brand naming

Skip a milkshake, order a smoothie

I've just read an interesting post by Roger Dooley, The Power of Positive Names. In his review of an upcoming study about the power of naming products and product categories (to be published later this year in the Journal of Consumer Research), Dooley gives simple but quite powerful examples.

 

It turns out, we are much more likely to indulge into cakes for breakfast if cakes are called muffins.  In a similar way, we appreciate a dish of pasta, meat and vegetables if it's called pasta salad rather than simply pasta. And yes, a smoothie definitely sounds more healthy than a milkshake, notwithstanding the fact that it's essentially the same product.

 

Online brand mascots

Recently, I've published several posts about brand mascots, cartoon-like characters that can infuse your brand with personality. In my first posts about brand mascots, I defined what they are. Further on, triggered by a reader's comment, I wrote an article Beastly branding, in which I concluded that most of brand mascots take shapes of people, animals, birds and insects.

Today, I want to talk about brand mascots that have evolved online.

Many online brands (and I've already written about the Twitter bird and Hootsuite owl) infuse some of that real-life personality by using brand mascots in their brand communications.

A good list of online brand mascots has been published in this article on Mashable. Here are the 8 mascots described there, apart from the already-mentioned Twitter bird and Hootsuite owl:

1) The Twitter Fail Whale

fail-whale

2) The Foursquare boy

foursquareThe name of the company is derived from a playground game with the same name, Four Square. My take on it is that Foursquare wants us all to "join in, and play the game", hence the mascot of a playing boy. The playground ball game Four Square, however, is probably mostly known in the US, where one would detect a subtle link between the ball game Four Square, and Foursquare's invitation to "play the game". I suspect this association might not be so apparent in other parts of the world, however.

In one of my previous articles, Learn to speak the language of your brand, I talked about brand naming for companies that want to expand internationally. The bottom line is that brand names (along with all the desired brand associations that they result in) should be understood in all countries where the brand in question wants to reach. Foursquare should have kept this in mind when naming its brand with potential to grow outside of the US.

3) Google "Doodles"

This one is very special. Probably everyone has noticed that Google displays different images on its homepage, depending on the zeitgeist. Sometimes it's just a plain Google logo, but often it comes accompanied by the so called "Doodles" -- images that express the holiday spirit, or important events.

I am not entirely sure whether Doodles are strictly speaking brand mascots, but this doesn't really matter. The point is, they add a bit of a zest to the brand, and entertain us all.

4) The Travelocity Gnome

travelocity gnomeI've mentioned the Gnome in the article on brand mascots, here he is, along with his Facebook fan page.

The remaining four brand mascots that have evolved online are the Firefox's fox, the Facebook "head" (used by Facebook in its early days), Myspace's people with headphones, and Reddit's Alien.

Best of SCHMOOZY FOX 2010

With this post, I want to bring to your attention the best posts that were published on this blog in 2010. They 've attracted most of the traffic because I think they give some of the most useful tips to anyone who wants to build a Funky Brand™. If you want to brush up on your knowledge of branding, here's your chance! BRAND STRATEGY

Image by Levy Fulop on Flickr

ONLINE BRAND STRATEGY

FUNKY BRAND INTERVIEWS

Photo collage

  • Theo loves you: an interview with Wim Somers, founder of a very stylish brand from Antwerp.
  • Interview with Anders Wall, CEO of a Danish upscale brand of bicycles, Biomega.
  • From Mallorca with love: interview with Camper shoes.
  • Interview with Jean-Pierre Lutgen, CEO of Ice Watch.
  • Interview with Isabelle Cheron, Creative Director of Kipling bags.
  • Interview with Nathalie Colin, Creative Director of Swarovski.

PERSONAL BRANDING

RE-BRANDING AND BRAND REPOSITIONING

BRAND NAMING

CREATIVITY AND BRANDING

taarten van abel

Brand names for innovative products

pampersIf you are about to launch an innovative product, the kind that has never existed before, you'd better give it a great name -- memorable, snappy and easy to pronounce. But what if your product becomes so popular, that it gives rise to a whole new product category? So popular, that people begin referring to this new category by your product name.

"I am going to get more pampers for my baby."

"Give me a kleenex, I have a cold."

"Let's take a thermos on our trip."

"Let's make some jell-o for dessert."

Pampers, Kleenex, Thermos and Jello-O all used to be innovative products that essentially established totally new product categories. Nowadays, people go shopping for "pampers" even if they will end up buying a box of Huggies.

This phenomenon is called genericide, or a "threat of the brand name being used as a generic term." (( Taylor ,  C .  and  Walsh ,  M . G .  ( 2002 )  Legal strategies for protecting brands from genericide: Recent trends in evidence weighted in court cases .  Journal of Public Policy and Marketing  21 (1) :  160 – 167 .))

Is genericide good or bad for your brand?

On the one hand, one could argue that it is good.  After all, it demonstrates very high awareness about your brand. However, this brand awareness may not necessarily lead to purchases of your brand, since its popularity will prompt other copycat brands to appear. And it may lead to customers buying them, whilst referring to them by the name of your brand.

Whereas there's probably little you can do to prevent competitors from launching similar products, you might want to make sure that genericide does not have negative consequences on the brand of  your innovative product.

Professor Judith Lynne   Zaichkowsky from Copenhagen Business School suggests the following methods that brand managers can use to protect their brands from genericide: (( J.L. Zaichkowsky, Strategies for distinctive brands, Journal of Brand Management (2010)  17, 548 – 560))

  • use the trademark as a descriptive adjective, such as Rollerblade ® in-line skates or I-POD ® MP3 player.
  • use the trademark notice in advertising and labelling, for example, BLACKBERRY ®
  • display the brand name with special typographical treatment -- font matters!
  • extend the brand name to other related product categories
the threat of the brand name being used as
a generic term

In other words, successful protection of a brand name involves much more than attention to the name itself -- it a brand strategy that affects a whole company.

6 resources for naming your brand

Photo by Natalie Maynor on Flickr Giving a name to your new company or product should be an important element of your overall brand strategy. Brand naming gets especially tricky when your strategy is to go into several markets at the same time.  Then you'd need to make sure that your new company name sounds equally good in China and Brazil, if you plan to go there, of course. I've addressed the complexity of such cases in my blog post Learn to Speak the Language of Your Brand.

Today, I want to share with you some of the resources that can come in handy while you are busy brainstorming a new brand name. Before you start, remember: don't book any URLs, twitter and facebook accounts before you've actually understood what your new brand will stand for. But if you feel you have sorted out the details of your brand strategy, then these resources can come in handy. Here's a collection of 6 online resources that can help you, and if you know more, please post a comment:

1) Guy Kawasaki's article The Name Game

2) An article published by OnStartups.com: 17 Mutable Suggestions for Naming a Startup

3) http://namechk.com/ This site allows you to see if your name is taken throughout social media. The list of social media outlets is pretty vast, and many that are mentioned here are not even used any more, so I wouldn't worry if your name is already taken in some of them.

4) http://www.namechecklist.com/ is a similar service, though it also allows you to see what domain names you can still register with your name.

5) http://www.bustaname.com/ This site allows you to check if your desired brand name is available. You can also play around with various name combinations: a good way to brainstorm the name and get some ideas you maybe didn't think of at the beginning.

6) http://www.dotcomroulette.com/ allows you to enter keywords, and based on them, it proposes a name for you. I've experimented and received quite obscure results, but perhaps you'll have some luck using this site.

Again, all of these should play a role when you are well into your brand strategy, and know a great deal about your product, competitors and customers. Hope this helps, and good luck naming your new brand!

Ice Watch -- putting it all together

Jean-Pierre Lutgen CEO of Ice WatchThe sleek business card of Jean-Pierre Lutgen, CEO of Ice Watch, displays the addresses of his two offices: one located in Bastogne, a Belgian town near the border with Luxembourg, and another one in Hong Kong. From Europe to Asia, this funky brand has become true arm candy for millions of fans. Although the company was founded only 3 years ago, it’s difficult to refer to it as a startup, as the high brand recognition of Ice Watch internationally puts this company already in the league of well-established funky brands. Today, Jean-Pierre Lutgen, the creative and entrepreneurial founder and CEO of this funky brand, talks about his passion for Asia, plastic, marketing and putting pieces of the puzzle together.

SCHMOOZY FOX: What’s the concept behind the brand of Ice Watch?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: Ice Watch is based on two main elements: people’s desire to seize and express change, and a strong identity. To address the former, we have put together 10 different watch collections. Collections change twice per year, just like in the world of fashion. Their affordable price (staring at Euro 59 per watch) allows people to buy several watches at a time, so that they could match their different outfits, and different moods. We know that many of our customers like to collect different models of Ice Watch. Because they like change! Even our brand slogan is, “Change. You Can.”

The strong identity is seen not only in the funky and refreshing design of the watch itself, but also in its packaging, which has become an inseparable part of the product, and of the brand as a whole.

ice_watch packaging

SCHMOOZY FOX: To prepare for this interview, I’ve watched several videos about Ice Watch in which you talk about the company. But you rarely talk about yourself. What is your background, and how did you make Ice Watch happen?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: I studied at the university in Louvain-La-Neuve, and then I spent 10 years running a small corporate gifts company in Bastogne. I was quite different from my university friends, who all went on to work at established companies, and followed structured career tracks. My corporate gifts company had many ups and downs throughout the years, but I overall I enjoyed this highly entrepreneurial experience.

SCHMOOZY FOX: But besides studies and work, there must be other personal interests and skills that made Ice Watch possible?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen (smiling): You know, I think that success in life does not suddenly appear out of nowhere. Same with me, I can now see that a lot of my interests, passions and experience have developed over time. They were like pieces of the puzzle, lying around scattered on the floor. And finally, I put the puzzle together! For instance, as a small boy, I liked playing with pieces of plastic. I’ve always loved Asia. And I’ve appreciated the power of smart marketing. In addition to that, during my experience at the corporate gifts company, I made precious contacts in China, who later on became my very trustworthy manufacturers of Ice Watch. So, in the end, many of my passions, interests and skills fell into one place.

colorful ice watch

SCHMOOZY FOX: Often startups think that their brand will take care of itself. How did you approach the brand strategy of Ice Watch?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: My impression is that most startups apply brand thinking in the best case only to the product. This is not a recipe for success. For me, a strong brand concept was the starting point of the whole business. The raw idea was mine, but I bounced it off many knowledgeable people, and invested the necessary time into refining the concept over and over again. Afterwards, I made sure that each element of my business strategy supported the brand concept.

I did think through the brand strategy early on, indeed. I also knew that expansion of the brand, and the growing demand for the watches had to match our ability to scale up production very quickly. And this is when I could rely on the already established network of reliable business contacts in Asia. A combination of brand thinking and dedicated production facilities was really powerful.

SCHMOOZY FOX: It’s hard to believe the amount of press coverage internationally that Ice Watch has received since its launch. Can you attribute this success to a single event or a series of activities?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: I worked with PR firms in each of the countries where we were launching Ice Watch. But instead of fully outsourcing press relations, I myself was fully involved in organizing events and press conferences for journalists. I guess, as a complete outsider, I just thought out of the box all the time and spotted unexplored ways of connecting with journalists. For instance, instead of inviting them to the Ice Watch launch events by email, I insisted that we send them empty Ice Watch packaging boxes. When they received attractive boxes, of course they were curious to see what was inside. And when they opened them, they saw a custom-made invite which replaced the actual watch. They were intrigued, liked the packaging, and wanted to discover the product as well!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Who is the blond lady who features on almost all ads of Ice Watch? Is she a celebrity?

Melissa Ice Watch ad

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: She certainly has the looks of a celebrity! Her name is Melissa, and she is very far from the world of fashion and modeling. She works in her mother’s restaurant in the Netherlands. I had a very clear idea of what kind of woman could be our brand ambassador. I explained what I was looking for to a well-known fashion and art photographer from Antwerp, Marc Lagrange, and he found Melissa. The photos, as well as the rights to use them, cost me 10 000 Euros, which was a ton of money for a startup! But in reality, it’s very affordable compared to what I would have paid for a well-known celebrity!

SCHMOOZY FOX: What’s behind the name “Ice Watch”?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: Brand naming was an important aspect of the overall strategy for us. Initially, we wanted to make transparent watches, and “Ice” was a good match. But even though we extended the concept to a variety of materials, not only transparent, Ice Watch was still our top choice. “Ice” represents purity. Nowadays, when humanity has to deal with the problems of rising temperatures and climate change, ice has become a luxury! In other words, Ice Watch is pure, democratic, transparent in the way it communicates and connects to people, and luxurious at the same time!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Where do you get so much energy to develop your funky brand?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: From working with people! I travel all the time, and I don’t sleep very much, but once I start working with passionate people around me, I find the energy back.

SCHMOOZY FOX: And finally, why is Ice Watch a funky brand?

Olga Slavkina & Jean-Pierre LutgenJean-Pierre Lutgen: The watch industry is rather traditional and somewhat conservative even. Ice Watch has stormed this product category by a refreshing concept, and its democratic values. “Funky” also signals “affordable” to me, and Ice Watch has become a true affordable luxury, able to brighten up the mood of many people around the world.

Baboushka branding part 2

I've already written about the trend of giving Russian or Russian-sounding names to products and brands in my post Baboushka branding or a bit of "Russianness" in marketing. In that blog post, I talked about a seemingly persistent trend among US and European companies to take inspiration for product and brand names from the Russian language.  Specifically, I talked about a concrete fascination by the word b a b o u s h k a. And here is another baboushka story for you!

I've just come across this post about a recently redesigned bottle for an Australian-produced vodka called Baboushka. While purely from the design point of view I find the bottle design quite okay, there are some details that struck me in the text of the article, namely:

1) According to the article, the agency that redesigned the bottle, "built an emotional brand story around the existing ‘Baboushka’ name avoiding Russian vodka inspired clichés." I wonder  how  can such a truly Russian name allow one to avoid Russian cliches, and why would one even want to avoid them?  Baboushka is just a common noun in Russian, there are no real stories attributed to it, at least in the context of its common use.

Image of Baboushka vodka. Incorrect Russian text is underlined in red

2) The Russian text on the bottle does not really mean anything.  I guess that «Премия водка» was an attempt to translate "premium vodka", quite unsuccessfully.  I suggest to brands that try to seek inspiration from foreign languages and cultures to always check with qualified people who speak those languages first!  :)

To conclude, the use of "baboushka" in brand discourse never stops to surprise me.  I think there's even some additional meaning that's been developing around this word outside of Russia, and some Russian-speaking linguists should definitely look into it.

As far as brand strategy goes, my advice is to check the spelling and meaning of foreign words you put on your packaging.  This will surely help you avoid some surprises!

Diffusion brands vs parent brands

A significant advantage that successful luxury brands have, is that they have a good chance to launch diffision brands. Diffusion brands are a form of a line extension, discussed before.  They are “step-down line extensions of existing  luxury brands, normally less expensive than the  main-line merchandise.” ((How Young Adult Consumers Evaluate Diffusion Brands: Effects of Brand Loyalty and Status Consumption, Ian Phau Edith Cheong , Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 21:109–123, 2009))  They are often called second lines, subbrands and endorsed brands. Think of them as “children” of their more established “parent brands”.

Armani dot com screenshot

Examples of diffusion brands abound in the fashion world, for instance. Armani launched  Armani Exchange, Calvin Klein introduced CK, and Prada started a diffusion brand with a whole new name: Miu Miu. In all of these cases, the important condition for introducing diffusion brands was very high brand loyalty and brand recognition of parent brands. In other words, unless the brand equity of your parent brand is high, it might not be even a good idea to start considering diffusion brand launches.

There are several observations that I want to make in relations to diffusion brands:

  1. By launching a diffusion brand, a parent luxury brand de facto enters a whole new world of new luxury (also referred to as mass luxury and affordable luxury). I wrote on this subject before. New luxury is where many funky or funky-to-be brands develop.  If done properly, the new luxury positioning can bring enormous benefits to both: a child brand and the parent.
  2. Diffusion brands are a good way to target consumers who are usually much younger than the main target market of parent brands. They can tap well into the trend of status consumption, “The motivational process by which individuals strive to improve their status through the conspicuous consumption of consumer products that confer and symbolize status both for the individual and surrounding significant others.” ((Status consumption in consumer behavior: scale development and validation, Eastman, J. K., Goldsmith, R. E., and Flynn, L. R.  Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice. Summer 1999, 41–52.))
  3. Empirical research demonstrates ((Phau, Cheung, Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 21:109–123, 2009)) that diffusion brands have the same quality and status perception among younger target market as parent brands. This is a great way to appeal to a younger audience, and chances are that it will later on develop preferences for the parent brand as well.
  4. Importantly, the success of diffusion brands is often determined by a brand naming strategy. To put it simply, if a child brand bears the name of the parent (like Armani Exchange has a name of the parent brand, Armani), the benefits reaped from the existing status of a parent brand are almost immediate. If, however, a child brand is given a totally new name (Miu Miu vs Prada), such benefits are much less apparent. ((ibid.))

Armani Exchange screenshot

Diffusion brands are not a phenomenon characteristic exclusively for luxury products and services. On the contrary, they frequently occur in a very vast and complex area of brand architecture.