the product naming blog

June 15, 2012

New gTLD Rush a Naming ".Fail"

ICANNgTLDS.pngThe blogosphere has had time to digest the domain name rush and there are very few words of encouragement for it.

GigaOm calls this whole thing a "train wreck" and gives us a compelling list of reasons why this will turn into a mess.

Are that many companies or individuals or organizations really going to register for a .gay domain name, or a .arab one? And what purpose would it serve to have a .beer domain name, or a .pizza domain? That doesn't seem to matter to ICANN -- it plans to hand out names by the thousands regardless of whether anyone wants them (although it's not clear what will happen with .porn or other suggestions).

The problem is, of course, that so much of this is frivolous, and that it looks like a blatant move by ICANN to make some quick cash off brand managers and domain registrars.

Washington lawmakers seem to be calling this a big ".fail," with nervous government watchers worrying that this will cause confusion on the Internet.

And while we are on the subject, what about domain names like ".sucks" and ".fail," which are certainly going to be used to criticize brand and political figures.

The "most applied for" brand name extensions look a little encouraging (".app," ".LLC," ".LLP," etc) but let's note that many companies are against the process and have signed a petition with the Association of National Advertisers.

Still, Wired has asked us why the new gTLDs are not a bit more amusing and have in fact produced a list of domain names we'd like to see but, will not, due to the cost and regulation of the process of registration.

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June 13, 2012

ICANN Releases List of TLDs Today - Naming Online is About to Get More Complicated

BrandTLDs.pngBrace yourself, world.

Today, Wednesday, June 13th, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names
and Numbers (ICANN) will release 2,000 proposals for new Internet domain suffixes.

As you may recall, in January ICANN started accepting proposals for new domains.

Now, the mad rush has closed and we get to see who wants what. Those interested in applying for a new domain name had until the end of May to propose new domain suffixes and cough up $185,000.

So what happens next? Well, according to Businessweek:

THE CHALLENGES: The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposals. Someone can claim a trademark violation or argue that a proposed suffix is offensive.
THE LOGISTICS: Because of the high number of proposals, ICANN will review them in groups of about 500. There's a lottery-like system to determine which ones get to be considered first. It could take a few years to get to the final group.
THE REVIEW: ICANN will review each proposal to make sure that its financial plan is sound and that contingencies exist in case a company goes out of business. Bidders also must pass criminal background checks.

And there is more to the review process, of course. Months and months of it.

This is adding hundreds of hours of work for everyone who has a meaningful domain, and offering upstarts a chance to make the Internet that much more confusing.

Think about the headache Coke has, for instance. Every single permutation of its name and the word .cola now must be theirs.

Or, consider the hassle faced by Lady Gaga (or any other celebrity): they are all waking up today hoping that porn sites haven't lobbied for their names.

As I have said before, this might be a big disaster. Or a small one. But a disaster nonetheless.

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June 8, 2012

When it Comes to Brand Naming, You Really Need to Know Sh#t from Shinola

I'm fascinated to see the arrival of Dallas-based company Bedrock manufacturing in Detroit.

They are setting up an upscale watch company at Detroit's College for Creative Studies A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education in New Center.

Shinola-watch.jpgThe watches look great and they plan on making half a million of them a year. This may actually be the revival of the American watchmaking industry. But the thing that has really caught my attention is the brand name...

Shinola.

Now, some of you may recall that Shinola used to be a shoe polish that saw its heyday in the 1940s. The shoe polish has since disappeared (although it has a Facebook page) but a classic expression that incorporates the name has lived on: "He doesn't know sh+t from Shinola."

The phrase even made it to the big screen in Steve Martin's The Jerk.

Now, one might think that the people who chose the name overlooked this expression, but interestingly enough, they liked it so much it was the inspiration for the name. The expression came up in a "heated brainstorming debate" and it, well, stuck.

Made-in-Detroit-Logo.gifJust as interesting is the equity the Detroit name has. The company chose to set up production of the watches there because they found that "Made in Detroit" actually means something.

The car ads have obviously paid off and brought a certain gritty panache to the city. In fact, Detroit seems to be slowly becoming aware of the value of its name.

When consumers were given a choice between a $5 pen made in China, a $10 pen made is the US, and a $15 pen made in Detroit, they preferred the more expensive pen "Made in Detroit."

Behind all this strategic planning is the founder of the hugely successful Fossil Watches, Tom Kartsotis, so this is no stab in the dark. Apparently, people like Kartsotis really do know sh+t from Shinola.

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June 6, 2012

End of an Era: Sara Lee Brand Naming Changes to Hillshire Brands

After renaming their international coffee and tea division D.E. Master Blenders 1753, Sara Lee has now renamed its North American business Hillshire Brands Co., which will trade on the NYSE as HSH.

The name comes from the Hillshire Farm brand that was acquired in 1971, which Sara Lee says represents the company's "ambitions for growing our portfolio of iconic brands in the future."

Meanwhile, the name Sara Lee will be maintained for the food service division as Sara Lee Foodservice.

As one would expect, the company will have a new visual identity for its "meat-centric brand and snack solutions."

Obviously the Sara Lee name meant "bakery" to many people, but the Hillshire Brands portfolio includes meat brands, such as Jummy Dean, Ball Park, Hillshire Farm and State Fair as well as two "artisan" brands: Aidells and Gallo.

Hillshire Farm was established in Wisconsin in 1934 by Friedrich (Fritz) Bernegger in New London, just northwest of Appleton. The name still stands for "quality, integrity and superior taste" according to Sara Lee.

This is not the first time Sara Lee has embraced a name change. The Sara Lee name dates back to 1939, but the name itself was changed in 1954 to Consolidated Foods, only to switch back in 1985 to Sara Lee.

I think this marks the beginning of the end for the Sara Lee name as we know it, ushering in a far more streamlined approach to a greatly transformed company. Yet, I am glad the Sara Lee name will remain in some capacity even if I am not expecting to see it on retail shelves anymore.

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June 4, 2012

Will We Ever Understand Wii U Product Naming?

WiiULogo.pngIt's probably not a surprise to most gamers, but the Wii U product name will remain on Nintendo's upcoming home console.

This is a source of disappointment for some bloggers who are quick to point out that this product naming decision caused much confusion when it was announced in 2011.

By only tacking on the "U," many people thought is was just a tweak on the base unit, "like the DS Lite, DSi and DSi XL launched in previous years" suggests IGN, who already lambasted the Wii U name in an editorial as "too clever for its own good" because it doesn't differentiate the hardware from previous incarnations.

This may lead to a similar situation as the Nintendo 3DS where the company was forced to put red stickers on the boxes to differentiate them from the DS system while also reminding the people watching their TV advertising that "This is not DS. This is Nintendo 3DS."

I blogged about this earlier this year, pointing out that you really have to dig hard to figure out that Wii U is a whole new console. But Nintendo is adamantly sticking to the name, probably assuming we've figured it out by now.

As one blogger put it last month when it looked like the name was sticking around, "The Wii U Name is Final, Deal With It." I probably couldn't have put it better myself.

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