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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: Suzanne Martinez on Wednesday, May 14 2014 12:52 PM | Comments (0)

    name word cloud

    What’s in a name? When you work in branding, the answer is everything. A branded name is an essential element of identity. It’s usually the first thing that customers see or notice and, typically, it’s how they remember a company or product. It’s the start of their brand experience and is crucial for cultivating trust and loyalty. Traditionally, healthcare has focused its brand names around functional features and not attempted to reach audiences on an emotional level. Interbrand research shows that this is a missed opportunity; brand can affect the bottom line and drive profit, premium, and preference. So, why is the critical process of naming so challenging in healthcare?

    1) Trademark development is a key issue for new brands in the healthcare space. As with consumer brands, a name must have legal viability. When we begin the naming process, most clients start by telling us what they would like the brand to communicate. Our team then constructs hundreds of names that convey that idea either through specific combinations of letters, metaphors, or stylistic attributes. As trademarks continue to proliferate, it is harder to find white space around a specific letter string/communication (especially if it is inspired by a functional feature that isn’t spectacularly innovative or groundbreaking).

    2) Equally difficult is acquiring a website domain. Securing a .com for your brand, essential in today’s increasingly digital world, can be incredibly challenging. As the digital arena expands, so does global reach. 

    3) It’s essential to test the linguistics of any brand name against different global markets to ensure what you are saying in one language doesn't mean something bad, off-putting, or irrelevant in another language. 

    4) Even after passing these tests, names go up against a tough audience: internal stakeholders. Many people involved in evaluating and decision making around a new brand name are not familiar with the challenges a potential trademark must overcome and do not understand how valuable a viable name candidate truly is. Typically, they have strong, subjective, and sometimes emotional, opinions about what their brand should communicate and are surprised when they don’t see it articulated as expected in a name.

    5) Unlike most consumer industries, the healthcare industry faces an additional, distinct set of challenges when it comes to brand name development. If the name is for a drug, implant, and, occasionally, a medical device product, regulatory authorities must approve it. Not only are there different regulatory authorities in different markets—making global branding particularly challenging—but each has an individual set of criteria to evaluate and approve the name. Regulatory authorities look at many aspects of a potential brand name, with their main concern focusing around safety.

    Remember the last time you got a prescription at the doctor’s office? Could you read the written prescription from your physician? Regulators require that healthcare names not sound like or look like another product name to minimize confusion and pharmacist or physician error. That’s why names for the same condition, such as depression, are as varied as Prozac, Zoloft, and Wellbutrin. Additionally, the name cannot directly communicate a health and wellness claim or non-functional benefit.  So we can hint at attributes—pro- active-prozac, loft-lift-zoloft—but not be overt about benefits; no one will ever really be able to brand an antidepressant called “happy pills,” even if we use the term colloquially.

    6) Once a name passes the trademark tests and surpassed regulatory hurdles (if necessary), the brand name still has obstacles ahead. Healthcare marketers need a name that speaks to a variety of audiences, whether it is a product name or corporate name. Communication pieces need to interact very differently with patients versus physicians versus insurance companies. Something you would say in the consumer world that is inherently understood as positive may be interpreted as negative in the context of healthcare. Take Jet Blue, for example. This is a great name that immediately communicates speed (monosyllabic), action (jet), and safety/serenity (blue skies). However if the word "blue" were used for a medical product, it may communicate depression, coldness, or even death (think: code blue).

    When considering how difficult it is to brand an entity within the healthcare category, it makes sense that our industry has traditionally focused its names on functionality. This has resulted in a lot of scientific healthcare brands that don't tap into the emotions of their customers. When brands are unable to build a relationship with customers beyond a functional feature, they may not experience long-term success. A brand’s longevity requires a connection that goes beyond how something works–tapping into emotions and creating a relationship with end-users. This opportunity is huge and exciting, but it must be approached using industry expertise and category insights in order to build a meaningful connection with customers that stands the test of time.   

    Suzanne Martinez is a Senior Consultant, Verbal, at InterbrandHealth.

    Connect with InterbrandHealth, the only full-service global branding consultancy with an exclusive focus on healthcare.

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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: Interbrand on Monday, March 31 2014 01:04 PM | Comments (0)

    Crowdsourcing names sounds appealing: companies can get responses very quickly and cheaply. “Namesourcing” has become so popular it has sprouted a bevy of businesses dedicated to the practice. Beneath the appeal of namesourcing’s quick, cheap turnaround (with a dash of consumer engagement) lies its biggest limitation for brands—the wisdom of the crowd doesn’t extend to deep category and business expertise.

    There’s no lack of success stories around crowdsourced innovation and technology. When AB-InBev wanted to develop a brand more attuned to craft beer tastes, it turned to the crowd. The result? Black Crown. And brands like Lego, General Mills and MWV have devoted entire platforms to crowdsourcing initiatives. But crowdsourcing for names can be tricky—or even foolhardy. Imagine if you let the internet name your firstborn. The results might be disappointing, to say the least.

    Crowds are, by definition, loose and disparate. When a brand puts the crowd at the controls for naming, it won’t necessarily get back names that reflect the brand’s positioning or tone of voice. For the crowd, quality and consistency are not always priorities. Aussie web designer Dean Robbins was actually kidding when he suggested iSnack 2.0 as a new moniker for Kraft’s Vegemite—yet the name he coined won. And when Mountain Dew asked consumers to “Dub the Dew” for its apple-flavored offering in 2012, hackers eagerly nominated names like Diabeetus and Gushing Granny.

    Crowdsourcing has the most value as an engagement tool that invites customers to start conversations, share ideas, and feel like they’re being listened to and appreciated. To do that right, a thoughtful plan should trump result. Crowdsourced names might make a temporary splash on social media; some might even end up on a real shelf—but the truth is, companies rarely view or treat crowdsourced names as long-term investments. The stories and campaigns that sit behind them—the stories brands can tell about inviting participation—is where the heart beats.

    Try to think of a crowdsourced name that isn’t on your radar because it was attached to an #epicfail. iSnack 2.0 is the granddaddy of them all, but it’s five years old. And the Gushing Granny disaster is 21 in dog years. But chances are, you’ve engaged with at least one campaign on your Facebook wall or Twitter feed in recent memory. There’s Lay’s Do Us a Flavor, Dunkin’ Donuts Next Donut, Sam Adams’ LongShot American Homebrew, and Mountain Dew’s DEWmocracy. What do these have in common (and why have some of them even thrived as global annual campaigns)? They’re inviting you to engage.

    So, go ahead—name a chip Benedict Cumberbatch, and crack a smile the next time you see a Lay’s bag at the deli.

    Paula Pou is Associate Director, Verbal Identity, Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Fell Gray on Thursday, February 13 2014 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

    Aviage Systems
    Best Asian Brands

    A 玫瑰 by any other name

    It’s the start of a new year in China, and the astrologists tell us that the Year of the Horse has the potential to be more successful than last year, but it will require patience and perseverance. And for any brand looking to launch a Chinese brand name this year (or any other), these are words to live by.

    While the appeal of the Chinese market is clear to most, the need for a Chinese name may not be. Given that the average Chinese consumer doesn’t speak English and sees Roman characters as graphic elements, a Chinese name is important just to break through. But there are a host of other reasons: a cultural desire to protect and preserve the Chinese language, marketing support necessary to educate consumers on the English name, and government requirements (e.g., audible Chinese for all TV advertising), to name a few.

    When you do jump into Chinese name development, brace yourself for the realities of the screening process. There are 6.27M active trademarks and more than 600,000 filed each year. And China follows a first-to-file not a first-to-use system, so registration can be a bit of a land grab. Beyond that are language and cultural considerations for a successful name: tonality, harmony checks, dialects, simplified vs traditional characters…. As I said: patience and perseverance.

    Then, Then Again, Now

    To get to the right names, you’ll have a range of creative strategies at your disposal: creation, translation, literation, and transliteration. The right choice lies in determining the importance of meaning vs. sounding the same as your existing name. Elevating the importance of meaning in Chinese over the sound will aid memorability and recall. And a name that sounds similar will strengthen the connection to the international name and its brand equity. Some brands manage to find an equal balance through transliteration (well done, Coke), but many make the decision to pick one over the other. Nike chose a name that sounds identical to the English and means “enduring and preserving,” while Citibank chose a name that sounds different but means star spangled banner bank. All are valid options, depending on your goals.

    Whatever your approach, one of the most important things to remember when evaluating your options is: don’t hear with an English ear. The right word in English is not necessarily the right word in Chinese. Pairings of characters can change meaning significantly, so you can’t look at characters individually. And you can’t underestimate the importance of symbols in Chinese culture, so be sure you are looking at all the layers of meaning the name provides.

    This week's guest author, Fell Gray, is Senior Director of Verbal Identity for Interbrand New York. She is also the practice leader for Brand Voice.

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