Branding Idiocy

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve noticed that 7-11 now has Big Gulp brand soda. Not in the fountain (or maybe, I didn’t check), but in bottles that look like they were designed by the same guy who does the packaging for every other boring supermarket house brand. Who goes to a convenience store, which they already know is charging high prices, and is swayed to pay 35 cents less for an off brand cola? Not many, so they’re attempting to solve this by raising the prices on the name brand stuff. Face it 7-11, your bread and butter are customers who will pay a little more to conveniently buy stuff they’ve heard of. They’re not going to buy the cheap stuff, they’re just going to get their regular brand, bring it up to the register, and think, “Crap, they charge a lot for this stuff! I gotta get my butt to the supermarket.”

But that’s not what I came here to write about.

I next found they also have a store brand chocolate bar. The brand name? Big Gulp! Apparently, they’re following a very stupid trend also seen in Sun and Microsoft: put your famous brand name on everything, even if it doesn’t make any sense. Big Gulp is 7-11’s most famous product, so they’re trying to leverage the existing mindshare to save on marketing costs. The end result is a stupid name for all but the original product.
     Microsoft did this with .NET, although not intentionally. They decided to build this application framework, and were so in love with it they decided to spend millions ($100M?) on the campaign. Every product manager who heard this tried to horn in on the action by calling their product .NET, just to get some of the marketing money and ride the wave. What this ended up causing was mass confusion among consumers who couldn’t for the life of them figure out just what the hell .NET was. It took a lot of reeling in and some backpeddling (and I think it’s still a tad muddled), but most geeks know what you mean by .NET now.
     Sun seems to be trying for the same thing by throwing the Java label on random products they want to promote. Every geek (and tons of non-geeks) know that Java is a programming language. Most also know it allows you to write software once and run it on different computers. It’s recently been revealed as the most popular language today, with 4 million developers. So my question is, why would you want to screw that up? They now have a product called Java Desktop System – any idea what that is? If you said, “It’s Sun’s Linux distribution!” then you already knew the damn answer, because there’s no way you could figure that out from the name. The desktop isn’t even written in Java! A Sun tech confided in me that Java is Sun’s biggest brand, so they’re using it to sell other products. Can’t they see this just dilutes their brand? Can they see they’re repeating Microsoft’s mistakes? For Sun, that’s gotta sting. Granted, they aren’t the best at naming things, or building brands around names. Since I’ve been using their IDE/compilers, they’ve called them SPARCworks, Workshop, Forte, Sun ONE Studio, and now Sun Studio (which, BTW, is a rebranding of the open source product NetBeans). That’s a new name every 1.5 years! Why the hell would you do that? The only reason I can think of is that you’re trying to hide your product behind new names because it sucks (and they didn’t), or you just really suck at naming things. I know they’ve changed the underlying technology quite a bit between some versions, but automakers do this all the time but still keep the name. There have been six different Corvette platforms; can you imagine six name changes for that legendary car? Me neither.

4 thoughts on “Branding Idiocy”

  1. SUBnames are o.k. though, right?
    “Stingray” Corvette.
    Nissan differentiates it’s lineup of Z cars like so: Z31, Z32, Z33.. refering to generation. They only actually change the model’s name when the engine’s cylinder size (liters) has been increased: 280z 300zx 350Z
    This is only loosely related to what your talking about, but I havent posted in a while, so there.

    Also, I wouldn’t buy anything but Coke no matter what the cost/coupon/contest/packaging, but you know that…

  2. Yes, I think automakers have a pretty solid handle on the concept, which to me is just common sense. Imagine if Dodge made a new vehicle with the Hemi badging, but didn’t include a Hemi engine in that vehicle (the all new 4-cyllinder Hemi Caravan!). You just took a name associated with badass and killed that association, just so idiots who don’t know what a Hemi is (but heard it’s good) can feel good about their minivan purchase. It would be beyond stupid.

    And *technically*, the Corvette platforms have been known as C1 through C6, but that’s not what Chevy spends ad money on. And most of the luxury automakers have switched to a naming system that includes the engine size, but as a subname as you mentioned.

  3. Now why doesn’t someone use the ACME brand label?? It’s already attached to every product in the world (eg: ACME rocket launcher, ACME frozen yogurt dessert cup) and it sure is recognizable !!! Tie it to some iconic figures like The Roadrunner (TM) and Wile E. Coyote (TM) and you’ve got surefire winning brand recognition and assured million-dollar sales.

  4. I agree! I think the only thing stopping you would be Time Warner, whose Road Runner ISP supplies my bandwidth. They might get a little litigious about it. And maybe Acme Supermarkets, too. But go for it!

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