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  • Posted by: Paola Norambuena on Wednesday, June 18 2014 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

    Amazon Fire Phone

    It started with Kindle, a metaphor that the e-reader’s namers felt stood for “reading and intellectual excitement.” For many, however, that association was lost behind images of books as kindling or book burnings. Comparatively, its later competitor from Barnes and Noble, the Nook, captured that lovely feeling of curling up with a great book.

    But, over six years and many devices later, the name Kindle has become synonymous with e-readers and spawned a nomenclature we now recognize, use, and trust from Amazon: Kindle, Kindle Fire, FireTV.

    It proves that naming is a fascinating art—you can find negative associations for almost any name, associations that brands like Amazon can easily overcome (much like Apple swiftly recovered from all the feminine hygiene product jokes at the launch of the iPad) because a great name can’t fix a bad product, but a great product can fix a bad name.

    And so, today we see the launch of Amazon’s newest device, and its first smartphone: the Fire Phone. Not deviating far from its device naming strategy, the Fire features Firefly technology, a handy little way for Amazon to turn your new phone into what’s essentially a mobile retail device.

    It’s hard to imagine a phone named Fire if we had not lived and loved Kindle—and Amazon—for so many years (once many of us got past what it meant for the feel and smell of now-old-fashioned paper books). The more we related to, used, and received from the device and its associated services, the more the real meaning of the word slipped away and only the experience settled in our minds.

    So, are we ready for a Fire phone with Firefly? From a naming perspective, it seems so—we gave Amazon that permission a while ago. What really remains to be seen is how great the device really is, and how Amazon will fare in a market where others, including Facebook, have failed. If it’s intended to compete with the lifestyle aspects of Apple and Samsung, there may be a way to go. But if it’s simply another seamless way to connect us with Amazon’s core services, then snap and shop away.

    —Paola Norambuena is Executive Director of Verbal Identity, North America. Follow her on Twitter: @panoram

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  • Posted by: Eden White on Friday, May 9 2014 12:29 PM | Comments (0)

    HP Helion logo

    This week, the Hewlett Packard Company launched its broad cloud computing initiative under the new name, HP Helion. The company has pledged $1 billion over the next two years to deliver new open source products and platforms that will incorporate existing HP cloud offerings, new OpenStack technology-based products, and professional support services—under one unified portfolio. 

    Interbrand and HP have partnered together for over two years, working on projects that span from naming to portfolio architecture and design. Since HP was making a strategic bet on an offering in a crowded space, they needed to launch it with a name that would catapult them into the spotlight and position them to lead the category. Working together, Interbrand and HP determined the optimal approach and a name that would have impact. 

    Across the category, “the cloud” is a nebulous, complex offering that can seem cryptic to those outside the tech world—and the frequent use of the word “cloud” in relation to this technology only adds to the confusion. HP, taking a different approach, opted to create an ownable name that would tell a story for the future. Considering the competitors in the category, from the more abstract Windows Azure to the functional and descriptive Amazon Web Services, HP faced an opportunity to differentiate by creating a name that communicates its value in a unique way.    

    Helion brings HP's offering to life and positions the offering as not only different, but also formidable. With its similarities to the word helium—evoking lightness and associated with science—the name feels tied to the cloud space, but avoids overused, traditional cloud language. What’s more, helion is a real word grounded in chemistry, which refers to the naked nucleus of helium, “a double positively charged helium ion.” A name that conjures up mighty things—like the Greek god of the Sun, Helios, the Big Bang, nuclear fusion, and quantum mechanics—Helion suggests a powerful engine behind customers’ businesses.

    In the days following its first announcement, Helion’s launch has been covered by numerous publications, from The New York Times to Geekwire to TheStreet, showing that HP's big bet on the cloud has captured the attention of both the media and the techosphere.   

    Here’s to seeing HP—and Helion—set the world on fire. 

    Eden White is an associate consultant at Interbrand. 

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  • Posted by: Bill Chidley on Friday, October 18 2013 05:01 PM | Comments (0)
    Amazon Wine

    Availability drives consumption.

    Amazon, a top riser on Best Global Brands 2013, is now shipping wine to New York, Michigan, Arizona and Louisiana, upping its distribution to 20 states and the majority of Americans. This is good news for wine makers, but a cause for concern to wine retailers who may fear obsolescence.

    “Disintermediation” is the driver of ecommerce and what keeps traditional retailers up at night. Whole industries have changed as a result of taking steps out of the distribution model. How we acquire and enjoy books, music, movies, even travel, are forever different… and now wine appears to be joining the mix with the biggest e-retailer.

    Lowering the cost of goods to consumers is the obvious upside of disintermediation, but an often overlooked result is a change in consumption habits. Make something that is inherently appealing cheaper and easier to get and without fail more will be sold.

    The advance of Amazon's wine sales will have at least three profound collateral effects on how consumers engage with the wine category that will impact consumption habits:

    1. Reduced entry barriers for new consumers: Shopping for wine can be intimidating for shoppers and a barrier to entering the category. It is complex and difficult to navigate, with many varieties and price tiers. The Amazon experience offers the shopper the ability to educate themselves without pressure, use reviews for comparison, and filter search results to suit their priorities that will reduce the entry barriers for new consumers, and then keep them in the Amazon franchise.
    2. Frictionless purchasing for current consumers: The ability to easily repurchase favorites, put wines on a wish list to purchase in the future, immediately find a wine that was recommended or experienced at a restaurant, and then purchase with one-click, all will drive consumption. Furthermore, the ability to use Amazon’s “subscribe and save” option and push notifications for cool new wines to try, (or deals), will positively impact frequency of purchase.
    3. Contagious consumption for all consumers: Wine is a highly giftable and sharable category, and Amazon will be a great platform for both. Wine as a gift for friends and family in other zip codes gets little consideration, but Amazon introduces project-ability to wine, making it like flowers. Amazon will enable us to share our favorites not just in social media, but by actually physically sharing a bottle across the miles. This will not only increase purchase occasions, but also introduce more consumers to wine, or more varieties and premium tiers if they are already buying wine.

    These three collateral effects will drive consumption and grow the wine business while also changing how consumers experience the category when they shop. Like iTunes and music, wine is highly fragmented so shopping online will be a great equalizer for small brands “on the shelf,” but give disproportionate advantage to brands that have the ability to pay to be featured or promoted.

    Based on my recent Amazon Wine experience, it will also impact the design of packaging for wine if/when online becomes a top channel of distribution. The role of the bottle will be minimized and the label will be the single focus, and need to attract attention as a postage stamp in a sea of postage stamps.

    Regarding the brick and mortar wine shops, they will feel the impact of Amazon and other e-commerce players eventually, but they still have their place for convenience. They will see reduced traffic and smaller purchases as “stock-up” trips migrate to online sales. But there will always be a need for brick and mortar wine stores until someone figures out a way to download a great Malbec!

    Bill Chidley is SVP, Executive Consultant, Interbrand Design Forum.

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  • Posted by: Dominik von Jan on Thursday, July 25 2013 05:47 PM | Comments (0)
    Google Glass Presentation

    I had the pleasure of participating on a panel about The Three C’s of Mobile Success at VentureBeat’s recent Mobile Beat conference. Moderator Erik Loehfelm from Universal Mind, Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps, Trulia’s Consumer Products VP Lee Clancy and I had a very interesting discussion around what makes mobile marketing activities work: Customers, Content and Context.

    Since a lot of the conference revolved around mobile innovation, wearables and the utility and marketing opportunities that go along with them – from medical condition monitoring intelligent skin adhesives to productivity enhancing, James Bond-like super watches – we took a short detour into the device world of tomorrow. Having done a lot of industry research in the field, Sarah Rotman Epps drew an inspiring picture of the new app opportunities that Google Glass open up, and what that means for utility-based marketing as opposed to advertising.

    Near field communications (NFC) will have a whole new playing field in the still fairly geek-y looking eyewear, beaming personalized offers, shopping cart reminders or product information into your field of vision when you pass a retail brand you interacted with in the past. Speak of relevant content and relevant context.

    The question of “are customers permitting such targeted and somewhat personal sphere-invading communications” didn’t take long to be raised. The consensus was that as long as personalized information and services provide a true value add and increase convenience, consumers are embracing them. Think Amazon’s “Customers who bought this item also bought” section that pulls product recommendations based on users’ browsing behavior as the least intrusive example, automatically saved travel preferences in mobile apps like Delta Airline’s Fly Delta, or the more aggressive retargeting of web users with banner ads from brands whose websites they visited in the past few days.

    Where things got especially interesting from a brand perspective was when we started to talk customer experience in these new customer touchpoints. There was a lot of conversation about brilliant new business models and feature innovations, for example the last-minute-hotel-rooms-at-a-great-price service Hotel Tonight, newcomer IDrive’s platform-agnostic online backup service or Trulia’s foray into the Google Glass app world with a service to find houses for sale - right where you are. And that is a good thing, because it pushes thinking and inspires the next great business innovation.

    Where the conversation was only starting to emerge, though, was in the brand expression through these innovations. Truly strong engagement and loyalty is created when people connect with a brand on an emotional level, when they get to know and appreciate the character of the brand in addition to its innovative utility. That is what makes a brand like MINI Cooper so strong and its customers so happy, or what makes ordering business cards from print service moo.com a surprisingly pleasant process.

    That is where the opportunity for long-term customer loyalty comes in: The innovative feature itself will be copied by the competition at some point, but the brand personality can’t be. That’s why I am convinced we will see and hear a lot more conversation in the future about how to innovate and build personality. A good sign of that was Dave Mathew’s (CEO & Founder of mobile connectivity platform NewAer) call out “We need more whimsy in mobile apps!”

    I couldn’t agree more.

    Dominik von Jan is Senior Director, Digital at Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Graham Hales on Thursday, October 18 2012 08:43 PM | Comments (0)

    In these difficult times, armed with their digital voice, we can quickly see the changes in public sentiment. Getting on the wrong side of the mood of the moment can prove expensive.

    Take something we all feel emotionally about: taxes.

    In the UK recent studies showed that public sentiment quickly turned against celebrities who have taken advise to minimize their tax bills. Such schemes are often totally legal, but still feel wrong to the public. After all, the general public has no such access to the expert pin-striped financial advice and see no option for themselves other than to pay their fair way and therefore contribute proportionally to public services.

    The comedian Jimmy Carr was a recent notable case. He had not violated tax laws, but he allegedly used a tax avoidance scheme that was deemed inappropriate in the court of public opinion. He spotted that misjudging public sentiment could be costly to the value of his celebrity and more expensive mistake than paying his perceived tax obligations outright. Carr quickly apologized and recompensed the public coffers.

    But what of corporations that use sharp tax practices to avoid paying taxes in the countries where they derive income? Doesn't this have the potential to be perceived as even worse in the public eye?

    Brands benefit from their popularity across the globe. They can also be harmed when consumer sentiment turns.

    As reported in brandchannel, US companies doing business in the UK, including Starbucks, Facebook, Google and Amazon, are now finding themselves in the hot seat for paying staggeringly low tax rates in the UK. Accordingly, the risk of public wrath for the customers in the UK who help create wealth for these brands could be staggeringly high.

    The corporate world has had public image and trust issues for many years now. If much beloved celebrity entertainers such as Jimmy Carr can be compelled to be contrite and publicly apologize, what are the dangers to brand value it has taken companies years to build?

    Risk managers and tax advisers would do well to engage in listening to public sentiment and consider its potential damage to brand value. The lesson from the Shareholder Spring, the Occupy Movement and the rise of consumer power in the post-digital age is that there is little acceptance of separate rules for companies and individuals when it comes to rights and responsibilities. Being a good citizen matters for brands and consumers alike.

    Starbucks, Facebook, Google and Amazon are all top 100 brands on our Best Global Brands 2012 report because, as Interbrand's CEO Jez Frampton notes, they have demonstrating an understanding of "the role they play in peoples' lives and respond accordingly — building on successes and making up for mistakes. They are constantly nurturing their brands to keep pace in a rapidly changing world; they know that every market is different, every interaction counts, and every individual matters. Quite an achievement in such turbulent times." But in this instance, on this issue, they appear to be teetering on the brink of a PR disaster that without an appropriate response will evidently unfold in the not so distant future.

    Brands need to remember they have the power to change the world. And are expected to be good citizens within it. As Jimmy Carr found, misjudging public sentiment is no laughing matter. Playing fair and remembering how savvy consumers are in a world with constant global information are keys to building better brands now. As Tom Zara and Peter Cendella note in Citizens All: The New Rules of Corporate Citizenship, "It’s about the credibility of a company’s culture of citizenship."


    Graham Hales is CEO of Interbrand London.

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