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The “I” of the storm: iPhones, iPains, and iProblems

Placing the lower case "i" next to a word as a way to create an icon is silly, and even though short-term fame and glory may be possible, the chances of creating a long-lasting, global iconic mark is very doubtful. What really makes an icon is 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 and portable were behind the creation of the name iPod, which now is responsible for the letter "i" being ingrained in just about every product category, from iCell, iCar, and 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 announcing names like iLock, iGrass, or iTravel to captive, focus-group audiences, names that cause the co-dependent participants jump for joy in approval, even though most of these names will not see the light of the next season.

Most will remember that another recent, short-lived craze, adding the letter "e" to convey electronic, was a huge fad. It originally was pursued by electronic wizards and later adopted by copycats like eSteel and eLumber or eCement - now mostly in the eCemetry. Millions of dollars were wasted by copycats as they marched to these expensive and loony e-tunes.

There is nothing wrong in being wildly original, gutsy, or at times silly, provided you have a long-term strategy of protecting your intellectual property assets. There are examples like Yahoo, Google, and many other unusual, light-hearted names that are not overly rigid and don't try to be unique at any cost.

IP games

Regardless, and at any cost, those corporations actively engaged in playing competitive war games in the marketplace, and in 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. In a time where a few dollars of research on Google will tell you who owns what trademark, and how many others are using a similar name, it still is 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 its 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 (Cisco, for example, is not amused by Apple's new iPhone).

The entire Silicon Valley has a long history of naming fiascoes as the same brilliant engineers and high-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 percent 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 percent 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 percent ownership stays behind.

Global icons like Sony, Rolex, or PlayStation are 100 percent 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.

Five-star standard

Your name will earn a single star for being very simple, one more for being very unique. Add one more star for being highly related and pertinent to the type and style of business, and add one more for having a globally-protected trademark system in place. Lastly, add one more for your name having an identical matching dotcom for cyber branding (and a universal ride on the global e-commerce highway).

Now that you have five 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 toward having a great icon.

With four Stars, something is lacking, therefore the cost of pushing the message is high and progress is slow. With three stars, the limitations can be very obvious, the struggle keeps the brand spinning, and most efforts are being wasted. With two stars, the brand is seriously damaged, the advertising effort is futile, there is a disconnected relationship with the customer, and regional or global expansion is a serious hurdle. With only one star, the brand is dying and will not survive. With zero stars, there is no point in continuing.

Today, five-star brands represent less than one percent of the total, while the rest would hardly earn one or two stars, indicating the lack of iconization, and 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 branding question is: do you have clear, 100 percent brand ownership?

Missing pillars of branding

There are some very serious and very bright projects out there, but there is a serious disconnection when it comes to long-term and long-lasting naming architecture and branding strategies. What is really lacking, however, are the pillars of branding for iconization, leading to 100 percent OWNERSHIP.

Naseem Javed, author of Naming for Power, is recognized as an authority on global name identities, image, cyber-branding and domain issues. He introduced the Laws of Corporate Naming in the 1980s and founded ABC Namebank, a consultancy in New York and Toronto.

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC.

WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.


Byrne Ledinger responded 8 years ago: #1

"Proving an absolute ownership only takes a search on Google, demonstrating how unique and one-of-a-kind a name brand is."

This is ridiculous! I hope nobody takes this advice if they are really trying to build a major - or even boutique - brand name. Just because somebody does not have a name on the first few pages (20-30 results) of a Google search, that does not mean they do not have full trademark ownership and could not sue you later if you infringe. The author's expertise is highly questionable.

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