Power in negativity? Yes-man!

Sprint’s new “Yes-man” campaign is effective because it’s taking a negative phrase, redefining it, taking ownership of it and getting you to pay attention. Verizon pulled a similar power play through its “Can you hear me now” campaign, embracing a phrase muttered by everyone who has had a bad cell phone connection.

Both companies understand that consumers are not literalists and appreciate a spin on the obvious. Any time a tagline, a name, an ad or a story contains both positive and negative qualities, they become more powerful.

What’s in a name? Plenty

Beach Boys’ guitarist Al Jardine called me today and left a message on my home phone to say that Tony Bennett had changed his show time and “come on down to Big Sur today it should be a great party! ” He left his home number, so I called him back to accept. Unfortunately he intended the message for someone named Scott. My name isn’t Scott.

Create a puzzle, create engagement

Gash, Chubby Hubby and Urban Decay are all names that a focus group would flag as “too negative”, yet all are successful. That’s because focus group responses are by definition literal. Consumers are not literalists, not consumers of any kind in any business sector. Names are processed emotionally, in the context provided by the corporation. Philly.com goes into detail:

What color is Sin? How would Riptide Rush taste? What does Ionic smell like?

If you’ve spent an extra moment in a store aisle wondering, that was probably good for the marketers of Nars Sin blush, Riptide Rush Gatorade and Degree Ionic antiperspirant, according to new research from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

The researchers found that, in general, surprising or ambiguous names for colors and flavors made consumers – in this case, college students – more likely to prefer a product.

Wharton marketing professor Barbara Kahn’s theory is that when consumers spend more time thinking about a product, they form more connections to it and end up liking it better. Trusting souls that they are, shoppers believe marketers are trying to tell them something important with a name, an assumption she traces to the way people fill in the gaps in confusing conversations. Plus, people enjoy figuring out what a name like Dublin Mudslide (Irish cream liqueur and chocolate ice cream made by Ben & Jerry’s) or Gash (dark metallic red eyeshadow by Urban Decay) means. Their positive feelings transfer to the product.

“Some of these weird names were actually little puzzles,” Kahn said, “so if you thought about it, you could get it.”

“Their positive feelings transfer to the product”. And all those literal, negative dictionary definitions have done their job in creating engagement, and then faded away.

Which came first, the chicken or the sheep?

There are lots of branding companies you can go to when you need a visual identity. They have portfolios detailing the logo work they’ve done, explaining the ideas that are conveyed by each logo element, what the choice of colors conveys, the importance of a logo, how it can help propel your unique brand message and achieve separation from your competitors, etc.

We would argue that you can tell a lot about what a branding firm really believes in based on the work they’ve done in presenting their own brand.

Landor, Interbrand, Pentagram and Siegal & Gale all wax poetic about the power of the logos they created for others, yet they’ve all chosen to go gentle into that good night, sans logo.

Instead they each opted for a type treatment.

Note how each visual identity demonstrates their respective understanding of the power of visual identiy to communicate the unique qualities of their individual brands.

branding company logos

We think they’ve each succeeded in communicating that understanding brilliantly.

Take my Xignux, please!

It’s Friday and time for a laugh. Granted, the appeal here is narrow, but if you’re a Gallagher or Carrot Top aficionado, you may be in for a treat. Of course that would mean you have bigger problems, but we digress. Try and read through this case study, straight from the Interbrand website, without busting a gut:

Building a Future

Business Issue

Axa Corporation, owner of Conductores Monterrey and Zwan and other diverse businesses, sold its brand name to the French insurer Axa when it entered Mexico. In determining a new name, Axa wanted to conserve the equity it held in the letter X. The required change of name also presented an opportunity to renew the company’s identity.

Brand Solution

Interbrand generated proposals for suggestive and abstract names, given that a descriptive name could not cover the diversity of Axa’s commercial interests. The chosen name, Xignux, is derived from a word with many positive connotations by using “signo” (sign), with the abstract device of starting and ending with the letter X. The visual identity communicates the dynamism of the group’s businesses as well as the synergies between them.

“…conserve the equity it held in the letter X”, now that’s funny!

Which reminds us, “A duck walks into a pharmacy and asks for a three-pack of Certance for the weekend…”

Troll your own

For those of you wishing to get out from under the manky tutelage of “The Phone Company” and go your own open source way, there is a GNU kid in town with an interesting name. He’s short and ill tempered, with a long standing set of issues concerning goats. From LinuxDevices.com:

According to project leader David Sugar, the current stable version of Bayonne provides only a script-driven model for servicing voice applications that require basic switching, a constraint that has limited the software’s utility. “There are many specialized applications, such as VoIP-PSTN gateways, [in] which Bayonne’s entirely script-driven approach is difficult to manage or deploy,” Sugar acknowledges.

Sugar released the first developer’s release of Bayonne 2 on Jun. 27, saying the software would continue to offer a script-driven server, while enabling “completely new voice application services to be constructed using core Bayonne services and drivers as linkable libraries.”

According to Sugar, the new Bayonne release includes a basic PSTN-to-VoIP service binding called GNU Troll, which is intended as a “proof of concept” for a new Bayonne plugin model. “Basic incoming call handling should work under Troll at this point, although much work remains to be completed,” he said.

Sugar adds, “This is the very first step of an inititive to introduce basic IP-PBX services and new functionality to the core Bayonne 2 platform in a modular, user selectable, and incremental fashion. Different bindings will offer different services, and one can choose a binding appropriate for the application being developed, whether it is for integration with traditional analog or digital telephone networks, application services, or gateways for use within an existing VoIP infrastructure — or in eventually offering a complete Bayonne 2-based VoIP infrastructure and other turnkey telephony solutions.”

“Freedom” from the phone company will come at a price. You’ll most likely have to sign a deal with the Devil. So what’ll it be? The Devil you know or the Devil you know? Now that’s freedom of choice.

Microsoft changes the name of Microsoft Business Solutions

The new name is Microsoft Dynamics. The word “solutions” as been ineffectual white noise for some time now, and the word “business” brings very little to the table, so congratulations to Microsoft for finding a solutions solution. Accountingsoftware.com and PressPass bring us some details:

PressPass: Why is Microsoft Dynamics a good name for “Project Green” and Microsoft Business Solutions?

Reller [Tami Reller, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Business Solutions Group]: We undertook and completed a significant research project that was amongst the most extensive naming research projects Microsoft has ever done. We conducted hundreds of interviews with business decision makers and IT decision makers in the U.S. and international markets. These interviews yielded a number of findings, including that our customers and partners strongly prefer a brand that is suggestive rather than merely descriptive or fanciful.

At least they spent a ton of money making sure of the obvious. And now, armed with a pricey PP presentation and reams of focus grope data, they boldly embrace the obvious. Their conclusion is correct however. Neither descriptive nor fanciful names are acceptable choices, and by “fanciful” we assume they mean “random”. With good intentions and a little knowledge, Microsoft pushes the name changes further, truncating the fanciful:

  • Microsoft CRM becomes Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
  • Microsoft Business Solutions-Great Plains becomes Microsoft Dynamics GP.
  • Microsoft Business Solutions-Axapta® becomes Microsoft Dynamics AX.
  • Microsoft Business Solutions-Navision becomes Microsoft Dynamics NAV.
  • Microsoft Business Solutions-Solomon becomes Microsoft Dynamics SL.

The idea is right, Great Plains, Axapta and Navision are all worthless, random names (fanciful), with Solomon going to the relative head of the class on a bulbous curve. Those names rightly deserve the ax. But what is the point of replacing them with the equally ineffectual abbreviations GP, AV, NAV and SL, respectively? It is unimaginable, even for Microsoft, to believe these letter combos will summon the old ineffectual names in anyone’s mind, and even if they did, why call back to the bad “fanciful” names at all, given all the “research” and such?

Because this idea is so inane, and as much as it pains us, we have to give Microsoft the benefit of the out. We’re betting these initials are transitory, part of a strategy to phase these names out. It would be a solid strategy, as dropping them at the same time as renaming Business Solutions would be a confusing, brand equity hemorrhage. Looks like they understand the need for a transitional period, and if so, the entire effort is very well done.

Any bets?