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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: Amy Edel-Vaughn on Thursday, April 4 2013 01:53 PM | Comments (0)
    Martin Cooper with 1973 Cell & Facebook Home

    Pictured: Martin Cooper (from ArrayComm) & Facebook Home

    Yesterday the world celebrated the 40th anniversary of Motorola's demonstration of its portable telephone, the DYNA TAC system. Martin Cooper, then Vice President of Motorola, Inc., is said to have called a rival at AT&T's Bell Labs from the streets of New York City. According to an April 3, 1973 press release from Motorola, the new portable phone was expected to be available for public use as soon as 1976. The cell phone took a bit longer to take off with the public, but four decades later smartphones have become part of our daily lives and today president and CEO, AT&T Mobility, Ralph de la Vega was on hand at Facebook's big unveiling of Facebook Home.

    As David Vales, Senior Systems Engineer for Interbrand, noted in his recent blog post, Smart Phone Sector Heats Up With Big Launches, with BlackBerry's Z10 now available in the US and Samsung's release of the S4, which Vales describes as "very impressive," the smartphone race is intensifying. Today's Facebook unveiling was the introduction of Home, software designed to "turn your Android phone into a great, living, social phone," according to Tom Alison and Adam Mosseri in Facebook's newsroom. The first phone to come with Home pre-installed will be the HTC First, available exclusively from AT&T on April 12. Home will be downloadable on other Android devices, but won't have all of the features of HTC First.

    "Apps aren't at the center, but people are at the center and we bought into that" said de la Vega at the event. The new Home-ready HTC First phone will run on AT&T's 4G LTE network and will cost $99.99. Tech writer Chris Taylor who heads Mashable's editorial team commented, "Great coup for HTC and AT&T -- probably the largest captive audience they've had for a phone announcement." Mark Zuckerberg noted, "By putting people first, and then apps, it's one of many small, but meaningful changes in our relationship with technology over time."

     Ralph de la Vega

    Facebook Home brings its News Feed experience to users' mobile home screen. The new Home experience includes Cover Feed, Notifications, App Launcher, Instagram and Chat Heads. The latter, a mobile messenger that allows users to reply directly to friends instantly or move a floating head image of a friend when not ready to respond, inspired strong reactions in the comments section of Mashable's live streaming of the event. Chris Taylor reacted,"'Chatheads.' -- really?" and "'Chathead.' it really is going to take a while to get used to that word." 

    Chat Heads reactions

    Caitlin Barrett, Associate Director of Verbal Identity for Interbrand and the creative lead for Naming, responds to the name Chat Heads, "It's hard to say whether Chat Heads will change behaviors and expectations the way the 'Like' button did, but the name is just as absurdly simple—and perfectly aligns with the new chat experience." 

    Barrett adds, "Is it awkward? A bit, as it doesn't seem necessary to specify the parts of your friends with which you're chatting. And it doesn't fall naturally into everyday conversation: Will we talk about it like a platform? 'We talked on Chat Heads earlier today…' Or an activity? 'Let's Chat Heads later tonight.' This might very well be the point. If Facebook wants this to simply be the way we chat on Facebook, perhaps it doesn't want to take the hit by trying to brand what could easily become a generic term for this new style of chat. So is it a bad name? Certainly not. We all giggled at the iPad when it was first launched too, but as long as the functionality proves to be differentiated and useful, the name will cease to be part of the story."

    Jez Frampton and Colin Gillis on CNBCWhat does Facebook Home for Android mean for Apple? Several commenters in Mashable's chat and on Twitter expressed new shifting interest from Apple phones to Android. 

    As discussed on CNBC recently, concerns about Apple are growing. Colin Gillis of BGC Financial, CNBC's Jon Fortt and Interbrand's Jez Frampton discussed the slowdown in orders at China's Foxconn and if this is a sign of problems for Apple. Frampton observed, "In terms of the brand, there's no doubt about the fact that Apple still is one of the pacesetters in the market, Samsung are giving them a good run for their money, but this lack of innovation is a concern. To be honest we've been taught as consumers to expect the next new thing every other week almost, and now they're slow on the iPhone 5S. And what's next? Where's Apple TV?"

    Gillis added, "The market is still valuing [Apple] well north of $400 billion, but the market is changing. What we're seeing is lower cost competitors are getting traction. ...For Apple to maintain their margins and to maintain the volume units, they need to keep innovating and that's an issue for the company right now."

    What does it mean for Google? Commentor Lance Ulanoff asked Chris Taylor during the live chat today, "Has anyone asked specifically about Google+? Chris Taylor responded, "Nope, but this really does seem like another nail in Google+'s coffin." JoeyMartin91 commented, "If I'm Google, I'm nervous. Facebook just took my niche market and rewrapped it." Robert Stephens, founder of The Geek Squad and former CTO of Best Buy, tweeted:

    The reveal today raises a number of questions about privacy concerns, battery life and, of course, consumer interest. Understanding consumers will have many questions, Facebook has planned for trials of Home before users commit to downloading it or purchasing the HTC First pre-loaded with Home, a smart move. We'll also be following this initial post with more on Home and what it means for the marketplace in blogs to come.

    Amy Edel-Vaughn is Interbrand's Community Manager.

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  • Posted by: David Vales on Friday, March 22 2013 07:18 PM | Comments (0)

    Samsung S4

    Apple earned the number two spot on Interbrand's Best Global Brands 2012 report and the power of Apple's brand value has made the iPhone the top-selling smartphone in the world. The iPhone 5 is facing some competition this week, though.

    Today the BlackBerry Z10 is officially available in the US from AT&T. The new phone, garnering positive reviews, becomes available from T-Mobile and Verizon next week. 

    Samsung's S4 promises to be a competitor in the smartphone space. Shortly after Samsung's recent launch event for the new phone, Apple responded with marketing on its website claiming, "There's iPhone. And then there's everything else."

    I had the pleasure of attending the S4 launch event at Radio City Music Hall in New York, which started with a Broadway-inspired performance demonstrating how the phone's features relate to everyday life. Some in attendance panned the performance as "cheesy," but I found the actual phone to be very impressive.

    SamsungThe screen size is a bit larger than any phone currently on the market with a great resolution at 1920 x 1080, making it a great HD streaming handheld device. The event's emcee, Will Chase, noted there is less to hold on the new phone, but much more to see, a great way to justify the large size of the screen.

    Adding "group" features such as group play is a smart move. Group play allows multiple phones that are within a reasonable distance to share and stream music simultaneously in different speaker arrangements depending on how many phones are linked up. 

    What I find so cool about this feature is that it does not require any kind of Wifi or hotspot; this can be done anywhere at any time as long as you have your phone charged. I can see this feature being a hit with the youth market. 

    Another great feature, but also raises some questions, is the Samsung smart pause. This feature pauses the phone when you aren’t looking at it and then unpauses when you are looking again, all automated. Is it just tracking eye movement or does it look for a full head turning motion?

    One of the coolest features presented at the event was "Air Gesture." The name truly expresses what it does. Move your finger in front of the screen and it recognizes this as a swipe on the screen. 

    This feature utilizes an infra-red heat sensor. This device can measure temperature changes and act off of heat movements. I believe this is the first phone for consumers to have this type of sensor in it and it will be interesting to see what the hacker community comes up with for this handy sensor. 

    Samsung S4 Launch

    The built-in rear camera has 13 megapixels, which is also the highest megapixels on any phone released to date. The associated features with the camera are quite useful and unique.  When recording video you can use both cameras on the front and back, enabling you to add the camera man to the video. This dual camera feature is also available for video chat. 

    On the business side, the phone supports Microsoft Active Sync and in addition to supporting the widely used business mail systems, Samsung has added a very useful application called Samsung KNOX. This KNOX software can separate your applications securely so they can only be accessed via password. 

    The Samsung software truly makes this device capable of supporting business and personal use at the same time with one smartphone. The hardware is superior to any other phone on the market right now and the camera features invite all kinds of creativeness to the table. The group features add a new dimension to social networking, allowing connectivity without requiring an internet connection. 

    The "7 sensor innovation" is only the beginning for Samsung. These sensors can be applied to many facets for many industries. 

    The smartphone sector is definitely heating up.

    David Vales is a Senior Systems Engineer for Interbrand.

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  • Posted by: Ilan Beesen on Tuesday, February 12 2013 10:27 AM | Comments (0)

    BlackBerry HubZippier chips, more robust operating systems, better screens and a snappier internet are clear signs that while some companies are peering ahead to what’s next, we’re still in the smartphone era. The sheer volume of options attests to our desire. How do we even begin to choose? Enter brand.

    Beleaguered BlackBerry’s revamp shows us how a shift in naming strategy can signal a new brand promise. In dropping RIM and placing the marquee brand front and center, BlackBerry is doing more than changing the corporate name. It’s sending a message to new and once faithful customers, emphasizing simplicity, clarity and the brand equity of the name that always mattered most to devotees.

    If the BlackBerry name is to be the centerpiece in the story about its new phones and image, then the role of its previously touted sub-brands — Bold, Torch, and Curve — needs to be reconsidered.

    BlackBerry’s new product signifiers — Z10 and Q10 — are sleek signifiers more than names. They form the foundation for future product iterations. These simple alphanumeric platforms say premium (think Mercedes C-class), high technology (Galaxy S3) and sophistication through letters that carry high point values in Scrabble.

    More importantly, the letters are static, unremarkable, functional handles. They won’t steal much attention from the BlackBerry brand the way their flashier older siblings did. Words like Bold, Torch and Curve try hard to grab our attention, as they’re designed to.

    It begs the question: If carving out a central role for BlackBerry is meant to simplify choice for consumers, what happens with Bold, Torch and Curve? These brands carry significant recognition in the market, yet represent the old BlackBerry.

    If the brand wants us to say, “I want the BlackBerry” instead of “I want a BlackBerry ______,” the new lines will have to become the lines. That then begs the question: Which BlackBerry becomes the BlackBerry? The Q or the Z? We’ll leave it up to sales to answer that question.

    Dare we say it? Long live BlackBerry!

    Ilan Beesen is a Senior Consultant, Verbal Identity, Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Hugh Tallents on Thursday, January 31 2013 09:36 AM | Comments (0)

    BlackBerryZ10Confession time. I used to own a BlackBerry. Three in fact. And I loved them. It feels good to say it, so I’ll say it again. I LOVED MY BLACKBERRY. You won’t hear it much because it isn’t cool to even think that any more. It’s like listing an AOL account on your resume or mispronouncing Hyundai. You should just know better. Today execs all over America text their families on their personal iPhones over lunch while putting their company mandated BlackBerries in their waist holsters. BlackBerries have become the corporate technology captor but none of their users are developing Stockholm syndrome anymore.

    There have been some big pieces of news around BlackBerry and RIM recently – the “RIM = RIP” headlines have been writing themselves for a while now and so it was proven as the kooky Canadians who felt the need to put a holding company between their marquee BlackBerry brand and the customer did what we all hoped and just let it fade away. They wouldn’t be the first holding company in history whose sole job was to obfuscate, but most of those are headquartered in the Caymans and get investigated in Tom Cruise movies. So all you lucky RIM stock owners who have lost north of 60% of your portfolio value can check out the new BBRY ticker and pin your hopes and dreams on the fact that the same team that brought you RIM might, maybe, maybe have a plan.

    And they might.

    Their plan looks like being one that leads with the brand and acknowledges the customer for once. They plan to make you fall in love with their phones again. By committing to BlackBerry they are sending a message. No more distractions, no more shenanigans, no more hiding behind a meaningless acronym – let’s get back to making some of the most business friendly hardware around. The new BlackBerry Z10 is getting rave reviews for putting the user at its core (ahem) and providing an extremely productivity friendly tool to get things done. That sounds a lot more like the BlackBerry I fell in love with.

    What’s more remarkable is that this single mindedness is happening at a time when distraction is so easy to come by. Those at CES and readers of tech journos will appreciate the overuse of the words “innovation,” “ecosystem” and “connected” recently and that is only going to continue. Everyone from Huawei to Polaroid to the networks to Google are trying to own the customer’s connected digital life and the noise there is deafening. It is therefore actually quite refreshing to see the newly minted BlackBerry company understand the need to retrench, rebuild credibility through their products and help us fall in love with the BlackBerry brand again via their new devices.

    There’s room for artists who make just one beautiful thing. Maybe BlackBerry, by getting back to what made them famous in the first place, can earn a place in our hearts again.

    Hugh Tallents is a Senior Director of Strategy at Interbrand New York.

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