Posts Tagged ‘brand building’

Brand names that mean nothing

Friday, April 29th, 2011

I’m always intrigued by brand names that are “different”.  It makes me wonder how the company came up with the name, and what it was intended to stand for – the “story” behind the name.  The purist in me shakes me head, but as I admitted in an earlier related blog (What’s in a name?), the realist in me accepts that this is simply reality, especially in today’s online world. 

One brand name that got me thinking was Zoosk (as in, the world’s largest online dating community, and Facebook’s #1 dating application, which has been around since late 2007.  As a happily married person I wouldn’t typically come across, or perhaps be aware of the site, but an ad on TV caught my eye.  My reaction – what a great name, whatever it is or isn’t meant to mean!  It’s short and punchy.  It starts with an unusual letter – and is also a bold move because it’s the last letter of the alphabet, which some would consider as being disadvantageous when it comes to listings, which tend to be alphabetical.  

The name also reminded me of something I learned about branding and selecting a name – that a name is often an empty vessel, which takes on meaning over time, based on what its customers think or feel.  It takes a wise (or brave) brander to settle on a name that appears to have no real meaning to it. 

The brand has been a huge success, that’s obvious.  How much of it is the actual name, which they’ve leveraged to call their community members “Zooskers”?  And how much of it is due to the offering itself and the experience its members have – i.e. that they’ve “gotten it right” and the service is simply better than what’s out there?  Regardless, the name certainly isn’t holding it back, and is more likely adding to the intrigue and appeal of the brand. 

What do you think about the Zoosk name?  Should brand names “mean” something?

Piers Morgan Tonight vs. Larry King Live

Friday, April 15th, 2011

I’m sure when Larry King retired and his long-time show Larry King Live ended there was a lot of speculation about Piers Morgan and whether he’d be able to “replace” Larry King.  We all know it’s always a tough job to fill the shoes of a predecessor…expectations loom and of course comparisons are made.  

I was an occasional Larry King Live viewer, and I’ve remained an occasional Piers Morgan Tonight viewer just the same – initially due to curiosity because of how he was being “sold” to viewers in the lead up to the launch of the new show.  

Is Piers Larry?  No, but he shouldn’t be – he’s Piers, and that’s why CNN hired him for the new show – to appeal to a changing viewer demographic.  Is he shaping up to be all that we expected from the hype?  Not quite (and Larry King would agree) – he’s not that “dangerous”, but Piers is landing some great interviews!  One of the things I do like in him as an interviewer is that he is actually a bit “softer” than Larry, and he (so far) doesn’t interrupt his guests!  He may not have the long-time relationships with many guests that the older King developed over time, but he does seem to have a reasonable “arsenal” just the same, and likely the potential to develop these over time just as Larry did. 

I thought it was very bold of Piers to launch his show with one of the world’s best, and most popular interviewers as his first guest/interview, namely Oprah Winfrey.  On the one hand it showed that he could land the great interviews, just like Larry, but in watching the interview it was clear that he was in awe of Oprah, and he instead came across as somewhat timid and lacking in confidence – not the “dangerous”, arrogant, killer interviewer he was built up to be.  In many ways it felt like a very awkward interview, but good for him for going out on a limb for his first interview, and of course in the end getting the “thumbs up” endorsement from Oprah!  There was method to his madness!

While the initial ratings for the show weren’t where CNN would like them to be, I think they’ll find that this might be transitional as people get used to the “real” Piers Morgan vs. the one they were “sold” (or over-sold).  That, or maybe they got it wrong and Piers isn’t a good – or better – fit than Larry for the viewer demographic.  I guess time will tell whether the Piers Morgan brand succeeds in its appeal.

What do you think?  Is Piers Morgan a good replacement for Larry King?  Were we over-sold?

Corporate social responsibility takes a new twist

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Whether or not you’re a hockey fan, it’s almost impossible to not be noticing the uproar surrounding the latest NHL “head shot” injury, and violence in hockey in general.  What I find most fascinating about the current situation is that sponsors are taking a stand and flexing their muscle, in the spirit of corporate social responsibility.  Now that’s a new, and welcome, twist on corporate social responsibility!  While it’s a shame that it has come to this, kudos to Air Canada and other sponsors such as Tim Hortons Inc. and BCE Inc. for lobbying the NHL, and in the case of Air Canada, threatening to withdraw its sponsorship dollars.  

While the arrogant and dismissive response by Gary Bettman indicates he doesn’t believe that this loss of sponsor dollars would harm the NHL, it’s also a signal that he sees the sponsorship as a one-sided affair – with only the NHL calling the shots.  Does he not realize that the sponsorship arrangement any company enters into is a two-way street, which means that sponsors do matter – that they do in fact have a say, a “vote”.   As someone who’s negotiated her share of sponsorships/advertising deals, the “fit” has to be there for it to work.  The sponsorship has to align with a company’s core values and what it stands for, whether it’s positioned as corporate social responsibility or not.  Right now, clearly NHL hockey – and specifically how the game is played (because it has gotten so dangerous with head shot injuries, whether intentional or not) – isn’t seen as the right fit for some companies.  I don’t blame them not wanting to have their brands associated with this kind of “violence” or image. 

In the bigger picture, someone has to take a stand.  Players?  Owners?  Sponsors?  Advertisers?  Ticket holders?  TV Viewers?  Fans in general?  Arguably corporate social responsibility doesn’t only apply to sponsors…it should also apply to the players and their union, the owners (and GMs), the fans, and the league itself.   Air Canada took the first step, but so far it doesn’t seem like it was enough.  Will they ultimately pull the plug?  I guess time will tell.  What I do know is that right now I think of Air Canada in a much more positive light – good for them for taking a stand, whether it works in the end or not.    

What do you think about NHL sponsors taking a stand against violence in hockey under the guise of corporate social responsibility?  If anything, you have to admit it’s a pretty clever angle to play to get heard and have a positive impact amidst all the noise!