Monday, March 1, 2010

What is in a name?

On a recent road trip, I decided to check out different signboards and shop identities along the highway. One thing was evident, every single business entity had a unique name with different brand attributes, ranging from a small tea kiosk in Mai Mahiu rather optimistically called “Panari Hotel” to a matatu was christened “Airforce One”.

It wasn’t clear if the kiosk's quality of service could rival that of the real Panari or even if the matatu had the security details of the real Airforce One, but what I concluded from this and other many instances is that a brand has to have unique attributes – even if borrowed from other sources – to stand above its competitors in its local operating environment.

A brand is a baby that is born, bred and nurtured to become a household name representing several attributes.

Even before a 'brand' is launched in the market, the father, the mother, and the entire family of the brand, spend considerable time thinking and planning for its conception, launch, growth, nourishment, management, and marketing.

I believe a brand is not just an intangible entity but a concept, indeed a phenomenon!

So, let me describe a brand as a planned phenomenon, spread over various phases, which enables a consumer to form tangible or intangible associations with a company or its product to effectively differentiate them from similar commodities.

Ideally, a brand should have the most representative name and the right kind of associations. This is to ensure the right positioning, or sometimes, owed to the right positioning! Even so, ironically, some of the most successful brands are born with the most misleading and deceptive names.

Some make it difficult for us to form an association or connection with the brand, like Apple, which deals in technology not fruits. Kiwi, which is a shoe polish brand not a collective of birds, and Bata, which is a shoe outlet not the Swahili name for a duck.

Locally we have Zap, YU, Geisha, Enkarasha and Bumba. I will not debating the success or failure of these names, since a number of factors go into making a brand a successful!

After the brand is born and named, it is pushed to the public. This is where Advertising, BTL (Below the Line) promotions, and Public Relations become crucial for promotion and top-of-the mind recall of a brand.

However, I am just trying to question the relevancy, the association and the connection of such names - and figure out if it's a safe marketing tactic!

There is no dearth of such misleading and mis-associated names. 'Zap' to me sounds like a fast moving machine; probably the idea was to position the m-commerce service as fast solution to your cash problems.

Similarly, 'Bumba is the title for some local music; could they have wanted to relate the brand with the youthful? On the contrary, one of the most apt names locally is 'Safaricom, how significant? Safari-stands for travel while Com is for communication...and it is evident the brand has been a success.

How do you explain the phenomenon of successful brands that originate from people's names, Guinness, Toyota which was adopted from Toyoda, Colgate, Ford, Chrysler, Mercedes Benz, Ogilvy and Mather. Locally, Ngenye Kariuki Stock brokers, Ronalo Foods and Gina Din Communications.

All the same in my opinion, a brand name usually rests upon one of these premises,

1) A quality or an attribute, often intended to be associated, with the brand, e.g. Rhino Match sticks -Strength

2) A benefit derived, or promised to be derived, from the brand, e.g. Energizer

3) Association with the parent-brand, e.g. Sarova Stanley's or Sarova White Sands

4) Association with the product-line of the brand, eg. Auto Assured

5) Association with the industry-segment of product, e.g. Ebrahims Electronics.

6) Association with the founder, et al, e.g. Ronalo foods

With thousands and thousands of brands in the closet we live in, I am sure there must be many more interesting names, worthy of a mention! So, do share some with me if you have an interesting take on any.

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