Catchword: Trendster, Trendly, and Trendable: Review of Watchable There are many double-edged swords in the world, like fast food, movie marathons, and having dentists for parents. Or creating a company name by affixing a simple, hip or cutesy suffix.
Over the last 30 years, we’ve developed brand names that innovate and inspire for products ranging from cars to corporations. For the next two months, we’ll be releasing weekly posts dealing with branding myths we’ve frequently heard, in an effort to debunk and demystify much of the mystery that surrounds both the process and the strategies of branding.
Lexicon: Defy Description
Your brand name should be the one thing competitors can’t take away from you. That’s not the case if your name is too descriptive. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, the crime and punishment division of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), doled out an important lesson last month.
Microsoft has thrown its hat into the smartphone virtual-assistant ring. Introducing, Cortana, the Siri-like digital assistant that debuts with Windows Phone 8.1.
So you’ve been asked to evaluate potential brand names. You’re a marketing manager or a research manager who’s been asked to evaluate a set of potential names for a new product. The innovations team has tinkered with design for months, years maybe, and the product will be ready for production soon. Meanwhile, stakeholders have been brainstorming names for the new product. Even the CEO has been promoting his or her kid’s name as a contender. Everyone has a horse in the race.
As naming consultants we often distinguish between two common categories of brand naming, descriptive naming and suggestive naming. The first type of name makes it pretty clear what the product or company in question is all about. (Toys R Us, Raisin Bran, PlayStation, Vitaminwater, General Motors are all descriptive names.) The second type suggests the territory of the brand indirectly, and invites you to fill in the blanks with your own associations. (Think Droid, Twitter, Mountain Dew, Fitbit, Vudu.)
When names for a new product are being weighed, there’s usually nervousness around pronunciation. Still, think of the different ways people pronounce Porsche, Hermès, Zagat.
Every year for the past thirty years Lexicon has received dozens of creative briefs usually prepared by a client, sometimes by the advertising agency. Most recently, “brand strategists” either inside or outside the client have been preparing them. No matter the source, they are usually not very good. Why?
Lexicon: Forever Socks
The joke about things being analogous to socks is that “you change them every day.” Brand names should not be seen that way at all, of course. When you settle on a trademark — after having gone through all the convolutions to create it, research it, register it, and then promote it — the last thing you want to do is change it.
The Naming Group: Minters, Pinners and Wikipedians
We noticed Mint.com addressing their users/Twitter followers as Minters today, prompting a post on this often overlooked component of a brand’snamescape. Pinterest often calls its users Pinners. Wikipedia editors are formally known as Wikipedians, and posters at TheNest.com identify as Nesties. Whether you’re a Tweeter or just a resident of the Twitterverse, you’re a member of the brand’s distinctive culture. Tumblr can define the site OR its users. Are thereYelpers? Google Plussers?
The Naming Group: Name Grade – Quartz
Quartz was announced today as the name for Atlantic Monthly’s forthcoming mobile news platform. In an article discussing the decision with Atlantic’s editor and chief, Kevin Delaney, Forbes framed the decision as counterintuitive. While we agree that the name is category-atypical, the underlying strategy presented by the decision-maker helps the name feel quite fitting.
Catchword: Snack Time: Kraft Mondelez Brand Name Review
So what to make of the new name for Kraft’s global snack business. Well, now that the dust has mostly settled and the predictable stream of vitriol over the choice of name has receded, we can have a fair and professional conversation about this new company badge.
A few months ago I wrote on how Urban Outfitters got itself into trouble with the Navajo Nation over the use of the word “Navajo” in its product naming.
The Name Inspector: Achieve life goals and odd spellings beyond your wildest dreams!
The Name Inspector was amused–and appalled–to read in the New York Times about a website called Noomii. It’s a directory to help you find a life coach or business coach, and yes, it’s supposed to evoke the phrase “new me”.
Catchword: 5 Ways To Take Back Your Reputation On The Web.
The other day I really wasn’t paying much attention to the AM news station in my car until I heard a commercial for a web-based company imaginatively branded Reputation.com. I got to wondering about this kind of service, and when I typed “reputation management” into a search engine I was taken aback to see more than 10 million results. It turns out that it is much more than a new public relations specialty.
Lexicon: Conveying Personality While Conveying People. An old friend recently asked for advice on a project to find an attractive name for the neighborhood that is the heart of his hometown. This got us to thinking about names in the urban landscape. Do these reflect similar thinking to the brand names we develop at Lexicon for products, companies, and services? For answers we focused on some transit and shuttle services in our region.
Catchword: Make Good Names, Not War: Academi Company Name Review. The private security company formerly known as Blackwater is now the company formerly known as Xe Services . They recently announced their newest new name, Academi. The company changed its name to Xe in February 2009 after a 2007 mission accidentally killed 17 civilians – and they were expelled from Iraq. (Check out our review of their previous name change here.)
Lexicon: Understanding The “X” Factor. Not long ago Brand X was just a way to dismiss a brand as generic. (Or to diss competitors by not acknowledging them by name in commercials.) Then suddenly X acquired panache and power, as in Microsoft’s Xbox, Nissan’s XTerra, and The X Games from ESPN. What happened? The reasons go back to developments in the culture at large.
Here’s The One Thing Tim Cook Can Quickly And Easily Improve About Apple: It’s utterly incomprehensible why Apple, a company renowned precisely for its attention to detail and marketing prowess, has such a haphazard and lousy relationship to naming products, and really English grammar. This is something Tim Cook can fix effortlessly and will be great to Apple and its customers who pay attention to detail. Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/apple-naming-english-2011-8#ixzz1WFsopYfq
It’s Not A Smartphone: That device in your pocket is smart but it’s no longer a phone
Heavy Issue, Light Name: The Search for Moby-Duck
Robert Krulwich, who writes a “sciencey” blog at NPR, just gave a wonderful run-down of the history of the word hello as used on the telephone. Here’s a taste:
The Oxford English Dictionary says the first published use of “hello” goes back only to 1827. And it wasn’t mainly a greeting back then. Ammon says people in the 1830′s said hello to attract attention (“Hello, what do you think you’re doing?”), or to express surprise (“Hello, what have we here?”). Hello didn’t become “hi” until the telephone arrived.
The dictionary says it was Thomas Edison who put hello into common usage. He urged the people who used his phone to say “hello” when answering. His rival, Alexander Graham Bell, thought the better word was “ahoy.” [link]
Lots of pundits took their potshots at the iPad as it was first coming to market in early last year, with even video sketches on YouTube mocking the name as some kind of hightech version of a feminine hygiene product. Now, a year later, with Apple reportedly having sold 15 million of the devices, no one’s laughing — at either the product or the name. The high technology industry as a whole, instead, is realizing that Apple’s not just changing the game of what was perceived as pretty much a niche market, but they’re in the process of renaming the game. Link
Our vote for the worst packaged goods branding is the wine category:http://www.namelab.com/blog/2009/02/the-worst-packaged-goods-branding-wine/, but premium coffee beans aren’t far behind. Like the wine shopper, the premium coffee shopper is offered little useful information about how one brew differs from the next (half are “bright and lively”, half are “robust and full-bodied”).
Catchword’s First Annual “Catchwords of the Year” Matrix
Names not only reflect the cultural zeitgeist — they can also affect it. In their first annual Catchwords of the Year matrix, the brand naming specialists at Catchword compiled their list of names and terms that defined the year (for better or worse), and plotted them graphically: good names and bad names against good phenoms and bad phenoms.
So it appears that contrary to expectations, Meister Brau was not the big seller at the world’s first brand auction held last night at the Waldorf-Astoria. Only 50 people showed up with additional bidders online. The biggest bid was for Shearson, which went for $45,000; Meister Brau took in $32,500 with Handi-Wrap picking up $30,000. The famous magazine brand name Collier’s sold for $2000 to a kid wearing a backpack [link].
Sometimes it is hard not to be dumbfounded by the names that companies choose from major projects that make tremendous news headlines.
AOL’s new e-mail program has been codenamed, unbelievably, Project Phoenix. This is not an in-house codename that is some kind of crazy joke, no, this is a real name that has been released to the public: you can even go to phoenix.aol.com to explore the new AOL e-mail.
In the scorched earth, ever changing and fiendishly competitive landscape known as the fast food industry, since 1957 there has stood a legend, a giant, and an icon.
Throughout this time, its appearance has consistently signaled another plunge into the mysterious and intoxicating world of eleven herbs and spices. Or maybe that mom has thrown in the towel on making dinner (score!).
Yes sir, we are talking about The Bucket.
Like the internet phenoms they trumpeted, internet company names of the last decade have been, by turns, wildly inventive, deeply troubled, breathtakingly silly, serviceable (if dull)—and occasionally, brilliant.
September 7th, 2010
What’s the capital value of your website? Why would you want to know?
Why? Increasingly, the capital value of a website is a meaningful part of the capital value of a brand. When a company, division or brand is sold the website is often a big part of what the buyer wants to acquire [Link].
For a growing number of consumers, ecology and economy converge to replace Crystal Geyser with refills from the tap and Starbucks Ventes with coffee from home in a vacuum travel mug.
Today, as SyFy has its first birthday party, I find that I’m ready to join in the celebration and eat some birthday cake, rather than wanting to be the party pooper and defame the name, again. What changed? What did SyFy do right to make its edgy new name stick?
I’m a big fan of using proper grammar. But I’m also a big proponent of keeping up with trends, both technological and vernacular. Thus, when I read about the New York Times banning the use of “tweet” by their journalists, I viewed their decision as yet another way they’ve fallen behind the times and are sticking their heads in the sand.
Last week’s lame business page flapdoodle focuses on a GM memo instructing the company’s employees, dealers, and salesmen to use Chevrolet rather than Chevy. Fighting the headwinds of deflation, GM is making hard branding decisions (like dropping Pontiac) to rebuild comprehension and trust in American and overseas consumers. Asking its employees and dealers to use consistent and slightly more respectful language to refer to the brand makes sense.
Steve Jobs just announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference that they are dropping “phone” from the name “iPhoneOS” to become, simply, “iOS”. This is a smart move. Uh oh. Seems like Cisco Systems runs a big chunk of the Internet on some thing called iOS.
Judged by the total value of its shares, Apple is now the #3 company in the U.S.A. Many analysts expect it to pass #2 Microsoft soon. (Exxon-Mobil is a strong #1.) Marketers should be popping our buttons with pride. Apple is a triumph of innovative new products and intelligent, courageous marketing[link]
When does a word with negative connotations make a great name? For starters, when it’s genuinely relevant to the product and likely to intrigue its intended audience. For instance, I was amused to read about Traif, a new restaurant in the hipster area of Williamsburg, Brooklyn (yet very close to where the Hasidic community resides). The word “traif” means unkosher, and the restaurant specializes in pork in a variety of incarnations: from short rib sliders to bacon doughnuts and even an upcoming cocktail infused with pork. Like many taboos, the eating of pork has a lot of appeal (else why would you have to forbid it?)—and this tongue-in-cheek name leverages that appeal to the max[link]
By Richard Northedge: Would EasyJet be as popular under a different name? We may find out soon. The discount airline is in dispute with founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou on a range of issues, but one — possibly the root of all other contentions — concerns his licence for the company to use the Easy name [link]
April 15, 2010: I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. Beatle Walruses aside, is there really that much difference between “i” and “we”? There is if the next three letters are “pad”. Unless you died over 3 months ago, you are aware of Apple’s newly launched iPad. Now a German company with the delightfully apropos and Onion-like name Neofonie (“New Phony”) will be launching in June an iPad competitor tablet computer called…(pay attention trademark attorneys)… WePad! [link]
I was in a meeting with Vinod Khosla once, about a thousand years ago in Internet time (which would make it roughly 2001). We were discussing how, even then, it was tough to find names for Silicon Valley companies that were interesting and available. I was giving the Catchword speech on trademark availability, and how important it was to avoid choosing a name that was already in use, when Vinod jumped in with “Do you think that when we founded Sun we worried about how many other companies were using that name? We just shouted louder and longer than any of them, and we made Sun our name!”
Today’s post is about naming—specifically naming in English, or at least for primarily English-speaking audiences (suppose I have to make that distinction now). Upon seeing Pollywog’s list of what they consider the best and worst names of 2009, I realized that most of the “best” names are real English words. In naming lingo, they’re abstract/evocative (as opposed to descriptive/functional) real words (as opposed to coined/invented or compound/composites)…[link]
In pursuit of economies of scale, advertising efficiency, distribution muscle and executive “mine’s bigger than yours” bragging rights, numberless packaged goods brands have been subsumed by global mega-marketers like Coca-Cola, Diageo, Nestle, A-B InBev, Mars, L’Oreal, P&G, Reckitt Benckiser, Unilever and Vivendi…[Link]
In Japan, Europe and, increasingly, North America the mobile phone has morphed into an on-site transaction device – choose your soft drink, bagel, or grade of gasoline and pay by pushing a key on the phone…[Link]
There has been much speculation and pontification on whence the name Xfinity came, but look no further than the looming Comcast-NBC merger. Whilst kicking the NBC tires, surely even a beast as slow-witted as Comcast fumbled across the NBC property ‘The Office”…[Link]
Cool article in today’s Washington Post! Any Japanese naming experts care to comment?
“My name is on every car,” Akio Toyoda, the president of Toyota Motor, assured Congress on Wednesday…[Link]
The South African low cost airline Kulula.com has gotten itself in trouble with Fifa for its new airline promotion…[Link]
The Name Inspector
A fun way to spend a rainy hour in Seattle is to browse in Uwajimaya, a huge Asian supermarket in the International District (which locals call “the ID”). There you can see products that, from a mainland American point of view (at least this mainland American point of view), are pretty exotic…[Link]
Success is sometimes your own worst enemy. Just ask the management and stockholders at Crocs.
A hot brand ends up in one of two different ways. It burns bright too fast and fizzles. Brands like this are known as fads. Or a brand burns hot then continues at a steady simmer. Brands like this are known as iconic…[Link]