Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Turning Your Brand into a Destination

We are all familiar with places that are named after geophysical features (Land's End, Three Rivers, Spring Mountain Road), after road and highway "architecture" (Five Points, Spaghetti Junction), or after a person with some actual or inspirational relationship to the place (Berkeley, Jefferson City, Tyson's Corner).

(In another post here about naming, I discussed how the FAA has made airplane navigation points more memorable by giving regions distinctive semantic "landmarks." For example, the nav points around Montpelier VT are HAMMM, BURGR, and FRYYS, while the series of points that guide pilots into St Louis include SCRCH, BREAK, FATSS, and QBALL).

Occasionally a place becomes strongly associated with a business establishment and this name supplants the previous name for it (e.g.,the shopping mall called the Metreon is now a more salient place for most San Franciscans than "Yerba Buena Gardens"). But this week I learned of a new twist in assigning names to places to make a business name its original name.

A full-page ad in the 24 March 2008 "Business Week" contains an offer by the Roads and Transit Authority of Dubai Metro titled "turn your brand into a destination" that is described as "the ultimate branding and marketing opportunity."

The ad says that I can put my brand on a Dubai Metro station of my choice, or one of the two lines in the Dubai Metro Network. It would be intriguing to have a "Bob Glushko Station" in the Dubai Metro, but I don't feel like getting into a bidding war with Coke or Price Waterhouse or IBM. I wonder if the RTA would accept a Christian Broadcast Network station (I've sent the RTA an email asking about their terms and conditions... I'll post a follow-up if I hear back).

But what really intrigues me is why a country as wealthy as the UAE, whose foreign currency reserves are in the hundreds of billions of dollars, could possibly need the money from selling off its naming rights. It isn't like poor San Francisco, which has changed the name of its publicly-owned baseball park three times (Candlestick, 3Com, Monster) to raise a few million bucks. And naming rights or no naming rights, everyone here still calls it Candlestick.

(No, I'm not talking about the privately-owned baseball park in San Francisco, which has been officially "branded" by its owners as PacBell Park, SBC Park, and AT&T Park and unofficially branded by a lot of us as "Barry Bonds Park" since Barry is why most of us ever saw a baseball game there).

-Bob Glushko

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