What's in a name? Chevy ponders question (again) with the Aveo

By David Kiley on Mon Oct 11 2010


In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the latter utters the infamous line: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet."
  That pretty much sums of the attitude of General Motors president Mark Reuss, who has yet another model-naming debacle on his hands. GM is trying, like Ford, to create a roster of global model names. The current problem on the table is Aveo, the little, cut-rate, slow-as-a-Rascal rental car Chevy now sells as its entry-level car (starting price: $11,965). An all-new and pretty respectable Aveo is due out next year. It looks and performs better than the current model in every way. It is called Aveo in other markets. But Reuss is contemplating a name change for the U.S.? Why? He says people aren't sure whether to pronounce it "a-VAY-o" or "A-vee-O" (rhymes with Fabio).
  At GM, naming meetings are the worst, according to insiders. The talk and the numerous PowerPoint presentations (you can't go to the bathroom at GM without a .ppt presentation) revolve around the cost of establishing a new name versus the baggage of the old name. Most meetings are guaranteed to have 50 percent on one side and 50 percent on the other. The most recent example of this was the Buick Regal. For most baby boomers, the dictionary meaning of Regal is "flaccid rental car. Also see: Uncle Morty's car from the '80s with the weird interior cloth that reminded us of Aunt Rose's couch … the one with the funny smell and color that had no name."

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Fashion mavens cannot wait to get their hands on this Schitbag

Posted on Tue May 18 2010


If your brand brief for a new purse contains descriptors like "high fashion," "sophisticated," "sleek," "sexy" and "sensuous elegance," you'd surely want to name the thing a "Schitbag." Right? If the fashion world is being duped by this, maybe we'll all have a good laugh at some point. But press materials went out recently touting The Original Schitbag (pronounced skit-bag?) as a new must-have purse for the fall. Various blogs have picked it up, asking, naturally, what kind of a name is Schitbag? And would you, haute couture maven, be caught dead with one? The product, which just launched from a company called LeSchitte Designs (I am not making this up), is a "hands-free" waist bag, kind of like a fanny pack, that "represents the ultimate combination of beauty, form and function," according to the marketer's website. It's suede and comes with an endorsement from celebrity stylist Shari Geffen, who's worked with celebs like Julia Roberts, Sarah Jessica Parker and Johnny Depp. Geffen wears her Schitbag proudly, or so she says in the company's PR. Did they market test that name? This could be the best branding move ever or the most boneheaded. Image consultants out there, what's your read on this?

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Naming experts feeling kinship for Microsoft's Kin mobile device

Posted on Mon Apr 12 2010


Microsoft seems to have a penchant for one-syllable product names these days. First there was Zune, then Bing and now Kin. The latter, which is the company's latest mobile device (which was actually made by Sharp Electronics; Microsoft created the software), appears to be a hit with naming gurus, who point to Microsoft's mixed track record in this area. Eli Altman, director of strategy for A Hundred Monkeys, dubbed Kin a "pretty good name," though he said it sounds a bit like "they were going for Kindle, but stopped halfway." Athol Foden, president of Brighter Naming, said it's "short and sweet and—a change for Microsoft—has some human emotion going on." Foden wasn't as big a fan of Bing, ("What's a bing?" he asked), but was impressed that Microsoft nailed down a three-letter word, a coup in an age where all the short names seem to have been taken. John Hoeppner, president of NameQuest, agreed that the Kin name was short and easy to pronounce, but he was less enthralled than the others: "Kin doesn't seem to differentiate the Microsoft product offering from existing telecom products." Does any of this matter, though? After all, lots of people snickered at the iPad's obvious feminine product connotations, but no one was chuckling last week when the product launched. "The only name Apple really cares about is Apple," said Altman. "Everyone thinks [the iPod and the iPhone] are great names, but in these situations, a name really only serves to get you out of the starting gate."

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

Naming experts split on whether 'iPad' is a terrible name or not

Posted on Thu Jan 28 2010


Apple's announcement of its long-awaited tablet computer yesterday was greeted by a round of quips about the name. iPad? Within minutes, the top trending topics on Twitter included "iTampon" and "iMaxiPad." Was this a blunder by this most revered of marketers? Naming gurus are split. Phillip Davis, president of Tungsten Branding, thinks Apple stumbled. "I think they've created some challenges for themselves," he tells BrandFreak. "If you're trying to create a new category, it's really important that you create a name that's proprietary. iPad doesn't do that." Fair enough, but what about the iPhone, which was similarly generic? "The product rose to the occasion," says Davis. "This one was on the bubble and really needed some help." But Hayes Roth, CMO for Landor Associates, says iPad is a great name. "It's a very smart name," says Roth, adding that the tampon connotation hadn't occurred to him. Roth says Apple owns the "i" prefix and that walking away from that nomenclature wouldn't make much sense. So, how about the iSlate then? "To me, that has concerns," says Roth. "It's a cold, cold stone, and it also takes you back to Romans chiseling into stones." A pad, by contrast, has more modern, mobile connotations, Roth says. Meanwhile, Danny Altman, CEO of A Hundred Monkeys, took the surprising view that the name doesn't really matter. "Apple has been brilliant about focusing on the only brand that matters—the big one," he says. "It has a long history of making great products with undistinguished names."

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

AIG looks into buying a vowel to change sullied image

Posted on Fri Mar 27 2009

Aig_logo Contrary to headlines in the media, AIG is not changing its name to AIU. On March 2, the troubled company formed a holding company for its property casualty companies and is considering calling that American International Underwriters. The reason? John Jones, a rep for what is now tentatively known as AIU said those units are not receiving TARP money and are in comparatively good shape. But AIU is not necessarily the name that the company will stick with, Jones said. The company is conducting a brand review to see how consumers warm to the new moniker. "AIU Holdings plans to develop a 'go-to-market' name that reflects the financial strength and security that the insurance companies provide business and individual customers worldwide," the company wrote in a statement. "A new, effective brand for these businesses can increase their value for policyholders and the American taxpayer." Meanwhile, the Peter Group, Philadelphia, handles AIG's advertising account. Neither AIG nor AIU are planning any ads in the near future, Jones said.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman



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