—Dave Taylor, Taylor Brand Group

In this age of fiercely defended intellectual property, it’s tough developing even a single new product name.  Registered trademarks guard their brand territory in every industry and fence out their competitors. Launching a new product name can take months or years of name generating, testing, and legal process.

Done well, a sound naming strategy can help establish your brand as the high ground in the marketplace battlefield, where it will be aspired to, imitated and competed against by lesser brands struggling to reach the top.

Done poorly, product names can have awkward connotations, comprehension issues, or nagging legal problems that will cause confusion among your prospects and customers, and pay for new furniture in your attorney’s beach house.

Yet amid the difficulty of getting even one product name right, Honda Motors has gracefully created a whole family of product brands that couldn’t have been better if not a single circle R stood in their way. Consider their two most popular models, the Civic and the Accord. Link them together with other successful models, the Prelude, or the Pilot. Ahhh, do you feel it? There is a reassuring promise of peace and harmony that comes from not just one of those names, but all four of them. The Insight, the Fit and even the quirky Element are equally well integrated into the Honda family of pleasant, calming automobile trademarks. Each name has meaning we instantly understand, but in addition they work seamlessly together as a family of brands.


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One good thing leads to another, or perhaps, vice versa (then again, maybe not):

    

Odds are, you probably are familiar with the logo on the left, but maybe not the history behind the brand and company it represents. Apparently, a guy named Jimmy John Liataud founded Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches in Charleston, Illinois, in 1983, and since then, has grown his successful franchised restaurant business to more than 1,000 locations in 38 states, including many in Minnesota.

And, I’m guessing most of you haven’t encountered the logo on the right, so, hat tip to Ed, who guessed right that it would capture my interest. Apparently, a second generation family business called Jimmy’s Johnnys was founded in the northern suburbs of St. Paul, Minnesota, four years before Jimmy John’s came into existence, all the way back in 1979.

Branding conflict? Trademark problem? Antitrust problem via brand extension and vertical integration (for tongue-in-cheek reasons that will become more apparent far, far below)?

Need more information?

What if Jimmy’s Johnnys isn’t selling sandwiches at all, but assuming its position in the food chain, by helping dispose of them, through this business (answer below the jump):


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"The name is Bond, James Bond," said Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Daniel Craig, among others, countless times in film, as part of the famous 007 series. An ideal name for a secret agent. A name and line not easily forgotten, as brands and taglines should be.

And then, there are some names you’d like to forget, but can’t, especially if they are associated with personal injury lawyers, who probably "suk" even more than trademark lawyers (who merely have been dubbed the most basic figure), right?

Well, using Dan’s post from Friday, as a catapult (or, perhaps a hole-digger) for discussion, I’m thinking the jury is still out on 3 being the magic number, at least as it pertains to the 3 letters forming a rather rare surname (Suk) and the same number of words forming a curious (and hopefully misdescriptive) law firm name (Suk Law Firm), so, sorry Dan, I’m not sure there is any way to pull a rabbit out of the hat on this troubled tripartite branding combination:

Seeing the signage here, I’m thinking that any new or temporary receptionists at this law firm automatically require more intense phonetic training than your average law firm receptionist. In fact, this little gem (hat tip and photo credit to Max) probably rivals those spotted by Mark Prus in his recent guest post entitled: "Name Development Faux Pas, a.k.a. What Were They Thinking?!"

Ironically, the tagline for the Suk Law Firm is composed of these 3 words too: "Think About It."

So, I’m assuming they followed their own advice and did, but nevertheless, it probably came down the same way the Drury Inns name did, since the surnames in question no doubt have a great deal of goodwill associated with and emotional attachment to their founders. Might a naming consultant, nevertheless have said, forgetaboutit?

In any event, one of the things I’d be inclined to think about is how the brand name might sound when spoken, especially in a world where word-of-mouth marketing is key, and also how it might be perceived by those in the relevant public, given the possible truncation from its four-letter cousin. Apparently Suk, when the surname meaning is intended, sounds like "cook" or "book," not "pluck" or "stuck." Oh, the things phonetic punctuation symbols can and should be used to do, to help guide the intended meaning by signaling long and short vowel sounds! 

On a related note, it reminds me of the unintended meanings that can result when critical spacing is omitted, as was the case, between the branded words "LA  MER" to yield LAMER.

Although mispronouncing the Suk surname may be bad enough, when one examines the derivation of the name, it doesn’t appear to improve much on the meaning front either, since Suk apparently is not only a nickname for a "powerful, unyielding man," but also a "stubborn, awkward one". Hmmm, it’s all beginning to make sense now.

For those with any modicum of lingering interest, the Trademark Office’s treatment of SUK appears below the jump.


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These kinds of signs — that appear to single out Rollerblade brand in-line skate loyalists — are all over the place. This one happens to be in the parking garage I use in downtown Minneapolis.

To understand why the Rollerblade brand may find itself in this perilous position, read on, here.

For some additional reading on the related question of verbing brands