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What Does Your Business Stand For?

February 22, 2016 — Kent Lam

Last week in our series of 2016 predictions, we took a look at coming trends in technology naming. This week, we’re turning our attention to B2B brands—and how they’re using verbal strategies to tell more human stories about who they are and what they do.

Back in the day—when shoulder pads abounded and greed was good—the default personality for B2B brands was “big and powerful.” They had functional, impersonal, proudly corporate names like IBM, SAP, Qualcomm. The names—inscrutable acronyms and jargon to the Average Joe—were empty vessels that didn’t mean anything. They did their job, insinuating oversize presence and boundless reach. But they didn’t say anything about what the brands stood for.

These days, every brand—whether B2B or B2C—needs to have meaning, a reason to exist. Big and powerful, intimidating and impersonal—these are not the kinds of brands that businesses want to work with anymore, that consumers want to buy. In a landscape of more personal, more human, more local and transparent and approachable brands, B2B brands have needed to adopt new strategies. Using the same tools as B2C brands, B2Bs are starting to communicate what they stand for. Here are a few examples of brands that are already doing […]

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What Next? 2016 Predictions for Naming and Writing

February 16, 2016 — Jennifer Vasilache

In our last post, we looked back on naming and verbal trends for 2015. Now it’s time to look forward. In this first piece of a series of four blog posts, we share our predictions for what naming and verbal trends we can expect to see more of in 2016.

In this edition, technophile meets word-nerd. This is where CBX Verbal Strategy experts track the latest, most advanced, I-can’t-live-without-it devices and technologies unveiled by industry insiders in the New Year. We are excited and inspired by these cooler than cool innovations, and we are decoding their names to find out what’s hot in technology naming trends this year. Here is what we’ve seen, and what we would love to see going forward.

Super. Human. Technology: Show Your Human Side Move along Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the hottest topic this year. AI is the graceful technology that gives computer systems human-like capabilities such as visual as speech recognition. AI is fast-moving into the mainstream and our everyday experiences, which we see reflected in the names. Say hi to some friendly new faces in AI: Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa, Arlo Q the connected home camera, and Lily the drone. So […]

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What’s That Name?

December 22, 2015 — Lucila Tessi Kent Lam

As the year comes to an end, we wanted to take a look back and recognize some naming work that, too often, goes under the radar. We want to give credit where credit is due and celebrate the strategies that go behind naming. Below are some of the names that caught our eye, made us smile and made us do a double take.

Best name that would also work for a Bond girl: Verily, the new name for Google Life Sciences, has an archaic ring to it, an innocent tone that’s waiting to be sullied by some randy double entendre a la the James Bond movies of the Pierce Brosnan era. (Anyone remember “I thought Christmas only comes once a year?” No?) But it’s this old-fashioned sensibility—it’s how Shakespeare might have said “certainly” or “truly”—that gives the name a humanness, contrasting with the hard data and sterility that science is commonly associated with. This is life sciences, after all. It’s humans working to make human lives better. And that’s a truly worthwhile thing, isn’t it?

Best new clever name: Move over millennials, it’s all about the centennials now. Centennials was the new name given this year to the generation that […]

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Pirelli Says Behind Every Great Tire Brand is a Great Woman – is the Brand Finally Catching Up with Culture or Leading it?

December 8, 2015 — Christina Papale

The New York Times headline was bold, “The 2016 Pirelli Calendar May Signal a Cultural Shift.” The piece went on to say that the Pirelli brand, a strong supporter and champion of the quintessential male gaze, had taken a radical departure for the 2016 calendar by featuring whole women of accomplishment vs. pieces of female endowment. Brought to you by Annie Leibovitz.

As a woman, there’s a lot I could say regarding this departure. As a brand strategist, I am interested in Pirelli’s brand message and behavior, and what that says about the brand and about us.

In releasing this calendar, it appears that Pirelli is a brand transformed. The New York Times piece presents this transformation in the form of commitment and responsibility. Yet Pirelli, and a few subjects of the calendar, do not necessarily agree. Both Mellody Hobson and Agnes Gund made it clear in The Times article that, “their relationship was with Ms. Leibovitz, not Pirelli.” And Artist Shirin Neshat said, “I didn’t feel like I was selling out by doing this as much as helping Annie support a new idea about female style and beauty.”

The piece also presents Pirelli’s perspective:

“The company itself is careful […]

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Laughing (With or) At You?

November 2, 2015 — Brian Burr

We’ve all experienced embarrassing moments; a clumsy misstep sends you tumbling to the floor; an errant turn of the fork transforms your new shirt into a Jackson Pollock painting; a faulty wheel on a push cart sends half a pitcher of sangria to the ground outside the elevators on CBX’s fourth floor… (OK, maybe that last one was just me).

It’s important to remember that embarrassing moments only define you when you let them. Compose yourself when your face is flushed and your ears are burning so that people laugh with, instead of at you. Being able to play off the moment and laugh with everyone demonstrates an authenticity that people find endearing.

This idea is not exclusive to human-to-human interactions. In a marketplace where consumers are constantly searching for real connections with brands, a little self-depreciation can go a long way.

Brands using humor in their messaging is nothing new, but lately we’ve seen more brands turn the focus of the jokes back on themselves. Things that marketing teams would have once worked hard to hide are now leading the conversation.

Take Dressbarn’s Fall 2015 campaign. After decades of battling consumers’ hesitancy to bridge the gap between women’s fashion […]

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How Do Brands Cross the Gender Divide?

October 19, 2015 — Kent Lam

When Bic for Her hit it shelves, its intended audience did not rejoice. “Finally, a pen that’s designed just for lady-hands!” said absolutely no one. Instead, it was rightly ridiculed.

When a brand tries to cross the gender divide, the number one rule is to make sure there actually is a divide. (And as far as science can tell, there are no differences in how men and women use pens.) After all, in the personal care category brands gender-bend all the time—for instance, Gillette crossing over to deliver razors for women when it was known primarily as a man-brand. There are enough perceived differences in how men and women care for their bodies to warrant these gender-specific products.

So how can a brand swing both ways, and do it well?

Focus on the new benefit Communicate the benefit in a way that’s appealing to whoever you’re targeting. The shapewear brand Spanx touts that its body-hugging under-shorts are soft and slimming when it’s speaking to women. But, its Spanx for Men line talks about making men “stand taller and feel stronger.” The brand is getting directly to the results that the different audiences (allegedly) want: Women want to feel slim and […]

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The Imitation Game

September 14, 2015 — Ben Glotzer

We have all heard the well-known adage coined by Charles Caleb Colton, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” We can appreciate this concept in theory, but when it comes to design and ownership of original creative content, there is a very thin line between imitation and inspiration—the latter being fundamental to creative development.

There is a long history of image appropriation in the fine art world. Think Andy Warhol’s 1962 Campbell’s Soup Cans, one of the most recognized icons of the pop art movement. Even Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

Although commercial design is rooted in fine art, this “imitation” mindset does not translate. The world of commercial design comes with realities like legality and copyright infringement—which are not particularly swayed by the flattery argument. This “imitation vs. inspiration” argument is currently projected on the global stage with Japan’s recent retraction of the emblem for their 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. The selected emblem (consisting of a “T” and a red dot symbolizing a beating heart) was scrapped amongst allegations that it was plagiarized from a logo that designer Olivier Debie created for the Belgian Theatre de Liege.

See for yourself.

It is virtually a carbon copy […]

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C is for Changes

September 2, 2015 — Rachel Bernard

This has been a month full of exciting changes for Google. First there was the announcement of a new parent company, Alphabet. Then there was the spinoff of Google X into a standalone life sciences company. And yesterday, users were greeted with a fresh and playful new evolution of the Google logo.

So what do all these changes mean for the future of the brand? I think Alphabet will spell out a new era in taking much bigger risks.

Creating a new corporate entity is often a protective move to shield a brand from potential harm. The advent of Alphabet creates a separate place for the business to invest in the innovations that may seem too risky and perhaps too strange for a well-established and highly valued brand like Google to endeavor. Innovation is uncomfortable at first—it often looks scary or even silly until it becomes the new normal. For example, would a strange-at-first idea like Google Glass have earned greater permission if it had incubated in a start-up rather than Google, a brand that carries a defined set of expectations? Perhaps.

These changes should signal to investors that the brand is going to stretch significantly. In their announcement about […]

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Date At Your Own Risk: Licensing in Branding

August 26, 2015 — Lucila Tessi

Becoming a “licensee” allows brands the opportunity to extend into a new category or industry, modernize, stay relevant and build upon their brand value. When choosing the right licensing opportunity and when implemented effectively, it can have tremendous benefits. As of late, we’ve seen this with Minion-mania. It’s been said that Universal will make more off of licensed products than the Minions movie that just came out in July. Sounds tempting, right? But before jumping in, let’s take a step back and evaluate licensing.

The way I see it, licensing is a very personal tool used by brands. I often think of it as a relationship. Two people joining as one and representing what each other stands for. You look to benefit from each other, you meet each other’s friends and as a couple you work together to make each other happy. But unlike a relationship, you have the opportunity to plan for success prior to creating the partnership.

Here are five guidelines for brands to keep in mind when thinking of entering a (licensed) relationship:

What are you looking to get out of this?

Licensing should be used as a strategic business tool. Brands that want to license someone else’s intellectual […]

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James > Jimmy > James > ?!

August 17, 2015 — Ankur Naik

When you’re born, you’re given two things: a smack on the butt and a name. Whether you like it or not, that name is forever a part of your identity. And while we may like to think that our name bears no part in defining who we are, how we act and what we do; truthfully I don’t believe that’s entirely true. Have you ever heard something like this before?

“She looks like a Becky.” “Really? She looks more like a Courtney to me.”

While I can’t speak for everyone, I know that I’m guilty of it. By nature, humans lean towards association. We want to connect dots and make sense of the world around us. That’s what leads us to taking those ridiculous quizzes and watching videos that try to explain how our names impact our personalities.

When you see a little baby called James, doesn’t that feel a little off? To me, ‘James’ is associated with power and presence, not cute and precious. It feels wrong for a baby. So, we nickname baby James to baby Jimmy. But then what about when baby Jimmy grows up and becomes adult Jimmy? Adults need to be taken seriously, to shed […]

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