Name Awards Professional Commentary on Company Names, Product Brands and Business Names

Category Archives: International

Absolutdata – Running from their own trademark application!

I am not a teetotaler (well not quite) nor a prude, but I still don’t like software companies named after alcohol drinks. Yes I know Blue Martini was successful for a while, but I never could bring myself to even investigate their offerings. Now along comes a new Silicon Valley startup striving to make a new mark – and of course they need a name. But why name it after not only a big brand in alcohol, but a big, big brand in all branding studies and textbooks.

AbsolutVodkaFor those of you who don’t know, Absolut – like in Vodka, was a struggling brand until in a master stroke of marketing, they pulled the products off the shelf, repackaged it in very unique bottles, raised the price and repositioned it as a premium drink. In addition, and no one has ever executed this quite as well as them ever, they started high end ads and PR where their bottles, and often only bottle outlines, started appearing floating in other images or just standing alone. Many of these images never even mentioned the word Vodka – and they weren’t about to tell you it was the same old formula as before. Just in case you have been living too long with your head in a laptop or cell phone, Absolut Vodka is one of the major brands of the western world today.

Sometimes when you purposefully misspell a word it frees up domain space. But that doesn’t mean it frees up trademark space, especially when it is pronounced the same and is “confusingly similar”. Why Absolute Data Group out of Australia but with worldwide offices, haven’t been after them I don’t know.

Interestingly, AbsolutData have never filed for a trademark on this version of their name ever, only for AD Absolutdata Intelligent Analytics. More interestingly, they have beat a hasty retreat from this trademark application, even filing their own express abandonment of application. You sure don’t see that often unless someone knows they are in trouble. Though Absolut Vodka is a very different product in a very different International Trademark Class, they have protested vigorously, even to the point of referencing the Australian software company.  I am not sure, but they may be trying to claim they are a Super Brand – and surely they are at this stage even though there is still no where to file for Super Brand status in most trademark registers.

Finally, Absolut Vodka is also used in packaging studies as one of the leaders in Vodka packaging – which is mostly about the bottle. Next time you are in the liquor aisle at your favorite store, notice how varied and creative all the vodka bottles are – better than most other alcohols and way better than wine or beer. The main reason for this (in the USA at least) is that vodka is so tightly regulated that there is very little difference in the taste from one to another.

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Listerine®. What a great timeless brand name.

When I was a kid, Listerine® dominated the mouthwash business. And they still do. Of course they have done steady advertising ever since they were founded, often educating the world about good dental hygiene.

Naming dental and medical productsIt struck me earlier this week that while Listerine is obviously a great name that just rolls off the tongue, I had no idea what it meant or where it came from. Some quick research has shed light on fact that it was actually named after Joseph Lister, who is better known as the father of sterilization of operating room instruments.

Thanks to their advertising and extensive promotions by dentists themselves, we all know the name is pronounced Lis ter een. Through the endless wonders of the English language, this give them a great new rhyming with their new product descriptor Ultraclean.

Such well formed names, with an associated brand that is properly managed, will live forever.

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One Product, Many Names

The other day I went to the hardware store and asked the young assistant for some Perspex. He looked at me like I was crazy until I explained I wanted some acrylic sheets – that plastic glass-like stuff. “Oh, you mean Plexiglass,” he said.

Of course, we were both right, since generic acrylic sheets are sold under a different number of brand names, including Lucite, Acrylite, Oroglas, Altuglas, Optix, Plaskolite, in addition to the Perspex and Plexiglass names. And it is very interesting to me how a brand name bestows such value and quality and descriptive marketing help on an almost generic product. Most of these brand names are from different manufacturers on different continents and gives them a way to distinguish their products. This results in a little brand name warfare, but that sure beats trying to compete in a fully generic component marketplace like plain window glass manufacturers do daily.

In other cases, you may need different names for a very similar line of products as you take them into different industries. In the plastics world, once again, it is not unusual for a product to have a scientific name, a house brand name, a special name for the medical industry, and another special name for the aircraft industry say. This lets you sell different ‘flavors’ (e.g. purity) of the same product at different price points and through different channels. More than that, these brands help differentiate, separate and preserve products and product handling properly within your own company. It sure beats people running around asking “did you mean -782 or -xx type?” when only suffixes spell out the subtle differences.

If you want to see all the history behind this very interesting product family, including brief discussions of the chemistry, see the Acrylic Glass page on Wikipedia.

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Damn Damballa name bugs me

Software security and consulting naming and brandingWhen I run naming projects, I always like to be fully aware of the company or founders’ personality traits. They usually don’t know this of course, but it shows up in the names they select. Now if you are going to be the company that figuratively (and sometimes literally) puts up a dam wall to keep out malware invasions on the corporate internet, then being the gatekeeper bad guy and naming your company Damballa might be appropriate. For the rest of this, such a name must surely be a heavy burden to bear at work unless you are a he-man, tough commando type guy.

But it sure isn’t my personality, regardless of what field I am currently working in. It just has such a negative feel for me…. at best a military sounding name.   And to be picky as a linguist, do you see that it also reads   damb alla     (where damb rhymes with lamb)? Oh no.

On the other hand, the company seems to be doing very well and one of only two leaders in this field. So a great example of the naming doesn’t always matter. After all, it is just short hand for the brand promise and at the end of the day, customers think of the experience they were implicitly promised and simply use the name to describe that interaction.

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Twilio name tries too hard.

When I first heard of this company, it was the name that caught my attention. That in turn made me concentrate hard to try to understand what they did. In due course I realized the potential of their tool kits and am happy to say it looks like they are really thriving well. Which brings me back to what they do and about that name and logo:

software tools naming, branding new software companies

Probably a more appropriate name for them would have been Twitter.  But if you take tweets and talks and quills and I/O and stir with the right will to succeed, you get Twilio. All in all, a clever name once you get it – but I shudder to think how most Asians will pronounce it.

But now do you understand the logo?  And what about that font they are using for their own name on the website? Even before my blogging software shrinks it a bit here, the i’s and l’s were morphing into each other. You know someone got the font style guide wrong whenever the corporate name itself is the first item to suffer on the web.

 

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X marks the spot – but it is not a name!

FlamingX

Image copyright FanPop

Often I write about naming trends here rather than about bestowing an award on any specific name, and today this lousy trend really has me hot under the collar.

  • Microsoft has the XBox.
  • IBM now has a line of X servers.
  • Xfinity from AT&T (or is it Comcast since they are undifferentiated) has the X1 platform.

Three megabig players who couldn’t find a name between them. So they use an X instead. Reminds me of the poor illiterate person who signs a form with an X.

Yes, I know there are a lot of internal politics surrounding a name choice, not to mention a lot of legal issues too. But you all have good marketing teams. Surely someone with a sense of branding and only a $5,000 spending authorization level can pick up the phone and call a naming consultant or agency to develop a unique name. Maybe not every exec will like the unique new name, but you can just X them off the list.

PS And then give your graphics designers something to work with too!

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Our take on the new e-currency Kwaba name

With all the news breaking about Alibaba’s impending big Chinese IPO, I was reminded of the name Kwaba, a planned new online currency and payment system. If these two companies had a connection that would be great, otherwise they both have interesting naming stories.

First of all, Alibaba is Chinese based and a colleague in Hong Kong that tracks these matters diligently says they are showing no signs of switching to, or adding, Chinese language domain names or portals over and above what they presently have. Of course, as the trading system between Asia and the world, they have to consider the world side. Plus they are also becoming a major player in Africa/World and other trade routes.

What western kid doesn’t know and love the story of Ali Baba and his magic phrase “Open Sesame“. I am just surprised that it is popular and known in the east too. But more power to them – it is magical and memorable. Since Alibaba Group Holdings, a Cayman Islands company that owns the business, has registered the trademark, I assume the old book and movie rights expired.

On the flip side of the coin we have a name so new no one knows it yet. The owners see Kwaba as a purely phonetic word that they can brand to be the next important digital currency. And yes, to most it is a purely phonetic word.  But even then, we are human and naturally strive to associate every name with something, if nothing else but to have a hook in our memory for  recall. As a result this style of branding has mostly been left to the big boys, like back in the days of Kodak, Exxon, Kinkos, etc.  Good sounding, meaningless words with sticky consonants for sharp recall.

kwabaOnly time and execution will tell if the Kwaba name works. No problem at all for youngsters immersed in modern online gaming worlds with their own complete vocabularies. Also no problem for anyone with a knowledge of Africa words as it has a common African language construction (one of the few places you see “kw” like the kwagga animal). For many others, they may think you are saying quaba just like kwik spells quick phonetically.
Certainly this name will go down better in England and English colonial countries where they use a softer a, as do most European languages. In America the a might get loud so the name sounds more like crab a and that would be very problematic.

Pity they couldn’t get their hands on the name Kwando instead…  just as abstract, although it has an implied Can Do, and a famous Kwando, kwando, kwando musical piece to go with it (or is it Quando, quando, quando?).

Caution: Just because a domain registrar or broker or trader rates a name premium, doesn’t mean it is a premium name at all – except if such listing helps them get an exorbitant fee for a pedantic name they can barely give away in a normal marketplace.

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Fly the rough (I mean rouge) skies of Canada

Naming Canadian new products, branding products in CanadaOK folks, some of you may be very fluent with French words or used to putting rouge something or other on your face. But for the less educated in worldly languages, and for those of us who speed read, do you really want to fly an airline that looks rough, or maybe even a rogue?

Will everyone know it is pronounced roooge and not a rhyming word with gouge?  Isn’t English fun? Will Canadians take to having their sacred red maple leaf flag and logo in a new shade?
I still meet a lot of people who don’t know that Montreal is the second biggest French speaking city in the world. But even I didn’t stop to think that Montreal is the Canadian airline capital. But so what? One hour after take off and they are out of French Canadian airspace!

naming german products, german product branding servicesI am told by reliable sources that chicken wings are often called Buffalo wings in the USA because they were invented in Buffalo New York.  Only took me about 20 years to learn this basic fact! So now will they be served on German Wings when they are up against Rouge?

Notice: German Wings, not Deutsch Flügeln even though it may take 3 or 4 hours of flying to be outside of Deutschland airspace.

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Hibu is a what? Web tools or Ikea furniture model or rare breed of husky?

Every so often in my search for great names to write about, especially when I can compliment them on thinking outside the cubicle box, I come across a name that just makes me shake my head and ask what were they thinking. Ironically I never even noticed the name at first as I was trying to deal with the visual  shock of their butterfly ads yelling at me in prominent business publications while I was researching free website creation tools (see associated article in BrighterProducts.com). Really. Who are they targeting? Kindergarten teachers? Or just kindergarten kids themselves?

web design names, website naming, free domain names, trademark checksYes, this is an ad for supposedly great website software development tools. Behind the scenes Yell (the old parent company name) is a big UK magazine publishing company, best known for producing  versions of the Yellow Pages directories after they acquired Yellow Book USA back in 1999. Since then they have been through many name and directional changes.  Along the way they developed a Trusted Places brand to make websites, as well as Moon Fruit, another web tools company.

Anyway, I still don’t know why their UK shareholders approved the name change to Hibu and I still don’t have a clue what it means though I am sure it will work well at Ikea for one of those complex assembly projects. Moreover, it is supposed to be written Hibü – but umlauts are not yet supported on the internet, so don’t write it properly if you want to find their www.hibu.com domain name home page. And no, they are not a German or Scandinavian company – they are UK based where all the computers and typewriters do not have the ü character.

Worse still the tragedy does not end with the name. Firstly, only their trial versions are free and then they are way more expensive than any local consultant could do with WordPress and give you a built in blog too. Why would I hire a website design company when their own site has font problems on Firefox and IE browsers? See the ugly text on their main menu. (I suspect, but I am not a real expert at this, they have used Google fonts, because it works fine there, but have forgotten to load them otherwise). And as for their claim it works on smart phones etc., you be the judge of that. It does not produce responsive code and I sure can’t read the menus at all on my iPhone without a magnifying glass. Furthermore, I drilled down to “Our Brand” to learn more about this name. It doesn’t explain it at all. And now I am lost and can’t get back to the webdesign home page. I quit, very much doubting they have a good SEO plan at all, but enough is enough.
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Mooskys is a Great Name for Food Snack featuring Mickey Mouse

Packaged food naming firm, snack brand naming consultant, food naming guruJust when I was thinking about new food and packaged goods names for the current season, my partner in Europe sends me the attached photo from Spain. How could I resist not rating it for a three star award. What a corny name for a corn snack product!

Since Mickey D’s is street slang for McDonalds, a different name is needed for Mickey Mouse products, and what could be better on an international branding stage than Mooskys?

The interesting point is that this product’s trademark is properly registered with the OHIM database for E.U. trademarks, but is not registered in the USA, which is obviously the home of Disney Corp whose name and characters are so prominent on the packaging. In fact, this is not a Disney product at all! It is produced and licensed by a Spanish food manufacturer – presumably with a trademark name and character licensing agreement from Disney.

Now for you students of trademarks, what if I make a meat snack product from Canadian moose meat, say, and call it Mooskys in the USA? Am I safe and clear or tempting the wrath of Mickey and Pluto’s giant legal machine?

In the meantime, the domains Mooskys.com, Mooskys.es and others are available though I am not going to go there. However, Moosky.com is listed as for sale – though some services are calling it MooSky! Does that mean or imply heavenly milk?

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