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  • Posted by: Eden White and Taylor Goddu on Monday, March 3 2014 01:09 PM | Comments (0)

    MobileIn our continued conversation on technology and branding, we took a look at some of the tech names that emerged from this year’s Mobile World Congress.

    Take the Samsung Galaxy S5, the latest in the company’s ever-evolving Galaxy S line of smartphones. Aside from updates to the actual interface, forget having to submerge your phone in a bowl of rice — it’s now waterproof. There’s also a fingerprint scanner and a sensor in the back that acts as a heart-rate monitor and tracks your vitals. But while the S5 is the latest extension of the Galaxy portfolio, for a product that seems to be heavily focused on new features, the name doesn’t capitalize on any new applications, and might get lost in the greater Milky Way of phones.

    There’s also Samsung Gear, a line of watches and wearables. Last summer, Samsung dropped “Galaxy” from the product name. Why the change? In the latest revamp of the product, Tizen replaced Android as Samsung’s operating system of choice, and since “Galaxy” is reserved for Samsung’s Android-powered devices, the name change effectively signaled a strategic shift. “Gear” is a strong standalone name in that the product functions like a well-oiled machine. From emails, texts and calls, to even a pedometer, life is easier with everything directly at your wrist. With “Galaxy” now reserved for smartphones and tablets, Samsung’s overall portfolio is easier for consumers to navigate.

    The flip side of these high-tech devices are budget-friendly smartphones, like the Nokia X, the LG F70 (by LG Electronics), or the BlackBerry Z3. They all have a price tag of $200 or below and are all named with letters or alphanumerics. It’s a particularly effective strategy to drive brand equity back to the masterbrand—think about the luxury automotive world, where alphanumerics have long since been used to define the class of a car. When a lower price point is driving your decision in buying a phone, consumers might be less focused on specific features, but more attuned to the reputation of the overall brand.

    We’re seeing a difference in naming strategy based on price points and audiences, and we’re curious to see if this trend will stick or if new naming techniques will take hold. What do you think?

    Eden White and Taylor Goddu are Associate Consultants in Interbrand New York’s Verbal Identity.

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  • Posted by: Katie Conneally on Friday, January 24 2014 05:05 PM | Comments (0)

    Today is the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh computer, and as CES 2014 proves, we've come a long way since then. While this is the end of our CES naming wrap up, this is just the start of a conversation on technology and branding that we’ll continue in future blog posts.

    After taking a look at the names for trending and everyday technology that came out of CES 2014, it’s clear that companies are trying to pack in as much meaning as possible, favoring descriptive names that ensure clarity. Which begs the question: how do you name an emerging technology—those things that are less product, and more concept—if it’s something the world has not yet described?

    Take Edison, the latest, greatest miniature computer from Intel. It’s a 22 nanometer dual-core PC, a little bigger than a postage stamp, that has the potential to transform wearable technology into something much more powerful. But its exact purpose isn’t known yet, which is why Intel is offering developers over a million dollars in prize money in their “Make it Wearable” competition. 


    And the name? A nod to Thomas Edison, one of the great inventors who made much of the technology we have today possible. That’s a pretty big legacy to live up to in a name, but the product seems like it may be able to deliver. The name Edison also seems like a challenger to IBM’s Watson, the artificially intelligent computer who once bested humans at Jeopardy. Game on.

    There’s also Oculus Rift VR, an augmented reality headset that you wear while playing video games. The name sounds techy and cool, and alludes to the act of seeing through the goggles, while also conveying the idea of a rift between what’s real and what’s virtual. 

    But the product feels like so much more, and early uses for it are stepping outside of the gaming world. With a name so targeted toward a gaming audience, there’s a risk of alienating those who fall outside that space, and a chance that really interesting applications of the product may be overlooked.

    Auto-maker Ford got into the technology game at CES 2014, releasing a concept car called the C-Max Solar Energi Concept. It’s an electric car and a solar powered charging station all-in-one, with solar panels on the roof to charge the car’s batteries. 

    But while the car itself may be efficient, the name certainly is not. It’s an extension of their line of C-Max Hybrid cars, but the unnecessary coining of “Energi” makes it seem trite. Coining a name to say “cool” falls flat when it doesn’t have a broader purpose. Since this is a concept, there’s time to change the name and we hope Ford can find something that expresses just how amazing this product has the potential to be.

    As we wrap this year’s review of names from CES 2014, we’re excited to see what next year brings. Will the names suggest experiences beyond our wildest imagination? Or will companies stay with the trend of descriptive naming? All we know is that as technology gets more and more advanced, names will play a critical role in helping consumers understand and connect to the next big thing.

    Katie Conneally is a Consultant, Verbal Identity at Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Caitlin Barrett on Thursday, January 23 2014 10:58 AM | Comments (0)


    The great and the groan-worthy: 2013 names in review

    January is a time of reflection for Interbrand New York’s Verbal Identity team. Every year, we resolve to learn from the best—and worst—of the previous 12 months. From a spotlight on simplicity to a procession of oh-no-they-didn’t “faux-nuts,” 2013 gave us plenty to ponder.

    Let’s start with the great:

    Bucking the notion that technology needs to sound, well, techie, Google Glass (and others, like last year’s Microsoft Surface) lets consumers attribute the techie-ness to the product, instead using the name to redefine what we think of the form factor. We hope to see more of this in 2014 as technology moves into wearables and everyday items.

    The beauty of the Waze app showed us the way to name this year, giving the GPS category (and new owner) a beacon of ease and effortlessness.

    Vocativ brought us back to bold, and reinforced the notion that a brand is only as strong as its willingness to live up to its name. Vocativ came out of the gate strong with an in-your-face-mission to discover the stories other news organizations miss.

    Google’s Project Loon was another winner—a network of balloons sent to the edge of space to expand Internet coverage. Loon conjures an image of a flock of birds and references balloons, but it’s also a playful nod to the reaction one might get when pitching the concept of sending balloons into space.

    Amazon introduced its corporate citizenship program, AmazonSmile. As we noted, Corporate Citizenship naming is becoming more personal, more tied to a brand’s role in the world. A reference to Amazon’s smiling logo, the name expands the definition of the joy the company is able to deliver.

    And end with the groans:

    Last year gave us the VagX Lumisac. This year, Fukuppy was placed on our doorstep. We always say that even when it’s local, it’s global—skip your linguistic disaster check, and worldwide laughter might ensue.

    (Technically, Kat Von D’s Celebutard lipstick should have been number one, but we didn’t feel a name this bad deserved any special honors.)

    The promise of Maybelline Baby Lips is fantastic—baby-soft is an adjective we’re all OK with. But something about seeing it in noun form gives us a case of the uncomfortables—it sounds like Maybelline is selling actual baby lips.

    Sort-a-neat Laundry Basket. We’ll file this under so clever it makes itself sound mediocre.

    The team here is torn about the name Cronut: on one hand, it doesn’t sound the least bit delicious (“Crone Nuts? Gross.”) but it is a terrifically functional name (“Oh, it’s a hybrid croissant-donut? I get it.”). What the verbal identity team can agree on is that some of the worst names of the year were attached to the me-too pastries that tried to ride Cronut’s sweet, sweet coattails. We saw the rapid genericide of the term as “cro-nuts” were sold across the country. We saw scone-donut hybrids called Sconuts, a crazy cronut called the Craynut, the maybe-Kardashian-inspired Kronut Krullers, an ooh-la-la version called Doughsánts, the barely-making-it-a-different thing Croughnuts, and the grossest of the lot, Crumbnuts. One ripoff we can respect? Croissant Doughnuts. Gregory’s Coffee, we salute you for calling it like you see it.

    The Yoga tablet from Lenovo, while not an outright disaster, awkwardly attributes an age-old spiritual practice to a tech device. It's meant to reference the flexibility of the device, but the spiritual perspective feels like a big promise for a device that’s only breakthrough is in its form factor.

    Android released a phone in early 2013 and named it the HTC First. Then it released the HTC One—a more advanced phone. While versioning is always tough, we’re having a hard time imagining customers understanding why they’re better off going from First to One. (We’ve also heard rumblings that an HTC One 2 will be released in 2014…)

    And we’ll end this party with a name that would ruin any party: Tyson’s Any’tizers Wyngz. We might have turned a blind eye to the Any’tizers line of snacks, but when we noticed an asterisk next to Wyngz calling out that they contained no actual chicken wing meat? It’s hard for consumers to trust brands when their names become shorthand for “not what it sounds like.”

    2014 promises to bring more delights and disasters—and we’ll learn our lesson from every last one.

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

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  • Posted by: Katie Conneally on Friday, January 17 2014 04:05 PM | Comments (0)

    We’ve looked at how companies are naming some of the biggest trends in technology, but what about the names for everyday products? This year’s CES was a treasure trove of technology that stands could impact on our day-to-day lives. With many names leaning toward the descriptive, it’s clear that companies are prioritizing making it easy for their audience to get what they do, even if the product isn’t as simple.

    Our smart phones have almost become a part of us, so it’s no surprise that many companies launched products for mobile phones at CES. Take Prong, whose PocketPlug is a case for your iPhone that plugs directly into the wall for easy charging, no pesky USB cables needed. The name itself is descriptive and alliterative, making it fun to say and hard to forget.

    One of the more fun phone accessories launched this year was TYPO, a physical Blackberry-esque keyboard for your iPhone. As a play on “typing” the name speaks to the function of the product, and as a real word; TYPO suggests that it helps users avoid exactly what the name describes.

    The smart watch is at the crossroads between mobile accessories and wearable technology. The original Pebble launched at CES last year, and a new version was announced this year: the Pebble Steel. As the name promises, the Pebble Steel offers high-quality materials, enhanced durability, and more of a metallic look. We don’t often see companies name to materials in the tech space — it may be shortsighted with such a quick pace of innovation and changes in manufacturing — so we’re curious to see how long the Pebble Steel will last.

    Outside of the mobile space, everyday products for the home took the stage. Clio, from ClearView Audio, is an “invisible” speaker for the home. Like the design, its name has the ability to blend into your life with a very human and familiar tonality; it sounds identical to the human name “Cleo.” Clio also evokes clarity, both of the sound and of the device itself, and is a suggestive and coined name that works well for the product.

    And the craziest thing that has the potential to become a part of your daily routine? That’s PulseWallet from Fujitsu, a cash register that scans the veins in your hand to collect payment. Another real word composite name, it taps into everyday terminology to tell you what it does, and uses friendly language to make something futuristic seem not that far out.

    Knowing this, if we had to venture a guess at what Samsung executives might name their new 85-inch bendable TV, we’d lean toward the descriptive. It gives them a chance to define the product in their own terms, and can tell users what to expect from something they haven’t seen before.

    Katie Conneally is a Consultant, Verbal Identity at Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Fell Gray on Friday, July 26 2013 01:00 PM | Comments (0)

    eBay's Transformation

    From the E to the I to the M: Keeping Up with Tech Naming

    With the impending Internet of Things changing conversations across industries, many organizations are focused on developing their first “connected” products. From cars to door knobs, just about everyone is exploring how Wi-Fi or cellular capabilities will provide a higher order of value to their customers.

    And with these new innovations, brands want to let everyone know they are a part of this new ecosystem. The natural place to start is naming. But that’s where brands need to be careful.

    This is the third time in 15 years a new technology, or technology trend, has reached a large enough scale to disrupt non-tech categories. Each time, names have gravitated to a kind of shorthand. First came the e-names and then the Apple-inspired i-names. So it’s not surprising that we are hearing about m-names as mobile (or M2M) technology is integrated.

    The challenge with adopting the latest tech trends in your naming approach is the speed of tech adoption. In a year or two, innovation will more than likely be recast as tablestakes—and your name might not hold up to changing expectations.

    Then, Then Again, Now

    Names that signal the technology can be a viable strategy. When technology takes on a new role, consumers need to change their behavior. And so, first-to-market names need to help with the heavy lifting of customer education. A good example: IBM. With e-business, IBM picked a name (and message) that would reassure their customers it would still be “business as usual,” just with the added efficiencies of being managed electronically.

    Here’s the risk: as fast followers join with similar capabilities and take on the same naming convention, your name will get lost in a sea of sameness. To see where you might be a few years down the road, one only needs to look at the names that were prevalent at CES 2013—ipotty, isockets, iWatch Life, Energi .

    Mobile, connected, smart—these kinds of words will not help brands differentiate themselves from one another for long. So, as you consider what your name can credibly claim today, be certain to stretch beyond today’s functionality. It will help you to stay ahead of the curve and connect with tomorrow’s demand.

    This week's guest author, Fell Gray, is Senior Director of Verbal Identity for Interbrand New York. She is also the practice leader for Brand Voice.

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