Gatorade’s efforts to re-brand as “G” have been a dismal failure. It seems as if the brand management staff at Gatorade consumed a few too many cold beverages while making this decision, and I’m not referring to refrigerated Gatorades.

The history of the G re-brand has its roots in 2007. Unit sales were flat in 2007 compared with 2006, after three years of double digit growth, according to market research firm Information Resources Inc (IRI). More poor results followed in 2008 despite product innovations and brand revitalization efforts (here and here).  In January 2009, Gatorade started the G re-brand. The G re-brand has done nothing to improve Gatorade’s bottom line. In fact, it has harmed the bottom line.

The decision to modify a brand name should not be taken lightly. A brand name communicates the essence of the brand to consumers. According to Rick Baer, Professor of Marketing at Thunderbird School of Global Management and former Global Brand Manager with Colgate-Palmolive and Dial Corporation, a brand name “should conjure up all the associations and images you want for your brand”. Does G accomplish that? The answer is a resounding no.


Continue Reading What’s G? For Gatorade, G is Gruesome

"What am I?"

Every invention begs this essential question of identity.

The answer is found in the product’s descriptor. A descriptor defines a thing, categorizing it, framing it, positioning it and signaling its intended future.

A product that doesn’t claim to break new ground adopts its category’s standard convention. For example, a new, run-of-the-mill digital camera would be marketed as a "digital camera".

A revolutionary product, on the other hand, deserves an innovative product descriptor. And, sometimes, a me-too product benefits from one, too.

The trouble is, innovation is easier done than said.

I wrote in this article about the "brander’s paradox": Human instincts make us wary of unfamiliar and different things, yet differentiation is essential to a product’s success.

By definition, an innovation is unfamiliar. How can its product descriptor differentiate without triggering people’s fear of the unknown?

The New York Times gives us an idea in this recent article about product descriptors,

"When people encounter something they don’t recognize, they make sense of it by associating it with something familiar."

The most effective new descriptors combine familiar terms in unfamiliar ways. They make product function or form clearly understood, even upon first exposure. Novel descriptors insufficiently informative should at the very least pique interest.

Descriptors that differ

The products shown below the jump illustrate different approaches:


Continue Reading Describe Different