Product 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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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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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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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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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 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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