Product Naming: April 2010 Archives

So it appears that the Sebring name is actually going to go, as I predicted a few weeks ago, and it will be replaced by "Nassau" according to unofficial reports.

This name change ought to give new life to this much loved and much reviled car, which will also undergo a facelift.

This is the car that was meant to take on the Honda Accord, the Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata among others. Automobile Magazine tells us how to pronounce the word (na-SAW), which would be familiar to almost any wealthy person but not, perhaps, to the target market of mid-size budget car buyers.
Nassau, of course, is the catital of the Bahamas and this name is yet another name that draws, "Inspiration from tourist destinations. In the past, Chrysler has had the New Yorker, Fifth Avenue, Cordoba (a city in Spain), Saratoga, Windsor, and, most recently, the Aspen and Pacifica"

The debate rages on over whether or not Chrysler should keep the Sebring name and give it a new life, much like Ford has with the Taurus. After all, the car will be fighting for brand recognition against a host of very well established brand names, including the mighty Toyota Camry.

My opinion is that it is a good move to ditch the Sebring name. The Sebring was not a well loved car, and Chrysler is desperate to create a product that will really rock the category.

I like the Nassau name but its potential buyers are going to find it hard to spell and pronounce. It would be better on a more high-end car aimed at an older demographic; the type of person who might actually retire in the Bahamas.

The Sebring name hearkens back to the company's list of weather related car names. "Chrysler Cirrus, Dodge Stratus and Plymouth Breeze" were all stalwarts of the 1990s. mLive reminds us of when the Cirrus turned into the Sebring.

I would think that this new car might return to that scheme in some way rather than get named after a city that was preferred by secret agent James Bond. Although Bond's version of the Nassau might need to be a bit faster and possibly have an ejector seat.

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Australia is going to sell no-brand cigarettes and the WHO wants other countries to follow their lead.

In Australia, starting July 1, 2012, cigarette companies will be forced to use "plain, logo-free packaging on their cigarettes in a bid to make them less attractive to smokers."
Instead of logos and alluring typography, there will be dire health warnings for smokers, and the brand name itself will be in a tiny, generic font at the bottom of the pack.

Australian tobacco companies are less than impressed.

Some have called this the most draconian anti-smoking law ever, and the packs could feature pretty gruesome pictures of cancerous body parts.

The Ozzies even plan on clamping down on Internet advertising. But some think that this might give rise to is a "grey market" in cigarette branded stickers and slipcases, as well as cigarette cases like you see in old 50s movies.

Yes, people will actually buy stickers with their favorite brand names on them and paste them on the ugly cigarette packs. Or buy cigarette stickers that make fun of anti-smoking messages such as, "Smoking is cool," and, "You could get hit by a bus tomorrow."

There is a pretty strong body of evidence out there that says plain packaging will cut down cigarette consumption. Regulators here would be " taking one of the most carefully branded products in the world, and de-branding it," stripping the cigarettes down to just their "name, taste and cost."

Will it work? In a Science Direct article, Daniella Germain concludes that:

"When brand elements such as color, branded fonts, and imagery were progressively removed from cigarette packs, adolescents perceived packs to be less appealing, rated attributes of a typical smoker of the pack less positively, and had more negative expectations of cigarette taste. Pack appeal was reduced even further when the size of the pictorial health warning on the most plain pack was increased from 30% to 80% of the pack face, with this effect apparent among susceptible nonsmokers, experimenters, and established smokers."
Cigarette companies are probably going to try to change the color of the cigarettes themselves, or even focus on the interior foil of the pack, to get any kind of brand name recognition in front of consumers.

There are other means of creating brand differentiation, such as focusing on the size of the cigarettes or altering the naming itself.

Big cigarette brands are desperately trying to make this a trademark issue that the Australian government is laughing out of court. I would say that Australian tobacco companies are feeling this law's potential ramifications already.

It will be interesting to see how this develops and if other countries adopt laws similar to Australia's.

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HTC's Incredible Brand Name Doesn't Go Unnoticed

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This week Verizon Wireless will launch the HTC Droid Incredible in the US. And by all accounts so far, it will live up to its name, however confusing that namedroid copy.png may be.

Motorola introduced the first Droid smartphone last year, which was simply named the Motorola Droid.

However, after that initial launch, HTC developed the Droid Eris, and now the Droid Incredible.

All three smartphones are marketed by Verizon, and include Google's Android operating system.

According to David Clevenger, a Verizon spokesman

"The Droid brand was designed to distinguish Verizon Wireless Android phones from other Android phones in the marketplace and to denote that our phones are connected to the Verizon Wireless network. We want to always talk about the value of our network. We want them to think Droid: Verizon Wireless."
I recently was contacted by the Chicago Tribune to comment on the droid nomenclature.

I think that Verizon's desire for all their Android smartphones to carry the Droid name is confusing because the first use of that was for the Motorola Droid.

For instance, this is like HP calling their laptop Windows 7 and subsequently, Acer introduces the Inspire Windows 7.

In other words Droid is really an ingredient brand, but Motorola used it as a de facto smartphone sub brand.

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Game Day Beer Brand Naming at 7-Eleven

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game-day-brand.gifI'm not going to make much of the new 7-Eleven "Game Day" beer name. Instead, I'm going to focus on what it means that 7-Eleven has a private label beer at all.

Simply put, this is a watershed moment in private label branding - which 7-Eleven excels at - and in branding in general.

There can be no doubt that private label branding has reached a tipping point when 7-Eleven, of all places, has its own beer brand.

But then again, why not?

It's the third largest beer retailer in the United States and consumers are already eagerly flocking to less expensive beer. Or, more accurately, they are moving away from what the New Yorker calls the "mushy middle" (quoting Al and Laura Ries) of branding and frequenting either high end brands or the really cheap stuff.

In the case of beer, this means that real premium brews are still doing well and low-end brands are also flourishing, but everyday beers are facing challenging times.

2009-11-04-Yosemite-Road.gif7-Eleven's private label wine - Yosemite Road - holds the number one and two spots in the chain's sales. Yes, that's right. And if 7-Eleven can sell to wine lovers, they can definitely sell to beer drinkers.

Now, some may point out that their last attempt at beer, Santiago, was a high end failure that was meant to compete with Corona. But this stuff, with its non-assuming cans and logo, is aimed right at the downmarket crowd. Premium beers still dominate United States sales, but the really low end beers have a kind of retro, grungy appeal to the Homer Simpson in every beer drinker. As one reviewer puts it:

Would I have bought this when I was 21 years old and just sold a few compact discs and a pint of my blood so I would have money to get drunk on the weekend? Sure. Would I buy this beer now that I know better? Definitely not.

Well, that's no big surprise, but think about this: Beer purchases in convenience stores took a 4% dip last year, but sales of sub-premium beers like Keystone Light and Natural Light actually went up.

OK, 7-Eleven calls it "premium brewed," but customers will recognize Game Day for what it is - cheap suds that go well with chips and microwave burritos.

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So it was 25 years ago today that the biggest naming and branding debacle ever took place. Ladies and gentlemen, lets spare a thought for the memory of New Coke, one of marketing's biggest blunders. It lasted for a whole 79 days, after which Coke's CEO Roberto Goizueta, acceded to consumer outrage and trashed the brand name and brought back the old stuff.
I have to wonder if this was the first true example of crowdsourcing, even if it was inadvertent.

"People went completely and utterly berserk" says one author, and "it didn't really matter if New Coke tasted better or not."

The archivist for Coke tells us "There were protests in the streets, people would flood our telephone lines. We got thousands and thousands of letters from consumers demanding that we bring back the original formula."

Coke did the research. Eight out of ten people liked New Coke better than Old Coke. They liked it better than Pepsi. But they didn't like the idea of the famous brand changing.

And when they gave us back the Real Thing, their market share went from 24% TO 39%, but to this day Coke denies that New Coke was some kind of ruse.

It was called "Project Kansas" in its beta stage and was an idea that came about after Pepsi's notorious Pepsi Challenge ads. The New Coke Catatastophe ended with an interview on the Today Show in which the head of Coca Cola North America, Donald Keough, told the world just how important the "intrinsic" versus "extrinsic" nature of marketing was:

"Intrinsics means I buy the product because I like the way it tastes. Extrinsics is: I buy the product because I like the image. It's fun. It's friendly. It's American. Used to be, we bought the product primarily because of taste."
cokeii.pngThe reverberations of this would hang around.

New Coke became Coke II and stayed with us until 2002. Then Coca Cola Classic became just Coca-Cola in 2007.

This means that this one naming decision would not leave our screen for 22 years, despite the product itself only being around for a couple of months.

Today Henry Unger asks us to find find other examples of huge corporate missteps.

Paul McNamara on Buzz Blog tells us that the Internet would have helped prevent this, leaks to the blogosphere and Facebook outrage would have stopped Coke in its tracks.

But other companies still manage to keep their secrets until the very last minute, like, say, Apple.

Here's to you, New Coke. You are a warning to all of us.

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Ice cream fans rejoice!

Ben and Jerry's just announced the name to their funky new flavor and it's Bonnaroo Buzz, which is a cool blend of "light coffee and malt ice creams with whiskey caramel swirls and English toffee pieces."
MTV takes issue with the naming, grumbling that it "sounds like the daily newspaper they'd circulate during the festival and not a delicious, slightly stony flavor of ice cream." However, MTV didn't just bash the name, they offered up their facetious name-sentence for the stuff:

"Bonna-you know what would be good with this, man? Some sour cream and onion chips with some dip, man. Some beef jerky, some peanut butter. Some popcorn - red popcorn - graham crackers - graham crackers with marshmallows, the little marshmallows. And little chocolate bars and we can make s'mores, man. Also, celery, grape jelly, Cap'n Crunch with the little Crunch Berries, pizzas. We need two big pizzas, man, everything on 'em, with water, whole lotta water, and Funyons." 
The news was big enough to make this morning where there was an in-depth piece on the company's "flavor gurus" and their other interesting names like "Magic Brownies" and "Imagine Whirled Peace."

The names are clearly born out of the company's hippie foundation with other flavor offerings like Cherry Garcia, Phish Food, and Half-Baked.

vwbus.jpgThe new flavor name comes from the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee, where there are sure to be many buzzed individuals looking to cool off their dry throats after a long drive down south in the old VW Bus.

The company is also asking Canadian fans to go to their Facebook page to name a new "combination of vanilla ice cream, fudge-covered waffle cone pieces and a fudge swirl" that is currently called "We Are Waffling." One blogger calls the new flavor naming task, a "delicious challenge" .

This follows an overall strategy by the hippie ice cream company's parent, Unilever, to turn to crowdsourcing for 13 names of their global brands: Lynx, Ben & Jerry's, Close Up, Dove deodorant, Wall's ice cream, Knorr, Lifebuoy, Lipton, Comfort, Sure, Surf, Sunsilk and Vaseline.

It seems that brands that claim to have real fans like Ben and Jerry's, are turning to them for their brand naming.

I find this an interesting development, as a naming consultant.

Mountain Dew has almost done the same thing. The soft drink company just launched three new flavor innovations, whose flavor names were developed in partnership with consumers: Mountain Dew® Distortion™, Mountain Dew White Out™ and Mountain Dew Typhoon™.

Consumer engagement is very valuable; it's great to get consumer input on the front end of a naming initiative. However, when it comes to positioning, strategy and trademarking, naming consultants will always add value for its clients.

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I have followed the Midwest-Frontier airline naming story for some time and am relieved to say that the Frontier name is here to stay, as will the cute animals on the tails of the Frontier planes.
As loyal blog readers will remember, many Frontier employees actually took to the streets in Denver to save the cuddly creatures on the tails, some were chanting the motto "Save Our Animals, Save Our Tails." The animals and the brand name were seen as crucial parts of the company's identity and its future success, especially now that it has been acquired by Republic.

The Midwest name will be no more, but the practice of giving passengers chocolate chip cookies, a Midwest trademark, will live on with Frontier. The Republic name, of course, will stay.

Aviation Week notes the following about the name change:

"In choosing the Frontier name [over Midwest], Republic says customer surveys showed both brands retained hometown loyalty, but also that customers preferred the Frontier brand and identified it more with lower fares. Republic also notes that Frontier's customer base is four times larger [than Midwest's]."
badgertail.pngMost bloggers see this as a win-win situation, since the Frontier brand name will save on advertising and marketing, continue to create pride for its employees and maintain brand loyalty with consumers.

Frontier will also now expand service to Denver and Milwaukee hubs.

The best news, of course, is that they are adding a badger that will now also appear on the tails, and anyone can name the little guy using either Facebook or Twitter (the decision hasn't been made yet). Talk about brand interaction. Strategically, this is a great move.

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KFC Doubles Down With Crazy Chicken Burger Naming

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We at Strategic Name Development® are fans of "serious" fast food naming. We created the Baconator.
So it was with great interest that we noted the arrival of KFC's "Double Down," which substitutes fried chicken breast for the bread. Or, as one blogger puts it, "Bread? There's Fried Chicken For That."

The name looks like it was torn from casinos at the Black Jack tables, and the product is also a gamble.

We in America like our burgers and sandwiches, but bread is still an important part of the whole experience. One reviewer puts it pretty well:

"The absence of bread robs this "sandwich" of dignity. Holding this meat-glorb (I shall no longer refer to it as the s-word) is a harrowing task -- it's scalding hot to pick up, and oily through the parchment-like paper. Bread would have provided traction, but here, the cheese and mayo interior acts as a lubricant of sorts, allowing the fried boneless chicken fillets to slip and slide against each other."

Another, quoted in the same piece, calls it the "vilest food product created by man."


Salon calls it "Freakish," but it is certainly garnering attention. The Stew says "Double Down's larger implication is that KFC has broken through a barrier of culinary decency." But all the attention aimed at this "weird" new product might actually be a marketing coup: since when has a chicken sandwich made people so angry?

Yes actually, there's The Lady's Brunch Burger. The sandwich buns were glazed donuts. Well, at least the fried chicken buns on the Double Down aren't covered in gooey frosting.

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So Scrabble® is not changing its iconic game to allow proper nouns after all, as I blogged a few days ago.

Instead, they are introducing a new version of the game to be sold only in England called Scrabble Trickster. More specifically, Mattel®, the English owners of Scrabble, are introducing the new game, while Hasbro®, the US owners, are taking a pass.
None of us have to worry about this in North America, so we will not be offended by the new game that might allow floating words and words spelled backwards. Floating words would be words that are not connected to any other tiles on the board as in traditional Scrabble.

However, a few writers noted that most of the bloggers and journalists who wrote about the absurdity of changing the game chose to use African American names as examples of words deemed unfit for Scrabble play. Today, one irate blogger points out that this would be inevitable:

"Scrabble Trickster is no longer a game of wits but a game of charades because everyone will be using proper nouns in order to beat the other player. And why do I say hooked on Ebonics? Name me an artist on the Billboard 100 list. Name me a famous athlete. Name me a comedian. I rest my case."
I have to say that I agree with the above blogger in one sense. I reviewed many blogs while writing my own and noted that many writers picked up on how wrong it would be for Beyoncé and Jay-Z to have a place on the Scrabble board.

The Washington Post really went to town on this giving us a complete list of cool words that might now be used. not least "Quzhou", the new Scrabble players dream destination (27 points!).

The Wall Street Journal points out this may be a flap over nothing, since so many people play by "house rules" and the massively popular Facebook version is incredibly lenient.

Maybe Scrabble Trickster is the Scrabble we deserve.

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Trademark Board Won't Allow "Khoran" Wine Brand Name

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We at Strategic Name Development just noted today that, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) affirmed the examining attorney's refusal to register the mark "KHORAN," as a wine name.
The applicant was Lebanese Arak Corporation, an importer and wholesaler of alcoholic beverages. Their application was rejected because it was "Disparaging to the beliefs of Muslims, because KHORAN is the phonetic equivalent of 'Koran', the sacred text of Islam, which forbids the consumption of alcoholic beverages, including wine."

The majority held that "the proper ground for refusing marks which would offend the sensibilities of an ethnic or religious group is that the matter is disparaging to the members of that group, rather than that the matter is offensive or scandalous"

The TTAB may have avoided a potentially very hairy situation in rejecting this mark.

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Recently, our Chief Linguistics Officer, Diane Prange was interviewed by Alan Bastable, senior editor of Golf Magazine. Diane was asked what certain letters of the alphabet mean, and how their sounds affect the way consumers perceive the products those letters represent.

The letters 'b' and 'p' are "plosives," which means they are followed by a burst of air when spoken. They also evoke strength and reliability.
Plus, she adds, "They're just fun to say."

Prange spoke about the use of coined names for golf clubs rather than descriptive names, or ones inspired by the features of the club. Coined or Fanciful names like Rescue Club, Big Bertha, and HiPPO are quite memorable, an important aspect of any brand or product name.

Whereas names like Cobra S9-1 or Speed M Driver, are highly forgettable and can be difficult to trademark.

However, just the fact that a golf club has a fanciful name, doesn't guarantee it will perform or sell well. Or, if a club has a terrible name but performs well, it will be snapped up by golf enthusiasts.

Bastable covers the various ways that different club manufacturers conduct their respective naming approaches. He does a nice job in his article of showing different name varieties of golf clubs, and how difficult it can be to come up with a good brand name for a golf club.

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