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by Lexicon Branding Founder David Placek

executive-credentials

The role of the CEO — to drive growth, create new markets, and lead the process of meeting consumer demand — is inextricably linked to the development of effective, dramatic, and unique brands and the brand names that help to establish them. The difference between narrowly defined words or phrases like ProChip and ReadyMop and brand names like Pentium and Swiffer is dramatic. Pentium and Swiffer both represent platforms to create new markets, new products, and highly valuable intellectual property. While ProChip and ReadyMop merely describe products, Pentium and Swiffer define them.

In general, companies tend to under-value the power of a brand name. Although they look at names such as PowerBook, Pentium, and Swiffer and say “Wow,” they don’t necessarily understand or appreciate the investment of time, strategic thinking, and creativity necessary to create a name like Pentium.

Our work with Andy Grove at Intel, Dirk Yaeger at P&G, and John MacFarlane at Sonos demonstrates that when the CEO is involved, and they respect the power of good brand names, good things happen. Yet, every year hundreds of brand name projects are delegated to assistant brand managers and junior product managers, many of whom have no experience in leading a creative process or have the needed vantage point to understand the true potential of the product they are naming. It’s why we have so many boring, descriptive, and unoriginal brand names in the marketplace.

Several years ago, a company with a very generic name, “Internet Diamonds,” engaged Lexicon to create a new and distinctive brand name. The result of our work was Blue Nile. Consider the potential expansiveness of this simple solution: color, vibrancy, history, richness. The name fires up the imagination of consumers from around the world who are interested in buying jewelry and other gifts from the internet. Today, Blue Nile is the world’s leading online diamond jeweler.

Where would Intel be today if Andy Grove, then the President and CEO of Intel who led the naming exercise for the fifth-generation processor, had chosen the name ProChip? Would the brand ProChip be as well-recognized as Pentium? Would consumers be as brand loyal to a ProChip as they are to Pentium? In short, Pentium gave Intel a very distinctive marketing asset. Research conducted both in the United States and Europe revealed that the word Pentium sparked the imagination of consumers. When naming is driven by leadership, the results are exponentially higher because the CEO has the necessary oversight to see how and where to direct the product, service, or company.

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With over 25,000 trademarked brand names in the automotive category in the U.S. alone, developing a name for a new car is a big challenge. “In this case, the client made it easy,” said David Placek, the President of Lexicon Branding, who worked with Silicon Valley-based Atieva to create a new name for the company that is building an intelligent, electric luxury vehicle.

According to David, Lexicon started the program with a presentation from then-Atieva that was truly inspiring. Staking a new claim for America in the luxury vehicle category, the client team wanted to recapture the spirit of innovative engineering in the heart of California. Among these soaring goals for the company and the vehicle, the team set a very unique objective for the name: “We don’t want it to sound like a car.” That request, combined with the fact that the vehicle is far beyond the ordinary, opened up creative possibilities for Lexicon way beyond more traditional automotive projects.

With a mission to “amaze customers through outstanding performance, beauty, space, and intelligence,” Lexicon initiated the creative process. Lexicon’s linguists in China, Germany, France, Mexico, Spain, Canada, and Japan began to gather intelligence on the culture of electric vehicles and existing brands of cars, motorcycles, scooters, and e-bikes in each market. Next, three small creative teams were briefed and deployed against a range of creative goals and targets.

During a review of dozens of potential solutions, one name received the most attention for its meaning, sounds, and surprising grammatical structure. Lucid, a real English word — an adjective, which is peculiar for a car name — that conveys the notion of intelligence and awareness from its meaning as well as smoothness and simplicity from its sounds. “The name does everything we wanted,” said to David Placek, “It certainly does not sound like a car, but gives you a sense of innovation and intelligence which is what Atieva is all about.” For Placek, whose company coined Subaru’s Outback and Forester, Mercedes Metris, Toyota’s Venza and Scion brands, and GM’s OnStar, the name is certainly a standout. “There was certainly an element of risk,” said Placek, who was quick to point out that without a strong client team with a vision and willingness to take the risk that being truly new requires, Lucid Motors would not exist.

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For more on Lexicon’s work and process >> www.lexiconbranding.com/our-work

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Informed: having or showing knowledge of a particular subject or situation

A typical selling process begins with a dialog between customer and brand. There is an exchange of information. If the customer’s functional, emotional and rational needs are met through this exchange, then there can be a “handshake” and a sale.

Success depends on the implicit and explicit information being communicated by the brand to be in sync with the customer’s needs. This is what Lexicon refers to as informed branding. 

Building a wellinformed brand is the challenge if the brand is to win in the marketplace. For the purpose of this discussion, we will assume that the physical product is at par or better than its competition and focus only on what it communicates.

Ideally, brand communication will help carve out a unique niche in an established marketplace, or establish a new space in a new market. Informed branding helps assure that the dialog between targeted customer and brand is a meaningful and positive one.

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Informed branding starts with positioning, i.e. how does the brand differentiate itself from its competitors. Where does it ‘fit’ in the customer’s understanding of buying choices? There are surprisingly few fundamental positioning choices. At Lexicon, we have identified only six. A simple audit of the category can help identify which positioning spaces are already occupied by competitors, and which are available and appropriate to the new brand. The decision can also be made to inhabit an already occupied positioning space, if it is believed that the company can do a better job of executing in that space, or that the product being introduced is simply much better than the competitor.

Through Bathrobe Dressing Gown Thickening Luxury Shawl Bath Towel Bath Robes Couple Pajamas Bath Wrap Gift (Black) (Size MaleM) Lexicon has identified the functional and emotional associations consistent with each positioning. We use these associations to inform brand name development by specifying which creative directions are most likely to produce suitable name candidates. Then, on the back end of a project, a winning name candidate or candidates emerge when their associations, determined through research, are the most consistent with the associations known to fit with the desired positioning.

When this is achieved, positioning and brand name are working as one and should be in sync with the functional and emotional expectations of the targeted consumer. These should be supported by packaging, graphics, advertising and promotion all fine tuned to the same associations map.

 -Bob Cohen, Senior Consultant

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As an exclusively verbal branding agency, Lexicon usually refrains from commenting on the topic of visual identity. But in some cases, design has an interesting parallel with brand naming: the basic forms used in a brand’s logo can communicate beneath the surface in the same way that the sounds and structure of a brand name can. For example, have you ever noticed most car logos have a round, container-like shape?

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A few exceptions make use of vector, or arrow-like, shapes – the Citroën logo, for example – or animal-based metaphors that project ideas of speed and strength onto the target product (e.g. Peugeot’s lion logo, Jaguar, Aston Martin’s or Bentley’s wings). Some brands even combine all three elements, as is the case with Ferrari and Lamborghini.

The logos of Lexicon-named Scion, Batik Breeze KAVU Women's Zillah Athletic Dresses, and Bauer Eddie Women's cirruslite Down Parka. Black.Small all incorporate the rounded container or vector shapes.

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The pervasive use of container shapes in car brand logos contrasts with its scarce presence in those of other products, such as technology or apparel to give just two examples:

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So, is it just a coincidence? Did all car brand logo designers secretly agree to use this shape? Is it a simplified representation of the car as a container? Did all those designers choose the same basic shape unconsciously? Or can we just chock it up to a trend?

Whether or not this design decision was a conscious one, this subtle, non-verbal aspect of branding has meaning. The “container” is a well-known BB Dakota Porter OffTheShoulder RibKnit Dress, which cognitive linguists define as one of the basic building blocks of human cognition, and a powerful tool for creating meaning.

Image schemas are regarded as the basic scaffolding of human cognition. They offer highly abstract representations of spatial relations. It may seem obvious, but the topology of the container image schema includes an inside, an outside, and a boundary between the two:

container-image-schema

Image schemas are also pre-conceptual – rather than being taught about them, we learn them through our own bodily interactions with our surroundings. As infants, we see food outside of us which then enters our body when we are fed – our bodies are containers. Even prior to being born, we experience our mother’s womb as a container.

From these early physical interactions, we build upon and extend the logic of the image schema. For the container, we learn that inside contents are protected from outside conditions. Based on previous experiences of protection in our life (e.g., being inside our mother’s womb, being inside our homes, inside our beds in our bedrooms), we project these feelings of comfort and protection onto other experiences we have of containers.

The way brands are represented can take advantage of the container schema to borrow some of this equity of protection and comfort. For car logos, the use of the container shape subtly highlights essential properties of a quality car: protective, safe, and comfortable, which may extend to ideas of being reliable and dependable.

That brand names have the power to communicate beyond simple semantic meaning underlies most of our work at Lexicon. In addition to the association with various real words, Scion also sounds powerful; Turo sounds like a luxurious service. But brand names can’t communicate it all. A strategically designed logo can use image schemas to effectively complement the name. Scion’s logo helps it communicate power and protection; Turo’s looks luxurious and dependable. By understanding both of these verbal and non-verbal communication strategies, brands can double the effectiveness of their visual identity.

– Lorena Pérez Hernández, A member of Lexicon’s World Brand® Team

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It’s been quite the journey.

From BB Dakota Womens Astor Crochet Yoke Swing Dress Dress to BB Dakota Womens Borden Striped Knit Drape Front Jacket Jacket, the automobile – and the world we live in – seems destined for change. Details as small as the term ‘daily commute’ could shift, evolving from current connotations of negativity to ones of relaxation or even vibrancy. Something to look forward to, not dread.

This Think Tank has been about exploring these possibilities, and it should be noted that the ideas we’ve generated are not just whimsical thoughts or impossible fairytales. Even while writing these posts, notable happenings such as Ford’s Bold Announcement or Tesla’s Master Plan have sprung forth. The BB Dakota Womens Candler Two Tone Velvet Lace Midi Dress Dress is already under way, and BB Dakota Womens Circling Back Brushed Knit Relaxed Jogger Sweatpantsmay soon begin. Quite truly, the future is in motion, and the shifting automotive landscape may be a revolution in the making.

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And, as with every revolution, there is the need for guidance. There will be both early adopters and late adopters, as was explored in our post BB Dakota Womens Darrah Burnout Velvet Jacket Jacket, and it will be a brand’s job to steer users smoothly into this new world. As visionaries in the field, Lexicon Branding hopes to give its clients – current and new – the tools to distinguish themselves in this new space.

We’ve all heard that phrase to ‘embrace change’, but we often find ourselves coming up with every excuse not to. But truth is, companies will need to come to terms with this motto, and sooner rather than later. Ownership, aesthetics, even sociability: these aspects could all soon change. And while some of these implications were explored in our posts Sharing is Caring and Sharing Interests, the ideas behind them are virtually limitless.

Before long, our landscape may very well become unrecognizable. BB Dakota Womens Elementary Plaid Oversized Coat Wool Blend Coat, and personal habits could change. For companies, it’s important to pair these changes with brand names that capture the essence of these innovations and ideas – to truly marry the spirit of the future with the ideas of the present.

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At Lexicon Branding, we’ve envisioned how this revolution could play out and how it could give rise to new and distinctive brands. With a cornerstone of our lives on the brink of change, we are at the cusp of this revolution, gazing ahead, spying handholds in the precipice to lead a brand to its peak. And we can’t wait to see what this revolution brings.

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Hopefully that drives the point home.

 

*thanks to Think Tank member Sarah Schechter for the images!