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  • Posted by: Jennifer Vasilache on Thursday, June 20 2013 06:02 PM | Comments (0)

    Etymology Banner

    The Language of Sustainability

    This is a special Best Global Green Brands 2013 issue of Etymology. To experience our full report, click here.

    The New Shades of Citizenship

    When it comes to long-term brand strategy, corporate citizenship is now mandatory. But as the shade of that responsibility shifts from green to blue and beyond, how can brands raise awareness of the ways in which they give back?

    As we’ve noted before (and Clorox has so eloquently stated), "something's gone wrong with green." The green gold rush went bust and the term went from being a powerful symbol of sustainability to a suspicious and undifferentiating claim.

    Some brands have already taken a simple approach toward solving the green-light jam: give sustainability another color. Blue has become the color of choice for those who want to signal new, renewable energy sources and technologies, while signaling that they’ve gone beyond green (a.k.a. building value into their supply chain) and designed their business to give back more than it takes. Volkswagen brings this concept to life literally, with “BlueMotion” technology and its “Think Blue” campaign, but across the board, brands are beginning to ambitiously name with the net positive they hope to create for the world in mind.

    Then Then Again Now

    Is this color trend sustainable (pardon the pun)? Or, as responsibility and sustainability become part of everyday business, will there be a point at which we become color blind?

    Brands early to exit the “green” conversation in favor of owning a bigger one have reached a critical point as well. IBM’s “Smarter Planet” started a trend of speaking about the world, possibly inspiring names like Starbucks’ “Shared Planet” and Nike’s “Better World.” They speak to engagement and participation, and they certainly capture a global consciousness around citizenship, but these names are starting to sound similar—and make it difficult to determine how they’ll talk about where their efforts will go next.

    We suspect we might see brands headed in the other direction too, shifting from macro to micro responsibility. The shift from “everyone” to “just one” is profound, but brands are inviting their customers to give back more than they take, right alongside them.

    TOMS Shoes established their business model on the buy-one-give one promise, with its “One for One” initiative, donating a pair of shoes for every pair purchased. That kind of intimate, personal responsibility has caught fire with startups (like eyewear company Warby Parker’s “Buy a pair, give a pair” program) and is finding its way into the lexicon of larger corporations (we see IBM narrowing its scope from Smarter Planet to Smarter Cities and Smarter Buildings) as they seek new ways to get credit for their efforts to make the whole-wide world even bluer.

    This week's guest author, Jennifer Vasilache, is a Senior Verbal Identity Consultant for Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Bill Chidley on Monday, April 8 2013 05:08 PM | Comments (0)
    Best Buy

    As Brand rivalries go, Apple vs. Samsung has the makings of an epic one to watch. It’s the Ford versus Chevy of the age.

    When I first heard of the Samsung Experience Shops that Best Buy plans to roll out in May, the easy judgment was that it’s yet another “me too” move on Samsung’s part. The comparisons are inevitable and differences will likely vary by degree. That this is a great move for Samsung and a possible shot of adrenalin for Best Buy is also undeniable.

    Brands benefit when they can become experiences and retailers benefit when they get an exclusive leg-up with hot brands. the interconnectivity of mobile devices, TVs and content to a brand like Samsung could be further leveraged, and consumer experiences of aspects of what the brand offers today’s consumer broadened. An immersive experience with trained consultants is fast becoming a necessity to demonstrate innovation.

    But is the bigger story the implication for Best Buy and how consumer electronics brands and retailers thrive together in the future?

    Best Buy began as a category killer for electronics and an antidote for the hard sell commissioned sales experience of the day. When the rest of the electronics retail landscape was literally “showrooming” products, Best Buy was allowing shoppers to buy from inventory on the floor at great prices, with a helpful unbiased staff. There were no three-part invoices, no pick up counters and no salespeople who made you feel stupid. It was refreshing, lots of brands at great prices.

    Bill ChidleyInterbrand Design Forum actually designed the second generation stores with Best Buy and it was an objective to communicate a breadth of brands, because selection was king. Best Buy was a hot concept and well capitalized, opening many stores to cover the market, so manufacturers clamored to get slotted on the shelves. In fact, Best Buy was the retailer where Samsung came into preeminence and ultimately stole Sony’s thunder in the consumer electronics category.

    Brands were merchandised shoulder-to-shoulder and competed on price and features. It was a brand party that Best Buy hosted where the bulk of shoppers decided who was cool and who was not.

    In 10 years local Best Buy stores could look like mini Consumer Electronics Shows. With the advent of Apple Shops, Samsung Experience Shops and likely more shops to come from other brands, what is Best Buy’s role now? The current (old) model provided a shopper experience like a grocery store where shoppers navigate from store, to category, to subcategory, to brand. With the proliferation of branded shops, the shopper experience is shaken up.

    The implication is that shoppers must navigate by brand first and foremost. This means that the role of Brand in the shopper decision is amplified and brands will need to aggressively clarify what they offer and their propositions. Brands will need to divert marketing dollars to retail experiences and Best Buy, likely led by consumer insights, will need to arbitrate and define which brands make sense to have experiences and which do not.

    Ultimately Best Buy could evolve into a confederation of branded experiences with fewer and fewer opportunities to define their own value proposition in the mix, like a convention center for branded product experiences. Traditional retailers too have been playing with the in-store individual brand experience, including Macy’s, JC Penny and Target, featuring celebrity brands such as Martha Stewart and large branded displays for brands such as Starbucks, a retail giant in its own right.

    Best Buy may likely be held hostage by the needs of the brands to use their venue to tell their stories as much as close sales. The implications could be huge for Best Buy and retail. Demand creation will change, shopper experiences will change, business models will change, marketing budgets will be reallocated and retailers will redesign their organizations around this new Brand Experience focus. That is how I see what appears to be a benign rivalry massively influencing the bigger consumer electronics landscape.

    Bill Chidley is SVP, Executive Consultant, Interbrand Design Forum.

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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: Graham Hales on Thursday, October 18 2012 08:43 PM | Comments (0)

    In these difficult times, armed with their digital voice, we can quickly see the changes in public sentiment. Getting on the wrong side of the mood of the moment can prove expensive.

    Take something we all feel emotionally about: taxes.

    In the UK recent studies showed that public sentiment quickly turned against celebrities who have taken advise to minimize their tax bills. Such schemes are often totally legal, but still feel wrong to the public. After all, the general public has no such access to the expert pin-striped financial advice and see no option for themselves other than to pay their fair way and therefore contribute proportionally to public services.

    The comedian Jimmy Carr was a recent notable case. He had not violated tax laws, but he allegedly used a tax avoidance scheme that was deemed inappropriate in the court of public opinion. He spotted that misjudging public sentiment could be costly to the value of his celebrity and more expensive mistake than paying his perceived tax obligations outright. Carr quickly apologized and recompensed the public coffers.

    But what of corporations that use sharp tax practices to avoid paying taxes in the countries where they derive income? Doesn't this have the potential to be perceived as even worse in the public eye?

    Brands benefit from their popularity across the globe. They can also be harmed when consumer sentiment turns.

    As reported in brandchannel, US companies doing business in the UK, including Starbucks, Facebook, Google and Amazon, are now finding themselves in the hot seat for paying staggeringly low tax rates in the UK. Accordingly, the risk of public wrath for the customers in the UK who help create wealth for these brands could be staggeringly high.

    The corporate world has had public image and trust issues for many years now. If much beloved celebrity entertainers such as Jimmy Carr can be compelled to be contrite and publicly apologize, what are the dangers to brand value it has taken companies years to build?

    Risk managers and tax advisers would do well to engage in listening to public sentiment and consider its potential damage to brand value. The lesson from the Shareholder Spring, the Occupy Movement and the rise of consumer power in the post-digital age is that there is little acceptance of separate rules for companies and individuals when it comes to rights and responsibilities. Being a good citizen matters for brands and consumers alike.

    Starbucks, Facebook, Google and Amazon are all top 100 brands on our Best Global Brands 2012 report because, as Interbrand's CEO Jez Frampton notes, they have demonstrating an understanding of "the role they play in peoples' lives and respond accordingly — building on successes and making up for mistakes. They are constantly nurturing their brands to keep pace in a rapidly changing world; they know that every market is different, every interaction counts, and every individual matters. Quite an achievement in such turbulent times." But in this instance, on this issue, they appear to be teetering on the brink of a PR disaster that without an appropriate response will evidently unfold in the not so distant future.

    Brands need to remember they have the power to change the world. And are expected to be good citizens within it. As Jimmy Carr found, misjudging public sentiment is no laughing matter. Playing fair and remembering how savvy consumers are in a world with constant global information are keys to building better brands now. As Tom Zara and Peter Cendella note in Citizens All: The New Rules of Corporate Citizenship, "It’s about the credibility of a company’s culture of citizenship."


    Graham Hales is CEO of Interbrand London.

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  • Posted by: Nicole Briggs on Monday, September 17 2012 06:13 PM | Comments (0)


    In the world of logos, change is often necessary. Changing a logo introduces a new direction of a company or a brand. When times are constantly changing, companies are forced to keep up with new trends, sales and competition. The decision to alter a logo can come when it no longer fits the business market, an aspect of the design may no longer represent the company, or when a company is beginning a new era and looking for a new direction.

    A logo identifies a company or product through the use of a symbol, mark or signature. The appearance of a logo can be as important as its meaning. Think of a logo as a first impression of a brand. To make the point clearer, think of a logo as a person. It may be quite difficult to remember a person’s name but a bit easier to remember the person as “the girl with the fluffy pink shirt and blue hair."

    A logo can act as a badge of honor in a way, earning dominance. Take Nike, for example. Over the years Nike has chosen to use a symbol-only strategy, dropping the word Nike and just featuring a swoosh. Nike had become a dominant fixture in its category and can stand on its own with just a symbol through extensive marketing.

    Having a distinctive or effective logo is important. A logo is used primarily to promote instant public recognition of a brand. Logos can give personality to a brand. First glance at a logo can give you a sense of the company’s character. Think of Disney’s logo, for example. Disney’s logo appears whimsical and magical, giving you the sense that it is a brand that is positioned around entertainment. A logo helps identify a business in its simplest form. When a consumer sees the famous golden arches, they automatically think of McDonald's.

    Earlier this month Optimum launched a new logo, intended to align with their current change in brand strategy. According to Andrew Deitchman, Partner/co-Founder of Mother NY, “So our first campaign is about making Optimum's services as simple, seamless, and straightforward as they can be."


    The new logo is clearer, cleaner and significantly simpler than the old logo. While the new logo may not seem very complex from a design perspective, it is effective. Optimum's logo change matters because it aligns with the company’s simplistic approach. The change is geared toward a new direction. Optimum took a somewhat more complicated design and simplified it, which is something they aim to do with their services.

    Optimum launched a commercial to welcome their customers to the new logo. It helps customers understand the change and clarifies that Optimum still offers the same great TV, phone and internet, just with a new logo. It also introduces new good-humored brand voice. The commercial ends with a statement that Optimum wants their consumers to remember. “Those guys are really good at TV, phone and internet. And I don’t mind their logo.” It works because it has a fresh, modern feel, giving it appeal to younger consumers. In this case a new logo means a better, clearer, and simpler direction.

    In August, Microsoft also released a new logo. The new logo represents a new beginning, according to Microsoft’s blog. Like Optimum, the new Microsoft logo is also effective for the company’s vision. The logo is symbolic of and is inspired by all of their different products wrapped into one, while it remains true to core values and design.

    The new logo change comes in a year that is self-proclaimed as a new era for Microsoft. This year they are preparing to release new versions of all of their products. Change matters for Microsoft because it symbolizes growth in a new direction and the re-imaging of its identity. Microsoft’s re-imaging also represents distinction from its competitor Apple, which is known for its colorless grey palette.

    “That’s why the new Microsoft logo takes its inspiration from our product design principles while drawing upon the heritage of our brand values, fonts and colors.” ~Microsoft


    The Microsoft logo had transformed over the years. The new logo marks the first time a symbol has preceded the mark. Take a look at the new look in the video clip below.


    In the world of logos, change matters. It allows a brand’s unique personality to stand out among the competition. Change is effective when its visual expression of the brand strategy is used to increase loyalty and mindshare of target audiences.

    Starbucks has demonstrated that change is good. As the company mark its 40th year, they decided to roll out their new logo. The new logo makes Siren the heart of Starbucks, the welcoming face.

    The logo celebrates the Siren in a vibrant way. Starbucks made the logo more prominent, while retaining its green circle and distinctive features. It is a new logo, but it is still clearly recognizable to consumers. This change was good and necessary, allowing for their visual identity to sit above the barriers of languages and to be known across the global by just a symbol, as seen with Apple and Nike.

    What are some of your favorite logo transformations?

    Nicole Briggs is an Associate Trademark Consultant for Interbrand.

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