Lexicon® Blog

Amazon vs. Netflix: How Names Can Affect Brand Evolution

In Brand Name Development, Brand Naming, Branding, Business, corporate naming, High Technology, Naming on February 8, 2016 at 4:44 pm

It’s old news that Americans are cutting the cord. How we consume media – all forms – is evolving at an increasing clip. Those with innovative business models can keep up (or join in), while those stuck in their old ways are doomed to fail. At first blush, a brand name may seem secondary to business strategy when it comes to staying ahead of the game, but it often plays a hefty role.

This is more obvious in some cases than others: while P&G’s Swiffer has evolved into an entire line of easy-to-use cleaning supplies, its one-time competitor ReadyMop has a brand name that prevents it from being anything other than a mop that’s ready.

Back to media: there are two brands, both hailing from the dot-com ’90s, that have thrived in the new access economy: Netflix and Amazon.

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Whereas Blockbuster and Hollywood Video are little more than memories, Netflix has managed to transform itself from a strictly snail-mail DVD renter into a global streaming powerhouse that makes its own critically acclaimed programs. Some even predict that global media behemoths like Disney, Twenty-First Century Fox, and Time Warner might have cause for concern.

Parsing the name Netflix, the service is clearly tied to (1) the internet and (2) movies, which fit the initial model well. A natural expansion is streaming all sorts of visual media. Of course, Netflix as a name has come to stand for the larger brand, which may continue to push far beyond these two virtual thresholds. And it’s not quite that the name gets in the way of possible expansions, but it certainly doesn’t pave the way for them either.

Consider, by contrast, the ways Amazon has evolved. Once an online book retailer, it’s jumped into streaming media, original content, and even ventures into drone technology and a voice-controlled platform to rival Apple’s Siri. Jeff Bezos has remarked in the past on the importance of the name: “There’s nothing about our model that can’t be copied over time. But you know, McDonald’s got copied. And it still built a huge, multibillion-dollar company. A lot of it comes down to the brand name.” No coincidence that the name Amazon so easily accommodated the shift from books to everything.

Beyond this, the name plays on an incredible conceptual metaphor, rich with imagery and meaning. All the vastness, biodiversity, and life-supporting qualities of the Amazon rainforest are mapped onto how we make sense of the company: the breadth of its ventures, our delight in the products it sells, potentially even its critical function in the broader context of the internet.

The name is not the be-all-end-all of a brand’s trajectory, but it can be a speed bump or an accelerator to success in a shifting landscape.

Sonos Releases Trueplay Software; ABC Family to Become Freeform

In Brand Name Development on October 30, 2015 at 10:18 am

Behind the Names

“We have to start thinking of speakers in a different way. They’re no longer static objects, they are like wine, they’ll improve with age. The time your Sonos speaker will sound its ‘worst’ is the day you buy it – that’s an exciting prospect.” Michael Papish, Director of Platform Strategy at Sonos.

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That runway-for-growth mentality at the Hi-Fi headquarters of the audio powerhouse – this idea of embracing change over time – also applies to branding. Developing a strategic name for the marketplace is not strictly an exercise in who you are, but also, in what you might become. That’s how Lexicon helped Sonos land on Trueplay for its new room-tuning technology, and the same principle was used for ABC Family’s rebrand to Freeform.

The first iteration of Sonos’s revolutionary software will automatically calibrate your speaker and optimize it for its surroundings. However, over time, the platform might involve other technologies and features that ladder up to that original-sound quality – and the name supports those evolutions and changes. In the end, it’s all about delivering the true playing experience, as the artist intended it.

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When ABC Family approached Lexicon, they were feeling a fundamental disconnect between their programming and audience and their identity in the media world. Their core demographic, according to President of ABC Family Tom Ascheim, is made up of millennials asking themselves, ‘Who am I becoming?’ and the network was wondering the same. Their roadmap for content and evolution in personality was all about exploring, embracing the unknown, and realizing what you want to be – not just household shows for all. And the name Freeform – which literally means “created or done in any way you choose” – will certainly allow them to become what they’re supposed to become, in a way the Family moniker wouldn’t permit.

Next Issue Rebrands as Texture, a Name Created by Lexicon Branding

In Brand Naming on October 19, 2015 at 2:00 pm

At its inception, Next Issue – a joint venture from Conde Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp., and Time Inc. – enabled customers to access all of their favorite publications in one place. While the name fit the offering at the time, the company wanted to extend beyond the concept of just being an electronic newsstand and jettison the often-used moniker “the Netflix of magazines.”

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In need of a strategic name that would signal a new experience for its users, Next Issue looked to Lexicon Branding to develop a new name that fit the company’s expanded services and the company’s pivot toward providing rich and relevant content curated for customers. Eight weeks later, Lexicon had created the name Texture, conducted consumer research, and carried out linguistic and cultural evaluations – all to ensure that the name would support the new brand going forward.

Texture defines this service.

Texture, a word defined as “something composed of closely interwoven elements,” supports a carefully designed, well-thought-out collection of content. It also communicates the idea that the service adds layers to your life by bringing you substantive, engaging, pertinent information based on your interests. And most importantly, though the name cleverly contains the word “text,” there is no overt link to magazines, keeping the company agile and relevant as content consumption continues to evolve.

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