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What’s in a Name? Only a Few Million Dollars

12 Dec 2023

Recently Tata Motors changed the name of its car from Zica to Tiago as Zica sounds similar to the deadly virus Zika. It’s a timely business decision that reminds one of Ayds candy.

Ayds is perhaps the only brand to die of Aids. The appetite suppressant candy enjoyed strong sales in the seventies and eighties, until the Aids epidemic swept the world. The company tried changing its name to Diet Ayds, but met with little success and the brand soon died a natural death.

The bard may have said, “The rose would smell as sweet by any other name,” but then he never worked as a brand manager. A strong brand name is a huge asset in marketing warfare, and often the right name can make the difference between victory and defeat.

Smuckers, a US brand of fruit spreads, peanut butter, ice cream toppings, etc. once ran their ads with the line ‘With a name like Smuckers it has to be good’, turning a weakness into an advantage.

Meow Mix, a cat food brand, has the slogan, ‘Cats ask for it by name’.

Perhaps the most brilliant name in the recent past is I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, a brand of butter substitute from Unilever.

How does one choose a brand name? Ideally it should be simple, memorable, and a bit different or unusual. If you need a website with a brand name, the unusualness quotient has to be pretty high.

Further, it should not feel out of place, i.e. there should be a fit. For instance Maggi is a good name for noodles, but will not work for something very Indian like, say, pickles.

Vimal is a good name for a sari brand, but for suit material, Raymond is a better name. It’s western, and has a hard masculine sound, unlike Vimal, which despite being a man’s name, sounds feminine.

The entertainment industry knows how important it’s to have a name that sounds right. Ben Kingsley and Krishna Pandit Banji are the same people, but with his real name he would not have been a successful actor

You can telegraphically convey quite a few things with the brand name – who the target group is, the country of origin, the price, etc.

Branding experts claim that in the long run a non-generic brand name trumps over a generic one. Apparently Domino’s is a better name than Pizza Hut. However, you may need to invest in making the name popular, as the name alone does not explain what the product is all about.

One thing to avoid is fads. Recently a builder in Delhi-NCR launched a property, with the name, Selfie Square. So what are they going to come up with next – Gangnam Style Mall? Point is, one should choose a brand name that has longevity, without falling for the latest craze. (Incidentally, Gurugram will never be the same as Gurgaon. Already properties like Hamilton Court, Magnolias, Camellias, Carnation, Palm Springs, etc. sound phony and incongruous.)

So, when you choose a brand name, choose wisely. Perhaps it would be the most important marketing decision you will ever take.

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