Lexicon® Blog

Archive for May, 2015|Monthly archive page

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