Sunday, 9 July 2017

Seven Things to Consider When Deciding on a Brand Name

Being with students, especially in their natural habitat, is always refreshing. Their energy is contagious and their ideas often exude sparks of radical thinking.

So when I received a request to be part of the jury panel for an inter-B-School business idea competition, I consented to it despite it being scheduled on a Winter Sunday morning!. Each student team had to present a business idea along with the GTM and business plan. A couple of teams made stellar presentations. However, I found it somewhat odd that every team had come up with a descriptive (functional) brand name for its product/service. For instance, if a business idea was around fashion, the brand was called Fashion-Something or some such. Obviously, none stuck.

Subir Ghosh

That prompted me to write this post. In the startup age, it is important for young entrepreneurs to get their brand names right.

Coming up with a descriptive name is a natural human response. That's how we function under regular circumstances. If we're going to work, we say we're going to work. We don't say we're going to have another day in Paradise. If we're eating a paper masala dosa, we say we're eating a paper masala dosa. We don't say that we're discovering the delectable taste of warm potatoes gift-wrapped in edible paper.

But Branding & Marketing is ALL about storytelling, not merely relaying facts (not false stories though). So here goes: seven simple points to keep in mind when you're trying to think up or select a name for your brand.

1. Is it unique?

Unique sticks. It's a simple principle that often gets forgotten. Just because almost every gym in town has 'Body' or 'Health' in its name doesn't mean yours should too. In fact, that's exactly why it needn't! Make your brand name stand out. It need not mix with its peers. Think Starbucks, Google, SurveyMonkey.

2. Does it lend itself well  to "spreading the word"?

Your brand name will spread via the written and spoken word. I'm referring here to just the name and not its depiction. So think about this aspect deeply. Are people likely to make spelling errors when typing your brand name? Say your brand name aloud. Make sentences with it. Say those sentences aloud. Say those in a whisper. See whether "spreading the word" literally would work for your brand. What would the brand's web address be? Is it available? Will it accommodate your brand well? For instance, if you have an "&" in your brand name, you will not be able to include that & in the URL. If you choose to call your furniture app 'Bold Dimensions', would people get the name if you shouted "download bold dimensions" across the floor? Think whether something like NearBuy is a great brand name, or just good wordplay.

Subir Ghosh

3. Is it category-neutral?

You might start out as a hotel aggregator but end up being a holistic travel app. Who knows what brand extensions lie in store for you in the future? Tying your brand to a single category is akin to yoking yourself to the Present. Why not pick a name that would work for any category?

4. Does it have a strong visual connection?

The brain remembers things visually. So if your brand name evokes a distinct image in the mind, it's great for brand recall. It's not necessary to leave that job to your logo; your brand name could also shoulder that responsibility. It's not a must, but it surely helps. Think Shell, Orange, BlackBerry.

5. Does it commemorate a story?

Again, this is not a necessary attribute, but if you have an interesting story around your inception, you might want to go with a name that commemorates that story. Here is one such story.

6. Would it do well on search engines on its own?

It's somewhat related to point #1 on uniqueness. If you have a unique name, chances are you will figure well on organic searches. Doing 'search research' is a must for all the options you're considering.

7. Does it have any negative connotation?

Well, this is an obvious one. It's important to do your homework on this so that your brand doesn't unwittingly end up receiving flak because it means something rude/disrespectful/funny in a different culture/context/country/language. Here are some examples of brands that ended up being the butt of jokes.

Of course, these guidelines are simplistic, but then, it's better to have a basic understanding than having none at all.

Pictures courtesy of SIMSREE

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Mobile Marketing Simplified‏

The term 'Mobile Marketing' often comes with so much jargon that the baggage can get overwhelming.

Alex Meisl, Chairman of Mobile Marketing agency Sponge, talks about Mobile Marketing in refreshingly simple terms in this podcast.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Talking the talk

Dr Kaushik Basu (Chief Economic Advisor, Ministry of Finance, Government of India) has raised some hackles with one his working papers on corruption.

In his paper, Dr Basu argues that for bribes paid to get routine work done (he calls these "harassment bribes"), Law should reserve all punitive action for the bribee and none for the briber. He points out that the under the current legal system, the quantum of punishment could be same for the bribee and the briber. The change in law "will cause a dramatic drop in the incidence of bribery," thinks Dr Basu"The reasoning is that once the law is altered in this manner, after the act of bribery is committed, the interests of the bribe giver and the bribe taker will be at divergence." 

The idea may seem radical to legal luminaries, but I'd wager that a lot of us laymen didn't even know that paying a bribe and taking a bribe are equal crimes in the eyes of the Law. In fact, it seems hugely unfair that a person who has often no option but to pay up in order to get things done should be held as guilty as the parasite who doesn't move his butt until his palms are greased. So, to a layman like me, Dr Basu's idea seems logical and one that should be implemented.

However, the idea has faced flak from several quarters. Some newspapers have carried stories under headlines that do little justice to the idea ("Legalise corruption: Chief economic advisor"). Social media has been abuzz with messages trying to interpret and misinterpret what Dr Basu had meant (an example here).

The problem, in my opinion, is with Basu's choice of words rather than the idea itself. Take, for instance, the title of his paper:
Why, for a Class of Bribes, the Act of Giving a Bribe should be Treated as Legal

At first glance, this could seem like an ominous prescription. If the objective of presenting the idea through a paper is (in Dr Basu's words) "to minimize the risk of misinterpretation," this title probably doesn't live up to the objective. Rather it is an open invitation to those who specialise in misinterpretation.

Maybe a title like the one below could've worked better:
Why, for a Class of Bribes, Law should treat the Bribe Taker and the Bribe Giver Differently

Headlines and titles are often taken at their face value in today's haven't-got-a-whole-minute world. In any communication, the first line is more important now than it ever was.

Pic source:

Friday, 21 January 2011

Brochure for sure

B2C sales pitches often seem like a trick.

Take the case of holiday time-shares. Salespersons spend a lot of time interacting with prospects. They scribble on sheets trying to explain various "plans" offered. In the end, you have a lot of uttered promises, a bunch of scribbled notes and a pair of eager eyes peering at you for an answer, but no printed brochure that gives you the reassurance that what you've just heard is indeed the truth and not the taradiddles of an eager salesperson.

A printed brochure can do the pitch a whole lot of good. It increases believability considerably and consequently the chances of  sale closure are enhanced (unless of course one's business model is based on trapping customers through false promises that obviously cannot be printed, which is exactly the impression you create when you pitch without a brochure). And by brochure, I mean a brochure, not photocopies or prints of certain documents.

Another trend I've noticed is the tendency to lead the prospect down a blind alley into a tight corner. The pitch includes questions designed to elicit specific answers that are going to make saying "No" to the offer later seem stupid. While this tactic may seem clever, it actually draws the battle lines between the salesperson and the prospect. The defence shields are upped, and the salesperson is no longer on the prospect's side.

If you are selling a time-share, leave behind a printed brochure that has all plans & entitlements listed (and not just breathtaking pictures of your resorts). If you are selling insurance, hand over the product brochure(s) to your audience. And please, give the prospect some time and space to breathe. The Give-me-your-answer-now approach works sometime when you are proposing marriage, but otherwise it's not a nice thing to say to a prospect.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

"Baithoongi piya Bolero mein"

While brand managers and ad agencies "strategise" in conference rooms, sometimes brands get a fillip from unexpected quarters. This hilarious folksy video that sings paeans to Bolero (an SUV from the Mahindra stable) has surfaced on YouTube.

The song takes digs at many automotive brands including the likes of Honda City, Indica, Tata Sumo and even the Scorpio (which comes from the same Mahindra stable).

Somebody tweeted the link to Mr Anand Mahindra, the Vice Chairman and MD of Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. and he retweeted the link with his comment:

Marketing is not just about "creating" a buzz, it's also about spreading the buzz.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Hey fever

For some reason, some brands try really hard to sound cool & trendy on social media. Nothing wrong with that as long as it sounds natural and apt. However, sometimes the 'coolness' turns so robotic that it teeters on the edge of civility.

For instance, Nokia India, in its tweets, seems so attached to "hey" that almost all their responses begin with that word!

Hey there Nokia, wats wid connectin ppl?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Small change, but it jingles

A couple of months ago, I had thought aloud about the Indian Railways' choice of imagery. The Indian Railways has now changed the picture on its homepage.

I do not know what prompted the change (Commonwealth?), but it surely is a good sign.