Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Saab Naming Convention

"Every car Saab makes has a name that starts with the number 9. The 9 simply means "this is not a military vehicle."
When the company was founded in the 1930s, Saab was an acronym for Swedish Aircraft, Ab (the Swedish equivalent of Inc.) After World War II, while Saab was still strictly an airplane company, it was decided that all civilian projects should be given numbers starting with 9. The Saab 90 and 91 were civilian aircraft.

Saab's next project was a car. Since it was not a military vehicle, the car was given the number 92. Since the numbers always had to start with 9 it didn't take too long before Saab was into three-digit, then four-digit, car names.

In 1998 came the car that would have been the Saab 90,000. At that point, Saab went back to double digits, but the numbers were now separated. In ordinary text, the numbers are written with a hyphen in between, like this: 9-5. On the back of a Saab, the second digit is offset in a slightly different typeface.

As with BMWs, the second number indicates the relative size and price of the vehicle. If it's followed by an X, as with the 9-2X, that means it has all-wheel drive."

Extracted from Cartype.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Label Whore

Urban Dictionary says, "A label whore is someone who only wears brand name clothes, with the name of the brand usually placed somewhere for all to see. A walking advertisement for a clothing store or brand." Don't we lurve label whores.

Monday, February 26, 2007

"I work for Question Mark"

Would you park your fortunes with a company named QuestionMark? Is Comma too pedestrian a name for a software company? Is Hy-phen too generic for a recruitment solutions company? I think so. These are names with no personality. No point in appropriating them. Of the three, I think at least QuestionMark has a logic for their choice.

Out of curiousity, I typed to see what pops up. As expected, I discovered a digestive health site. Semicolon however, did not throw up a portal on colon surgery. During this odyssey to spot punctuated companies, I discovered one trend. Punctuation marks are a huge hit with software companies. There's even a software development site called OpenParenthesis!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Brandy Candy # 1

Logos get all the applause. Good brand names don't even get a word of appreciation. Brandy Candy is a series that aims to put the spotlight on some great brand names coined by our fraternity. If any of you has a nice nominee send the name to brandnama at gmail dot com. Meanwhile, here's the first of my picks.

CRUEL WORLD for a career placement service. Naming by A Hundred Monkeys.

Why I like it: An unusual name for a placement firm. It sticks in your head the moment you hear it. It's bloody evocative. And it offers immense scope for logo design and advertising.

Why I chose it: In the left corner you have names that promise the moon like Careerbuilder, Monster, Hotjobs & Sixfiguresalaries. And in the right corner, there's this quiet guy who offers you the reality check on workplaces. Whom would you listen to? It's this 'tell-it-like-it-is' spirit, that makes Cruel World work for me.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Can we get more silly?

I dunno why seasoned pros are running down coined names. For godsake, it's a friggin genre in naming. How can you rubbish a whole genre? It's as ridiculous as a comedy film maker trashing tragedies. Grow up guys. To sell your names, you don't have to put down the other guy.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Why John Jones won't win the US presidential elections.

Who the flick is John Jones? Is he a Democrat? Republican? Republicrat? Democrican? Hold on. Don't get so curious. John Jones is any presidential hopeful with a commonplace surname. My theory is the more exotic your surname, the better your chances of victory. Look at some success stories of yore:

Roosevelt. Fr - President for 12 years.
Roosevelt. T - President for 8 years.
Washington - President for 8 years.
Reagan - President for 8 years.
Eisenhower - President for 8 years.
Clinton - President for 8 years.
Bush Jr. - President for god-knows-how-many-more-years.
Clevland - President for 6 years.
Coolidge - President for 6 years.
Lincoln - President for 4 years.
Van Buren - President for 4 years.
Fillmore - President for 3 years.
Ford - President for 3 years.
Kennedy - President for 2 years.

I am not saying the Jacksons, Johnsons and Harrisons don't have a chance. All I am positing is 'exotic surname -> clutter breaker -> better chances'. Among the current presidential hopefuls Obama & Guiliani are fresh and clear stand-outs. I won't be surprised if either of these two go on to win the race.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A brand named FUBU

An ethnic brand of sportswear primarily targeted at blacks, FUBU is an acronym for "For Us By Us". Founded by Daymond John, it seems FUBU was born as a reaction to 'predominantly white brands' like Nike. So says Wiki.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

What a name cannot do.

Some people pin a lot of hopes on their brand names. They think it's abracadabra. Time for a reality check. In my limited experience, I think no name on earth can:
a) Do the job of a long copy ad.
b) Catapult you to the cover of Fortune magazine.
c) Act like a super eye magnet for your target audience.
d) Please every earthling on this planet.
e) And eclipse every other brand in every other category.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What's your surname Mr. Iyer?

South Indians are funny characters. You can't slot them into any category. No templates fit them. The Mallus are different from the Tams from the Gults from the Kannadigas. At least when it comes to naming conventions. Take four names for dissection: Vishwanthan Anand, Nara Chandrababu Naidu, Arackaparambil Kurian Antony & Ramakrishna Hegde.

Vishwanathan Anand is a Tamilian name. Vishwanathan is Anand's dad's name and Anand is his given name. The Nara in Nara Chandrababu Naidu is the family name while Naidu is the caste name and Chandrababu is his given name. The AK in AK Antony stands for his dad's name. Hegde is the surname of a man named Ramakrishna.

Got the drift? Ain't the naming so different? There's a well-written piece in answers dot com on Indian naming conventions. Read it up if you want the answer to the poser in the headline.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Would you have bought Ruda shoes?

After his tiff with Adi Dassler, Fast Company reports that Rudolf Dassler contemplated launching a brand named RuDa (a short form of his name - using the same funda as Adidas). It seems he dropped it when someone thought it sounded awkward. Actually, I wouldn't have minded Ruda. It sounds more macho than Puma. The reason why I posted this stale fact is I found a nice quote in Fast Company. "It wasn't something that came out of research it was just something that was a gut feeling at the end of the day." That was a quote from Jochen Zeitz, CEO, Puma, summing up how he hit upon the now successful fashion strategy. I sneaked it in this blog as I am not exactly pro-research.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A brand named Baby Einstein

A well-conceived name for a company that's into baby videos, toys, books and music. Founded by Julie Aigner-Clark in 1997, Baby Einstein was bought over by Disney (Source: Brandchannel) In my opinion it's a smart choice but a risky one. Because I am not sure if one is allowed to use the name Einstein. Can anyone with some trademark experience give their inputs on this?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Nike's big mistake

Why would a well known brand which has spent billions of dollars on building awareness and affection for its name, opt to drop the name altogether from its shop signs and instead replace it with the over-hyped swoosh? Beats me. In a country like India, where people are more verbal than visual, this is a Himalayan blunder. Dunno when the Portland Pashas are gonna wake up to this fact.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

What does an art director do when the name says it all?

Logo designing for evocative names can pose quite a few dilemmas:

A) Do you visually state the obvious? Will it be derided as an unimaginative logo?

B) Do you play it safe and use just a stylised font? Will it be panned as a lazy logo?

C) Do you add a little twist to the A-for-apple logo? Is it risky?

D) Do you create an abstract visual mnemonic (with name or the initials)? Will it be too abstract?

E) Do you look beyond the name and cue a benefit? Will people blame you for not leveraging the name?

Option a is what most people try. I'd go with d or e. What do you say?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

New improved Citigroup

Citigroup has renamed itself as Citi. I am not at all surprised. They should have done this in 1977 when Wells, Rich & Greene came up with the memorable, 'Citi never sleeps' campaign. Better late than never. Who knows, Bank of America might opt for BankAm next. And Standard Chartered might choose Stan-C. Ye nick name ka zamaana hai, bhai.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Brand Name Blues

I read recently that Jeff Bezos of Amazon had launched an aerospace company called Blue Origin. I found the name to be quite original. At least for a moment. Then I did a bit of google fishing for azury names. I was a bit surprised with my catch. See it for yourself.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Ten goofs made by goofy brands

I hate pedantic pieces. This one is not. It's brutally honest. And is a must read for brand wannabes, brands-in-the-making and brand has-beens.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Bono's social fashion label

U2's Bono has a fashion label named Edun. The name trivia is it's supposed to be 'Nude' read the arabic way. The website claims that Edun's mission will be to help create sustainable employment for developing areas of the world with an emphasis on Africa. Apparently Edun's stuff is produced in Kenya, Tunisia, Lesotho, Madagascar, Peru & India.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Clever stock ticker symbols

Stock ticker symbols are usually a no brainer. Truncate the name into three or four letters. Job done. Not all companies take this template route. Some apply a lot of thought into their ticker names. Here's my pick of imaginative tickers from the NYSE alphabet soup:

VCA Antech Incorporated - WOOF (a company into vets and pets)-
U S Global Investments Incorporated - GROW (a company into growth funds)-
The Asia Tigers Fund, Inc. - GRR (ain't the choice, smart?)
Tarrant Apparel Group - TAGS (nice abbrievation)
Star Maritime Acquisition Company - SEA (look how they've hijacked the category)
Southwest Airlines Co. - LUV (a tribute to Lovefield in Dallas - the airport from where Southwest started operations)
Sotheby's - BID (one more attempt at appropriating a category)
Origin Agritech Limited - SEED (makes you wonder why the other agro guys didn't think of this)
Magma Design Automation - LAVA (what's the first short word that strikes you when you think of magma?)
Echostar Communications New - DISH (now i see a formula emerging for half-decent ticker names)
Avis Budget Group, Inc. - CAR (look what Hertz missed out?)
Aries Maritime Trnsprt Limited - RAMS (a better choice than ARYS)
Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. - BUD (their best known brand put to great use)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A curious brand named TJ's

TJ's is a brand of potato chips in India. TJ's is short form for Tihar Jail's. For the uninitiated, Tihar Jail is India's equivalent of Sing Sing. TJ's chips, pickles, biscuits, breads and cakes are made by the thousand odd inmates ekeing out a dark existence in dingy cells for grave crimes committed in their prime. I wonder if people would enjoy their chips as much if they knew that their favourite snack was made by the same hands that sliced a neck or two in a fit of rage. Anyways, the point to note is how the name TJ's has made the unpalatable seem cool.

The purist reacts to branding

When William Safire speaks, you better listen. This is what he wrote in April 2005 on Branding. Here's a sample thought stirrer from the article: "The typography forced on us by some brand names bothers me. Yahoo!, its name taken from Jonathan Swift's 1726 race of brutes, inveigles anyone who writes about the company to express the enthusiasm required by the built-in exclamation point. Why should we meekly go along with that advertising stunt? Henceforth, in protest, I will refer to that ''little search engine that could'' with different punctuation: Yahoo?"

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Brand Architecture Basics

Three pieces that should get you started on what brand architecture is: Building your brand by Martyn Tippling, International Brand Architecture Development, Drivers & Design by Susan, Samuel & Edwin and The Future of Brand Architecture by Research International. Piece 1 is clearly written by a practitioner. Piece 2 is quite academic. Piece 3 sows some seeds of doubt in your mind. If you're into brand bull shit, this should be good fodder for you.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A brand named Red or Dead

Wayne Andrew Hemingway created this hip label way back in 1982. His logic for the name: "We came up with Red or Dead, reference to my Red Indian background and the fact that the first collection that Geraldine did was Russian inspired and so Red or Dead was started and off we went." The brand has an interesting site. Feels quite Indian. Not Red Indian though.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Fun with names

If you trip on names like Belle Lee Button, Bjorn Again, Drew A. Blanc, Erin Troublenow, Frank Incense, Gene Poole, Godfrey A. Theist, Herbie Hind, I.M. Boring, Justin Case, Lance Lyde, Luke Warmwater, Marcus Absent, Meg Lomaniac, Phil McCavity, Quint S. Henschel, Rachel Slur, Ray Beeze, Sharon Apartment, Sue Yourazzof, Tara Hymen, Upton O'Good, Warren Peace, William Arryme, Xavier Self & Zack Lee Wright, then you must visit Namehumour.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A brand named Rubbish

Rubbish is a women's apparel and accessories brand from Nordstorm. Not much dope on the web as to why they called it Rubbish. May be it's the price. May be the R-word is the F-word for women! Whatever the logic, the name is quite bold. I hope the risk paid off. If it did, it will spawn a whole new bunch of anti-category names like Gutter (a mineral water brand), Deadly (a pain killer), Daily Shit (a newspaper) and Uglee (a chinese beauty parlour)!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Why bland titles work for movies.

Snakes on a plane surely sounds more appealing than say Flags of our fathers. Assuming cast-parity and zero word-of-mouth to influence your decision, you will be tempted to check out Snakes on a plane first. But if and when you commit that mistake, you will realise that Snakes on a plane is all about Snakes on a plane. There's nothing more to the movie. The chills and thrills simply don't turn you on as you know what to expect, thanks to the tell-all title. That won't be the case with Flags of our fathers. It just sets the tone for the movie. Doesn't reveal too much. And above all makes you watch the movie with very low expectations. Me thinks the trick is to lower expectations. Some of the greatest flicks did precisely that. Could anything be more bland than On the Waterfront? City Lights doesn't hold any promise. The Graduate sounds so matter of fact. The Matrix could have passed off as a documentary by a math professor. Fun with Dick and Jane is a lot more sexed up than The Mask, but ask yourself, which worked better? The point I am making is simple. Movie studios needn't waste their time thinking of a clever name. Study the script first. See the rushes. If the cast has created expectations, lower the hype by using a bland title. If you've got a movie with a thin plot, keep the name simple. If you've got a film with many layers, opt for a seemingly unassuming title. Because at the end of the day, movie making is all about expectations management.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Baby babble and branding

Prasoon Pandey is an accomplished ad film maker in India. He broke away from Highlight to start his own outfit. When he was searching for a name for his joint, he turned to an in-house expert: his little daughter. She had a rather cutesy way of pronouncing Tortoise. She called it Corcoise. Prasoon just loved it. He asked his son to scribble a logo for him. And thus was born Corcoise Films. Ever since, I heard this story, I've started paying more attention to the profound pearls spat out by my nephew. Who knows, there may be a great brand name lurking in his mouth! While on the subject of baby babble, let me guide you to an interesting research piece put out by the University of Texas.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

English surnames. And what they mean.

Behindthename has a nice listing of English surnames and their meanings. Here I discovered Ramsey means garlic island, Pressley means priest's meadow, Perry is derived from pear tree, Palmer means pilgrim, Ogden means dweller of the oak valley, Nixon means son of Nicholas, Kipling is the name of a town in Yorkshire and Kellog is derived from killer of hogs.