Jasper Jumping Pod

As It Happens is taking suggestions to name the new landmark rock in Alberta discovered by one Supergranny, while scouring Google Earth with her grandchildren. Welcome to the future of exploration.

Want to name this 250 meter+ iPod-bearing Native American? AIS is submitting the top suggestions in an application to Geographical Names Program of Alberta Community Development. Their Talkback number is 416-205-3331 — or send an e-mail to aih@cbc.ca.

A name can determine the fate of the universe

How important is a name? Important enough to influence the twists and turns of history. CNN brings us a stark reminder of the power of the names we use to present our ideas, and how nuance is everything:

If presidential elections were held today, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton would likely have a comfortable edge over Sen. John McCain, but take away her maiden name and McCain has a better shot of landing in the Oval Office.

So say the results of a CNN poll released Friday by Opinion Research Corp., which asked 506 adult Americans whom they preferred among potential 2008 presidential candidates. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 4.5 percent.

Asked if they preferred Hillary Rodham Clinton to McCain, respondents gave the Democratic New York senator and former first lady a 51 percent to 44 percent advantage over the Republican Senator from Arizona. Remove “Rodham” and McCain had a 1 percentage point advantage, 48 percent to 47 percent.

The best ideas do not always win, because it’s not what you say, it’s how you name it.

A Tale of Two Utilities

company namesAs of November 1, the U.K will have a new electric utility company called Spark. They describe themselves thusly:

Spark is an energy company. Seems simple enough, and it is. All we have to do to be a great alternative to the 6 major utility companies is deliver the best customer service, lower prices, innovative benefits and greener energy.

And from a branding perspective they are off to a great start. The name Spark works on multiple levels and demonstrates, rather than explains, several of their key positioning messages. The name immediately sets them apart from their competitors, conveys the start of something new (the spark of a new paradigm, the spark of a new idea), is active, enthusiastic, approachable, human and infinitely memorable. And in a literal sense, a Spark is all about energy, a Spark is energy. Well done.

For a different approach to naming a utility, we turn to the Chicago Tribune:

Peoples Energy Corp. has a new name coming, and like many corporate monikers it is not a word you will find in a dictionary.

The corporate parent of Peoples Gas soon will be known as Integrys (pronounced in-TEG-ris) after the completion of its merger with a Wisconsin gas and electric utility.

“Integrity was the core idea here.”, said James Uehling.

Actually, integrity was the only idea here, and Integrys fails to communicate that one idea. Or more accurately, Integrys fails to sell that one idea, because Integrys is trying to explain, rather than demonstrate, the idea of integrity. Integrys is trying to tell us they have integrity. But honest people don’t go around explaining how honest they are, dishonest people do. Just as interesting people don’t try and tell you how interesting they are, because at that moment they become suspect and uninteresting.

A key tenet of naming: Explaining doesn’t work, demonstrating does.

However, Integrys does demonstrate one thing. It’s a cold, technical looking and sounding construction that might as well be “Vast Uncaring Corporation, Inc”. That was not the intention, of course:

Peoples Energy has had serious run-ins with consumer advocates, the Illinois attorney general’s office and some members of the Illinois Commerce Commission, which regulates the company.

“It is an attempt to turn over a new leaf,” Uehling said of the new name. “It is a new day.”

The image they were attempting to overcome, has instead been reinforced.

“Igor” — The Movie

Finally, a great name for a movie! From today’s Hollywood Reporter:

“Igor” centers on a mad scientist’s hunchbacked lab assistant Igor, who has big dreams of becoming a scientist and winning first place at the annual Evil Science Fair. It will be distributed domestically by the Weinstein Co., which also has secured rights in most foreign territories. Weinstein Co. will be selling “Igor” at next month’s American Film Market.

Piven will voice the role of Dr. Schadenfreude, Igor’s nemesis, with Shannon voicing Eva, a giant, indestructible monster invented by Igor. They join a cast that includes Steve Buscemi, John Cleese and Christian Slater.

Can “Interbrand, the Final Fury”, be far behind?

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Microsoft’s Zune falsely linked with pleasure

From Playlist Magazine:

Microsoft’s forthcoming digital music player, dubbed Zune, may make some Hebrew speakers gasp. The name for the device—which will take on the Apple iPod when released later this year—sounds like a vulgarity, specifically the “f” word, in Hebrew…

…Microsoft breaks the controversy down to pronunciation. “While we do acknowledge the similarity in pronunciation to Hebrew zi-yun, that is not the intended meaning of the name Zune,” according to a Microsoft statement. Bloggers have picked up on the difference—one humorously writing that if you say Zune to rhyme with iTunes, out pops the profanity.

Buck, cluck, chuck, yuk, muck, puck, pluck, luck and truck all sound very similar to the “f” word, but the point is they are not the “f” word. There is nothing to this “controversy”, except that it gets Zune talked and written about. And Microsoft should be thrilled to be even accused of having a connection with a physical act that is natural and pleasurable. How often is that going to happen?

A few years ago Buick ran into a similar problem, albeit a direct hit, and changed the name of their Lacrosse model for the Canadian market.

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Do you know what week it is?

It’s “National Character Counts Week”, and it runs from October 15th to the 21st. According to a presidential proclamation issued in the afternoon of Friday, October 13, 2006, we are all to hold ceremonies, celebrations, barbeques, etc in observance of said week. And “National Character Counts Week” is to be observed and explained throughout the public school system. From the official White House website:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 15 through October 21, 2006, as National Character Counts Week.

I call upon public officials, educators, librarians, parents, students, and all Americans to observe this week with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirteenth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.

GEORGE W. BUSH

Yes, zero days to prepare festivities is quite short notice, but you can’t always count on some character to give you a week to prepare.

So stop procrastinating and throw something together. Clearly, this is meant to be important.

Guerilla / Viral Destination Branding

Lately, a lot of U.S. cities and states have jumped on the slogan bandwagon in attempts to duplicate the successes of New York’s “I Love N.Y.”, Texas’ “It’s Like a Whole Other Country” and Las Vegas’ “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas”. Here are some of the results of recent destination branding efforts:

Kentucky: Unbridled Spirit
Wichita: We Got the Goods
Ohio: Build Your Business. Love your Life
Kansas: As Big As You Think
Baltimore: Get In On It
Utah: Life Elevated
Washington State: SayWA
Wisconsin: Like No Place On Earth
Maryland: More Than You Can Imagine
Colorado: Enter A Higher State

San Francisco has taken a different tack, hoping to promote the city to straight men the world over with an incredibly effective viral web campaign called “S.F. Boogie Down“. Genius.

The color of money

Gearing up for November’s elections, Fox News has quietly morphed their corporate color scheme, replacing nearly all of the red with blue.

Hey, when your brand is all about championing the powers that be, being a chameleon is your only survival option. The problem with this weather vane approach to brand positioning is that over the long term, even if you can accurately forecast the zeitgeist climate change, you end up having no brand at all.

The Fox News website before the latest Gallup poll and impending elections, and now. Click on each pic for the full-size view.

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