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Archive for the ‘High Technology’ Category

Battling for the Back Seat

In Brand Name Development, Brand Naming, Branding, Business, Cars, High Technology, Naming on July 7, 2016 at 8:30 am

From our Summer 2016 Automotive Think Tank Blog

Battling

Since their inception, car interiors have been cluttered with pedals, knobs, and forward-facing seats. With little legroom and lots of passengers, backseats can be especially cramped. The rise of autonomous vehicles, though, can fundamentally transform these cabins into ideal places to work, rest, or engage in activities previously thought unimaginable. Although once considered solely a mode of transportation, vehicles may soon offer revamped spaces, limitless interior options, and radical branding and co-branding opportunities.

In 2014, the U.S Census Bureau reported that the average commute was 26 minutes long. Employees who work five days a week and fifty weeks a year would spend a collective 1.8 trillion minutes, 29.6 billion hours, 1.2 billion days, or 3.4 million years going to and from work. But that time is not spent working, checking emails, making important calls to clients, reading, or relaxing. Instead, employees spent those minutes stuck in their vehicles, with their eyes on the road, their hands on their steering wheel, and their minds focused on navigating the streets in front of them.

The rise of autonomous vehicles could revolutionize that commute, and major automotive companies are already offering their own visions for the near future and its reimagined interiors. These potential-to-be-branded modes are distinctly different from the normal regular and sport modes of today’s drive.

Volvo’s Concept 26 (named for the average commute time) envisions an autonomous vehicle with three different modes: Drive, Relax (in which the driver’s seat completely reclines, the steering wheel retracts, and the screen rotates in front of the windshield), and Create (in which the driver’s seat slides back, allowing a small desk-like tray to pop out from the door).

Mercedes-Benz, meanwhile, pictures a premium “luxury lounge” with walnut wood panels, and four rotating white leather lounge-chairs. These descriptions, which could easily apply to a modern apartment or premium suite, introduce a new type of rhetoric and, subsequently, a new type of brand.

With these designs in mind, will the interiors of cars start to reflect those of airplanes or hotels? Just as first –class cabins on airplanes market complimentary hot meals, priority boarding, and extra legroom, “first-class” automotive interiors could offer hot meals or snacks, priority pick-up and drop-off, and more legroom than an “economy” counterpart.

The potential for change in auto interiors may even expand to include industries previously unrelated to automotive or transportation. Specific profession-based interior offerings would restrict the roles of automotive companies and involve other industries: pairings that Lexicon has envisioned and named.

A Quill class, for example, could offer more desk-space and touchscreens for the busy business professional. This word harkens back to the academics of old. Sophisticated and timeless, “Quill” also implies that the ride would be so smooth that the writer would not have to worry about spilling their ink. Different industries, like banking or tech, could partner with the carmaker in order to ensure that this mobile office space has WiFi, electrical outlets, good acoustics for conference calls, and other company-specific amenities.

The Joule fleet could be equipped with a high-tech entertainment system that is perfect for partygoers. The high-energy name “Joule,” a scientific unit of measurement, would convey the vibrant atmosphere of these interiors, and entertainment venues and bars may sponsor specific cars, each of which provides an idiosyncratic catered experience.

Pond interiors would be known for their focus on privacy for those who desire a quiet commute and a potential spa-like experience.  The serenity of a pond could be the inspiration for aromatherapy, massage chairs, soft lighting, and a choice of teas or infused waters that are available for passengers.

To meet the evolving demand, auto companies would have to focus not on the speed and power of the past but on the in-car experience of the future. As a result, car interiors may become a product of co-branding opportunities. Sleep-deprived start-up founders, like the minds behind Casper, might find their way into BMW autonomous cars featuring their mattresses, and coffee addicts may order, via touchscreen, the latest Starbucks creation: the Venti Volvo. A favorite breakfast spot could turn into a transportation system, in which an individual steps inside their favorite café and steps out, pastry in hand, at their destination.

Although car interiors were once cluttered and cramped, the rise of autonomous cars could change those connotations. New interior spaces would require names and, possibly, co-branding opportunities, that reflect this transformation. With the infinite possibilities and combinations possible, companies should understand that the only way to get ahead in the automotive industry is to take the backseat.

Lexicon has brainstormed some possible themes for the interiors of autonomous cars. Are there others that you would like to see? Leave them in the comments below!

 

– Eva Epker

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Changing Lanes, Changing Names

In Brand Name Development, Brand Naming, Branding, Business, Cars, High Technology, Naming on June 29, 2016 at 8:30 am

From our Summer 2016 Automotive Think Tank Blog

Changing-Lanes

As we march closer to the age of autonomous vehicles, it’s clear that there will be a drastic shift away from the car America has grown to love over the past century. What will the transition to autonomous cars mean for automotive branding, and more specifically, what type of names will these new cars have?

The United States has a rich car-culture history that has become intertwined with its identity, built on liberty, adventure, and self-directed freedom. It has been reflected in advertising, communication, design, and most prominently, in brand naming. When thinking about cars from both the past and present, monikers such as Mustang, Firebird, Escape, Explorer, and Navigator come to mind. These brands that dominate the marketplace are just a subset of the cars that were named with the theme of adventure.

But when one thinks of the future of automotive, this traditional, deep-rooted set of values seems to be at odds with the new generation of autonomous vehicles. Instead of taking the wheel, an individual enters a destination into the computer. The feeling of control and the wonder of the unknown will turn into predestination. In fact, drivers themselves may cease to exist and will instead become passengers just along for the ride.

These new themes are difficult to accept and even more difficult to sell. Some automakers, such as BMW, try to preserve the old feeling with cars that play pre-recorded engine noises to match up with the operator’s driving – making him or her feel more in control. But rather than resist, why not embrace change? Will autonomous vehicle makers create a new value set to attract customers? The first companies to pivot may be able to set the tone and have a competitive advantage.

So what will the new trope look like?

In order to come up with names, we have to understand some other, more beneficial aspects of self-driving cars that can stand above what they are losing. What will the new autonomous car be able to offer?

When a person is no longer responsible for driving the car, they are free to engage in different activities during the ride. Entertainment will become a key part of the package. Perhaps cars may position themselves as theaters or concert venues, promising fun and engagement in their name.

Relaxation will also become prominent. Riders may be able to lie down or sleep in a spacious cabin that no longer needs to accommodate a wheel or drivers’ seat. Will autonomous cars become more like hotels in that way and be branded as suites? Hotel chains choose names that impart luxury, quality, and relaxation. Will cars follow?

What about the concerns that accompany autonomous vehicles? Many doubt the foolproof software and do not trust in the safety that automakers are promising. Names that give customers peace of mind will be crucial in assuaging fear. Perhaps something relating to nature will impart serenity.

Another similar concern is the fact that automakers will now be selling “intelligent” robots. Autonomous cars will essentially be robots that people entrust their safety in each day. Lexicon has done extensive research into the naming of robots, finding that humanizing names and terms relating to history and art often prevail in gaining consumer trust. Alternatively, robots named with individual letters and/or numbers are common in reality and in science fiction; they may match well with current vehicle naming conventions. R2-D2 is a robot but E 350 is a Mercedes.

As Lexicon starts naming the cars of the future, we will continue to imagine the new contexts and the new dialogues between brands and consumers. The changing language might be surprising – perhaps uncomfortable at first – but so is arriving at a destination without ever touching a steering wheel. Below are some concepts we developed that could fundamentally change the themes of the automotive industry.

Birch

The imagery from nature used in the automotive world has always skewed rugged and powerful: Tahoe, Outback, and Sequoia. Now, we’re introducing something a little slower – from a sound standpoint – a little more approachable, and decidedly softer. This name feels more suitable for a high-end restaurant or spa, which is why we think it could be an unexpectedly powerful brand name for a car.

 

Manhattan.jpeg

Cars have historically been powerful symbols of liberation, freedom, and escape – which is why one of Ford’s SUVs is called precisely that. Now, instead of leaving the city, cars will reimagine the metropolis and how we navigate it. A city-centric car has been executed in design, think: the Smart Car, but not so much in brand. This could be a powerful platform for this first autonomous car in a major urban environment.

 

Oyster.png

Cars lean into playfulness when it comes to advertising and copy, but rarely when it comes to brand names. Cars will look and drive in decidedly different ways, so why not introduce a new personality into the space that feels decidedly different than its predecessors? A great metaphor for protection, this fun name also gets at the new and exciting interiors of cars – which may start to feel more like hotel suite than car cabin.

What other names might we see in the coming years? Let’s start the conversation.

 

– Sarah Schechter and Michael Quinn

The Road Ahead

In Brand Naming, Branding, Business, Cars, High Technology, Naming on June 22, 2016 at 8:30 am

From our Summer 2016 Automotive Think Tank Blog

The-Road-Ahead

The automotive industry has seen momentous, impactful changes over the years — power steering, air bags, antilock brakes — but nothing that has quite reframed mobility in the way that today’s developing technologies will. As the prescient futurist and science fiction writer J.G. Ballard said more than 40 years ago, “The car, as we know it, is on its way out.”

But what exactly are the implications of these changes from a brand perspective?

Rumblings of a revolution can be traced back to when Google started its autonomous vehicle work over five years ago. To many, it seemed like a flight of fancy or a PR stunt. But, 1.5 million self-driven miles later, hands-free driving is no longer a Jetsons-like fantasy, but an imminent reality. And it’s not just Google that is spearheading this movement.

GM has invested half a billion dollars in the ride-sharing service, Lyft, to build out their autonomous fleet. They’ve also launched Maven, a ride-sharing service that flies in the face of outright car ownership. And other major players aren’t passively waiting on the sidelines. Volvo has promised autonomous driving by 2020, Audi is queuing up high-end electric vehicles, and Ford has launched a subsidiary called Smart Mobility to design and build technologies. Clearly, no major player in the industry is sitting on the sidelines.

Even the industries around cars are innovating for this not-so-distant future. State Farm, the largest auto insurer in the United States, and Travelers, a big global player, are filing patents for technologies that are befitting of Silicon Valley start-ups.

From a technology perspective, the road ahead seems pretty clear. But from the branding viewpoint, it’s not. America has a rich car culture embedded in its history, and these changes will undoubtedly affect its future. The outcomes of this transition will be felt at home and across the globe.

That’s why Lexicon Branding has put together a ten-week think tank to speculate about the changes and opportunities automotive brands will face as they drive into the future. Our team here at Lexicon is leveraging our extensive experience in automotive branding to help existing brands, new companies, and consumers successfully navigate the upcoming landscape.

– Kennedy Placek, Michael Quinn, and Sarah Schechter

The 50 Most Influential Gadgets of All Time

In Brand Name Development, Brand Naming, Branding, Business, Consumer Goods, High Technology, Naming on June 1, 2016 at 2:18 pm

As new technologies fundamentally change the way we live – from autonomous vehicles to surgical robotics – it’s good to look back at how far we’ve come. That was precisely the point of Time Magazine’s recent retrospective on “The 50 Most Influential Gadgets of All Time.

As a branding company, we thought such impactful inventions would likely have compelling names. After all, life-changing, culture-shifting concepts spring from fresh thinking, and it’s helpful for consumers to see that impressive thinking reflected in a product’s identity in the marketplace.

We analyzed the list with a brand-naming lens and discovered, not shockingly, that a lot of the appellations of these iconic consumer goods possess three characteristics of great brand names:

Seemingly Simple Yet Powerfully New
50Gadgets---Simple
These compound names draw on basic English vocabulary – words that are recognizable and easy to learn, even in areas of the world where English is not well known. However, what makes these names so memorable is that they fuse commonality to create a fresh context. Before Sony enabled cassettes to be played on the go, on-demand portable music was not part of the consumer conversation. What a stroke of genius to put that idea in the marketplace with two easy words, never before seen together in the electronics space: walk for portability and man for a companion we could relate to. Sony was so pleased, it repeated this stunningly simple strategy with Discman and Play Station, both of which also made Time’s top 50 list.

DeskJet, FitBit and Palm Pilot are also profoundly effective and simple in construction. Through a little bit of poetry – a near rhyme with repeating e’s – HP introduced the first true desktop printer to the world. The poetry of FitBit is even more transparent, supporting a discreet companion that can measure your wellness goals. And Palm Pilot compels you to imagine the first computer-in-hand experience, with the device as your captain.

Takeaway: Simplicity can be pithy when the proposition is truly novel.

Economy: Small Names, Big Ideas
50Gadgets---Economy.png
Huge changes to entertainment came from these four devices with names as compact as their dimensions. Roku means ‘six’ in Japanese and was chosen because it’s the sixth company that its CEO was engaged in starting. The meaning hardly matters when the form and function tell us that this device is different from anything else on the market. However, the name’s effortlessness, length, syllable patterning, and pronunciation all work in perfect harmony to position a product that is simply, intuitively, and efficiently designed.

Wii is another one of those short, sweet names that invites speculation and garners consumer interest: do the two “i’s” stand for people sitting together, gaming? Does the name refer to its English sound-alike “we”? Is the name a corruption of the spelling of the onomatopoeia “wee”? Regardless, its buoyant nature makes it feel meaningfully different than the harsh sounds of Xbox and PlayStation – which helps support its differentiated proposition.

TiVo merely says “TV” with some an full “o” sound; and the near-blandness of the word iPod almost seems like an undersell for a device that all of a sudden put a 1,000 of your favorite songs in your pocket. The lesson is that the name does not have to communicate such grand meaning, as long as it feels different and the product that comes in tow is meaningfully different, too.

Metaphorically Speaking
50Gadgets---Metaphor.png
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. But sometimes it’s enough just to suggest a picture. All of these names take us on an excursion from the bland and predictable by associating a product with an image that seemingly lacks any logical connection—and yet that stimulates and rewards our imagination. Better still, this technique helps us remember the names, as we know from popular memory-training exercises that pair an unexpected image with the thing to be remembered

Two of these names are based on physical resemblances. The BlackBerry has little black buttons shaped like the drupelets of the fruit, and the Brownie is a playful nod to the vivid and whimsical cartoons of Palmer Cox. The way Rift deals with the cutthroat gaming console market is to announce a complete break with the competition. The Nest collapses two images—comfort and home—into one.

These metaphors are original yet accessible, and they don’t exhaust what these winning names communicate. Every word has unique powers of suggestion. Kindle sounds thin and light—due to its particular consonants and vowels as well as to the ending it shares with spindle. BlackBerry sounds friendly. Rift sounds quick and strong.

These gadgets display inventiveness on the part of their creators and enable inventiveness on the part of their users. But the ultimate invention is language itself. Having evolved over eons, it’s equipped with unlimited subtlety and power. Language is totally up to communicating what’s great about a product, even a product the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

-Will Leben and Michael Quinn

eBay Enterprise Becomes Radial with Lexicon’s Help

In Business, corporate naming, High Technology on April 22, 2016 at 2:43 pm

radial_logo_h_rgb_300-95

While the impetus behind a corporate rebrand may vary – a merger, an acquisition, a board-ordered mandate – the opportunity is singular: create a new, differentiated, and meaningful identity in the marketplace that signals a confident path forward. When we helped ING Direct rebrand to Tangerine, the goal was to communicate an innovative and fresh approach to banking. And when Brown Shoe Co. wanted to signal to consumers that they were committed to being a fashion brand of the future, we helped them arrive at Caleres, an elegant and expansive concept relative to the old moniker.

So when eBay Enterprise approached us, we knew we had to develop a name that not only supported their differentiated proposition, but would also help them stand out in a cluttered marketplace with a novel idea in the category.

To create such a new mindset in the back-end commerce solutions space, we first did an industry audit to see what language competitors were using. We found that most players in the arena were one-dimensional (Commerce Hub and LogicBroker) or synthetic and unapproachable (Hybris and Micros). This led our creative teams down paths of freshness, approachability, vibrancy, and vivid imagery, among others.

Of the hundreds of names generated – all of which went through our in-house legal team’s review and our global linguistic network’s review – Radial rose to the top as the strongest candidate.

Its assets are numerous. It’s a real word in a sector that trades in compound and coined solutions, giving it salience. It is an expansive name that lets the brand stand for something larger than just a commerce hub, and at the same time, there are relevant and meaningful associations to the larger brand mission. The word radial is often used in mathematical, scientific, and engineering contexts, which supports precision, intelligence, efficacy, and strength. And the name also cues up the stunning natural phenomenon radial symmetry, the inherent balance of the multi-dimensional parts of one organism, as seen in sunflowers.

With a name like Radial – and a compelling and intelligently built business – the road ahead seems to be pretty bright.

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Uncanny Similarity

In Brand Name Development, Brand Naming, Branding, Business, Consumer Goods, High Technology, Linguistics, Naming on March 4, 2016 at 9:24 am

Robots-Blog-Piece

Life imitates art. It is a foregone conclusion for futurologists that much of the technology that lies ahead will have been somehow imagined in the past. Yes, futurology – it’s an actual thing. Igor Sikorsky, inventor of the helicopter, was inspired by Jules Verne’s 1886 sci-fi novel, Clipper of the Clouds. The Smithsonian catalogs ten inventions inspired by science fiction, including the rocket, the submarine, and the cell phone. Much of the technology we live with today had once been just a dream in the mind of novelists and stargazers.

Robots certainly fall into this category. A question we had at Lexicon was whether real robot names reflect the nomenclature of fictional robots. A brief analysis of about 300 robot names from science fiction revealed a few major themes.

One theme was a reliance on individual letters and/or numbers, often in the form of alphanumerics and acronyms. Some classic examples – R2-D2, C-3PO, and BB-8 – hail from one of the most famous sci-fi franchises, Star Wars. Others include SI-9 from the 2011 film Eva, EDI from Stealth, or even further back, L-76 from the 1964 novel The Rest of the Robots. In this context, the alphanumerics seem to represent a sort of model or ID number, highlighting the robots’ systematic industrial production; they’re consumer products.

Interestingly, another major theme we found was human names. Lenny, Jessica, Ava, Helen, Louie… the list goes on. This makes sense since many robots are androids (a word coined from Greek parts roughly meaning “human-like”), and in some imaginations, they’re virtually indistinguishable from actual people – think the Replicants from Blade Runner. Some names even combine the human and industrial elements. A few examples: Johnny 5 from the Short Circuit films, MARK13 from the 1990 film Hardware, D.A.R.Y.L. which stands for “Data Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform” from the film of the same name, and R.A.L.F. “Robotic Assistant Labor Facilitator” from Flight of the Navigator.

Possibly because of these two opposing domains, some authors opt for ambiguous “futuristic” coinages, neither readily recognizable as a human or product name. These run the gamut from sleek and smooth to just plain uncomfortable in the mouth: Aniel, Alsatia Zevo, Zhora, Zat, Weebo, Trurl, Dorfl.

It’s not hard at all to find some of these same naming tropes in the real world: Apple’s Siri is actually an acronym that stands for “Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface”; Alexa is Amazon’s take on the concept. An even more explicit fictional borrowing is Microsoft’s Cortana, named after an AI character from the Halo games. The full categorization of these voice interface platforms as robots is up for debate, but there’s no question the naming conventions are a matter of life imitating art.

KATIA, which stands for “Kick Ass Trainable Intelligent Arm” is an example of a real robot whose name takes a cue from sci-fi. The same is true for LS3, which stands for “Legged Squad Support Systems.” On the other end of the spectrum – human names – are Jimmy, Buddy, and Lucy.

Meanwhile, the names Jibo, Rokid, Bolide, RHex, and Erigo easily fit the image of strange inventions of the future.

A final theme to note is the use of classical languages and figures. This seems to have been more common in earlier (pre-1980s) sci-fi, with names such as Rex, Colossus, Kronos, Talos, and Proteus IV. And this is yet another domain exploited by real world robots: Alpha 2, Atlas, da Vinci.

So it seems that real robot names do tend to resemble those of their sci-fi predecessors. But what do these themes mean?

On the one hand, we logically understand robots as products; but the more human-like qualities they take on, the more we feel the need to humanize them. Strange coinages are a way for us to process the sheer weirdness of robots and AI. And references to the classics may stand for the dawning of a new era, one that is uncannily similar to the beginnings of our own modern world.

Greg Alger, Director of Linguistics

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.

Amazon-vs

 

 

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.

Burning Candy

In Brand Name Development, Brand Naming, Branding, Business, High Technology, Naming, Trademark Law, Trademarks on February 20, 2014 at 3:00 am

A little over a month ago, the Skittles hit the fan when the Internet discovered that King.com Limited had trademarked the word CANDY. Reaction ranged from “all other games with candy in their titles were in trouble” to “no one on Earth could ever utter the word candy again.”

candy-crush-logoThis action was to protect the game developer’s white-hot title Candy Crush Saga, a game downloaded by more than 500 million people since its release in 2012.

One of the first to break the news was inc.com, in a short piece by Jeremy Quittner, on January 15th – the very day that King won trademark approval from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. “You already know how ridiculously litigious the entire area around intellectual property rights is right now, but this brings things to a whole new level. And small business owners should be wary, as the potential to run up against a law suit seems all-too-likely these days,” wrote Quittner.

The fuse was lit…and the news soon exploded all over Twitter, the sounding board where people often display more passion than knowledge. @feliciaday, actress and creator of the popular web series The Guild tweeted: “I’m confused, how is it legal to trademark ENGLISH WORDS and then harass small game companies about it?!” And @BasicallyIDoWrk followed with “Who is the idiot that let Candy Crush trademark the word candy?!”

To address Ms. Day’s point, most registered trademarks in the USPTO are made up of English words or are names created by putting one or more English words together to form a new word (like PowerBook or OnStar, two names developed by Lexicon and subsequently registered for trademarks by our clients). As for the second comment, the idiot in question is the aforementioned USPTO, the governmental body tasked with issuing patents and trademarks dating back to 1871.

On its surface, the registration makes all kinds of sense, particularly to protect King’s intellectual property from infringement by the legion of me-too type games that have sprung up in the wake of the success of Candy Crush, trading on either its name, its play style, or both – such as Candy Crash and Super Candy Cruncher.

Fortunately, for those who are outraged at the gumption shown by King in registering CANDY, there are checks and balances in place in an effort to keep things fair and equitable.

Upon issuance, trademarks are published for opposition in the USPTO’s Official Gazette. Anyone opposing a trademark in the belief that they may be damaged by its issuance has 30 days to either file an opposition to the mark or a request to extend the time to oppose.

And there is, potentially, a lot to oppose in the case of King’s trademark application since they’ve tried to more than cover their bases. Not only have they registered CANDY in three of the 44 international classes of trademarks, but what the name covers – the Goods and Services – within those three classes seems overly extensive. Ranging from blank usb flash drives and exposed photographic film to beach shoes and baby monitors, this is an application just begging to be opposed by those with trademarks that use the word candy and that pre-date King’s registration.

That’s not to say that opponents won’t have a pitched battle on their hands.

One recent example shows that King is playing for keeps.

CandySwipe is a game developed by Albert Ransom in 2010, two years before King’s Candy Crush hit the scene. Ransom trademarked his CandySwipe name and, when he saw elements of similarity between the two games, he opposed King’s initial trademark application of Candy Crush Saga. Ransom was trumped when King subsequently purchased a trademark for CandyCrusher that had been issued for game software and mobile apps way back in 2004 and used it, in turn, to counter-oppose the CandySwipe trademark.

Ransom just recently published an open letter online to King, sarcastically congratulating the company on successfully crushing any chance he had of making CandySwipe a success (the Internet is full of people ignorantly calling Ransom’s game a “ripoff” of Candy Crush), as well as now cease-and-desisting him from being able to use the CandySwipe name.

Protecting oneself against trademark infringement is one thing. Intellectual property is often the most valuable asset a company has in its coffers. More difficult to defend are the actions of an entity that follows the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit of the law. One could argue that King’s actions might be construed as a restraint of trade for other game developers. And who knows — what would happen if Hasbro, Inc., which took over Milton Bradley’s Candy Land trademark first issued in 1951, were to step forward and argue that King’s trademark is precluding them from issuing an electronic version of the popular board game?

The outrage against King continues, with opponents asking folks to delete the game from their devices, and tweets continuing to be posted about the trademark filing. (From @jgasteiz: “If only I had the guts to uninstall an app every time its company is evil. I’ll do it this time. Bye bye #candycrush”)

Undaunted, King continues to attempt to crush both opposition and competition. And on February 18th, they filed for an Initial Public Offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Reportedly, they are attempting to raise $500 million.

That’s a lot of candy.

— Lexicon Branding

English Plus

In Brand Name Development, Brand Naming, Business, High Technology, Naming on September 9, 2013 at 3:00 am

Have you noticed how English changes as it moves around the world?

Le-Smoking-heroHalf a century ago, Yves Saint Laurent introduced le smoking in France. Whatever its effects on the fashion world, it raised some linguistic hackles among French who deemed it an unwelcome intrusion from English.

Meanwhile, English speakers must have wondered what gave the French the right to assign a new meaning to a perfectly ordinary English word.

Once a word leaves our shores, it’s out of our jurisdiction.

In Germany, a cell phone is called a Handy, a digital projector is called a Beamer, and a personal organizer is called a Timer. English words are entering German, and Germans are taking possession of them, assigning new meanings without consulting us.

Only sporadically are original meanings respected, as when Chancellor Angela Merkel used “s**tstorm” at a June, 2012, public meeting. (The word has been added to at least one respected German dictionary, possibly as a direct result of Chancellor Merkel’s tacit endorsement.)

Nissan introduced a model, the Sunny, to China in the 1960’s. Later the highly successful brand also appeared in India and in Europe. The name may not strike Westerners as exciting, but that’s not its purpose.

In some societies, recognition as a word of English by itself will endow a brand name with panache (if you’ll pardon the term). In that vein linguist Victor Mair observed a truck in Japan with a sign reading “Matsumoto Hausu Kurīningu Sābisu,” using (in katakana script) the English words “house.” “cleaning,” and “service.” Mair comments that the business could have used Japanese words instead but they would have made the business sound less modern. (Read his entire post here.)

In Milan, the newest upscale housing complex goes by CityLife. Like China’s Sunny, it’s probably not a name we’d see on a comparable development here. But even the Italian-language Web site for the complex refers to it this way, with no Italian translation.

Meanwhile, the U.S has gained an embarras de richesses from abroad. Among Korean exports are brand names Daewoo, Hyundai, and more recently Hankook, Kyochon, and Sulwhasoo and common nouns like taekwando, kimchi, and bibimbap. Our news from China comes with place names like Xinjiang (a province); Toksun (a county), and Quxian (a city).

Such names start with a deficit because they challenge our spelling conventions and pronunciation habits. But spelling adapts fairly easily–Italian doesn’t have a y in native words but has no problem with the ones from English, as with Milan’s CityLife.

And let’s not overlook the eye-catching advantages of an unusual spelling. ooVoo, the video calling company whose name Lexicon helped to develop, is getting lots of press and doing very well. Despite its unusual appearance – and in contrast to the Chinese names in the previous paragraph – ooVoo wears its pronunciation on its sleeve, which is a tremendous benefit for a brand that has designs on international acceptance.

Pronunciation habits take longer to change, but languages easily reshape the pronunciations of new words to conform to native patterns. (On this topic, read our previous post.)

From a branding perspective, all this transplanting of words comes as welcome news as rights to existing words are being gobbled up. Last year over 300,000 trademarks registrations were filed in the U.S. Internationally, there’s even more registration activity, naturally. Some day, for every Sunny introduced in Asia, we may see a bibimbap in the U.S.

— Will Leben, Chair of Linguistics

Web of Intrigue: Online Shopping Meets Storytelling

In Brand Name Development, Brand Naming, Branding, Business, corporate naming, High Technology, Naming, Trademarks on April 22, 2013 at 3:00 am

When companies name an online enterprise, the right name can transcend the notion of a mere store and describe an entire shopping experience. This is the kind of thinking that wins over consumers while giving a competitive advantage in the overall landscape of business.

Amazon is a sterling example of this. Although books were the first products associated with Amazon, the name has come to describe a full platform based around shopping and variety.

online-shopping-keyboardWhen you visit Amazon’s homepage, you see a vast array of options and opportunities, from media to housewares to fashion and beyond. If the company had gone merely with a descriptive name like Allbooks or Bookmart, it would never have had the capacity to encompass all of these different but inviting departments. (Apple’s iTunes is an obvious counter-example, but the Apple halo and focused i-initiating architecture more than make up for the narrow scope of tunes.)

Indeed, the easily identifiable, compelling name of an immense river proved more effective than any regular department store moniker. Over the years, “Amazon” has become something else entirely: a community, a platform, a social movement, a whole world of feeling.

We see an illustrative example even if we look at two bricks-and-mortar titans – Wal-Mart and Target. If you ask a typical consumer which name is more fashionable, Target will likely be the clear winner. As a real word with many effective associations – hitting a mark accurately, getting what you want, a “bull’s eye” – Target is a name that captures an emotion and efficiency, not merely a “mart” where many different things are sold.

Now compare the online sites of both of these brands, the air of innovation that Target has is immediately apparent. The name clearly sets the company’s tone, sets its identity in the marketplace.

A key example of effective online naming in Lexicon’s history involves the retailer originally known as Internet Diamonds. As the name clearly implies, the company once specialized in efficient and reliable ways for customers to buy diamonds online; in most cases, the typical customer was a man shopping for an engagement ring. But as time passed, obvious questions arose:

What if a customer wanted to buy something other than a diamond?

What if a woman were shopping for herself and wanted a little bit of intrigue and allure incorporated into the process?

How could the experience put a stake in the ground that would remain compelling as competition swelled?

Naturally, the company needed a new name. So Lexicon worked with the client to create a new identity that opened up an entirely different world of possibility.

Blue Nile.

Like Amazon, Blue Nile conjures up a feeling – an air of potential, beauty, vastness, and enticement. Blue Nile is now a multibillion-dollar business. A similar example is Piperlime, which Lexicon named in partnership with Gap, Inc. Again, in adopting this name, Gap, Inc., chose to evoke a certain emotion in the customer, not simply define a narrow window of opportunity. Due to its bright sounds, the zesty images of both piper and lime, and the enticing lime logo paired with the name, the word implies fun, variety, and satisfaction, and Piperlime now rivals Bluefly as one of the most recognized shopping sites in the world. (It even figured prominently in the hit reality competition series Project Runway, where host/supermodel Heidi Klum clearly took pleasure in pronouncing it.)

What’s more, if Gap ever wants to branch out further and build upon Piperlime’s potential as a full-on social media hub or community, the name has the capacity for that type of expansion.

Names like Amazon, Blue Nile, and Piperlime allow for storytelling with an edge, a customer base with an extra bit of panache, and that is why creating a name that has a broader appeal than simply selling one type of thing or describing one kind of store is so important. Stores come and go, but a store’s style — the sentiment that it instills in a customer — endures.

— Lexicon Branding