Sanjay Singh, our chauffeur, dog-walker and man Friday extraordinaire, provides interesting perspectives.
When I asked him whether he was going to watch the rather expensively-produced Agent Vinod, he said, “Kiska agent hain yeh to maalum hona chahiye! Insurance company ka travel company ka?”
I realised whoever named the movie had lost sight of the fact that the word Agent has lost its connotation of a spy or an employee of a super-qualified secret service and had acquired the connotation of an insurance or travel agent.
Which led me to pose the question: can a wrong brand name affect business?
In the case of Agent Vinod, it clearly had. It had actually failed to attract a customer because its meaning was unclear.
“Come on...” I hear you say, “surely the customer is subject to communication about the brand beyond the brand name?”
Would we feel comfortable buying designer-wear from Imperial Tobacco Company (which later became Indian Tobacco Company and is now ITC, selling Wills Lifestyle)?
Would Google have been able to diversify into mail and maps if they had named themselves WebSearch which is a brand name that would describe their first service?
On the other hand, so long as a company created the insanely desirable iPhones and iPads would it matter if the company was called Jobs Inc or Apple Inc?
A brand is consumed holistically, and the brand name plays a role in the creation of this gestalt in our minds.
How critical the role is depends on the business, category and product.
Lakme means Goddess Lakshmi in French; and yet in the category of cosmetics, this meaning is unlikely to add value.
Nokia is a small furry animal (and a river), but that is not very reassuring for a buyer of high-technology smartphones.
Canon is the Goddess of Compassion Kwanon, and that doesn’t add much to the category they are in either.
IKEA is the acronym formed by the name, surname, village and district name of the founder, and we are better off not knowing the full form, we like the DIY simplicity of the current products and the brand name, thank you.
As a rule, brand names that are LATERAL are more flexible.
A company that names itself TOYS R US cannot later be taken seriously if its offers lifesaving equipment.
Same with DUNKING DONUTS offering health food.
But a Virgin can sell everything from bridal wear to space visits to music to banking.
At Chlorophyll, we urge our clients to use brand names that reflect the philosophy of the brand: so Meru reflects ‘unshakeable dependability,' QUANT ‘measurable advice’ and Exactus ‘uncompromising precision.'
To me though, the most interesting observation from Sanjay is that human beings also tend up to live up to their names.
Amitabh in Sanskrit means “amita aabhaa yasya saha” which means “He whose fame/shine/glory knows no bounds” and to a large extent this is true.
Now you know why I have to have a shiny pate.