Brand Namkaran

Namkaran, a traditional ceremony of naming the baby in India is considered auspicious and associated with honor, pride and fate. In India, particularly, all names have a specific meaning and the hopes for the child, of the parents and extended family are symbolized through this name. Often the names are borrowed from role models (Priyanka, Vijay, Rahul – have been influenced by political or film personalities). Names have enormous significance in every society in the world.

 A name is what bestows an identity on a person and we are able to treat the individual as someone with needs, feelings and purpose. Through the name, the individual becomes part of the history of the society, and, because of the name, his or her deeds will exist separate from the deeds of others.

Other than identifying people with a name, the name matters in other scenarios as well. In recent decades, many Indian cities have expunged their pre-existing names to Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Thiruvanthapuram and Vadodara. Even Roads and landmark names have acquired a local flavour - from Victoria Terminus to ChhatrapatiShivaji Terminus, Howrah Bridge to RabindraSetu, Dum Dum Airport to NetajiSubhas Chandra Bose International Airport, signifying a symbolic gesture to shrug off our colonial past. (It is another matter altogether that our enthusiastic naming brigade renames a manageable Altamount Road to a Salebhai Karimji Barodawala Marg – and then wonders why it doesn't stick!!!)

Post the industrial revolution, as the first brands were born, the very first form of identification was name. Brand names are what separate generic products and become the identifier for a brand.The ultimate victory for a brand nonetheless, is when the reverse happens: when the brand name becomes a verb and defines the category- Google, Velcro, Fedex and Xerox have all become ‘doing’ words.Not all brands manage that. So we Xerox – but we never Polaroided! We Googled, but never Yahooed!! When brands get used as verbs – they say we are the ONLY way to do something. All ‘verb’ brands are typically market leaders. It is perhaps important for brands to consider how to introduce themselves in popular usage and initiate that practice themselves.

Some brands become iconic and their name can play a great role in that journey. Thums Up launched with thunder in 1977. The year of euphoria after the emergency, this fizzy drink got the chance to capture the spirit of second independence in its name. The mis- spelled name ‘Thums Up’ I believe was formed to address a clear promise to consumers that the refreshing taste of cola was back in their lives, supported by a logo which depicted red thumbs up hand gesture with a slanted white typeface, and what was one of India’s first truly lifestyle oriented campaigns with the line, “Happy days are here again!”. This uplifting name, represented the emerging youth of India came at a time when Indians were beginning to believe they could have a great future. Thums Up got associated with style, international appeal and liberation and remains so robust a brand that international giants such as Pepsi and Coke have grown the market but have not be able to dethrone Thums Up – the only country in the world where they are losing out to a local brand.

The uniqueness of a product’s name can have a game changing effect in its category. Case in point, the name BlackBerry evaded the obvious expectations from a phone or PDA. The name’s friendliness addressed all the negative associations attached to such devices- they vibrate, they buzz and they give stress. There is a resemblance between the handheld’s black keys and a blackberry’s external surface and the ‘network’ metaphor is derived from blackberries growing in clusters on vines, typically covering a large area. BlackBerry broke all conventional rules through its name’s playfulness.

So how does one come up with a name like Thums Up or BlackBerry? Well, the best names are clutter breaking, almost surprising for that category. When we EXPECT a name like FastMoney – we don't remember it. When we see something different – like Apple, we find it harder to forget it. Secondly, names benefit by being ownable crafted words – rather than generic words. So Chocos or Lakme do not mean anything – but become unique. Names are best generated through varied lateral thinking exercises that involve multiple people brainstorming and building on associations. Using different lateral thinking tools and techniques, the naming process can generate over 400-500 ‘root’ words. In a typical naming session you will find a plethora of words that spread out like branches from a central thought.The maps help to stake out linguistic territory, and to bring forth the deeper associations that a particular product evokes—the words underneath the name. The framework encourages lateral thinking through plenty of visual and verbal stimuli, then sieves it through brand and category filters, stimulating both left and right brain to function optimally. After all, it is important for the name to have a Lady Gaga effect on your brand.

From the root words, the word play begins. Adding, subtracting, changing spellings – are all undertaken. Eventually, any name can succeed – we have enough examples of Haldirams, Nirulas and Oberoi in India alone. A sharply defined, differentiated name that cues a category by association, rolls off easily on the tongue, lends itself to a visual design; however, can greatly increase the speed with which a new brand can establish itself.

Article by Priyanka Shah- General Manager Strategy at DY Works

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