The iPhones, iPains & iProblems
by Naseem Javed
The appendage of the letter "i" to a word as an aim to create an icon is silly... momentary, short-term fame and glory may be possible, but to create a long lasting, global, iconic mark is very doubtful. What makes an icon is also the exclusive longevity of its unique name, and for that reason, you have examples of Rolex and not iWatch; Panasonic and not iTV.
Terms like, interactive- portable- device were behind creating the name iPod, and has now become responsible for the race for the letter "i" to be ingrained in just about every product category, from: iCell, iCar, iBank to iBrick and just about every word including iCopy. Feeble minds somehow gravitate towards the copying process and feel secure by joining the happy-go-lucky bandwagon, rather than taking an original approach.
Therefore branding agencies feel very comfortable upon announcing names like iLock, iGrass, or iTravel, to captive focus group audiences, names where the co-dependant participants jump in joy in approval with these so-called brilliant name ideas... most of these naming attempts do not see the light of the next season.
Most will remember the other recent short-lived craze of adding the letter "e" to convey electronic was a huge fad, pursued originally by the electronic wizards and later adopted by the real copycats like eSteel and eLumber or eCement, mostly now in the eCemetry. Millions of dollars were wasted by each such copycat as they played to these expensive loony e-tunes.
There is nothing wrong in being wildly original, gutsy and or at times silly, provided you have a long term strategy of protecting your intellectual property assets. There are Yahoo, Google and many other unusual, light hearted names over something overly rigid and trying to be unique at any cost like, EXZIXIVENT Systems.
Regardless and at any cost, those corporations actively engaged in playing competitive war games in the marketplace and advancing their flotillas of name brand ships must have these new name identities of their advancing brands under the cover of solid intellectual property and a well-planned strategy, and not accidental naming. In a time where a few dollars research on Google will tell you who owns what trademark, and how many others are using a similar name it is still amazing that billion dollar companies with millions in promotional campaigns would get caught up in these i-stupid games.
Apple Computer is still recovering from battle fatigue from their long and bitter dispute with The Beatles over ownership of 'Apple Records', and after paying huge undisclosed settlements over the use of similar names in music has now gotten into other i-soups. The entire Silicon Valley has a long history of naming fiascoes as the same brilliant engineers and hi-tech wizards have very often missed out on matters of iconization. We have now entered into a time where cyber-branding shrinks the globe by the seconds and only professionally structured corporate image and name identities have a chance to play out the real marketing and branding games.
Just Prove It
If you have a super brand, then let the whole world see it, if you have absolute 100% ownership of that brand, prove it. Proving an absolute ownership only takes a search on Google, demonstrating how unique and one-of-a-kind a name brand is. Today, around the world, 95% of brands do not have full ownership. They may have logos, unique designs, colorful executions, banners and billboards, but as long as there are far too many identical and similar names all over the marketplace, the issue of 100% ownership stays behind. Global icons like Sony, Rolex, or PlayStation are 100% owned, and all over the world there is absolutely no confusion about this whatsoever. Therefore without iron-clad ownership of the name identity, the organization is left holding logos and billboards and this makes the entire advertising and marketing process nothing but an uphill losing battle.
Quick Test: A 5-Star Standard of Naming Critical for 100% ownership.
Your name will earn a single star for your name being very simple, one more for being very unique, add one more for being highly related and pertinent to the type and style of business, plus add one more for having a globally-protected trademark system in place and lastly, add one more star for your name having an identical matching dotcom, for cyber branding and to have a universal ride on the global e-commerce highway.
Now that you have 5 Stars, you can enjoy a great image and name identity profile, as you have the freedom to take your brand into foreign countries without fears and worries, and you have a long term brand equity already building and growing your persona... you are on the right track towards having a great icon.
With 4 Stars, obviously something is lacking, therefore the cost of pushing the message is high and progress is slow. With 3 Stars, the limitations can be very obvious, the struggle keeps the brand spinning and most efforts are being wasted. 2 Stars, the brand is seriously damaged and all the effort of advertising are futile, in addition to a disconnected relationship with the customer and consequent marketing confusion. Regional or global expansion is a serious hurdle. With 1 Star, the brand is dying, and will not survive. With 0 Stars; there is no point in continuing.
Today, there are only less than 1% of 5 Star Brands, while the rest would hardly earn 1-2, indicating the current state of branding and the lack of iconization, while big corporations all over the world are convinced that they have the best name brands. Most have a tendency to deny these key branding issues, while ad agencies continue to iSpend with seemingly endless iBudgets, resulting in an iProblem. The key question of branding is having a clear 100% Brand Ownership.
Conclusion: There are some very serious and very bright projects out there, under the guidance of bright teams working behind, but there is a serious disconnection when it comes to long-term and long lasting naming architecture and branding strategies. What is most critically lacking are the pillars of branding for iconization, leading to 100% OWNERSHIP.
Naseem Javed is recognized as a world authority on Corporate Image and Global Cyber-Branding. Author of Naming for Power , he introduced The Laws of Corporate Naming in the 80's and also founded ABC Namebank International www.abcnamebank.com a consultancy established in Toronto and New York a quarter century ago. Currently, Naseem is on a lecture tour in Asia and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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