Have you noticed how many modern brand names don’t really belong to their product categories any more? Mango is not merely a juicy fruit; it is an equally juicy fashion garment label too. Fuel is not what you fill up your vehicle with; it is a brand of vodka. Mach-3 is not a supersonic aircraft like the F-16, we all know it is the world’s most popular shaving system. And virgin is not what you think a virgin is, it is a brand of airlines, music, cola and whatever else Mr. Branson may launch next.
What has sparked off this trend of brands borrowing their names quite shamelessly from entirely unrelated parts of the universe? Will we soon have motorcars called Sweat and deodorants named Cylinder & Piston? Or, dark rum called Proton? Or, contraceptives called Black Coffee? Why have marketers left behind the invaluable comforts of simple, direct names such as Tiny Tot toys, Dreamflower talc and Stolichnaya Vodka?
There is a method to this madness. In today’s cluttered world of brands, new names have to generate great amounts of consumer interest. To do that, they have to be different and unexpected. A name that sounds quite normal and expected passes by like a ship in the middle of the night and often goes unnoticed and ignored. So, labelling a vodka with yet another Russian sounding name — say Krasnodarsky — will perhaps not get any mindspace, because all of us expect exactly this of a drink of Russian origin. But name it Fuel or Pink or Zero or Pablo Picasso — and you suddenly have the curiosity meter ticking. There is, in many of these names, distinct shock value as well.
“If I evoke consumers’ interest, half my battle is won”, says a friend of mine who specialises in developing brand names. “Today, the mantra is — to do the unexpected, or fade into oblivion.”
That’s not all. When a product borrows a name from a very different world, it is able to transfer seamlessly to its own category a new and fresh wave of imagery which excites all of us. Recently, we at Titan named a new collection of our watches Octane — a name borrowed from the category of cars, petroleum and racing — never used in wrist watches. By doing so, we were able to transfer to these watches the rich and powerful imagery associated with cars, racing and speed. Consumers are loving it.
Since this imagery is already strong in consumers’ minds, it transfers easily provided, of course, there is some fit with the product. So, Octane can be used for big, bold, powerful watches, which talk energy and technology. But clearly, it would be foolish to use the brand name for kids’ watches or a dainty watch for women. The transferred imagery of motorcars and racing provokes new desire because for the first time a watch taps into the subliminal desire for this sport and all that the name “Octane” stands for.
Brilliant examples of such imagery transfers abound in the world of toys. For example, Mickey Mouse toys convey imagery different from that of Harry Potter toys, also setting it apart from Funskool, and totally different from Schwarzenegger toys. In fact, all these four names — one borrowed from comics, one from books, one from academic institutions and one from a muscular hero always on the rampage — virtually define the consumer who will buy these toys. That’s the power of transferred image.
And finally, new brand names come from dramatically different categories because that is where more and more new product inspirations are emerging from. For instance, product concept and design inspirations for new mobile phones come from categories as far apart as shaving razors, pebbles and Swarovski crystals, rather than from other mobile phones. Similarly, new motorbikes derive inspiration from diverse categories — battle tanks, animals such as cheetahs and peppy girlie toy colours. So, when new product concepts are being actively borrowed from other worlds, can borrowed brand names be far behind? No surprise then that we have a Motorazr, a Motopebble, a Breitling Bentley and a Scooty Pep.
All these have made the subject of new brand names more adventurous and interesting. The next time you buy a simple bar of soap, take a close look at its name — it may well have been inspired by the bright red colour of Mars (to cue a nice hot bath) or by Martian extra terrestrials (who may actually need lots of soap after all their hectic inter-galactic travels) or even by the latest spaceship to Mars (whose aerodynamic design may have inspired the look of the new soap bar, for reasons best known to its creative marketers). And the brand name may have nothing to do with soaps at all. But of course, it will give you a new body-and-mind experience, transported from another world, as you step into your warm bath. After all, that’s what brand names are for.
(The writer is Chief Operating Officer – Watches of Titan Industries Limited.) .
6 months ago