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HD: Odamaki & Selection of Tradenames
Posted: 01 January 2012 06:59 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Something is wrong on the internet

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Posted: 01 January 2012 08:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I’m less certain than you that no one would ever try to market Vomit perfume, given that someone marketed “Death cigarettes”. Might have been worth trying in the peak of the Punk era…

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Posted: 02 January 2012 01:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Well, Yves St Laurent markets Opium perfume, and Christian Dior sells Poison perfume complete with a death’s head on the poster; so if you wanted shock value, Vomit or something of the kind is a logical next step.

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Posted: 02 January 2012 02:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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One that makes me smile is the Smeg brand of appliances. Smeg is a general swear word in the Red Dwarf series (short, I suppose, for smegma.) But yeah, I doubt it has hurt their sales.

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Posted: 02 January 2012 03:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Hi everybody,

The idea of product names having any importance whatsoever on sales is interesting. I’m writing a thesis on corpus linguistics and marketing so I’ve been researching things like “brand borrowing,” where companies use the name of another successful company (Disney, Google, Facebook, etc.) to sell their own product. Brand borrowing supposedly works and I was told to use it back when I was a lowly peon trying to market webinars (good times!). I was told to use it even though I wasn’t given any proof that it works. But brand borrowing is a different thing than product naming.

Dave, you mentioned you have first hand experience about how naming doesn’t matter. I agree but could you elaborate some more? What I mean is that it seems names are important because people want to think they’re important and there are companies and journalists out there that will back them up and/or charge them. It’s ridiculous. I heard an interview on NPR with John Colapinto, who seems to think naming matters and profiled a brand naming company, Lexicon, for the New Yorker. In the interview he mentions that a professor named Bernd Schmitt told him “names are less important than these naming companies are trying to make us think,” but he didn’t even look into it.

Here’s the link to the NPR transcript: http://www.npr.org/2011/10/12/141276794/product-names-make-dasani-and-swiffers-sell

As a side note, Nokia is named after a town in Finland and because of their huge success, Finland put a law on the books that prohibits new companies from naming themselves after towns. They need to have something else in there as well. So if Nokia was founded today, it would have to be called something like Nokia Cell Phones. Or so says my Finnish legal translator friend. I have not taken the time to read the Finnish law books.

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Posted: 02 January 2012 03:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I’m not saying that product names don’t matter, they clearly do. I’m saying that the origin and subtle connotations associated with the lexeme in other contexts don’t matter.

Branding, in general, is very important, and brand borrowing and leveraging an established brand can be very effective. Consistent use of logos to tie product lines together is important and all that good stuff.

But what matters in a name is what you have made of it, the value that has been instilled in it by the customers’ experiences with the product. Brand borrowing and leveraging work because people associate good stuff with those product names.

When people think of drinking a Coke, they don’t associate the product with Colombian drug cartels. The same goes with new product names. People may snicker a bit at the funny ones, but they are smart enough to differentiate between the product and the other thing that brings negative connotations to the name.

As for the linked article from NPR, the guy being interviewed is exactly the type I was discussing. He’s selling a naming service. Of course he’s going to say that names matter. The key to the conversation is this:

Yes, Nova. And that, of course, was the name of a car here, and in Spanish it means no go, so that’s not a good name. Although I have to say a branding professor that I spoke to named Bernd Schmitt said to me that, in fact, names are less important than these naming companies that are trying to make us think, and he insists that the no go, the Nova, sold very, very well, for instance, in Mexico. So I don’t know if he’s right. I confess I didn’t fact check that because it didn’t make it into my story.

Now, he’s supposed to be an expert in product naming and he doesn’t know the Chevy Nova story? He’s either lying or incompetent.

[ Edited: 02 January 2012 03:28 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 02 January 2012 04:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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The Nova story may have been given a boost by the recent movie Tower Heist, which refers to it.

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Posted: 02 January 2012 06:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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A tiny boost if any.  It’s been very popular for a long time.  I agree with Dave: any “expert in product naming” has got to be familiar with it.

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Posted: 02 January 2012 08:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Thanks for elaborating, Dave. I always thought that the consumer was short-changed when marketers claimed this or that name is good. Like people are sophisticated enough to process polysemy, but aren’t good enough to tell that a POS is a POS no matter what you call it. There’s just so much more that goes into customers’ decisions that it makes naming seem almost insignificant or at least not what can cause a product to succeed or fail. A rose perfume by any other name…

What you said about brand borrowing and leveraging is or should be obvious, right? Obviously people associate products with their experiences. So a product or brand name gives people good feelings (vibrations?) only after they have experienced the product or heard from a trusted someone who has. Why does anyone think it would work in reverse, like the reason Kleenex sold well was because they were called Kleenex? Because there’s a buck to be made, I guess.

I think people’s desire to simplify things and their love of a good yarn is what keeps these naming companies in business and these “no go” tales going. It’s not the Nova story that gets the boost, but the company claiming to save you and your new product from the same fate, whether or not it’s imaginary.

Just to be sure, I will be thinking of Colombian drug cartels the next time I buy a Coke. Can’t wait.

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Posted: 02 January 2012 10:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Some names are better than others. Euphonious names are better. If there is an obvious connection between the name and the product’s main selling point, that helps too. (Jolt Cola springs to mind.) But this isn’t rocket science. Nor does it require high-priced branding consultants, just reasonably creative people sitting around a table brainstorming. And when you start talking about “plosive consonants,” you’re spending way too much time on it. If you plan on selling in overseas markets, it’s probably worthwhile to check with native speakers to see if there are any obvious names to avoid in those languages (e.g., selling Sierra Mist in Germany), but again, that’s just a sanity check. One need not get too detailed.

It gets a bit trickier when adding a product to an existing brand. Then you have to start thinking about how it will impact your successful products if the new one fails. But that’s a strategic decision and not dependent on the qualities inherent in the name itself.

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Posted: 02 January 2012 01:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I was working for Price Waterhouse back when they merged with Coopers Lybrand.  They paid a branding company a bundle to come up with a shiny new name for the merged company; after much huffing and puffing, the creation of all that branding genius was unveiled: PricewaterhouseCoopers.  We wondered how much of our potential raises had been swallowed up by that expense.

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Posted: 03 January 2012 04:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Dave Wilton - 01 January 2012 06:59 AM

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Curious. Isn’t whale vomit - ambergris - traditionally one of the rarest and most sought-after ingredients in fine perfume?

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Posted: 03 January 2012 05:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Ooh, that didn’t cross my mind when I wrote it, but it is true.

You might be able to get away with it by using Latin. Vomitio doesn’t sound all that bad for a perfume.

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Posted: 03 January 2012 06:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Spell it Woe me tea yo or something like that.

Edit: after thought:

The Latin vomitāre was the frequentative of vomere, ‘to vomit’, so maybe something like Woe Mo.

[ Edited: 03 January 2012 06:26 AM by Faldage ]
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Posted: 03 January 2012 10:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Bimbo means cheap or poor in Japanese though I cannot say if this is relevant to the bakery name. Cut-price?
I remember reading an article in Time or Newsweek many years ago about unfortunate translations and I think the Nova one was included, but the one that has stuck in my mind is the slogan “Come Alive with Pepsi” which they said had been rendered in Taiwan as “Pepsi Brings You Back from the Dead” which I find hard to believe unless it works there in their idiom in which case it shouldn’t excite comment. Maybe an ad agency had put it in English under their faultless Chinese-language slogan.
I once saw an ad (I think for a mobile phone brand) on the side of a swanky air-con bus in Bangkok which read YOU WILL EVER NEED THE ONLY ONE and I thought someone is going to catch it for this but later I saw the ad on another bus with the two stickers involved the right way round: THE ONLY ONE YOU WILL EVER NEED. I had assumed the former was wrong because in Thai “I ever go” means “I have been” and “I never go” means I haven’t been, and sometimes you hear this construction when Thais speak broken English. Another Thai in a public place once said to me “You wait for my friend?” - confusion ensued until I eventually worked out English speakers he had accosted before must have said “I"m waiting for my friend”.

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Posted: 03 January 2012 11:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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What I want to know is who named a brand of cigarettes ”Smart”. And what did “Smart” beat out? “Healthy”? “4Kids”? I think that person should win the Brand Naming Lifetime Achievement Award on gall alone.

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