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The Commoditization of the Car (Exterior)

In Brand Name Development, Brand Naming, Branding, Business, Cars, Consumer Goods, High Technology, Naming, Uncategorized on August 17, 2016 at 1:45 pm

From our Summer 2016 Automotive Think Tank Blog

interior.png

Cars’ outward appearances will become much more homogenous in the future. Why is this and what will that do for branding?

If you happen to be in a city right now, you can order a rideshare that will pick you up wherever you are and take you pretty much wherever you want to go. And, compared to a traditional taxi service, it’s dirt-cheap. But that’s all that ridesharing really offers because, at this point, there’s barely enough demand to make ridesharing feasible. In the near future however, demand will likely increase dramatically as autonomous vehicles drive down the price of this service.

Though this topic was previously covered in our post, “Sharing Interests, Not Rides,” it’s an important place to start because as demand increases, you’ll suddenly be able to get a lot more out of your ride than simply traversing from A-to-B. You’ll be able to socialize with like-minded people, eat or drink restaurant-style, or catch a ride with your groceries and packages so that you and your orders arrive home together.

As a result, the way cars are branded is going to undergo a major change. Brands will come to represent the experience, rather than the car itself. As more and more niche brands and rideshare interiors are launched—and eventually take the spotlight away from the car exterior—the aggressively styled exteriors we’ve come to know and love are going to fade away.

And why will this be the case?  For one very simple reason: each interior experience will become a modular part that rideshare companies can swap out as-needed to meet demand and support a hyper-segmentation of autonomous transit.

Why keep both a fleet of 1,000 latte-serving CaféCars alongside a separate fleet of 1,000 beer-servingCarBars when they hardly ever operate during the same hours? By swapping out the interior of a single car, you could serve everyone their coffee in the morning and their beer at night with the same fleet of 1,000 cars. You don’t need a degree in economics to know which is more cost effective. Half as many cars cost half as much to buy, insure, and maintain.

It just makes economic sense.

The net effect is that cars destined to be autonomous transit vehicles will, in effect, become mere shells that wrap around these kinds of modular interiors. Think about it: how much do you care what kind of car shows up when you call a Lyft or an Uber? Probably not a lot, and regardless, we’d wager you’re more likely to notice the color of the interior than the color of the exterior. As the interior of the ride offers more and more, riders are going to care less and less about the exterior. We will no longer “consume” the ride from the outside; we will instead experience it from the inside.

Essentially, the exterior of the car will become a shell. And, once branded, each Shell’s technology will cater to certain functional benefits.

A Shell’s ability to protect its users from harm will be a huge selling point for security-minded individuals. Names will draw on future technologies that might include Premonition braking systems or Insulome nano-fibers designed to absorb impacts in the event of a crash. Combining these components could result in a CrowsNest package that could cut your likelihood of injury due to a reckless driver by 90%. That way, you’ll know you’re choosing the lowest-risk ride possible.

Tomorrow’s autonomous shells may strongly resemble bullet trains or other types of elegant public transit that we currently have today. Car brands like Oyster will necessarily signal a sleek exterior—like the smooth lines of a bullet train—but with a luxurious, perhaps even complex, interior.

Shells that interface with their infrastructure could provide clear functional benefits, just like trains and other means of public transit. Where will Amtrak or other commuter trains stand in this mix? Specific Shell packages could offer the ability to interface with existing forms of long-distance travel. Traveling from San Francisco to Los Angeles or traversing the East Coast? Make sure your Lounge Deck interior is fitted with a Shell featuring Amtrak’s Caboose Technology, allowing you to by-pass traffic by commuting on train tracks instead of the highway. Not only might the great American railway system offer an excellent way to loosen up gridlock for interstate travel, but also could provide access to the nation’s most incredible scenic routes that are currently inaccessible by car.

Now, this is not to say that car exteriors will become meaningless in the automotive landscape of the future. They will simply no longer be the main selling point because they will be sidelined by the various inter-changeable and highly specialized interiors soon to be offered. Although ingredient and exterior branding will continue to be critical factors, interior branding will offer a whole new dimension: it will holistically capture the ride experience and potentially become a defining feature of autonomous vehicles . Interiors will no longer be confined to type of leather, color, or technology. This new, apparent limitless space creates the opportunity for companies outside of the automotive industry to make their mark in this territory by launching—and branding—unique interior experiences.

Aaron Snyder

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Say What?

In Brand Name Development, Brand Naming, Branding, Business, Cars, corporate naming, Linguistics, Naming, Trademarks, Uncategorized on June 13, 2013 at 3:00 am

Just how important is a brand name’s pronunciation, anyway?

When names for a new product are being weighed, there’s usually nervousness around pronunciation. Still, think of the different ways people pronounce Porsche, Hermès, Zagat.

And don’t even get us started with l’Occitane.

Some brands succeed despite tricky phonetics–so tricky that pronunciations can still vary long after the brands have become established. Zagat’s intended pronunciation is “ZAG-it,” yet many of us go for the more exotic sounding “za-GAT.”

In Europe, thanks to its profusion of languages and cultures, variability looms even larger. When Lexicon was developing the name Azure for Microsoft’s cloud platform, a company officer in Germany worried that Azure could be pronounced a dozen different ways by non-native speakers. And that client probably wasn’t even aware that native Britishers say it at least four ways: “AZH-er,” “AZH-yoor,” “AY-zher,” and “AY-zhyoor,” Yet the brand has been extremely successful, even in Europe.

So how important is pronunciation?

More than anything else, brand names are about first impressions, so it makes sense to avoid any possibility of confusion when launching a new brand. But reasonable as that rule is, sometimes it’s better to violate it.

At the outset, Acura, Honda’s premium brand in the U.S., was accented like bravura and Futura by some people. Yet, thanks to early advertising that spread virally, and also thanks to the (intentional) resemblance to accurate, an unambiguous pronunciation was quickly established, and the brand, which now has been around for three decades, is still going strong.

The correct lesson to draw from Porsche, Hermès, and l’Occitane is that a brand already well-established in its homeland will transport more easily despite pronunciation issues. In fact, the name’s oddness may help its identity. Add Zagat to that list, should you consider New York City a homeland.

There is one type of pronunciation problem that seems to trip the marketer up more badly than the marketee: sounds and sound combinations that are normal in one language but distinctly odd in another.

Japanese doesn’t have the sound [l] (or “el”) and avoids most consonant sequences. This ought to create problems for a brand like McDonald’s, yet thanks to well-established conventions for dealing with foreign words, the name is actually straightforward for Japanese speakers: makudonarudo.

English speakers are no different: hors d’oeuvres is supremely easy for us to (mis)pronounce, though it remains a devil to spell.

Bottom line: avoiding pronunciation issues is a good idea, but some odd pronunciations or spellings are not as problematic as they may seem. In fact, sometimes a difficult name delivers a beneficial, attention-getting jolt.

— Will Leben, Chair of Linguistics

Throwing The Market A Curve

In Branding, Business, Naming, San Francisco, Trademarks, Uncategorized on October 8, 2010 at 3:57 am

Some of the brand name development efforts that happen at Lexicon® Branding remain in the shadows. It may be a name for a select segment of software engineers. Or a major brand’s soft drink that gets test marketed in Topeka, Kansas, and never gets any closer to a rollout. But every so often we get a chance to be part of something big, bold, and uniquely different.

Types of CurvesIn the case of Levi’s Curve ID® fit system, the brand behind several new lines of womens jeans from San Francisco-based Levi-Strauss, it’s not so much that we helped them create a name for jeans specifically built for a variety of female body shapes and sizes. Instead, it’s the excitement of being part of their audacious, in-your-face advertising campaign that’s bringing awareness to the new jeans.

Bus stop posters proclaiming, “Not All Asses Were Created Equal”. Giant billboards declaring, “For Prima Donnas and Girls Named Donna”. A newly debuted “Levi’s Girl” (Meghan Ellie Smith, @thelevisgirl) who is tweeting and posting on Facebook about her adventure as the first to be so dubbed, moving from New York City to San Francisco.

All Asses Were Not Created Equal

One of Levi's Curve ID billboards

Some brand names get a slow start, seeming more to escape from their corporate headquarters than to blast their way onto the scene. In this case, with our head office being in Sausalito, California, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from “The City”, everyone who works here is seeing Curve ID no matter which route they take to work, whether they travel by public or personal transportation.

For Prima Donnas and Girls Named Donna

We’ve often wondered why most clients wait until the very end of a new product’s development before they even start thinking about a name. To our way of looking at the process, the sooner that name creation can be involved, the easiest it becomes to conceptualize the final brand and the strategy that needs to go into launching and supporting it. In that regard, the system in most industries seems to be a bit broken, which is why we applaud our friends at Levi Strauss for choosing to get Lexicon in the mix during the early stages of developing the brand that became Curve ID.

For a brand that’s meant to open people’s eyes to a new way of buying, trying and wearing womens jeans, Curve ID as an exciting new brand has been presented in some new and eye-opening ways itself.

— David Placek