Lexicon® Blog

Pepsi’s Spire: Branding and Design Go Hand In Hand

In Brand Naming on May 20, 2015 at 12:58 pm

An Unexpected Brand Experience

Milan is synonymous with high design. A mere mention of the iconic Italian city instantly conjures up visions of haute couture from the most revered names in fashion. But a lot of the ooh’s and ahh’s from Milan’s Design Week came not from gowns and glitter, but from the clean lines and minimalist-chic aesthetic of PepsiCo’s new soda fountain.

Second to the market, after Coke’s Freestyle, but arguably first in class, this wonderfully designed machine elevates the soda fountain from a mere commodity. And that’s because PepsiCo boldly decided it’s not just about dispensing a flavored beverage into a cup anymore – there’s a larger brand narrative to be told. And to communicate this bigger, richer experience, PepsiCo invested in design, engineering, and an innovative name developed in partnership with Lexicon: Spire.

PepsiCo was intent on differentiating their offering from the clunky Freestyle machine. That’s why it opted for an elegant and modern look; a clever, intuitive user interface; and mixing intelligence – vetted by food scientists – that can deliver 1,000 flavor combinations (compared to Coke’s 140). That’s also why they opted for an unexpected and brazen brand name.

Getting the Brand Right

Mauro Procini, the Chief Design Officer behind this project, put it best: “Good design is when you’re able to surprise people.” The same can be said for branding. When tech companies were using alphanumerics to talk about microprocessors, Lexicon helped Intel develop the new ingredient-technology brand, Pentium. When car manufacturers were looking to the American West to communicate ruggedness in SUVs, the Sausalito-based specialists named the Outback for Subaru, a locale far from the States. And when music-streaming services were going for playful, coined solutions, the branding strategists delivered the elegant real word, Tidal.

So when PepsiCo approached Lexicon, the goal was not only to outperform Freestyle, it was also to help communicate the newness of the fountain machine. Looking at its distinct visual and functional attributes– from its stately form to its ability to turn consumers into soda mixologists –the creative teams at Lexicon converged on a name that was equal parts well-composed, lean, and transformative. Spire is a real word with Old English origins that refers to the top of a tower – and also a word that seemingly doesn’t belong in the food and beverage category.

Instead of locking the machine into one experience – à la Freestyle – this expansive name allows for the consumer to imagine what the experience could be. Consumers in Lexicon’s proprietary naming research made the more obvious connection between the long, lean design of the fountain and that of a tower. But they also made connections to inspire, which is perfectly fitting since this device is all about putting your imagination to work and creating a beverage that is distinctly yours. They even made connections to liquid-related terms like spew, spout, and splash. The phonetics of the name also resonated with the target audience; the alive, highly energetic consonants signaled a fun, engaging machine.

After this research, which illuminated the richness of the name, both parties concluded that Spire could deliver on this grander brand experience. Said another way, it was a name that supports “a meaningful, relevant story for consumers,” which was the guiding design principle behind this whole initiative.

– Will Leben and Michael Quinn

Our First iPhone App: Profanity Check

In Lexicon Mobile Apps on May 12, 2015 at 8:59 am

Developing a brand name is no easy task. Whether you’re launching a new product, creating a new company, or rebranding for a new image, the most challenging aspect is the creative one. Coming up with a novel and compelling concept in a cluttered marketplace far exceeds a mere exercise in cleverness. And when you land on a name that feels distinctive, has storytelling potential, and could be a platform for a great brand experience, there’s always a good chance the mark is already registered in your category.

But before falling in love with a name and before fighting for registration, there’s another, often-overlooked challenge: What does this new name sound like or mean in other languages? Even if you’re only launching in the States, English isn’t the only language your consumers will speak. And in the digital age, it’s pretty much guaranteed your new brand will be instantly global.

For example, maybe you coined a seemingly perfect name, like Senos, for a new piece of NFC sensing technology. It sounds advanced, feels believable, flows smoothly, and supports the mechanics of the device. Well, we’d advise not to move forward with it, as that word means “breasts” in Spanish. You could even be dealing strictly in English words and still be blissfully unaware of unfortunate meanings. Perhaps you’ve developed a fantastic line of perfumes with provocative fragrances and landed on an equally provocative name, like Afterglow. Well sense won’t be made with your German consumers, as After means “anus” in their native tongue.

As a firm specializing in brand naming, we at Lexicon are intimately familiar with these challenges, and we have processes in place for dealing with them. In fact, we have an entire department – GeoLinguistics – dedicated to screening names for language issues.

To ensure success for our clients – in the US and abroad – we’ve built out a robust network of 80-plus Ph.D. linguists around the world who help us to evaluate names at various stages throughout the naming process. These in-country native speakers have a nuanced understanding of culture and slang, as well as business and branding acumen, so that they can truly evaluate the strategic potential of a name in a certain market.

Their expertise has been invaluable to our efforts over the past 33 years, which is why we’re excited to unveil Lexicon’s latest development in the field: Profanity Check. This app, available for free from the iTunes App Store, is a semi-automated tool to help with screening out candidate names. At its core is a cross-linguistic profanity dictionary, developed in tandem with our linguists. It helps ensure that names you’re considering for your new brand aren’t swear words or vulgar terms in major world languages. It does this by using an advanced algorithm that catches both exact and near-matches, and checks against main dictionary entries as well as related forms (e.g., f#@! and f#@!ing).

Our matching algorithm even identifies terms that merely resemble offensive terms in our dictionary. Many of these near-matches may not be cause for concern, but our app lets you make this determination yourself. Of course, for full coverage we always recommend comprehensive linguistic checks, which should involve consulting native speakers who live in the target regions. But Profanity Check is a good first step to at least rule out any overtly offensive names.

Thanks to our deep investments in research and innovation, you could say naming just got easier… or, at least it just got easier to make sure your new name doesn’t mean s#!@.

– Greg Alger and Michael Quinn

Download Lexicon’s Profanity Check App here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/profanity-check/id923020053

 

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Getting A Brand Name Right

In Brand Name Development, Brand Naming, Naming on March 31, 2015 at 4:33 pm

Once a brand name is established in the marketplace, changing it can become costly for the brand owner and confusing for the consumer – however, some changes are for the better in the long run.

There’s a select group of companies that have had the good fortune of being able to merely compress their existing name to deliver a new, distinctive idea. Federal Express simply shed three syllables to become the hipper, more modern FedEx in 1994, and Nestlé Quik made two steps forward at once when it changed its worldwide name to the shorter one already established in Europe, Nesquik, creating a unified brand. Similarly, Kentucky Fried Chicken also got a proverbial two-for-one by changing its name to KFC, since the new name was not only quicker and crisper, but also help them avoid the need to pay a licensing fee after the state of Kentucky trademarked its name.

But for companies saddled with branding issues that can’t be remedied by truncating words or carefully excising letters, the task is much more herculean. Developing a new brand name requires strategic thinking, it requires an understanding of the industry (where it is and where it might head), and it requires a well-defined positioning that will differentiate your offering and get consumers to believe in who you are and what you represent. Said another way, it’s more than just an exercise in cleverness.

Getting the perspective just right

Everyone realizes that AOL was once America Online, and IBM was once International Business Machines, but less well known is that both companies started out with very different names from the ones we recognize.

From 1985 to 1991, America Online called itself Quantum Computer Services, and the name International Business Machines was only adopted in 1924 to rename the company that since 1911 had been called the ComputingTabulatingRecording Company (or CTC for short). The 1911 name, awkward as it must have seemed even back then, was simply the natural result of the merger of three separate firms into one.

It’s worthwhile to consider the reasoning behind the switch from the ComputingTabulatingRecording Company to International Business Machines. Probably, brevity was not the goal, since CTC is just as short as IBM. What really went on is that the name change announced a completely new perspective, from three distinct operations into a single one that encompassed not only equipment for all business needs but also on a worldwide basis.

Speaking to the right audience

Quantum Computer Services was probably a very good brand name in 1985. In that era, the company provided online service for a handful of personal computer models using modems called Quantum-Link, or Q-Link. The word quantum was the perfect choice if the desire was to convey the fast transfer of bits of data. But, as the market for Internet access mushroomed, the company’s mission expanded quickly to providing online access to all consumers. At the same time, there was a need to distinguish the company from its major competitor, CompuServe. The new name, America Online, achieved both goals brilliantly, re-orienting the message toward the everyday consumer and replacing a technical reference with the much simpler online. AOL’s strategy succeeded, so much so that in the end AOL was able to purchase CompuServe’s online service.

Righting a wrong

Sometimes brand names become tainted, as was the case with Philip Morris, which changed its name to Altria Group in 2003, helping to jettison baggage. The airline brand ValuJet also suffered a devastating hit in 1996 when one of its planes crashed and investigations revealed practices that seriously compromised safety on the flight that crashed and on many others. Sales plummeted, and a year later ValuJet merged with a much smaller airline, taking on that airline’s name, AirTran.

The right outlook

Some brand name changes can be avoided by thinking ahead. Who are you talking to now, who would you like to be talking to, and what would you like to be saying to them a few years from now? A famous example is Diet Deluxe, which changed its name to Healthy Choice. The earlier name fell down in two respects: it addressed a smaller public, and its message was not as upbeat as it should have been. The new name Healthy Choice solved both problems: it speaks to everyone concerned about his or her well-being, and instead of a diet, it offers them an alternative that makes immediate sense.

A similar problem came up with a cereal marketed with the name Elijah’s Manna in 1904. The biblical reference made U.S. consumers wary. It also caused Great Britain to refuse to register the trademark. As a result, the name was changed in 1907 to Post Toasties, which at the time described a unique aspect of the product—without alienating anyone. The brand lasted nearly a hundred years before the product was removed from the shelves in 2005.

Creating a vessel that connects consumers to the right brand story

We know the challenges of developing an expansive and meaningful brand name that will serve not only as the entry point, but ultimately the platform for a larger brand experience. When WiMP, the Hi-Fi music streaming service out of Norway, came to Lexicon in search of a new name for their expansion into the UK, US, and beyond, we knew their current moniker would not take them far. It fared alright in Scandinavia, where the tongue-in-cheek playfulness of WiMP carried a level of cool. However, we found it hard to imagine them being a dominant global player in the music space with that name – not to mention that it did nothing to support the lossless-quality music, curated editorial content, and premium user experience that differentiated their offering. Through working with their team in Europe, we landed on Tidal. It has that perfect consonant-vowel-consonant structure, and it carries consumers, through imagery and semantics, to the unparalleled and deeply immersive music experience – which happens to be an experience so compelling that Jay-Z, in partnership with the biggest stars in the industry, recently purchased Tidal for $56 million.

– Will Leben and Michael Quinn

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