Brand Matters: Recapturing the “Intel Inside” Effect

 

Robert C. Sprung and Christian Wichmann, TippingSprung LLC

Robert C. Sprung

Having seen its standards turn into brands like Centrino and Wi-Fi, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE; New York City) realized that developing its own brands was a matter of great strategic importance. By developing a trademark along with a standard—or a single unit of a branded standard—IEEE could create immediate business benefits for its members, for itself, and ultimately for consumers. If IEEE failed to pursue the opportunity, the door would be open to multiple parties branding a standard, or for a given standard to be subdivided at the whim of third parties into multiple brands—all sources of potential brand dilution. By controlling its own brand, IEEE would also have greater control over the certification process, including the licensing of any trademark or logo related to the standard.

The first project came in the form of IEEE 1625, a standard for rechargeable batteries for mobile computers. With booming demand for long-life lithium-ion batteries, the organization’s members saw the need for a standard that set the stage for the manufacture of a new generation of batteries. Collaborating on the standard were 19 of the world’s major battery and computer companies, including Dell, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Motorola, National Semiconductor, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, and Texas Instruments.

IEEE brought in TippingSprung. “We needed a branding partner who not only had the creative energy to devise a powerful new brand, but who also saw the strategic business benefits we were trying to achieve,” said Claudio Stanziola, IEEE’s manager for standards intellectual property. “TippingSprung showed that a brand never exists in isolation, but must be part of a larger brand architecture—critical in our case, with our vast catalog of standards.”

Martyn Tipping, director of brand strategy at TippingSprung and a veteran naming expert, worked closely with IEEE on the project. “When people think of a naming exercise, the project appears to be mostly a creative exercise: basically, who can come up with a brilliant name.” But this is only one aspect of a complex process. “One of the reasons we wished to work with TippingSprung is their process orientation,” noted Karen McCabe, marketing manager at IEEE. “It was a big epiphany that there was a real discipline around this activity. Branding has the general aura of just the creative element, but having a real process allowed us to get beyond personal likes and dislikes.”

Given that the branded standard would have to gain acceptance among IEEE’s large constituency—its members as well as the huge population of end-users—getting the buy-in of a number of stakeholders in a structured way, throughout the branding process, was seen as indispensable to its success. “Otherwise, we ran the risk of developing a name and identity that our members couldn’t live with,” noted McCabe.

After a rigorous process of name-generation, legal screening, and further buy-in among members, IEEE standard 1625 was finally given the trade name Livium. “The Livium name suggests lithium-ion batteries, but also implies ‘live’ power,” Tipping noted.

The process also includes international testing to ensure that a name is effective and nonoffensive around the world. One of the strongest contenders—Li-ionHeart—was eliminated at this stage, since it happened to also be a hit song in Japan, a key market for the standard. “We also wanted more of a tech name,” said McCabe. “In the end, we didn’t want to have the name of an animal in our standard brand.”

For IEEE, Livium marks a strategic shift from the world of numbered standards. “With branded technology standards like WiFi and Bluetooth becoming everyday terms, we have seen a shift in the role that standards play in people’s lives,” notes IEEE’s Stanziola. “And strong, distinctive brand names like Livium make it easier for consumers to understand and remember the many technology standards they deal with every day.”

Robert C. Sprung can be reached at robert@tippingsprung.com. TippingSprung (New York City) offers brand strategy, naming, and design services with a focus on the needs of technology companies.

 

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