Bright products have features you can switch off!

I was about to write this article on my discovery of the month – how to switch off auto-correct on my “smart” phone when lo and behold I see another article praising the majesty of this great feature in the recent Wired Magazine. Really? The one feature that is probably the butt of more smart phone jokes than anything else? The one feature we all love to hate!

creative name generation websiteThe article claims no one could write much without it. Especially given our size vs the small little phone buttons. Not true I say with condemnation. Sure I may not be quite as fast as my 20 something sons, but I can type so much quicker without its dumb help. And I am a big fat fellow approaching retirement age.

Of course, as a prolific writer I know how to spell. I can even write in American English or English English. And I am not just sending text messages. My phone notepad has replaced all those notepads around the house and car that I used to use to jot down name ideas as they came to me. Good creative ideas come when they want to, often when you least expect them. I still haven’t solved my ideas in the shower problem, but I do like I can enter magic new words under the covers in the middle of the night without switching on the room light.

What’s more, as a professional namer, a lot of words are not in the dictionary. That is why they are potential great new brand names – they are unique and different. And I don’t want them corrected to known dictionary words. One of the best compliments I have ever had as a namer was “Athol, your names sound like they belong in the dictionary.”

So I have better things to do than explain with many repeat attempts to your friend Siri or Simple Spelling Simon or whoever it is lurking in the smart phone that I don’t want their help. And congratulations to the designer who had the forethought to make this feature optional – but no thanks to Apple for keeping how to switch it off so secret. Now you all know. Go check your setup options again and shoot the son of a gun if you too are sitting on my side of the spelling fence.

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What took Coca Cola so long?

We all know that most products are in reality variations or updates on older products. Very few are genuinely new.  And then there are the products that make you scratch your head and ask “What took them so long?”

And my big discovery of summer certainly fits in that category. I love lemonade – like most people in America. It is an old staple that comes in many local styles and pourings, most all of which involve lots of sugar. Ouch. I am diabetic.  Then I started to see Minute Maid Lemonade Light popping up in soda fountains at many fast food outlets. But how light is it? How much sugar does it really contain? Will it make my head spin?

Branding drink products

Today I have all these answers, as Coca Cola, who owns Minute Maid and has pioneered Light sodas years ago, are finally canning it for everyone to take home. Plus they left a lot of the carbonation out compared to regular sodas. No wonder it is selling so well even in smaller stores and markets. It did not need any catchy new name – it just required the proper care and treatment of a great name and the associated visual imagery.

So obviously a great solution and lovely product. As I said before “What took them so long to add this brand extension to one of the best known names in citrus drinks?”

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Gourmet cheese from clearance products at Grocery Outlet

Naming food products, naming dairy products, edible product brandsMost people shop at The Grocery Outlet stores to save a lot of money on basic groceries – as do I since my friend insisted I try one. More interestingly, among the many clearance and close out grocery store items, are a number of new products that obviously did not catch on with the public, fickle as they are to try new foodstuffs.

I, on the other hand, like trying new and different foods, and am very happy to find good English chutney and new Campbell’s packaged soups that I know from the big chains but haven’t been able to find lately.  And then there are the items I would never try unless prompted, like Wensleydale Cheese. Nothing I have ever tasted in summer reminds me so much of Xmas. I was so ecstatic my friend gave me the whole rest of his supply – which didn’t last long.

Now that I look it up with the British Cheese Board I find it is a very old recipe from Yorkshire, despite the fact I was eating from a block called Londoner that was specifically packaged in USA for the Irish Dairy Board. Please, we all need our calcium. If you have a loved one that likes cheese, or particularly one who doesn’t like cheese and needs more calcium, serve them some of this with a cracker or piece of toast. One bite is all it takes – especially for those of us with fond memories of British fruitcakes and puddings.

Now you know why they have all those taste tests at Costco and other stores. We are all creatures of habit with many foods to choose from, so the marketing challenge is how to have the public try that first taste – which might then become a lifelong favorite for people like me. It has been a long time since one taste has had such a dramatic affect on me (Horse Radish, Thai food were others). I look forward to many more though now I will give the cheese aisle more respect.

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Most all free web site generators will cost you big headaches

Sometimes in my search for great products to write about here, coupled with my day jobs, I run into a whole category of products that do not impress me. Yes, I am sometimes a curmudgeon, though I try not to be. For sure I am often a contrarian, all this is not on purpose and in reality it usually means I am not alone, simply one of the minority with a different point of view.

hibuLogoWhich brings me to the market segment for “free” web site generators. The ones that require no computer experience and can make you and your business, hobby or club look fabulous by just picking a template and following the easy to use instructions. I know thousands of you sign up daily, but do you know there are millions of websites languishing on the internet vine – that look ugly, haven’t been updated in days, were never finished, cannot be extended, don’t show up in search engines, are now billing your credit card for you know not what as they hold you, your site and your domain name effectively hostage.

WixLogoSo when you see new ads for great colorful do-it-yourself websites from Hibu or Wix or Weebly or Yola  Yahoo or Homestead (from Intuit), don’t run off to your boss, your club, your group or your friends and say “how about I quickly put up a free website?”

WeeblyLogoFor one thing, have you ever wondered if these sites are Free how do they pay the rent and all those programmers? Secondly, if anyone can do it, how come you don’t see any serious sites using these tools? Plus Hibu is over in UK and part of a company recovering from bankruptcy plan (reminds me of hibernation their wierd name), Wix are up to so many tricks the servers allocated to you might be in Israel or Russia, and Weebly sounds kind of wobbly.

YolaLogoAt least Yola says “start for free” but at one stage they had a massive security breach and a lot of people had to redo their sites (which is tough since you don’t have local copies with most of these tools). Of course, they have customer support people to help you with these easy to use no help required tools.. and I see Weebly pays their support people $15 per hour – same as my gardener!

I have rescued so many of these it drives me crazy. They have to get a professional like me just to get their billing stopped and domain names back so they can go off and use some proper tools that do not make them beholden to any specific vendor or ISP. And they can learn where to get their hosting and what they are really paying for each year.

Yahoo bought the popular GeoCities free website and community builder tools (one of the originals) but have now shut it down with no easy migration path for users. Of course it was free, so no use complaining.  Go try their SiteBuilder instead. So slow and awkward and ugly and difficult – wear a hat so you don’t pull your hair out. And like many Yahoo products (which I will never understand), some obscure long path name to get back to your working area or their tools. Along the way, just like many of their web reg and other tools, they keep reminding you to save your bookmarks. Why can’t they just give me a higher level domain entry point instead of this outrageous mess? Don’t they understand how many bookmarks a busy professional researcher already has? And we access the tools from many different computers and don’t always have all our bookmarks with us? And simply because they can’t set up short paths like their Google neighbors? How smart aren’t they!

Now what if your club organization set up a free site a few years back? But that member has moved on and his credit card has expired (yes, free sites sooner or later require credit cards) and all you know it is hosted by Yahoo?  Prepare to dial for dollars and email your heart out – assuming you can even find the gateways. I recently rescued another of these for a fellow far away – embarrassing how weak their security is even with the must talk to a human step.

And even some of the ones that work better (like Intuit’s Homestead offering), have their own schemes for building sites on the fly. Which means there are no site hooks, words, titles, etc for the search engine robots to discover you in the middle of the night. Not to worry, for a small fee they will sell you SEO services – and most novices don’t even know what that means.

Well I think you get the picture. Enough of my ranting. Now you see why almost every ISP supports one button install of WordPress. And for just your domain and hosting costs (I charge my clients $60 per year for both of these) you too can have a site based on the most popular content management system in the world. I have had sites up and live with their first blog in under 4 hours start to finish, though I must confess I think about and plan the graphics in advance. And some of my sites grow to hundreds of pages and thousands of blog entries. Let’s give a big cheer to the whole WordPress community and all the people around the world building sites, themes, widgets and plugins for that environment.

PS You should see some of the stuff my colleague Kyra at Brighter Scribe is now getting up to with WordPress for herself and smaller marketing clients. (See www.juicesalon.com, www.thescribesdesk.com). Like consumer magazines Writers Magazine and even Rock and Gem have said, get started on WordPress and you too will soon be rhapsodizing about dashboards, blog postings, themes, widgets as you happily extend and build your own website and/or blog. And if you really don’t have the time and no graphics or writing talent, look on Craigslist under Creative Services. For every town in the country there is a web person offering low cost services to quickly build you a WordPress based site that will endure as you grow.

Similarly for Rosie Reay at www.BrighterSpain.com.  See www.ebrovoice.com for a pure blogsite that does the job. All free except for hosting costs.

Disclosure: While WordPress is free, many of the themes now require a small one time fee, typically less than $60.

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A great product I don’t need

ShellBackpakEvery so often there comes along a geeky product that makes me shake my head and say, “Am I getting old or am I missing something?” Well in the case of this hardshell backpack, let me tell you I am a very experienced back packer.

Not many people my age travel with a back pack rather than a little roll along case. Heck you can’t move with quickness and agility with one of those as you bob and weave through an airport crowd. Nor does it leave two hands free for tickets and grub, or books and wallets.

But a hard shell?  That is not a very accommodating space, even though I get they are trying to balance the weight. This looks like it was designed for the bomb squad. Worse still, it looks like the bomb squad would bring me down if I wore one. Can you imagine going to the Boston marathon nowadays with one of these? Even if it only had your friends track suit and your camera inside?

See more at Dutch company  Solid Grey. To their credit, these do look a little cooler in colors, despite the company’s own unusual Solid Grey name, but more for a small Star Wars fanatic kid rather than any teenager or college crewman.

P.S. Maybe it is designed for carrying around old fashioned typewriters for those who don’t know about computers yet.

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A Brighter Way to Use Bright Sun and Moon Shine

BetaraySolarConcentratorThis week’s product definitely fits in the category of how many more ways can solar be improved. We always love to find these stories, especially when it is some students in a lab or garage that use their unique lack of sophisticated brain-washing to think of a new way to solve an old problem.

It’s elegant industrial design first caught my eye, even though I did not know if it was a searchlight, concrete mixer, bird-catcher or laser transmitter of some sort. So I was pleasantly surprised to hear that it really is their second generation optical wave focusing device to make so much better use of the sun (and even moon) by tracking continuously and using crystal technology for the focus.

Yes, crystals are powerful reflectors, refractors and splitters of light, as any optical engineer will tell you. In fact, aren’t those studies part of Optical Basics 101? Which makes it even more amazing that only now some practical usage to help the photovoltaic and solar industry is emerging.

And, of course, to catch my eye it had to have a good name too. They could hardly do any better than their selection of Betaray…. though I am not sure that will be final production name after they have checked trademarks on Rawlemon’s New Crystal Ball.

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Food Slots: The Future of Food

FoodSlotMachineCropA new and fun way to dispense food

One of the greatest inventions is the vending machine (or food dispenser) because it made it more accessible for people to grab a quick bite 24/7.
But do you know that the earliest form of vending machine was invented by Greek engineer, Hero of Alexandria? His machine dispensed holy water when inserted with a coin. Vending machines evolved through time and the first machine was built by the Thomas Adams Gum Company in 1888. The classic gumball machine became an inspiration for other mechanical devices including the slot machine.

Also known as one-arm bandits, slots were originally operated by pulling a lever located on the side of the machine, but now this famous casino game is controlled by buttons. The slot machine also had many transformations especially when its online counterparts invaded the virtual world in the 1980s. In fact, the first video slot made its debut in 1979 according to Slot Machine Basics.

Online slots became the choice of tech-savvy players because they are more accessible and there’s no need to wait for your turn to use the machine. Pocket Fruity’s regular blogger Henry said, “It’s easy to be tempted to go for the big jackpots and payouts but let’s be realistic. In all the time you’ve played slots, where has the majority of your wins come from? If you’re honest with yourself, the majority of your cash has been won on those smaller amounts.” With online slots, most of the games have great payout percentages, thus people resort to playing online because they believe that they have a better chance of winning.

hellmanns-food-slotcropAnother winning slot machine invention was launched by Ogilvy Brazil a few months ago to promote Hellmann’s mayonnaise. The Food Slot can dispense about 280 food samples and recipes that use mayonnaise in the ingredients. This machine was placed in different supermarkets and groceries all over Brazil. Customers had fun pulling the lever of the Food Slot and each of them randomly received a food sample and collectible recipe.

This is actually a great idea and it may even soon replace the vending machines, as long as people are willing to take a risk with the kind of food they’ll eat. Are you willing to try the Food Slot?
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Ollo Clip Lens is our Smart Gadget of the Week

OlloClipLensIt took a while since the first iPhones came out, but here at last is a very clever set of clip on lenses for the iPhone and iPad from a company called OlloClip.

Now I don’t have to even think about buying a Nokia phone just to get the better lens power – which as an active photographer I really have been missing.

And like a lot of really good design ideas, it is of the so elegant, so simple, why didn’t I think of that variety. When people fall in love with your product at first glance, they are prepared to give you a lot of leeway in usage and quality, especially if you are new. So here I am assuming the software does a good job and the documentation is sufficient, even though I haven’t actually tried the product myself.

OlloClipLogoSecondly, it is properly packaged and named so that it not only works, it looks good and the name sounds original enough to easily pass along via word of mouth and mouse, even though I am not sure how I am supposed to pronounce an O with a bar over it. Never mind to me Olé  is enough.

 

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Back to the Future Typewriter

When my oldest son was but a youngster, and we were reading his picture dictionary, we eventually made our way to the T section. After scanning the page he asked “Daddy, why does the printer have a keyboard on it?”

USBTypewriterWow. Took me a minute or two to realize he was looking at a picture of a typewriter and had never seen one so he identified it as a printer!  And that was over 20 years ago.

USB Typewriter might be a boring and pedantic name, but the concept of recycling something as old and traditional as a typewriter, with modern things like flat panel screens and USB connectors, somehow appeals to my funny bone.

As a sometimes professional writer, I often read of famous authors who still love the feel of an old manual typewriter. Not me. I was completely intimidated by my mother touch typing away on one of those – as I played with the sticky whiteout fluid.

So congratulations to Uncommon Goods for finding and selling such an interesting cross over item this holiday season.

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The Product Name Development Process

MazeSmlNowadays the job of Product Manager or Product Marketing Manager is much more defined in the technical fields than it used to be, helped along by some  product management training companies and even a number of product camps. But why do their systems and flowcharts not show Packaging as a formal step in the process? A consumer products company would be horrified to skip this step, even if their products are also virtual and sold only on the internet.

As is often the case, if no one else does it, then that function is clearly the responsibility of the product manager. Packaging they can maybe punt over the cubicle to marcom or graphics design team, but the name is a key part of the packaging, and has big positioning, financial and legal overtones. Unfortunately, most product managers only get involved in naming once every three or fours years. For top management it is often every five or six or more years. Which means they are usually woefully out of date with the reality of naming and think you can still have a brain storming session with expensive management all sitting around a conference table while crazy ideas are thrown out and people dig in dictionaries and Wikipedia for inspiration.

I have discovered that we all think we will know the magic name when it hits us. The reality, of course, is that if we all agree right away on a great name, it probably means we relate to it because we know of it from somewhere in our past. By definition this almost always means it is taken. So when the lawyer responds, we trudge back to those expensive waste of time executive conference meetings – now discouraged, but still with no process to ensure success.

But there is hope. You can learn the name development and checking process. There are good books out there (including humbly my own Brighter Names) to guide your team. But you still often need some great creative input -especially as by now you are looking at some more urgent deadlines.

ShadyPathSmlAnd that is why naming agencies exist. They are staffed by wordsmiths who look at names all day and everyday, not just once every few years. They study roots, languages, competitors, phonetics and trademarks. They have proven skilled consultants in different locales and from different backgrounds to get a broad variety of names on a master list in short order. Plus the better ones have giant databases of names collected over the years and they know how to do current trademark checks quickly. And they have the experience  to bring a team to consensus in a timely fashion through good executive meeting facilitation.

Due to this need from corporations and startups alike, the naming niche consulting industry has also grown a lot in size and efficiency. As a result, unlike your legal fees from lawyers to check names, prices have come down dramatically too. So now there are good proven agencies that can efficiently do your complete naming project in the $3,000 to $5,000 price range – and even less for small startups. Plus it only takes three to four weeks max and most can handle international naming and trademark work too. This is much cheaper than most companies can do it in-house especially when you consider the hourly cost of those execs around the conference table and the lawyers standing by.

See also older related article: Save $6000 in Trademark Legal Fees.
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