18 Aug The global power of WWW
The most powerful three letters in the world today are WWW—no further explanation is required
There are many other famous uses of the 23rd letter of the alphabet, W, as in WWI or WWII, and we are still working overtime on a WWIII. Then there’s the WWF and WWF. The match between the World Wildlife Fund and the World Wrestling Federation resulted in the muscles losing to cuddly pandas, and the wrestlers became the WWE, the “E” being “entertainment.” WE is also Women’s Entertainment, with their exclusive branding theme, “WE is smart.” Really? A WC is a small water closet or washroom in Europe. There are also the five Ws: who, what, where, when and why. Let’s ignore the WMDs and go directly to this urgent issue of a lone W.
The Hotel W, as they boast on its opening Web page, “starts with the name W… for warm, wonderful, witty, wired. W for welcome.” Perhaps they mean W for wisdom and a serious lack of. This major group behind big brands like Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Worldwide Inc. is threatening two political merchandisers with a legal posture. They’re demanding they remove the letter W, as in George W. Bush, from the “apparel & accessories” baseball hats and T-shirts, they are selling.
“[It] mimics the trade dress of the W Hotels, which has the effect of eroding the unique brand identity developed in the W logo.” This battle is way separate than Teresa Heinz Kerry’s Heinz Ketchup and a newly released Republican flavored, “W Ketchup.” W as in Washington?
Legally, no one can own a letter. Period. However in design and logo they exist as W of Westinghouse or any other logo depicting a lone letter W of any other brand. The Hotel W should basically watch and see how others use this letter. After all, the use of the letter W is in public domain. At this moment, W is being increasingly referred to President Bush, so let it be, there is nothing wrong with this. In the meanwhile, for those who are convinced Al Gore invented the Internet, right on. To match this myth, the WWW is really”dubya, dubya, dubya.” Come November, we will know the real power of W branding.
Going back to WWW. Imagine if there was a PPP or VVV. QQQ or ZZZ are too stingy. Maybe XXX, after all, half the Internet is just that. KKK was definitely not available.
When for every cognitive idea, there is word, which unfolds like an album than makes each single letter a small painting for our imagination. Let’s forget this romanticism or the oil paintings. Here is the reality. The use of a letter or two in corporate naming is very tricky. Outside IBM, 3M or 7UP, most initialized names struggle to stay alive and eventually die. There are other exceptions such as “OK,” as in being all right, “XYZ” meaning miscellaneous, or “ABC,” as in simple steps.
The branding with a single letter never works. Like Compaq’s struggle with a single letter Q. Ford’s fetish with the letter F, where all of their cars must have a name starting with this letter. Parking the entire marketing and branding campaign on a single letter is like watching a single frame from a movie; the mind simply can’t follow the storyline. This is how this abbreviated branding invites a subtle rejection from exhausted customers at large. Outside XXX, they have no idea why something is called W, Q or why a car is called Fuddle-Duddle.
In a world of initials and acronyms, when there are millions of businesses using three- to four-letter words as corporate identities, the waste and toil on the human mind to garner attention is awesome. Pick any three to four letters, arrange them in any sequence and try them out on Google, and if you get anything less than a 10,000 identical hits than you certainly have a winner. Or do you?
Most initials in business come from long names that customers refuse to say out in full.
Hence IBM. Corporations exhaust themselves explaining what the initials stands for. Ask the duck at AFLAC doing those cute film-noir commercials. Do you know what AFLAC stands for? Nobody does, except the duck. At times, master branding, like a conspiracy theory, resorts to recommending initials as a final solution. Most often, the absence of a winning name urgently requires replacing the prehistoric, long corporate name and adopting a few confusing letters, which is seen as a great victory. Watch out for the high risks of such master branding. Here, all other divisional names and other products are simply left angling. Everything becomes the same set of initials, and customers are ever so confused.
Next time you want to gain attention and would like your customers to park your brand name in the corridors of their minds, give their imagination an album of paintings. Random initials are not good solutions. A single letter on its own is not a brand; it’s nothing, a lost image, a painting without a wall. It’s just another lost W.
Naseem Javed, author of Naming for Power and Domain Wars, is recognized as a world authority on global Name Identities and Domain Issues. He introduced The Laws of Corporate Naming in the 80’s and also founded ABC Namebank, a consultancy established in New York & Toronto a quarter century ago. Naseem conducts exclusive executive workshops on image and name identities issues via Web conferences.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.