New Brands for the New Year

Familiar and Fresh Names for Mobile Devices

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It’s Kodak’s Polaroid moment. The imaging company is coming out of bankruptcy and licensing its brand to be used on a third-party consumer electronics product.

UK-based Bullitt Group announced that it will launch several Kodak-branded Android devices in 2015 with a focus on the devices’ photo hardware and software features. Bullitt, which also licences the Caterpillar brand for a series of rugged smartphones, says that the Kodak-branded phones and tablets will be easier to use than other Android devices and fit smoothly into Kodak’s photo world including the company’s print and picture sharing services.

Kodak’s brand value was ranked fourth by Interbrand in 1996 and was still considered a top 100 global brand as late as 2007. Nonetheless, despite the fall of its trademark and business, Eastman Kodak’s logo is still well-known and has a strong association with imaging products and services. Use of the Kodak brand on a smartphone could gain some retro attention. The first Kodak-labelled devices from Bullitt will be unveiled at International CES 2015 in early January.

BlackBerry, another former top global brand, announced that it has partnered with aerospace company Boeing to create the Boeing Black phone, an Android-based device intended to be highly secure. Boeing says the smartphone will become inoperable when anyone attempts to bypass the device’s security features. A BlackBerry-collaborated Boeing-branded smartphone could attract a customers among defence contractors and government agencies.

During the past few years, several established handset manufacturers have created brands to target particular market segments. Huawei created its Honor line, for example, and Micromax recently announced its Yu-labelled line of CyanogenMod-based phones. This was partially in response to Xiaomi’s Mi label, which was created with non-Chinese audiences in mind. CCS Insight expects this trend to continue during 2015 with device manufacturers such as Meizu introducing names that sound more friendly to Western ears.

Alibaba’s mobile ambitions could result in the establishment of a new smartphone and tablet brand, with devices based on the company’s YunOS. Although Amazon learned that building a device brand and platform has significant challenges even with fantastic advantages in distribution, CCS Insight believes that Alibaba could carve out a solid foothold for its mobile platform, ecosystem and device brand during 2015.

The Chinese smartphone market is likely to exceed 400 million units in 2014 as well as 2015, providing Alibaba with high-volume opportunities at a time when the brand has great momentum in its domestic market as well as globally (see Instant Insight: Alibaba Results, 3Q14).

The coming year will be a one of mobile brand building and rebuilding. We expect more new names to come out of Asia as well as Europe and the US looking to establish favour with local audiences and beyond. And there’ll be more brand repurposing. While most brands will find it tricky to establish global recognition in the mobile market, at least one or two will stick around.

This will be the final Daily Insight of 2014. Publication will resume on 4 January 2015. CCS Insight wishes you a Happy Brand New Year.