A blog about what is and what could be

Trademarking Numbers as Brands

Martin Lindstom of AdAge’s Brandflash highlights a unique naming strategy by the French automaker Peugeot.

Back in 1963 when the Porsche launched its new 901 model they received a legal notice from Peugeot. The French automaker informed Porsche that it had a trademark on the concept of auto brands comprised of a three-digit number with a zero in the middle.

Porsche was forced to change the name of its vehicle from 901 to 911.  In fact Peugeot has branded its cars with this kind of number structure beginning in 1929 with the Peugeot 201 which maintains this naming distinction to this day.

So what can we learn about Peugeot’s number trademark? Lindstrom points out three lessons marketers can take away from this unique naming structure.

1. Maintain sub-brands that have clear links to the parent brand

For example all McDonald’s products start with “Mc”.  Everything from “McFlurry” to “McSundae” always reminds customers that the product comes from McDonald’s. All Absolut vodka products from Absolut Citrus to Absolut Ruby Red are spelt wrong. Absolut owns the misspelling of the word. And finally Apple owns the “i” in front of all of its products.  So make sure you have a naming structure that links back to the parent brand.

2. Make sure you own it
Apple made this mistake just before launching the iphone and had to go into serious negotiations with the owner before securing the naming rights.

3. Keep the brand name consistent
Beware. If you adapt a new naming structure you risk destroying the brand link that could have been created.

As Lindstrom points out what’s interesting about brand names is that we can’t really remember a lot of information as consumers, therefore it is essential that we repeat ourselves.  That’s why its so important that everything we say links back to the original brand.


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