Jobs strikes rockin’ deal for usage of trademarked Ping name
By Meghan Tetwiler, Brand Planner @ NYCA
Earlier this month John Solheim, CEO of golf’s well-known equipment maker PING, negotiated rights of its trademarked name with Steve Jobs. Along with iTunes10 came Apple’s Ping, a social network feature that facilitates users’ ability to follow their friends’ music interests and interact with fellow music lovers. While this news is certainly not music to every golfers’ ears, we are just going to have to get used to there being another Ping on the corporate block.
Word on the street is Jobs couldn’t have any name but Ping for his social networking music feature so he went straight to Solheim and worked out an agreement granting him legal usage of the Ping name. Reading this bit of news got me thinking. Isn’t the value of having a differentiated brand name worth putting up a fight?
As a brand steward it’s disappointing to see PING’s CEO and legal counsel not fight to hold onto the equity it has established in the Ping name. And, as a Paul McCartney lyric enthusiast, my heart sinks a bit when I realize these days anything can be bought for the right price, especially if you’re Fortune Magazine’s CEO of the Century.
In the communications business, a great deal is invested to unlock the perfect naming combination for brands and products that are descriptive, evocative, memorable and completely trademark protected. These trademarked names are safeguarded because they’re more than labels; in fact, I’d argue the heart and soul of a brand is a direct derivative of the meaning behind its brand name.
Too much of one thing is never good, I can just imagine how consumers’ relationship with brands might be altered if the world became saturated with brand name sameness? Even though music and golf are different industries, I bet a few Apple-fanatic-golf-novices might subconsciously pick out a PING club or two when they take to the course.
What might happen if someday there were a hundred Pings out there all vying for consumer attention? For consumers’ sake, I am hoping this recent Ping name transaction is an anomaly.