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  • Posted by: Hugh Tallents on Thursday, July 18 2013 06:48 PM | Comments (0)


    Your parents told you not to carry too much of it. Credit card companies are trying to get rid of it. Environmental good sense tells us to stop printing it. In fact in 2011 the US Treasury produced fewer $5 bills than at any time in the past 30 years and stopped production on the $10 altogether. About 50% of transactions are now conducted in cash, down from over 75% in 1996. Cash use has long been in decline.

    But it might well be back.

    What was once seen as clunky, dirty and inconvenient has started to be seen as a safe haven for those unwilling to part with a different kind of currency that corporations crave – your personal information.

    Consumers are waking up to what has been true for a very long time. When you pay for something with your credit card you are likely giving up more than the cost of those sneakers or groceries you just swiped your card and walked out the door with. Most people don’t understand the nature and quantity of the information they give up in every transaction and just how valuable that data is. The NSA Prism program shines a glaring spotlight on the market for data. IBM is openly talking about using it to make things smarter, Microsoft launched a “Scroogled” campaign to highlight Google’s use of it. Facebook has had their feet held to the fire about their approach to personal information. It is becoming a corporate battleground that could have profound influence on consumer choices.

    The publicizing of this issue by businesses is contributing to the same reason why cash can potentially see a re-emergence. Consumers already had to deal with potential fraud and ID theft. Now they are realizing the value of their information and how businesses are starting to use it, they expect reciprocity from companies for giving it to them. Consumers equate their information to a currency and they want something valuable in return. A more tailored advertisement is not really the answer for most people, they expect more than that.

    Interbrand research shows that consumer perception about data and its usage is not as binary as “I am okay with it” or “I feel like my privacy is being invaded.” People are starting pull apart the different ways that their data is used – whether in aggregate (true “big data”), specifically for people with similar profiles and preferences to me and lastly for me individually. The more specific the usage gets the greater the expectation of reciprocity and the greater the fear for consumers that the information will be misappropriated. These benefits need to be constantly updated and ever changing - expect to see wholesale changes to the loyalty points and affinity industry in due course.

    Businesses are currently obsessed with big data and its commercial possibilities but might not be appreciating that there is a human at the end of that binary string. The role of the brand is to help the business understand not only the need to provide a reciprocal benefit but give insight into what those use cases and benefits might be. Brands that expect their customers to freely and willingly, allow their data to be used must be prepared to do the work to understand what those customers want in return and be prepared to continue to deliver an ever evolving set of benefits for as long as they expect to use the data. This is not a case of one-off offers, it is a relationship based on trust that requires constant reinforcement or people will close ranks around their information and, almost as importantly, the methods of payment that expose their information to companies.

    What businesses forget is that cash is a technology that the consumer is very comfortable with. It is trusted, it is universally accepted (the $100 bill is one of the US fastest growing exports!) and in the medium term competitors may need to be comfortable with the fact that customers want it to co-exist with more modern payment technology. One way to accelerate the decline of cash is to bake real reciprocity into every interaction. Until that time consumers will not only view this black market for 1s and 0s skeptically, they will potentially view the transactional anonymity of cash as making it safer than digital or credit in many transactions.

    Hugh Tallents is Senior Director, Strategy, Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Jerome McDonnell and Ilan Beesen on Wednesday, April 17 2013 01:09 PM | Comments (0)


    Spearheading a Stronger Brand

    Thanks a billion: Making names pay

    Words are free. Well, they start out free, anyway. When developing a new name for a product, service, or business, it's easy to window-shop, imagining how your brand might look wearing this word or that. Then the search gets serious, and you spend time and creative effort to find ones that represent your business accurately. An investment in linguistic and validation research follows, and the ever-important trademark registration. At what point, exactly, does a word transform from a handful of letters into a valuable asset that's synonymous with the brand it represents?

    It takes time and investment to turn a word into a widely recognized brand, but it can pay off handsomely. Forbes noted that names can come to comprise a major portion of a business's total valuation: "'Google,' 'Walmart' and 'Microsoft'—all trademarked names—represent a significant chunk of their owners' overall worth." This means, potentially, billions of dollars.

    And the equity in a name goes beyond dollar signs. It has the power to inspire, to differentiate, to help your audiences understand that you're the right choice. It's a simple sound, a few syllables, yet it can have the power to move markets.

    Then: Then Again: Now:

    So how did the journey from "apple" to Apple™ happen? A word becomes a billion-dollar asset when iconic products are combined with concerted brand-building efforts. This special mixture yields value—a value that's captured in the name. As that value grows, so does the need to protect the name from misuse and outright piracy. Enter trademark legal.

    Brands and trademarks are often considered synonymous. They're related, but far from the same. You can register a trademark and not have a valuable brand, but it's impossible to build a valuable brand without owning its trademark.

    Trademarks are the quickest, most cost-effective way to ensure your name is exclusively yours. As every brand owner knows, differentiation is key. As the value of your brand and name grows, it's the power of the trademark that keeps would-be infringers at bay. For this reason, "the strength of its trademark defines the power of your brand."

    Owning a trademark doesn't guarantee your name or the brand behind it will become a billion-dollar asset. But it does provide the legal foundation on which you can build a free word into a prized aspect of your brand's identity.

    This week's guest authors are Jerome McDonnell, Global Trademark Director, and Ilan Beesen, Senior Consultant, Verbal Identity.

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  • Posted by: Caitlin Barrett on Monday, March 4 2013 02:54 PM | Comments (0)

    After weeks and weeks of debate, our completely unscientific analysis of 2012's best and worst names is finally complete.

    Let's start with the best. Last year was one in which naming got realer: Brands leaned on real-word language and sounds in ways that were unexpected or unprecedented for their categories. This helped them to stand out—and secure some highly covetable real-word trademarks.

    Names we liked:

    Well-named apps kept it short and sweet. Sift is an app that consolidates shopping experiences, sifting out the clutter.

    Burn Note, an app fit for a secret agent, destroys an email once it's been read. It's clever for the "security" and "privacy" apps category, where the majority are named using exactly those words.

    Beard Destroyer, a men's shaving cream, pushed at the boundaries of what was expected for its category—and got away with greatness.

    Red Bull Total Zero managed to say "diet" in a completely on-voice way. Playing up the negative it makes zero calories sound appealing.

    Graymail is Microsoft's new way of talking about the almost-but-not-quite spam that we get every day, stuff that falls into a gray area between "What a great deal!" and "Not another hot stone massage coupon."

    BLK DNM, an anti-trend premium denim line, takes a no-frills approach to its jeans, as well as its naming.

    ZzzQuil, NyQuil's sleep aid, gets a happy, drowsy nod from us. NyQuil already said "night," so Vicks found another way to say "sleep."

    UniMás, the new evolution of Telemundo, took equity from its parent company, Univision, and told us to expect even más.

    Verismo, from Starbucks, was a beaut. This name for the home brewing system wins with lyrical Italian origins and a meaning that melds truth and realism.


    Names that weren't so hot:

    Worst-of-the-year award goes to a name that clearly never went through a linguistic evaluation: VAGX Lumisac. This line of messenger bags for cyclists are sturdily built and well designed—but they stopped short of picking a globally winning name.

    While they're an easy target, As Seen on TV stores gave us two gifts this year: Hot Booties (they go on your feet, in case you thought otherwise) and Edge of Glory (a slightly over-the-top name for a knife sharpener).

    Nectresse, from the makers of Splenda, left a bad taste in our mouths. While we get the reference to "nectar," it's hard to ignore the "tress" sound, which brings us right to hair care.

    Finally, a shake of our heads at Tampax Radiant. While the feminine hygiene category has long struggled with uncomfortable metaphors, this over-the-top language made us cringe.

    The year to come will surely bring us more names to like or loathe—and we'll love every minute of it.

    This week's guest author, Caitlin Barrett, is Associate Director of Verbal Identity for Interbrand New York and the creative lead for Naming.

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  • Posted by: Katie Conneally on Tuesday, December 18 2012 06:28 PM | Comments (0)


    “Bar” conjures thoughts of Friday night fun with friends, happy hour with colleagues and catching the game, cheering on the home team with fellow fans. A bar is that friendly neighborhood spot where everybody really does know your name.

    A sense of fun and a tone of intimacy with customers can be elusive for brands looking to market their products and shape an image around being casual and social. Some businesses are leveraging the attributes of the neighborhood bar.

    The trend may have kicked off with Apple’s Genius Bar, launched in their Apple Stores in 2001, but has continued to grow and expand into new categories of businesses. While some brands have adopted “bar” in their naming to convey a literal description, a la a salad bar of specific services or products, some of the new crop of bar brands are finding ways to be playful with the term.

    Apple’s Genius Bar transforms how customers approach the computer store experience. While a crashing computer is a scary event, getting it fixed doesn’t have to be. At least that’s what the name suggests. The Genius Bar promises the intimacy of a bar with one-on-one attention and the playful “genius” term even makes it a little fun.

    The Genius Bars are such a success they’ve inspired their own bar spinoffs – Apple’s iPod bar, for example. Microsoft now has its own Guru Bar, demonstrating “bar” in the technology sector is more than a fad.

    Some brands are building on the ladies night element with feminine touches to the bar naming trend. The fashion and beauty industries, in fact, are increasingly embracing bar names. For these companies suggesting fun, quick, easy, social and casual is exactly what the average on-the-go woman needs in her life.

    Dry BarTake Dry Bar. It’s a national salon brand in the US that focuses solely on blowouts for women. Quick and easy, Dry Bar offers its services in its own bar menu inspired menu for straightforward browsing and choosing. The atmosphere is chic yet casual and social.

    Another beauty business example is the Braid Bar in LA. The brand leverages the word bar to create a fun, young atmosphere.

    Bar isn’t limited to the physical world anymore either. Fashion website Bauble Bar, which is dedicated to selling jewelry, brings the bar feeling into the virtual. They use the word bar to suggest the ease and fun of the user experience, highlighting the breadth and personalization of their offerings.

    The popularity of the virtual Bauble Bar has inspired a brick and mortar Bauble Bar shop in the Garment District of New York City. The trendy jewelry boutique is complete with, yes, a bar, where customers can sip champagne and shop.

    One sea foam chandelier necklace on the rocks please!

    Katie Conneally is an Associate Consultant, Verbal Identity for Interbrand New York.

    Photo of Boston's Cheers is by Wikipedia user MECU

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  • Posted by: Karla Aspiras on Monday, October 15 2012 04:44 PM | Comments (0)


    Apple recently commemorated the first anniversary of the passing of its former CEO. On their website was a video of Steve Jobs’ memorable speeches, beginning with a classic photo of him with an old Macintosh computer. Now a year later without their visionary leader, many are wondering how the company has done and will do.

    Apple is one of the top risers in Interbrand's Best Global Brands 2012. The brand saw a 129% rise in brand value and now ranked #2 from #8 in 2011.

    Steve Jobs left us with an impressive array of iDevices, which are arguably his biggest contribution to this generation and the next. But products cannot exist without the brands that represent them. So let us look at Apple’s primary offerings and their trademarks. Everyone is aware that the first leg of Apple’s patent battle against Samsung is behind them, but how many trademark disputes has Apple had to endure?

    First, Apple unveiled the iPod® in October 2001. Steve Jobs called it a hard drive that could put a thousand songs in your pocket. Mr. Joseph Grasso, sole proprietor of a company called Web Pods, Inc., for “public internet kiosk containing computer hardware,” initially owned the iPod mark. Mr. Grasso assigned the mark, for an undisclosed amount, to Apple in March 2005.

    Six years later, Apple launched the iPhone®. Jobs said that with the iPhone, Apple is going to reinvent the phone. Apple sought to obtain a trademark for their iPhone, but the US trademark office refused their application because of possible confusion because of an existing registration for the same name.

    The existing registration belonged to Cisco Technology, Inc., for “computer hardware and software for providing integrated telephone communication with computerized global information networks.” Cisco’s iPhone is a line of VoIP telephone handsets. Cisco’s use of their iPhone mark before Apple launched its iPhone was sporadic. They did file a Section 8 affidavit meaning they still want to keep the registration, but did not file a Section 15 affidavit, meaning they cannot show continuous use for five years.

    Some called Apple a “trademark bully” as ownership of the mark remained unsure. Sometime in 2008, Cisco and Apple “contracted” out the confusion issue raised by the trademark office. Through a consent agreement signed in June 2009, Apple overcame the potential confusion with Cisco’s iPhone.

    They agreed that their “respective uses of the mark IPHONE are not likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception.” This consent agreement was approved by the trademark office, which led to successful registration of “iPhone” by Apple. To date, the amount Apple paid Cisco remains undisclosed, and other terms of the agreement remain confidential. Both companies’ websites state that either can freely use the iPhone mark on their products throughout the world.

    Before he died, Steve Jobs announced the iPad®. There was a pending application for registration of the iPad mark by Fujitsu Transaction Solutions, Inc. for a “handheld computing device for wireless networking in a retail environment.” Fujitsu failed to respond to the trademark office’s office action within six months, and it was considered abandoned, thus making it free for Apple’s registration.

    Let’s not forget the infamous trademark battle Apple went through two decades before the first iPhone. Apple Computer (Apple Corporation’s former name) battled with Apple Corps (parent company of Apple Records, the Beatles’ recording company) for the Apple mark until they settled with the condition that Apple Computer cannot enter the music business while Apple Corps cannot enter the computer business. Apple Corps sued Apple Computer again in 2003 when iTunes was launched for breach of that settlement agreement, but the Court ruled in Apple Computer’s favor.

    Icloud Communications sued Apple when Apple launched the iCloud service in June 2011, but the former voluntarily dropped the lawsuit and renamed its company Clear Digital Communications. The dispute between Apple and Amazon over use of “Appstore” is still pending, as is the application for registration of the Appstore mark by Apple, which in turn was opposed by Microsoft that claimed the term is “generic.”

    Indeed, Apple has a very colorful trademark prosecution and litigation history and that might strike some as a habit of “name now, worry about trademarks later.” But perhaps the underlying thrust by Apple here is that when creating such iconic, innovative products, you also want the perfect name and brand for it: one that embodies the passion in its creation; the genius in its design and development; and the enjoyment and awe that every user experiences with the iDevices.

    Interbrand's Best Global Brands 2012 report said it best: “Jobs understood that a brand is more than a logo…He also recognized that a brand is what connects a business with the hearts and minds of consumers. Simply put, Steve Jobs understood that a brand is uniquely capable of humanizing a business — and that is precisely why so many of us are Apple ambassadors today.”

    Karla Aspiras is a Trademark Analyst at Interbrand NY.

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