The Dubbing of 'Bing'
The new name for Microsoft (MSFT)'s search engine is meant to capture the sound effect of a lightbulb moment. But coming up with "Bing" was hardly spontaneous for the software giant. It took six months and dozens of experts to settle on the name.
Brand naming is serious business in an age when goods must have global appeal and when an unfortunate choice can turn a promising product into a punch line. Web surfers looking for Fling, a low-calorie Mars candy bar launched in California in January, found that www.fling.com is a site specializing not in chocolate but in sex. Mattel's latest American Girl Doll, which just hit the stores, turns out to share her name, Rebecca Rubin, with an alleged arsonist wanted by the FBI.
Microsoft was determined to get it right when, in early 2007, it decided to rename its "Live Search" service. Interbrand, the firm that won the job of developing a list, assigned eight people to brainstorm names around such themes as "speed" and "relevance." Over roughly six weeks they came up with more than 2,000 choices, winnowing as they went along, says Paola Norambuena, who ran the project. First to go were names that weren't catchy or were hard to type. As two trademark lawyers and 20 linguists pored over the 600 remaining choices, the team also eliminated any used by other companies—or profane in any language.
That left 50 to 60 to show to Microsoft, which picked eight, submitting those to focus groups and more trademark screening. On that short list: Kumo (Japanese for "spider," and also the project's code name) and Hook. Bing won out, says Microsoft's Danielle Tiedt, who manages the search engine's marketing, partly because it was close to the "aha!" sound in many languages. "It's short, appealing, memorable, active," says Jeremy Faro, a senior director at branding agency Landor Associates. Still, despite all the hard work, bloggers are taking potshots. One popular quip: Bing is an acronym for "But It's Not Google."
Europe's Fashion Victims
The fashion house of French designer Christian Lacroix confirmed on May 28 that it had filed for bankruptcy. But while Lacroix may be the luxury goods industry's best-known recession victim, he's not alone. Hundreds of small European businesses are staggering from a steep drop in orders from big luxury groups, whose sales may fall as much as 20% in 2009's first half, Bain & Co. estimates. Société Internationale de Lingerie (SIL), a longtime Paris supplier of lacy underthings to labels such as Christian Dior, Kenzo, and Sonia Rykiel, closed its doors in January, throwing 130 people out of work. Another recent casualty: Poitiers-based Sopim, which produced leather goods for handbag-maker Lancel, a unit of Switzerland's Richemont. Luxury groups like Richemont, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, and Gucci are offloading excess inventory to discount Web sites. Paris-based EspaceMax.com, which says business is up 50% this year, is currently selling 400,000 pieces of lingerie made by the now defunct SIL.
Warming Up to Greenland
Will Greenland be the next emerging economy? On June 21, Denmark, which has ruled the island for three centuries, will grant the right of self-government to Greenland's 56,000 people, and policymakers in the tiny capital of Nuuk are making big plans. Since Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat to its mostly Inuit population) has an abundance of swift rivers, the potential for cheap hydroelectric power is huge. Alcoa (AA) is now looking into locating an aluminum smelter on the island. Computer storage companies may follow. "They can keep their server farms cool with cheap hydropower, and we have more broadband than we can use," says self-government director Mininnguac Kleist. Then there are the oil, gold, palladium, platinum, and zinc deposits. An unusual twist in all this: the impact of global warming. Melting ice is causing rivers to run even faster. And one lead and zinc mine is reopening as retreating ice makes it easier to reach.
Women Come On Board
More women than ever joined corporate boards in the first three months of 2009. According to Directors & Boards magazine, 38% of new U.S. directors in the first quarter were women, a "chart-busting" figure that is by far the highest since the magazine began tracking appointments in 1994. "This is good news for business, not just for women," says Ilene Lang, CEO of nonprofit advisory group Catalyst, whose research shows that companies with more female directors and senior officers outperform others.
What's driving the influx? Some experts say there are more female senior executives eligible to serve on boards, though Catalyst says the percentage of females in those ranks held steady in the past four years. Whether part of a blip or a real trend, the new directors may have a long tenure. Many—such as Juliana Chugg, a General Mills (GIS) senior VP named to the board of apparel maker VF (VFC)—are in their early or mid-40s.