How familiar are you with brand and generic names? Probably less than you realize. Some revolutionary trademarked products have achieved such market dominance that their name has become synonymous with an entire category of product or service. Particularly for breakthrough products, consumers spontaneously use the pioneer brand name generically, even when referring to later entrants in the field. Occasionally companies lose their proprietary rights to a trademark if they let competitors use the name as a common “descriptor” of a category of products and not linked to any one brand. At that point, the word can no longer be registered, a phenomenon known as “genericide.” In other instances, the trademark owner decides not to renew registration and simply lets the trade name expire.
This quiz challenges you to identify whether the name is: 1) trademarked (registered to a specific company), 2) generic (never trademarked), 3) genericized (once trademarked but now a common noun) or 4) former TM (trademark allowed to expire). Answers after the jump.
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Naming is a discipline that strikes many as part voodoo, part marketing strategy, and totally mysterious. We suspect it was easier a century or so ago when founders named the brand after themselves — e.g., Ford (Henry Ford) and Wells Fargo (Henry Wells and William Fargo) – or simply described what they made – e.g., International Business Machines (IBM). Now, it is not so easy, and companies usually turn to professional naming firms to come up with effective memorable brand names that will resonate with consumers. On top of that, they have to make sure the name can be trademarked, pronounced easily, have positive connotations around the globe, and stand out on a retail shelf, on a website and on its own. Here are some tips from David Placek, founder and president of Lexicon Branding, the firm that developed the familiar names you see below.
1. A Brief for the Development of a Name Is Different
Than a Brief for an Advertising Campaign.
(1) A naming brief makes sure that distinctiveness is a primary goal and that risk will be rewarded.
(2) A naming brief answers this fundamental question: How can the name help this new brand to become a winner?
(3) A naming brief defines a specific role for the name rather than the product itself, messaging or design.
(4) A naming brief tells the story of the brand so that the brand name becomes an essential part of the story — better yet, the title.
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At first glance, the packaging for Coven, a new hand-crafted vodka made by Arbutus Distillery in Nanaimo on tiny Vancouver Island in Canada, looks deceptively traditional, fitting right in on retail shelves with the products of large spirit producers. But darkness changes everything.
Asked to develop a product name, brand personality and package design for Arbutus Distillery’s inaugural product, Nanaimo-based agency, Hired Guns Creative, sought to take consumers into the deeper realm of the spirit world. Hired Guns chose the name “Coven” for the Arbutus vodka brand, not only because it was a play on the idea of spirits, but because it suggested gatherings, mystery and a hint of sexual allure. From a design perspective, creative director Richard Hatter also found Coven “a very clean, balanced word that is easy to work with on a graphic level. And, of course, there are the other obvious criteria; it was easy to spell, say, pronounce, read from a distance, and it was available to trademark.”
To bring credibility to this new product in stores, Hired Guns used several traditional indicators of quality: hand-dipped wax, die-cut label, foil and embossing details, and lots of whitespace. What isn’t seen in daylight, however, is a gathering of witches and night creatures made visible through a glow-in-the-dark phosphorescent coating overprinted on the bottle. The text on the back label adds to the haunting impression: “Shrouded in the mist of the West Coast, a timeless rite enchants those who seek a greater spirit. Initiation requires strict dedication to the craft. There is power in numbers, so gather together because when the lights fade, the ritual begins. We’ve been waiting for you.” Drink up and be merry; the spirits are alive.
It is hard to say what will happen to the penguin logo when Penguin Books and Random House complete their merger, announced in October, but I can’t imagine that the pudgy little bird won’t survive. Founded in the UK in 1935 to bring well-designed quality paperbacks to the market, Penguin Books made the flightless bird its trademark from the start. The first penguin was drawn by designer Edward Young, with Gill Sans specified for the typeface, and covers showing three bands of color used to organize titles by genre – orange for fiction, dark blue for biographies, etc. Typographer Jan Tschichold modified the logo in 1946 and redesigned some 500 Penguin books and also wrote a four-page design manifesto, “Penguin Composition Rules.” In 2003, Pentagram’s Angus Hyland tweaked the penguin logo some more.
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