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  • Posted by: Michael Mitchell on Tuesday, March 18 2014 04:22 PM | Comments (0)
    The Art of Storutelling

    We know that words matter. They have an incredible power to move people, and when used thoughtfully—even poetically—they can change the way people experience brands.

    For example, there’s something poetic about Volkswagen’s 2013 campaign encouraging us not to text and drive. In one ad, a nearly blank page simply says, “See you n…” —cleverly incorporating auto-correct to anticipate the last word as either “now” or “never.” It’s a powerful use of four words to tell a story, affect behavior and solve a problem.

    If design thinking is how brands can use design to solve problems, perhaps poetic thinking is how brands can use language to solve problems.

    The suggestion is not that brands begin speaking in iambic pentameter. But, if we craft a brand's language to be as poetic as its design is artful, we can have a significant impact. As our new article on the art of effective storytelling notes, the key is “finding that balance between having a living and breathing expression while still remaining true to the core what, how and why of a brand.”

    Artful language helped HSBC claim the second highest rank of any financial services brand on Interbrand’s latest Best Global Brands report. Delivering on their positioning as “the world’s local bank,” their iconic advertisements featuring a single word seen from multiple perspectives was a sublimely poetic way for a bank to raise its brand value by conveying understanding, empathy and humanity.

    In an equally poignant mix of design and poetic thinking, an Asian non-profit, Samaritans of Singapore, promoted their crises-prevention services by crafting phrases that convey different messages from different angles. These heartfelt ads show that depression can hide in plain sight, reading, “I feel fantastic” when right-side up, and “I’m falling apart” when upside down.

    The thoughtful use of language is essential to helping brands express an emotionally engaging, strategically consistent and differentiated point of view. When combined correctly, an inventive piece of design coupled with a poetic turn of phrase can move hearts—and business margins—in powerful, world-changing ways.

    For more on crafting language and story to elevate brand communications, download our new article on “The Art of Storytelling.”

    Michael Mitchell is a Senior Consultant, Verbal Identity, at Interbrand Singapore.

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  • Posted by: Eden White and Taylor Goddu on Monday, March 3 2014 01:09 PM | Comments (0)

    MobileIn our continued conversation on technology and branding, we took a look at some of the tech names that emerged from this year’s Mobile World Congress.

    Take the Samsung Galaxy S5, the latest in the company’s ever-evolving Galaxy S line of smartphones. Aside from updates to the actual interface, forget having to submerge your phone in a bowl of rice — it’s now waterproof. There’s also a fingerprint scanner and a sensor in the back that acts as a heart-rate monitor and tracks your vitals. But while the S5 is the latest extension of the Galaxy portfolio, for a product that seems to be heavily focused on new features, the name doesn’t capitalize on any new applications, and might get lost in the greater Milky Way of phones.

    There’s also Samsung Gear, a line of watches and wearables. Last summer, Samsung dropped “Galaxy” from the product name. Why the change? In the latest revamp of the product, Tizen replaced Android as Samsung’s operating system of choice, and since “Galaxy” is reserved for Samsung’s Android-powered devices, the name change effectively signaled a strategic shift. “Gear” is a strong standalone name in that the product functions like a well-oiled machine. From emails, texts and calls, to even a pedometer, life is easier with everything directly at your wrist. With “Galaxy” now reserved for smartphones and tablets, Samsung’s overall portfolio is easier for consumers to navigate.

    The flip side of these high-tech devices are budget-friendly smartphones, like the Nokia X, the LG F70 (by LG Electronics), or the BlackBerry Z3. They all have a price tag of $200 or below and are all named with letters or alphanumerics. It’s a particularly effective strategy to drive brand equity back to the masterbrand—think about the luxury automotive world, where alphanumerics have long since been used to define the class of a car. When a lower price point is driving your decision in buying a phone, consumers might be less focused on specific features, but more attuned to the reputation of the overall brand.

    We’re seeing a difference in naming strategy based on price points and audiences, and we’re curious to see if this trend will stick or if new naming techniques will take hold. What do you think?

    Eden White and Taylor Goddu are Associate Consultants in Interbrand New York’s Verbal Identity.

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  • Posted by: Steven Elwell and Tom Shanahan on Friday, January 31 2014 04:26 PM | Comments (0)

    WhiskeyWith any sort of spring thaw far from sight and polar vortexes hitting parts of North America, the time has come to stock up on some strong liquor to get you through the cold winter nights.

    And you certainly won’t be alone if you do. According to the most recent international data from Euromonitor, spirit sales have been on a steady rise the past several years. The US alcohol industry is enjoying a particularly strong surge, with sales up 3.7 percent in 2012 and some states celebrating record highs (we’re looking at you, Ohio and Iowa).

    Today we’re going to highlight the voice and messaging of some of our favorite brands, and since discussing the strategies of spirit brands could take up enough space to fill a short novel, we’ve picked one from each base liquor category to think about when you’re shopping for winter warmers.

    Ketel One


    We might expect the NFL or Dodge to target one gender over another. But for a vodka company to do it? That takes some guts. Enter Ketel One.

    The company’s 2011 campaign, “Gentlemen, this is vodka,” is still alive and distilling in Ketel One advertising, with two new spots coming out this past fall. Strangely enough though, beyond advertising, the company doesn’t focus as much on this idea, but rather highlights the historical and genuine nature of the drink. Its tone is approachable and straightforward, its message is simple: Ketel One is about tradition, quality, and craft.

    Gentlemen, it works.



    If there’s a jester in this circle of spirits, Hendrick’s is wearing the cone — and it fits perfectly. The quirky, Irish gin brand stands out from the crowd by boasting its individuality, and that its “gin made oddly” is anything but average.

    Instead of simply having a recipe book, Hendrick’s creates a “Treasury of Tipples,” assuring drinkers that “that which is least expected is often the most delicious.” Its elaborate and fun tone complements both the message of complexity and individuality perfectly, while its visual system is as colorful as the botanicals used to make its gin. They say “No other gin taste like Hendrick's because no other gin is made like Hendrick's.” Well, no other gin talks like Hendrick’s either.

    Johnnie Walker


    Johnnie Walker may be one of the most commonly gifted alcohol brands on the market. And that’s a reputation the scotch baron is quick to embrace, calculating its messaging to become a drink for milestones and occasions of great import, rather than an everyday indulgence.

    In 2013, the brand expanded its long running "Keep Walking" messaging with "Next Step," a push to reach a younger demographic that's fighting their way up the ladder in today's cut-throat work environment. Even Johnnie Walker's most premium product, Blue Label, is now fashioned as being "For those whose defining moments have yet to be defined." It's a subtle shift in tone from the soaring, inspirational calls to individualism that have framed the brand's voice in the past, but a wise one considering the trending popularity of scotch among today's urban dwelling upstarts.



    At first blush it may seem like an odd strategy for an international powerhouse brand like Bacardi to position itself as a personal, family-made product. That type of artisan talk is generally the territory of tiny, regional brands that have little more to mention than their roots. But the Bacardi family has been intimately involved with running the business for each of the company’s 150+ years, and that unbroken chain of command forms the backbone of the brand’s messaging, and the proud, defiant tone of its voice.

    Bacardi peddles its rich history across touchpoints, from its website to its “Untameable” spots, underscoring how the brand outwitted peril time and again to become the leader in nightlife it is today. And in an amusing instance of life imitating art, the company employs a certain cunning to its business in the US (where the brand’s current day Puerto Rican production is highlighted) and internationally (where the brand plays up its early Cuban origins to compete with the demand for true Cuban rum).

    Jose Cuervo


    Even in a market glutted with small, specialty brands, it’s still safe to say that anyone with a taste for tequila has thrown back a shot of Jose Cuervo at some point. And more importantly, everyone’s got a tale to go with that shot. Or at least that’s what the Cuervo brand bets on when it rallies consumers to “Have A Story.”

    With its commercials helmed by an ever off-kilter Keifer Sutherland, the brand has embraced its image as a gateway to wild times, extolling the values of living with no regrets. A notable divergence from the more urbane tones of its contemporaries in other liquor categories, Cuervo gets credit for owning up to the fact that, for better or worse, tequila just isn’t like other liquors. And their gritty, borderline rebellious voice confirms it.

    Brand Elevation

    Examining voice and messaging in the spirits category becomes a lesson in brand elevation. Spirit brands are careful to avoid becoming entangled in the barroom slosh-fest associated with some of their beer brand brethren. They acknowledge consumers turn to their products when they’re looking to let go, but the brands unanimously frame that choice as a letting go of pretension – an embrace of our more authentic selves.

    Tell that to the crowd at closing time, but one thing is certain: the big boys of booze know how to pour on the class.

    Steven Elwell is a Senior Consultant and Tom Shanahan is a Consultant in Interbrand New York's Verbal Identity.

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  • Posted by: Katie Conneally on Friday, January 24 2014 05:05 PM | Comments (0)

    Today is the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh computer, and as CES 2014 proves, we've come a long way since then. While this is the end of our CES naming wrap up, this is just the start of a conversation on technology and branding that we’ll continue in future blog posts.

    After taking a look at the names for trending and everyday technology that came out of CES 2014, it’s clear that companies are trying to pack in as much meaning as possible, favoring descriptive names that ensure clarity. Which begs the question: how do you name an emerging technology—those things that are less product, and more concept—if it’s something the world has not yet described?

    Take Edison, the latest, greatest miniature computer from Intel. It’s a 22 nanometer dual-core PC, a little bigger than a postage stamp, that has the potential to transform wearable technology into something much more powerful. But its exact purpose isn’t known yet, which is why Intel is offering developers over a million dollars in prize money in their “Make it Wearable” competition. 


    And the name? A nod to Thomas Edison, one of the great inventors who made much of the technology we have today possible. That’s a pretty big legacy to live up to in a name, but the product seems like it may be able to deliver. The name Edison also seems like a challenger to IBM’s Watson, the artificially intelligent computer who once bested humans at Jeopardy. Game on.

    There’s also Oculus Rift VR, an augmented reality headset that you wear while playing video games. The name sounds techy and cool, and alludes to the act of seeing through the goggles, while also conveying the idea of a rift between what’s real and what’s virtual. 

    But the product feels like so much more, and early uses for it are stepping outside of the gaming world. With a name so targeted toward a gaming audience, there’s a risk of alienating those who fall outside that space, and a chance that really interesting applications of the product may be overlooked.

    Auto-maker Ford got into the technology game at CES 2014, releasing a concept car called the C-Max Solar Energi Concept. It’s an electric car and a solar powered charging station all-in-one, with solar panels on the roof to charge the car’s batteries. 

    But while the car itself may be efficient, the name certainly is not. It’s an extension of their line of C-Max Hybrid cars, but the unnecessary coining of “Energi” makes it seem trite. Coining a name to say “cool” falls flat when it doesn’t have a broader purpose. Since this is a concept, there’s time to change the name and we hope Ford can find something that expresses just how amazing this product has the potential to be.

    As we wrap this year’s review of names from CES 2014, we’re excited to see what next year brings. Will the names suggest experiences beyond our wildest imagination? Or will companies stay with the trend of descriptive naming? All we know is that as technology gets more and more advanced, names will play a critical role in helping consumers understand and connect to the next big thing.

    Katie Conneally is a Consultant, Verbal Identity at Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Stefanie Roshop, Kai Klopsch, Eva Kuhlmann and Julien Dolenc on Monday, January 20 2014 11:30 AM | Comments (0)
    Car Colors

    The world's eyes have been on the new car trends emerging during the Detroit Auto Show. One of the surprise trends? Bright blue cars. As Chris Woodyard in USA Today put it, "For years now, auto shows have bedeviled photographers by showing new models in colors that designers lover, but which make blah images — white, medium gray or silver. But this year, bright blue seemed to be the new gray — the "in" show color. The Porsche Targa, Lexus RC F, BMW M3, VW Passat high-efficiency model, Chrysler 200 and half the Audi stand featured cars in Smurf-like blue."

    Vehicle styles change, and so do the colors they are available in. The first cars were painted black, white, olive green and, in exceptional cases, Capri Blue. Then in the 1970s, manufacturers began offering more bold colors like Fluorescent Orange and Neon Jade for individualists who wanted to set themselves apart. In the late 1980s and especially in the 90s, discreet shades of gray were predominant. Over the past few years, however, cars in more conspicuous colors have increasingly been spotted on our streets and roads.

    Nowadays, if you want to buy a car with a “Curry” paint job, you’re probably in for trouble. Not only because you will have to justify your selection to your friends and relatives, but also because it’s a shade one doesn’t see much anymore – and if you do find a car in that color, it won’t be called "Curry". More likely it will be "Dakar Yellow" or "Mustard Yellow."

    "The colors manufacturers offer, and especially the names they use for them, reflect the current positioning of the various brands,” said Richard Veit, managing director of Interbrand. “They correspond to the respective brand personality and are part of the verbal identity of the manufacturer brands.”

    Why is that? And what does the designation of a color have to say about the interplay between brands and their target groups?

    Some brands exhibit more adventurousness in the wording they use, e.g. in response to quick-changing trends. For example, 40 years ago Opel offered "Cosmic Blue," followed in the 80s with "Smoke Blue." In the 90s they even floated creative terms like "Lifestyle Blue." Today, Opel has come full circle and is offering colors like "North Sea Blue" and "Ocean Blue," which at least have the advantage that people can more or less imagine what they will look like.

    Mercedes-Benz, on the other hand, places more store in continuity. Back in the 1970s you could already buy the 350 SL in Manganese Bronze, or from 1980 the 380 SL in Lapis Lazuli. Today you’ll find shades like "Cubanite Silver," "Cavansite Blue" and "Sanidine Beige." The colors of the minerals may not be familiar, but they all impart an impression of superior quality and underscore the high standards typical of Mercedes products – and of the company’s brand communication.

    Another brand that has resisted major changes to its color designations is Ford. Some names have changed, and shades like "Forest Green" have been replaced with "Ginger Ale," but in place of the "Tile Blue" that was once popular you will now find the hardly more specific "Atlantic Blue." Ford continues to prefer designations that invoke pretty clear images, it’s just that the terms have been modernized a bit.

    When Audi began making inroads into the premium segment, it started using more elegant color designations. A good 20 years ago you could choose a "Stone Gray" paint job for the Audi 80; in the 1990s there was the sleek "Diamond Silver," and today the A7 is available in discreet "Oolong Gray," named after the Chinese tea.

    Depending on the model, the VW brand offers both simple and elegant color designations. For example, while the VW Crafter van is available in robust “Steel Blue,” it’s hard to imagine an “Avocado Green” Phaeton. Indeed, that model is only available in subdued colors with names like "Beryllium Gray" and "Campanella White."

    Geographical names are always popular designations for car colors. BMW for example used terms like “Fjord” and “Riviera” in the 1970s, followed by such shades as "Biscay Blue" and "Ascot Gray" a decade later. Today the brand sports elegant hues with mellifluous names such as "Havana Metallic" and "Valencia Orange." Thus BMW maintains consistency while responding to current trends. The sound of the color’s name is more important than specificity – incidentally a tendency that is also apparent with Kia and Toyota, which have chosen the names of relatively obscure places for their "Zilina Black", "Kiruna Silver" and "Pianosa White."

    Then there are the flights of fancy characteristic of expensive brands like Aston Martin and Jaguar, which offer "Viridian Green" and "Italian Racing Red." But not all exclusive brands select highfalutin designations, as evidenced by Maserati, whose Italian sports cars come in minimalistic Nero, Bianco and Grigio. Maserati clearly sets itself apart from its competitors in this regard.

    Chevrolet presents a good example of how color designations can be adapted for potential target groups. Buyers – mostly female – of the Spark model select from emotionally appealing colors such as "Honey Mellow Yellow," "Secret Lavender" and "Bluebell Blue" – names that are reminiscent of nail polish colors like "Raspberry Fields Forever" and "Clubbing with Dracula."

    Some automotive brands have made big changes in the names of the colors they offer, while others have not. As the example of Audi shows, color designations often give an indication of the direction the brand is going.

    The colors themselves are also subject to trends, and some colors – as well as color designations – rotate in and out of popularity with time. Back in the day, the Audi 80 came in "Tornado Red," and now you can buy a VW Beetle in the same color. The selection of available paint jobs is always a featured element of brand communication, and is an important component of the brand’s overall identity.

    No matter what trendy colors the future holds in store fur us, you will likely find yourself choosing from names such as "Aviator Blue", "Mangaro Brown" and "Unicorn White". Just be glad there’s no more "Curry" on offer.

    Stefanie Roshop, Kai Klopsch, Eva Kuhlmann and Julien Dolenc are members of the Naming Team at Interbrand Hamburg.

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