Update: Wii or ViiV — Brand Whatever!

Quick update: CNET just released their list of 10 worst technologies in Q2 2006. And guess what, Nintendo Wii has been crowned the Worst Name Change. I rest my case. For more Wii fun, read on…

The latest from the stables of two of the world’s top high-tech brands (Top 50 Global brands – Interbrand/Bweek report 2005) has a touch of the ‘ii’s in them. Intel’s latest chip for the entertainment PC is called ViiV (sounds like “Live”) and Nintendo’s next generation gaming device has been christened Wii (sounds like “We”). If you have to educate your audience as to how to pronounce your brand name, then — Houston, we have a problem!

Looks like it’s time for my 3-act play on Brand Naming Conventions:

Act 1: Rather than just rely on my instincts regarding brand rules, I thought it’d be interesting to measure these two brand names against the naming rules set out by the definitive naming and branding blog – Snark Hunting!

Snark’s three-piece advice:

1. Distinguish:

There are competitors–the idea is to distinguish yourself. Business is a competitive sport.

Let’s take ViiV and Wii, although not competitors in the strictest sense of the term, in a thinly composed silicon world, both these products aim to address the gaming/entertainment audience of the world. ViiV is the chip behind the next-generation entertainment PC and Wii is the next-generation gaming device from Nintendo. I don’t see how both the product makers have distinguished themselves with just a subtly nuanced pronunciation differentation and the use of the 2 ii’s in their brand names?

2. Differentiate:

How are your competitors positioning themselves? What types of names are common among them? Are they all projecting a similar attitude? Do their similarities offer you a huge opportunity to stand out from the crowd?

Here’s Intel’s primary competition – AMD and their chip for the gaming/entertainment segment is AMD-LIVE!!! I know AMD has a habit of taking on Intel word-for-word, but this is just plain crazy! There is too much of a similarity between the two brands within the same space for even the uninitiated to miss. Now, it’s a given that the semiconductor industry sees only these two giants battling it out, but that’s more of a reason to differentiate more effectively.

As far as Nintendo is concerned, their competition is both Sony’s PS3, PSP and Microsoft’s XBOX. Nintendo’s brand name (Wii) is a little more finely demarcated from its competitors than Intel’s ViiV. However, among its competition, Wii would have to be the most ambiguous brand name. Imagine their target audience pronouncing it as “Why”. Why do you need to buy a Wii?

3. Position:

The idea is to position yourself in a way that rings true in a fresh way–that cuts through all of the noise out there. The goal is to have your audience personalize the experience of your brand.

I think the rationale behind the brand name ViiV is to attribute a certain energy and freshness to this gaming chip-line. Kind of reminds me of Microsoft’s Vista. Enough said about the similarities between Intel ViiV (pronounced as LIVE – meaning Vive) vs AMD LIVE.

As for the “Wii” brand, I really think the company has put some thought into allowing the target audience to personalize the experience and actually that’s at the very essence of Nintendo’s philosophy in naming this console. Their website even goes so far as to say that “Wii will put people more in touch with their games … and each other. Wii sounds like “we,” which emphasizes this console is for everyone.” Nothing wrong with that. But will the strategy work?

What other qualities do you think a great brand should posses?: Self-propelling, emotional connection, poetry, personality, deep-well. Read all about it on the Snark Hunting post itself.

Also, for more brand naming coolness, download Snark Hunting’s comprehensive 90-page naming guide.

Act 2: For more naming rules, check out Guy Kawasaki’s rules for brand naming conventions… Makes for some interesting reading.

Act 3: For a fascinating look at how great brands came up with their awesome names (most of them accidentally), check out this comprehensive list at the “Deliberately Different” blog.

Have a great week ahead!

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  1. Hiro

    Nice article. Too bad you were totally wrong.

    Wii was just named Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year.

    Why? Because of Wii, the product, the brand, and the name.


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