Automotive Think Tank Final Thoughts: Kennedy Placek
September 1, 2016


No one expected the age of globalization to start when it did. No one thought life in the 19th century would go from rural to highly interconnected and industrialized in a blink of an eye. No one expected the housing bubble in 2006 to burst and bring most of the world’s income to a crashing halt. No one fathomed that ISIS would transform into a terrorist organization that now generates more than $2 million in funds every day. The point is, it is inevitable that the world as we know it will change. And, as humans of this planet, we are mere witnesses of such changes.

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The ABCs of Media
June 10, 2016


Intent on upending the notion that their offerings were strictly family-friendly fare, ABC approached Lexicon to establish a new identity for their network – one that better reflected its fluid audience. The jump from such a descriptive name to a much more imaginative moniker – Freeform – certainly opened the door for the brand to stand for so much more. But it also represents a larger shift in the branding of new media; we are now in an era of entertainment where disruptive freshmen like Netflix and Amazon, which have a keen sense of brand, are seriously repositioning the incumbents.

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Uncanny Similarity
March 4, 2016


Life imitates art. It is a foregone conclusion for futurologists that much of the technology that lies ahead will have been somehow imagined in the past. Yes, futurology – it's an actual thing. Igor Sikorsky, inventor of the helicopter, was inspired by Jules Verne’s 1886 sci-fi novel, Clipper of the Clouds. The Smithsonian catalogs ten inventions inspired by science fiction, including the rocket, the submarine, and the cell phone. Much of the technology we live with today had once been just a dream in the mind of novelists and stargazers.

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Getting A Brand Name Right
March 31, 2015


Once a brand name is established in the marketplace, changing it can become costly for the brand owner and confusing for the consumer – however, some changes are for the better in the long run. There's a select group of companies that have had the good fortune of being able to merely compress their existing name to deliver a new, distinctive idea. Federal Express simply shed three syllables to become the hipper, more modern FedEx in 1994, and Nestlé Quik made two steps forward at once when it changed its worldwide name to the shorter one already established in Europe, Nesquik, creating a unified brand. Similarly, Kentucky Fried Chicken also got a proverbial two-for-one by changing its name to KFC, since the new name was not only quicker and crisper, but also help them avoid the need to pay a licensing fee after the state of Kentucky trademarked its name.

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Defy Description
March 10, 2014


Your brand name should be the one thing competitors can’t take away from you. That’s not the case if your name is too descriptive. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, the crime and punishment division of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), doled out an important lesson last month. Two lessons, really.

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Understanding The "X" Factor
September 26, 2011


Not long ago Brand X was just a way to dismiss a brand as generic. (Or to diss competitors by not acknowledging them by name in commercials.) Then suddenly X acquired panache and power, as in Microsoft’s Xbox, Nissan’s XTerra, and The X Games from ESPN. What happened? The reasons go back to developments in the culture at large. Since the 17th century, x has served as an algebraic variable along with y and z, all chosen for their out-of-the-way position at the end of the alphabet.

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How Far Will Your Brand Stretch?
July 14, 2011


Four simple rules to make sure your trademark is limber enough to play in the big leagues. Clients looking for a new brand name often warn that it must be easy to spell (among a host of other concerns) when, in reality, that’s a consideration that can have little bearing on a brand’s ability to be embraced. Many brands these days are primarily encountered visually – be it on the web or through advertising – and when all a potential customer has to do is click a link to find out more, they don’t need to know how something is spelled. They just need to know how to get to the brand…wherever it may exist.

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Spelling Matters
March 22, 2011


Lexicon’s latest study reveals the effects of spelling on a brand name’s character

Does how you spell a word really matter? English is rife with spelling rules and idiosyncrasies – for example, there’s the old mnemonic “i before e, except after c.” But what about weird? And then there are the many ways that the string ough can be pronounced: cough, tough, though and through are the usual examples. It’s also the case that a single phonetic form can have a variety of spellings: take the first syllable in cyclone, cider, silo, and psychology.

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Getting the Name You Want: Dealing with Trademark Obstacles
February 17, 2011


I wish there were a marketplace for trademarks. There’s nothing more disheartening than spending time and money developing a short list of potential brand names for your latest entry into the marketplace, only to find the one that works the best, that hits your communication objectives, that everyone on your team is fired up about and ready to support…is unavailable due to a trademark conflict.

Unfortunately, it is all too familiar and likely to stay that way.

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Telling Details
January 6, 2011


In creating new brand names we often look for images related to a product that bring out its essence. Images that may seem quite extraneous at first sometimes turn out to be the most effective when it comes to conveying the essence of an idea. Ordinary English has many examples although, in many cases, the terms have become so commonplace that we often don’t think of them in the context of a picture.

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Honda Loses Market Share (How surprised were we supposed to be?)
January 3, 2011


From a naming standpoint, we weren't surprised at all. The December 30, 2010 Financial Times reports that Honda’s market share dropped by over 5% in the U.S. and by more than 25% in Europe in 2010. Probably there are dozens of technical and business reasons for this. But as a branding company one of the major lessons coming out of this unfortunate news is that bad names affect car sales. Honda’s new Insight is a sleek hybrid with a beginning price under $20,000 in the U.S., and mileage in the 40 mpg range. It drew raves from Car and Driver magazine. Yet the Financial Times reports that sales have been “well below the company’s expectations.”

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The Corporate Name: What Goes Into It and Why Is It So Important?
December 14, 2010


I was recently asked those two questions by a reporter for Forbes. The answers are so key that it’s worth restating them here. Let’s start with the question regarding the importance of a corporate name (or any brand name for that matter.) A corporate name or a product name is important because it represents an opportunity to introduce an idea about the company — what it stands for and, if possible, how it will act in the marketplace.  Apple, Google, and Starbucks are all interesting corporate names.  They each, in their own way, helped their company to communicate that they were going to be different than the other guys — a different computer, a different search experience, a different coffee house.

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Explaining Stuff
October 21, 2010


As one of the linguists at Lexicon, I have a lot of explaining to do – often it’s to clients, about why Name X won’t work in Language Y for Product Z (in compiling our GeoLinguistic Evaluations); or to clients with even greater curiosity, about the meanings of seemingly scary words like ‘obstruent’ and ‘sonorant’ and how they’re important when it comes to sound symbolism. The majority of my explaining, though, happens as part of our proprietary creative and evaluative processes: explaining the various ways a candidate name can be parsed (or broken down and interpreted); effective metaphors for conveying product attributes; the semantic networks for potential name candidates and their components; etc.

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