Interviewing eBay’s CMO for Interbrand IQ

posted by on 2013.06.10, under Brand Strategy

I had the really exciting opportunity to speak with eBay’s CMO North America, Richelle Parham, as part of Interbrand’s IQ publication and Best Retail Brands report. The videos are below. Click here, here, or here to see them in context.

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Startup names don’t have to be terrible. Here’s the proof.

posted by on 2013.05.27, under Naming

The Bay area gets a bad rap when it comes to names. No, I’m not talking about your friends’ babies, Namaste and Venture. I’m talking about brand names — especially the names of startups.

Here in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and the rest of the Bay area, we’re home to plenty of brand names that sound nonsensical at first, but have since become household names: Google, Yahoo, eBay, and Apple. But for every quirky company name we eventually learn to take seriously, there are a handful of local startups whose silly names never seem to reach escape velocity — names that we never warm up to.

Worst-case scenario, these names can be a hindrance to their companies rather than a leg up. Of course, whether or not a company’s name is “good” is partly a matter of opinion. (Doostang, for example, sounds scatological to me — especially inappropriate given it’s “an exclusive career community.”) But some simple guidelines can add a bit of objectivity when looking at brand names. QOOP, a now-defunct “social commerce network” based in Mill Valley, failed the basic test of clear pronunciation (Koop? Kwoop? Co-op?). Weebly, a San Francisco company that lets users create sites “as unique as they are,” suffers from an unfortunately non-unique name — it fails to stand apart from the dozens of other startups with names that end in “ly” (a trend that started with Libya’s country domain). And Pinwheel, now called Findery, had to recover from the hiccup of changing its name early on due to legal availability issues.

But it’s too easy to get negative about names, especially when they’re taken out of context or with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight after a brand has run into trouble. Instead of nitpicking, let’s correct the Bay Area startup scene’s reputation by highlighting some of the great brand names working their way into our collective lexicon every day. Here are a few brand names — new or just in the news — that get their respective companies off on the right foot.

UPS Store’s website imagery is creeping me out

posted by on 2013.04.28, under Miscellaneous

UPS Store image

Just saw this on the website of my local UPS Store and am now wondering if they cater mainly to ex-chemistry teachers who’ve turned to meth manufacturing.

Walter White

The Interbrand Anagram Project

posted by on 2013.03.28, under Writing/Grammar


We’ve been having some fun with the letters of “Interbrand” while we’re waiting for new signage.

Who named Nemo?

posted by on 2013.03.01, under Naming

[This post was originally published on Interbrand's blog.]

Meteorologists today predicted a “parade of storms across the US” next week. As citizens of Northeast and Midwestern cities battle the severe weather, they may also have to contend with a blizzard of new names like “Plato,” “Q,” “Rocky” and “Saturn.”

The last time a big storm hit the Northeast, I wrote a post about how it got its name—Sandy—and the naming system used by the National Hurricane Center to name tropical storms and hurricanes. But if you check the Center’s list of potential storm names, you won’t find “Nemo,” which everyone, from Gawker to Michael Bloomberg, is now using for the latest storm to hit the Northeast.

So where did “Nemo” come from?

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Game changer: Monopoly gets a refresh, one piece at a time

posted by on 2013.01.18, under Brand Strategy

[This post was originally published on Interbrand's blog.]

Hasbro announced plans to update its beloved, 77-year old board game, Monopoly. Literally changing the game piece by piece, Hasbro will replace just one of its iconic, pewter game tokens before the end of this year. The familiar wheelbarrow, shoe, dog, racecar, top hat, iron, thimble, and battleship are each at risk of “going to jail,” to be replaced by a robot, diamond ring, helicopter, cat or guitar.

This change may seem trivial to many, yet some diehard fans of the game are up in arms, arguing against any change at all. Of course, Hasbro must have expected—perhaps hoped for—exactly such a reaction.

Other iconic brands like Gap and Tropicana have learned the hard way that refreshing a cherished cultural symbol is sure to spark debate, even when a corporation owns that symbol. Gap infamously redesigned their own logo in 2010, only to switch back a week later after consumers and the design community reacted vehemently. Tropicana saw sales plunge after a redesign to its packaging that did away with the popular straw-in-an-orange image.

While the Monopoly change involves neither a logo nor packaging, similar principles apply in terms of how to handle such a shift.

So far, Hasbro has done a lot right:

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    Rob Meyerson is a brand strategist currently working in San Francisco.

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