items, a number that is expected to expand to 800 by the end of the year.

The Target brand, which was introduced in 1962, has been growing at a 25 percent compound annual growth rate for the past five years, according to one executive. This high level of growth has given the logo and the name incredible recognition among consumers.

The up & up brand, which has been a year and a half in the making, is certainly a fresher look, but this news brings up a couple branding questions:


  • Why would Target remove its name from these products?

  • Why launch a new brand name in your stores when there is such deep and positive equity in the one you have already?

Target also puts tongue and cheek taglines on the up & up products, such as the phrase "fair and square" on their cotton squares.

The up & up brand feels more like something from Walmart. In general, I'm getting the impression that Target is trying to out Walmart, Walmart with the up&up brand and their competitive price match test. Bad idea.

Just as Starbucks should stick with its positioning of a "third space" and experiential brand rather than trying to compete on price with McDonald's, Target should stick with its Cheap Chic Strategy, weather the recession, and not go down the path of trying not to out Walmart, Walmart.

According to a letter sent by a Target Team member to My Private Brand's Blog, there are a few more branding moves on the way from Target. The Target home brand is going to be called reDesign, TruTech will be the new electronics brand, and Archer Farms is expected to stay as the company's consumable brand.

If nothing else, these branding changes at Target are yet more proof that private label naming and branding is going to see some real action over the next few years.

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Guess Who Is Stealing Gucci's Brand Naming?

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High end retailer Gucci is suing Guess? Inc. for trademark infringement.

guess-3g-logo.gifNot only does Gucci claim that Guess is imitating their designs, they are especially irritated by the company's use of "G" in their logos (Guess's logo displayed to the left, Gucci's below). More to the point, Guess seems to be trying to horn in on the famous interlocking GG pattern that Gucci made famous.

Gucci calls these "studied imitations" of the famous designs. On the Luxist blog there is a gallery that compares the two company's bags and I think that it's pretty darn tough to tell the bags and logos apart.

Gucci_Logo.gifIt appears that Guess is attempting to take advantage of the fact that their brand naming starts with G, as does Gucci's. Yet Guess also seems to claim that these bags are a "homage" to the Gucci originals (I have heard that one before), but Gucci isn't buying it.

Gucci wants damages as well as the offending items to be destroyed.

I admire Guess, but I simply cannot believe it when a company says they are paying "homage" to a famous brand name by essentially copying it. Gucci has a perfect right to be upset.

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GMAC_logo.gifGMAC, starting today, will rename its bank Ally Bank. The name change marks a shift away from the GMAC brand that underscored the lender's association with the auto maker.

Ally Bank is clearly a fresh start for a company whose first quarter 2009 net loss topped $675 million.

The Ally brand, according to the company's press release, was developed as a result of
extensive conversations with customers who "clearly expressed the need for a trusted bank partner."

"The name Ally aptly fits the character of the brand," said Sanjay Gupta, Chief Marketing Officer.

And it does.

ally-bank-logo.gifThat is, if you are referring to the standard English noun, Ally, which means a person, group, or nation that is associated with another or others for some common cause or purpose. And, if this new brand wishes to "embody verb potential," as Guy Kawasaki recommends, the English verb Ally (pronounced uh-lahy), also echoes a personality of partnership defined as "to associate or connect by some mutual relationship, as resemblance or friendship."

The new name also has the benefit of being a short and distinctive real word with its own URL (purchased for big bucks we presume).

But there are drawbacks.

Linguistically, there is a strong temptation to associate this brand with GlaxoSmithKline's heavily advertised Alli weight loss aid (pronounced al-eye), or with Mohammed Ali (pronounced ah-lee), or with the common English noun Alley (pronounced al-ee) that is defined as "a walk or a passage between buildings."

All told, there are about five ways that the new Ally bank name can be pronounced and there are almost as many ways to define it. Clearly, this presents a handicap for a brand founded on a personal relationship and "talking straight."

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Bicycle Product Naming: Would You Ride a Bixi?

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I am intrigued by Bixi, the name given to the no-nonsense, practically indestructible bikes that are being offered to citizens of Montreal as an environmentally friendly way to get around.

bixi-bicycle.gifBixi has already been named by TIME to be one of the year's 50 best innovations, which may not have happened if Bixi hadn't replaced "Public Bike Sharing System" or PBS.

The name itself is a combination of "bicycle" and "taxi" and the web site proclaims "We are Bixi," prompting the citizens of Montreal to take ownership of the brand.

An annual membership to use one of the 3,000 bicycles available at 300 locations throughout the city is just $78, or citizens can choose to pay the daily rate of $5.

Although, the really interesting twist in the story, at least from a naming and branding perspective, is that this initiative is overshadowed by the Paris Vélib bicycle program of 2007. The Paris Vélib bicycle program has been beset with problems, one being major damage inflicted on the bikes by joy riders.

The name Vélib is another portmanteau, a contraction of velo (cycle) and liberte (freedom). Unfortunately, people have most certainly abused their "freedom" to use the bikes, going so far as to post YouTube videos of "velib extreme" stunts that always end up with the bikes demolished.

Bixi might have an advantage here, as the bikes have GPS chips in them and people have to swipe a credit card before using them.

However, Bixi's success may not be a forgone conclusion.

Bixi was recently outed for creating a false hype about the program through faux blog posts and Facebook pages, which has led to some questions about the authenticity of the brand name.

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Hugo Chavez has put his mark on the world of cell phone naming and branding with his super inexpensive "Vergatorio," which is derived from the slang word Verga, meaning penis.

This was not a mistake.

chavez-cell-phone.gifChavez was recently on his own TV show declaring that "This telephone will be the biggest seller not only in Venezuela but the world...Whoever doesn't have a Vergatario is nothing."

Chavez seems to be known for his foul language, routinely referring to George W. Bush as a "pendejo," which means both "pubic hair" and "jerk."

Interestingly, he launched the $15 cell phone on Mother's Day and used it to call his own mother on TV, taking the opportunity to mention the brand name a few times when asking her if she had received hers.

The phone is assembled in Venezuela with parts made in China and will be shipped to Cuba and the rest of Latin America, it seems.

Despite perhaps having the rudest cell phone name in the world, this product is actually a huge economic step forward for Latin America.

But as Fox News discovered from the cell phone naming study we conducted late last year, "when it comes to consumer perception of cell phones product names, good brand naming strategies equal more sales."

Nice try, Hugo.

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Popular Baby Names: Whatever Happened to "Mary?"

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From 1909 to 1946, and again from 1953 to 1961, the most popular name given to girls in the United States was "Mary."

baby-yellow.gifWhat else, in a country that has a predominantly Christian culture, if not an exclusively Christian religion? Open a Spanish or Italian - or even Greek - language textbook, and what is the female character in the examples called? Maria. Sempre Maria.

So it might be a sign of secularization and cultural diversity that "Mary" appears nowhere in the top 10 most popular baby names for 2008, and even those names that do have Biblical origins are not those that were popular fifty or 100 years ago.

It might, except that if you look at the list of popular names for boys, almost all of them come from the Bible or refer to Christian saints: Jacob, Michael, Ethan, Joshua, Daniel, Anthony, Christopher, Matthew. Even "Alexander" appears in the New Testament, though the most famous person by that name was a pagan, and Williams and Anthonies got sucked into sainthood, as well.

Fifty years ago, Biblical names for boys were just as predominant, but most of them were shorter: James, John, Mark, David, Steven. Even the longer names were likely to be shortened into one-syllable nicknames. I suspect a short, solid-sounding name seemed not only more masculine, but more American, in those days.

As a nation, we seem to have become more fond of polysyllables and vowels than we were a few decades ago. Names like Isabella, Joshua, Olivia, Alexander have a rolling fluidity denied to us by Susan, Karen, John, Mark. They are a pleasure to say, but also, despite their length, easy to spell.

chloe.gifOf the entire list, only "Chloe" is likely to cause serious difficulty to someone who hasn't encountered it, but given its popularity, there won't be anyone who hasn't encountered it for long. And "Chloe" is actually just as phonetic as "Sophia," the other Greek name on the girls' list; it's just that not many people are familiar with the Greek alphabet and the usual means of transliterating it into the Roman alphabet. (Interestingly, "chloe" means "green" or "pale," where "sophia" means "wisdom." I might think twice about giving that name to my child.)

To someone who grew up when "Mary" and "John" were popular, the top baby names of 2008 seem both slightly pretentious and refreshingly interesting. Except if there are six Isabellas in your class, then it is only annoying. As a friend who changed his name from "John" to "Riley" commented, "It's like having no first name at all. You might as well just be called 'Hey, you.'"

So even though you don't have to worry about trademarking your children, you might want to go a long way down that list before choosing a name.

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landshark-lager.gifYou just gotta love Jimmy Buffett, who has managed to get Dolphins Stadium renamed "Landshark Stadium" after the Anheuser-Busch lager sold under his Margaritaville brand.

Buffett's fan club of "Parrot Heads" were on hand to help him ring in the new name, offering fans a "Margaritaville experience" while also celebrating his business partnership with Stephen M. Ross, the Dolphins' owner. He even sang a song entitled "Fins" to honor the Dolphins:
miami-dolphins-logo.gif

We drive down on Interstate 95,
And up on U.S. 1.
It's game day in Miami town
Where the Dolphins are Number 1 (numero uno)
We play down by the ocean
In the warm South Florida sun
The tailgate's down so gather round
For some pre-game LandShark Fun

It's a great story, but the name doesn't appear to be for the long-haul. There are already reports that the NFL will not allow it to stick around for the 2010 Pro Bowl or the 2010 Super Bowl.

So, the stadium that has been called Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins Stadium and Joe Robbie Stadium will keep searching for an official naming sponsor, but for right now, the Dolphins don't seem to mind sharing a tank with Landsharks.

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The news that Intel is going to focus on its core brand name is sure to be well received in the industry.

Their "Sponsors of Tomorrow" advertising initiative is going worldwide in hopes that it will remind people everywhere about the core brand name and get them looking for the "Intel inside" slogan again, a tagline that was sidelined while the company touted its many (confusing) sub brands.

This is their biggest push in three years and the Wall Street Journal has already posted the ads that seek to make geeky glamorous. Intel is an "ingredient brand" as one executive says, but it is important enough that consumers want to ensure they have computers that use it.

What I find interesting is the fact that Intel depends so heavily on those little stickers pasted right on the computers themselves. This is really where the consumer interacts with the brand, as we never actually see an Intel chip (microprocessor, sorry). We may like the idea of having Intel inside, but many of us do not really know what Intel does or sells - but as long as we assume that a computer bearing an Intel sticker is better than the rest, then the battle has been won.

new-intel-stickers.gifThe new badges (Intel doesn't appear to use the word "sticker" for obvious reasons) do include the word "inside"and are a slightly different shape than the old ones, but the words "Intel" and "Core" are foregrounded.

Again, this strategy focuses on the brand name and its people rather than the countless number of products Intel sells, trying to give meaning to the slogan "Intel inside."

This is partly due to the fact that consumers are moving away from super powerful PCs and are more interested in how the machines they buy can be useful, which is also creating space for smart phones and mobile web books.

I'd even be willing to bet that the majority of consumers leave Intel stickers on for bragging rights. And that is why they get harder to pull off the longer they have sat on the computer case.

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Today a new chapter in branding and naming comes to life.

mcdonalds-logo2.gifMcDonald's will "drop the mother of all campaigns on you... that will be not so much viral as bubonic." We're talking about a $100 million cross platform campaign to tout their new McCafé coffee brand and send Starbucks into branding history. This McBlitz will be their biggest push since their introduction of breakfast items in the 70s.

The Los Angeles Times, for the most part, welcomes this "old school" marketing tactic, but notes that the product name might be a slight problem: "McCafé is hard to say -- having three stressed syllables -- and American audiences have almost no experience with diacritical marks, so the acute accent mark on the final é is going to leave some fast-fooders bewildered."

McDonald's is attempting to remedy this naming concern by using a series of commercials to familarize us with what "é" sounds like. A McCafé product will turn a regular commute into a "commuté" and will make a better day "possiblé." In addition, an office cubicle with the right McCafé mocha can become a "cubiclé."

mcCafe-image.gifGet it? If not, radio spots are also being aired that will teach you "How to Speak McCafé."

McDonald's is also going to heavily utilize YouTube as well as other nifty branding outlets including the traditional, old school TV, print and outdoor ads.

Starbucks, on the other hand, is planning on lowering prices on select beverages, as will Dunkin' Donuts, which already is associated with good, cheap coffee. It's almost like boarding up the windows before a McHurricané.

It appears McDonald's has decided to go after Starbucks while they are feeling the pinch of a contracting economy. McDonald's is about to prove, in my opinion, that it can essentially be whatever it wants if it has a cheap, decent product (they always seem to) and a good brand name to go with it.

However, Starbucks assures us that they will not lose many customers, but I doubt it. I love my morning Starbucks, but it's tough to remain loyal when there is a competitive product available for less.

For almost a decade now, Starbucks has been a case study in below the line promotion and the power of WOM geared towards select groups. They built a brand on authenticity and the perfect embrace of a trend. It was the triumph of the brand over advertising.

But in one, huge body blow, McDonald's is attempting to wipe that out and show us what is really "possiblé" when you want to build a new brand "namé" in tough times.

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financial-services-piggyban.gifA South African columnist reminded me today of a hilarious YouTube video that explores how financial services naming was partly responsible for the economic debacle we now face.

Who could resist risky investment products with names like "High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Enhanced Leverage Fund," which was not high grade at all, not really a fund, certainly not structured well, enhanced by nothing and offered little to no leverage to those who bought it.

Who indeed, given that we don't even know what to call the crisis.

Is it a "credit crunch?" A "credit crisis?" A "Subprime crisis?" Or just "The Great Unwind?"

It might be argued that false product naming is partly at fault for luring in gullible investors, which in turn caused this crisis.

According to Forbes, many of the top financial organizations with names like "Consumers' Research Council of America" are just mailboxes, and their publications, such as "Guide to America's Top Financial Planners," are just hokum.

On LoveMoney.com Harvey Jones explains that the first step to not becoming a victim of a financial services scandal is to not "buy anything you do not understand." In addition, when you hear the word "safe," be afraid.

Structured products in general are named poorly, offering "capital guaranteed" when none really is.

"100% capital secure investment?" "Full capital protection?" These slogans are completely fictional, as 6000 Lehman investors have learned.

If your bank has the word "federal" in it, do not think that this is an assurance that the government backs its work, or that it even had any association with the government: Federal Express is not run by Uncle Sam.

You cannot sell people sweetener that is "sugar free" without facing a lawsuit. But when it comes to the products banks sell you and me, anything goes. It's an "integrity free" situation.

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Swine Flu: Casting Pearls Before H1N1

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The name of our new pandemic continues to be a vexing topic.

As we've said earlier in this blog, "swine flu" is inaccurate and potentially offensive to Jews and Muslims, not to mention the pork industry. (And when was the last time you could offend all three of those groups at once?)

The proposed "2009 H1N1" name is unlikely to see much uptake. It's awkward to When-Pigs-Fly.gifpronounce and medically rather vague - since H1N1 is the most common form of influenza affecting humans, there are surely others afflicting us in 2009.

My personal favorite is "When Pigs Fly Flu." Sly as the tone may be, it's actually quite descriptive of the combined avian and suidian components of this particular virus.

But as an expert in crisis communications pointed out on Thursday, during times of crisis, you need to talk to people in the language they understand. The vast majority of people are calling this illness "swine flu." I have trouble imagining all those Twitter users changing their hashtag from "#swineflu" to "#2009H1N1."

On the other hand, there are quite a few messages tagged #namethatflu.

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Are You Protecting Your Brand Name on Twitter?

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It's probably not news, and certainly inevitable, but social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are bringing customers and businesses closer. One undeniable sign of this movement is that pay per click advertising is now available on Twitter.

We are already beginning to use social networking to sell homes and to find out more about the companies we work for, or possibly even those we want to work for.

twitter_logo-bird.gifAll of this, of course, has a direct effect on naming and branding. If we are going to start depending on people who are typing with their thumbs on cell phones to "tweet" about our brand names, then it might be worth thinking about whether our naming is "tweet friendly."

A name like Abercrombie & Fitch, for instance, is a pretty hard tweet compared to, say, Apple or IBM. Ignoring social networking is marketing suicide, and getting your name known, traded and clicked on Facebook and Twitter has become a must do.

Then there's "Twitterjacking," which has the potential to do major damage to a brand name. What if somebody sets up a Twitter account that uses your company name and sends out bogus information about product and service availability and so forth?

If you haven't already, it's time to get serious about social network management.

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