As I write this column the Iditarod is in full running – in fact the first mushers just passed the halfway point. I love their tagline “The Last Great Race” as well. When it is just human, dogs and sleds in Alaska in Winter, then it really is a great race, especially as most teams will take over 11 days to complete their run, and few will have all 16 dogs left by then.
The race goes from Anchorage to Nome, which brings us to the name Nome. First of all, easy to pronounce once you see it, and nothing to do with gnome if you don’t. And almost every article I see on the town devotes a sentence or two to where the name came from. Most people now agree it was an accident. Someone wrote ?Name on a form in the space for town name. Someone else misinterpreted this as Nome and the rest is history.
Except that for a while during their gold rush it was called Anvil City, but there was some confusion with Anvil Lake not far away. So the post office rejected the name and they switched back to Nome to make sure they got their mail.
But don’t try to look it up on Google Maps and see how to drive there. First time I have seen Google’s phenomenal map service choke – there are no roads to Nome. You have to fly in, boat in or visit by sled dog or snow machine of some sort. Do look it up and see the Iditarod trail as all teams have GPS transmissions this year so we don’t have to wait three days for the news.
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Our rotten name of the week goes to THEhotel in Las Vegas. What happened? Did they run out of names or just think it would be cute? Sure the main hotel is called Mandalay Bay which conjures up all sorts of pleasant images, not to mention a unique, brandable trademark. And their other associated hotel is the Four Seasons (probably part of the other Four Seasons around the world.. or else also a boring old name).
But I don’t want to deal with the confusion of booking a hotel, or taking a taxi, or telling my friends I am staying in THEhotel and then having to explain it is not a hotel, but THEhotel. Ouch all the way. Why not the Mandalay Peninsula, as one simple example, that deftly helps spread the brand warmth?
And this blog has a picture with it just so you know I am not kidding! I sure pity the marketing folks and interior designers. How do you not make it feel live every other generic hotel anyone ever stayed in – that are all an ugly forgettable blur today.
Sometimes a function just gets the right name from the outset. Such is the magic of Silicon Valley Code Camp. Nowhere else would a code camp be so appropriate. After all, where else would so many propeller head geeks (as I call them because I was one) get together for a whole weekend and take over a whole junior college just to share information about the latest and greatest in software? Not a corporate function. Just some keen volunteers who now have some big corporate sponsors so even the pizza and sandwiches are free.
Peter Kellner and his team do a great job of this and close to 2000 attendees are expected this year to partake in the 150 or so sessions. All the news is just spread by blogs and word of mouth.
Since I was Peter’s tech support friend over 25 years ago, I was one of the first marketing guys ever to present at the camp. This year I will have two sessions: From Code to Product to Market to Company where I help software types understand what it takes to transform some code into a business, and Pragmatic Naming for Product Managers where we help teach the basics of naming in a very crowded trademark category.
Please join us or follow along online.
Recent moon rainbow over lower Yosemite Falls. Full image at Sensory Escapes.
Over 4 million people a year have the special privilege of visiting Yosemite National Park, one of the great natural wonders of the world. When people ask about the name, they are usually given a quick “it’s an Indian tribe” or “it’s an Indian word” answer. But isn’t it interesting how we accept native american words into our vocabulary, even though they are not built on classical European structures, syllables or phonemes?
Because of the way all the falls in the park are running this year.. with sudden high temperatures melting the almost record snow pack, I have seen many national and local stories about the park. But I hear no one making the mistakes we made as kids when we called it Yo se mite. Only when a college colleague returned from a trip there did we learn it was Yo Sem atee. (OK I went to college on the other side of the globe!).
But who owns the name and trademark? Can anyone name anything Yosemite? As it turns out, lots of people. As of today there are 119 entries in the US Fed TM register that include the name Yosemite in their trademark filing, not the least of which is the Yosemite Conservancy which suddenly has a bunch of filings. Other trademarks are held by some of the concessions. And some seem to be unrelated: Bedding? Cigarettes? Lager? Telescopes?
Oh well.. almost a shame the National Parks Board did not establish early on who could or could not use the name. But then, a hundreds of years ago, they were pulling off miracles just to get the park lands preserved, for which we should all feel grateful today.
I am not sure where the Queen of England gets her list of potential titles to bestow, other than I am sure there is someone buried in the Royal household who tracks and thrives on these items, but I do know she tried to give her own son Prince Edward the title of Duke of Cambridge years ago.
Proving that there is some real behind the scenes negotiating going on, he became the Earl of Wessex instead, even though he actually is the only one who actually went to Cambridge. On the death of his father, he will, however, take over the title of Duke of Edinburgh.
So the Queen has name restrictions to deal with, just like the rest of us. She even went to Cambridge three days before the wedding and the name announcement. Maybe secretly breaking the news and preparing them for the subsequent publicity. Or, alternatively, asking them to accept the hullabaloo that comes with the name, especially for a future King – who appears to not previously have had any known attachment to the area. And Catherine’s family live the other side of London, much closer to Oxford in fact!
The British Royal Family are the ultimate zenith in personal people branding – and major ambassadors for the British Tourist Trade. If you are American, don’t criticize them. After all, we have a Disney parade on each coast with lots of pomp and ceremony and costumes every evening to help suck the tourists in too.
In this little image for Rio Grande, they have captured not only their name and registered trademark, but their tagline, plus a new eco practices statement. I first got involved with this company and name a few years back when writing about geographic branding and saw how they had successfully named themselves after a river. A river that flows big.. so a very appropriate name style for a distributor that provides product flow. Just like Amazon.com flows with books and DVD’s and other stuff too.
But jewelry Powered By The Sun? I was slow to pick up on this one. They are saying they have gone completely solar. Doesn’t really affect why I should or should not by jewelry components and tools from them, but it does make a lot of people feel good dealing with them I should imagine. And a lot cooler marketing wise than just putting something in a press release or annual report saying you are becoming a green company.
A reporter once scoffed at me when I said we would see more Hawaiian names abound because of the shortage of English words that can be owned and trademarked. She thought Akamai was a big exception. Of course, they have since grown to be a major internet infrastructure player.
Now Disney is launching its Aulani Resort in Hawaii. Being in Hawaii, it is much more natural to use such a name… but it is a rare word that has them explaining its meaning and pronunciation. And, of course, with their money and marketing mojo they can brand anything, you might argue. Still, it takes courage to really bring a new word to life. The baby naming books say it is female for a god’s messenger. After the Disney spin is added, it supposedly means “the place that speaks for the great ones”. And no, it does not rhyme with aura. Like in Wow or Maui, it is a loud Au.
Sign up now for your timeshare at Aulani.com. It will be ready for you and Mickey to don your flowery shirts next year.
Although it is a straight copy by Michael Jackson, and before that by Disney, of a mythical place name in the classic Peter Pan novels, today there are some big organizations and their friendly lawyers protecting the Neverland name. And, of course, Michael Jackson’s estate is probably worth a lot more now that he has passed on. So I was not surprised to read that a would-be tribute musical band had been sent one of those dreaded cease and desist letters for trying to use the name. In a smart move, they are now Foreverland. Much cheaper than fighting a lawsuit… but a positive implied connection nevertheless.
During Jackson’s passing, his Neverland Ranch gained even more immense worldwide coverage. Ironically, when he bought it originally from Sycamore Valley Ranch, he renamed it, but he had subsequently become a part owner of Sycamore Valley Ranch and taken over the ownership. So much of the public immediately recognized the brand as being associated with Michael Jackson – and would attest to that if asked for a common opinion – even though there are many trademark applications and fights over the name. Pity Jackson didn’t properly protect it earlier, instead of the slew of filings on his death (assuming he could get the rights properly from Disney or J.M.Barrie Estate author of Peter Pan).
Enough legal, more interestingly, why does the name have such power, such interest, such fascination? It is a negative right? Wow. Great example of where a negative has become a positive. How much more over the top brandable than Sycamore Valley Ranch? Immeasurable… with maybe even a touch of genius behind it. Most corporations I know would get all analytical and say it is too negative a name for us – but most of them outside Hollywood are not paid to dream!
Eloquent and beautiful.. but in this day and age Neverland is taken as a name. RIP Michael Jackson… we will leave your place name to your lawyers and family.
Well we all know it was not unusual in the old days to release beta versions of software to key customers. And that more recently, beta version release has become an art for big players like Google. But releasing Alpha versions on the public is an interesting idea, especially when you are trying to use the wisdom of crowds to actually perfect and develop the product or service.
But why would you name the product after yourself and the word Alpha? We all know Steven Wolfram is a great scientist and the founder of Mathematica (a great name), so what is he up to this time? Maybe he doesn’t have a real name for it yet? Maybe he thinks people might only visit because of his name recognition? Maybe he has fond memories of work on DEC Alpha machines? Maybe he is not sure what it will morph into yet for the final product? Or is it just ego? After all, he has filed for registered trademarks on this name!
In fact his team is so industrious about spreading little TM’s around, one becomes nothing but a dirty squiggle in the middle of the tagline! I am usually a big proponent of those TM’s… but not at expense of ruining the visual treatment.
As a side note, when you have a rather uncommon name like me, it is natural to type it into all Informational Databases, CDROM’s, enclypaedias, search engines etc. Even the very first version of Encarta could tell me something about the Athol’s of Murray in Scotland,and the famous playwright Athol Fugard. Wolfram’s knowledge engine will only spit up the town of Athol Massachusetts, even when prompted. Maybe it really is only an Alpha version after all.
If you want to know more about the name Athol, use a real search engine or see this webpage: http://www.brighternaming.com/atholname.html
Zibibbo is a wine made locally from the Malvasiva grapes, I have now learned from a knitting site Zibibbo is Good – after all other sources came up empty! But it is also a restaurant that the high end paid reviewers call one of the best restaurants in Palo Alto, Silicon Valley, while all the amateur reviewers give it very poor grades.
Unfortunately at $11 per glass of wine I can’t afford to check it out myself – but for a restaurant with high end marketing you’d think they would at least explain the name somewhere.After all, we aren’t all of Sicilian descent! Maybe they just want us to think of imbibing in our bibs and getting our libido on.
PS The problem with looking at restaurant names is one thing leads to another. Now I have to check out Evvia that so many reviewers favored instead. I could end up being a restaurant critic rather than a name critic!