Monday, January 4, 2016

What’s in a Name?... Ask a Brand.

For the longest time we have been using  brand names, sometimes because we want that particular item and sometimes because we are addressing a category of products.

A “Band Aid” is an adhesive medicated strip (how many of us knew that??), but it represents all brands in that category be it HandyPlast or HansaPlast. The brand “Surf” has for the longest time signified a detergent powder and “Lux” a bathing bar. We often use a brand name as a verb, like “Google” this phrase for doing a web search or lets “FaceTime” for a video call. Such brand names are called Generic brands.

So what’s a brand?

According to American Marketer’s Association a Brand is a name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or a group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competition. We identify a product, its quality and its relationship with us with the help of its brand name. We associate an image, self-respect, a sense of heritage as also feelings like warmth and excitement with brands, like say Cartier, Louis Vuitton and our very own in-house brands like Dabur and Tata.

Choosing a brand name

So how does a company choose a brand name? There are innumerable stories behind choice of a brand name. Sit back on your IKEA futon, pick up a cuppa Nescafe and enjoy reading about some of those:

Some brands emerge from the name of the creator like Maggi noodles was named after its creator Julius Maggi; LandT named after it’s co-founders Henning Holck Larsen and Soren Kristian Toubro (2 Danish Engineers who sought refuge in India during pre-independence and founded the company LandT in Mumbai).

Some brand names are derived from certain terms:
Google is named after the term Googol which represents 1010 zeroes. The brand Canon (the famous Japanese camera company) is derived from the name of a Buddhist goddess, “Kwanon”.  The brand Amazon is named after the world’s largest river, Amazon (to signify the volume of business the ecommerce company envisioned for itself). Sony, the founder of Walkman, is derived from the Latin word “Sonus”, which means sound.

Some brands are a result of misnomers, like Spotify (one of the most popular digital music service hub) got its name from a wrongly pronounced “identify” by the founder himself.
Blackberry (the famous phone company) calls itself so, because the digits on the phone looked like the fruit blackberry’s drupelets.

Sometimes an acronym becomes a very popular Brand name, for instance UCLA (full form – University of California Los Angeles); BMW, the full form of which is Bavarian Motor Works; YAHOO, the full form of which is Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.

There are plenty of such stories that tell us a little bit more about brands we buy, we consume and embrace in our daily lives. In reality however, brands become such an integral part of our lives, we often do not pay attention to the company they belong to or why at all they have that name. And the journey to discover brand names continues…

- Ms.Monica Mor
  Sr. Faculty, INLEAD

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