Lexicon® Blog

Posts Tagged ‘brand development’

Honda Loses Market Share (How surprised were we supposed to be?)

In Branding, Business, Cars, Linguistics, Naming, Trademarks on January 3, 2011 at 11:56 am

From a naming standpoint, we weren’t surprised at all. The December 30, 2010 Financial Times reports that Honda’s market share dropped by over 5% in the U.S. and by more than 25% in Europe in 2010. Probably there are dozens of technical and business reasons for this. But as a branding company one of the major lessons coming out of this unfortunate news is that bad names affect car sales.

2011 Honda InsightHonda’s new Insight is a sleek hybrid with a beginning price under $20,000 in the U.S., and mileage in the 40 mpg range. It drew raves from Car and Driver magazine. Yet the Financial Times reports that sales have been “well below the company’s expectations.”

How could this be?

One reason is that Insight brand isn’t doing this car any favors. Many consumers attuned to hybrids still remember Honda’s original 2000 Insight, a clunky two-seater with low power and not much interior space. Back then the name may have appealed on an intellectual plane with some hopeful early adopters. But given that car’s shortcomings and its failure to catch on in the marketplace, why carry that baggage over to an attractive new car whose main link with the 2000 model is its hybrid status?

Honda’s new sporty hybrid, the CR-Z, also had disappointing sales last year. While to our eye it has less going for it than the Insight in the looks department, it also has a naming problem.

The name CR-Z borrows its name structure from Honda’s popular CR-X from the 1980’s. (The Z will strike some fans of economy sport hatchbacks as having been borrowed from Nissan’s enduring line of Z cars.) But the CR-X brand disappeared in 1992. Hoping that brand equity will survive a hiatus of double-digit years is highly risky, as Ford found when it re-introduced the Thunderbird brand in 2002 and dropped it after 2005.

Interestingly, GM has just introduced a brand with the same consonants as Honda’s CR-Z in the same order, the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. What a difference those vowels make. While Honda associates its cars with discontinued past models, Chevy uses Cruze to proclaim a fresh start. The link with cruising brings thoughts of fun, carefree operation, and driving as a social experience. The consonant and vowel sounds that make the name Cruze for the most part imply smoothness and comfort.

As the many positive reviews note, Honda has much to be proud of with its new hybrids. But the names it has chosen totally fail to communicate that simple fact.

Will Leben, Director of Linguistics

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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