As the roadside loudspeaker gyrates to `My name is Sheila’ I idly wonder if the nation would have danced as much to `My name is Padmini’ or Surekha becoming badnaam would have been as crowd-pulling as Munni. How much are the names a contributor to the popularity?
One would think the issue of brand names has been addressed widely and deeply enough to be a non-issue by now. But in my consulting and teaching I am still faced many a time with `What’s the big deal about the name? Why not just use my daughters (or spouses/pet’s/sisters/ favourite deity etc etc) name instead of doing all this brand name shoo-sha?’ (Okay so maybe I am exaggerating a bit .. but it’s just a wee bit. The pet bit hasn’t happened …yet!)
For, as the bard put it so well.. ` A rose by any other name…’. And this would be so even today except for the sad reality that there are far too many not-so very-different roses out there and many of them go that extra mile by calling themselves names that help the choice-weary consumer make a bee-line to their door. Not that I would admit, as a consumer, that the name made a difference to my choice. Hey! Who makes choices in that irrational a manner huh? Do I hear a lot of `Not me’s?’.. Heh.. heh.. sure ..sure.
Of course there are brands that have the most unlikely names and have that have made a name for themselves – quite literally. E.g. Cadbury or Xerox or Mirinda or Kodak. It takes serious vision, a lot of marketing moolah and a willingness to stick to it for as long as it takes to get to that stage. Why go this long and arduous route if you there is no seriously compelling reason that forces you to do so? Especially if you have alternative uses for the resources? Why not use some creativity and come up with brand names that give you that extra push in the market place, helps the consumer make the connect that much faster thanks to all the associations just waiting to link themselves in his neuron map?
Take `Itchguard’. You hear the name and the mind goes.. humid … dark… dank .. ugly fungus… infection … … uncomfortable, want to scratch, OMG, people around … disgusting.. stop it.. itch guard.. guards you against itch. The next time you feel the itch, you don’t go to the chemist and say `hey you know what I have this fungal infection you know where…’ You just say `Itchguard please’!!! Now tell me you have found it that simple to walk up to the chemist and recollect `Vaduvala’ or `Zincolite’ unless you have asked for it very often (in which case it is possibly time to address it differently!)
The name is a tremendous tool. It could help you cut through the clutter and establish product category membership (theorist speak for `what this does for you’) and even drive home its differential advantage (`how I am better and why you should care’ bit). Like Duracell – this conveys to you that it is a cell of some sort and it promises a longer life. It helps tap into existing strong associations, drive ease of recall and is indicative of the brand personality. Take Spanx – it’s a fun name, its memorable and makes one’s mind wander and wonder .. just a bit. It’s bold and knows its mind. All values this famous brand of ladies inner `shape-wear’ exemplifies.
A useful list of adjectives to run through while choosing a name is
Is it :
Memorable; Meaningful; Likeable; Transferable; Adaptable; Protectible
No single name can rate equally high on all parameters. At times the more meaningful and memorable with respect to product category a name is the less transferable it becomes. E.g. Way2SMS.com – up there on meaningfulness and memorability but transferability to other product offerings? Ahem. The more meaningful and direct one gets the more the danger of becoming un-trademarkable and protectible or even memorable. Sometimes abstraction like Google or Yahoo! make it more memorable!
Yikes! This seems to be getting complicated. So how does one get to grips with this?
So I’d go with choosing the name that rates high on the parameters that are relevant given the specific product category, industry and the circumstances e.g. if the product and the intended extensions are closely related in terms functional coherence, have a very niche cultural appeal then I would value memorability, meaningfulness within that culture and likeability as more important; (say for a restaurant chain specialising in a local cuisine) (e.g. 96K – one that serves clientele in Pune with authentic Maharashtrian cuisine – a name imbued with meaning for those tuned to this culture and abstract enough to be quirky and memorable to those who don’t)
In an industry that moves on tradition, history and credibility like legal services or boutique investment services I would totally give all likeability, transferability et al a miss and say `Yeah.. why not the founders name’
If I were looking at an umbrella brand-name to cover a range of products with global ambitions I would seek more of transferability across product and geographical and cultural boundaries.
By no means though is a good name a one-way ticket to ringing cash registers. All it means is now we can begin rolling up our sleeves and whistling while we go about the rest of the in the trenches marketing … it just makes the tune easier to whistle.
As I write this my eleven year old tell me the new IPL team from Kochi is calling themselves the Indi Commandos. What might be the thought? To differentiate from all the other teams that appeal to regional loyalties only with their parochial names (Deccan Chargers, Rajasthan Royals, Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians, Kolkata Knight Riders ….)? Could this be a name that arouses the loyalties of all Indians .. the IPL team equivalent of the ICC Team India? Or is it simply a non-state name chosen by an out-of-state owner?! Will the word commando exemplify the teams player choice and game strategy in future? Time will tell. But for now the verdict from my eleven year old, a clear target segment for some time to come, is “Cool” for Kochi and to the other new team Pune Warriors? “LAME”!!!
Do I still hear “What’s in a name?”!!!!!