Mar 15, 2011

Advertising: Brand naming Strategies

got published in republica, yay

I first noticed the trend of scientific brand name when I saw that one of the top selling facial creams in America was called Neutrogena. I compared that to our own fair and lovely, which reminded me of a delicate beauty dancing in a swirl of pink. Neutrogena reminds me of nothing of that sort. Now, why would anyone name their beauty cream something as bland as Neutrogena, when a wide range of beauty related names are available? It set me wondering: maybe foreigners gave bland names to their products in comparison to Nepal? When I peeled my eyes and started looking, I found a lot of evidence for the same.

For example, did you ever wonder what “Liril” meant? Or Colgate? Or Nivea? Or Lifebuoy? Let us start with Lifebuoy: the name Lifebuoy actually means a boat, and not a lively boy as we may assume. Pretty complicated, isn’t it? For a South Asian product like “Fair and Lovely”, the name itself sends us into dreams of rose petals and porcelain skin. The generic Nivea is pretty bland in comparison. Products are often strategically named to evoke sentiments like “lovely.” Words like Coke and Pepsi have no meaning for us, but turn to the South Asian Maaza, and there you go, a name that suggests fun!

The most interesting of these sentimental names is seen in the washing soaps of Nepal. Apparently the washing soap industry of Nepal is fiercely competitive, judging from the rate that new brands come up. Almost every day we have a new washing soap, and their names get fancier and fancier, starting from Puja, and going on to Arati, Dalli, OK, 72%, and many more. Popular western cleaning detergents try to highlight their strength and efficiency: Vim means strength, and Tide and Surf refer to powerful jets of water, whereas the saccharine names in Nepal have no discernible relation to cleaning. The names of popular tea brands are equally fancy and have no relation to tea. Taj Mahal: Not satisfied with building a monument, did Shah Jahan name a tea after his beloved wife as well? Kailash chiya: Kailash Parvat is where Shivaji lives, is this his favorite drink? Funny, I always thought his favorite drink was Halahal Vish. Tokla: Who even knows what it means? Foreign tea brands like Brooke Bond, Earl Gray and Lipton are again lost upon us.

Another South Asian brand naming strategy is to evoke the senses: sight, smell, sound, and the like. Look at “Kurkure”, the very name reminds us of the crunch-crunch sound that we make while eating chips, hehe. Compare it to Lays, a generic name used across all countries. The name lays means nothing at all to us. And then there is the Nepali chocolate choco-bite, again remind us of taking bites. Alongside it are names of chocolate that we don’t understand: Nestle, Cadbury, Mars...

So what are the western product names actually named after? Often, they come from the names of its founders. Johnson and Johnson, McDonald’s, and Disney are only some of the examples of such branding by owner’s name. Hindustan Lever and Nepal Lever are parts of Unilever, which is named after their original owners Lever brothers, and not after Johnny Lever. Mars chocolates are not named after the planet Mars, and Proctor and Gamble was not gambled away. Lipton tea is not named so because “ton”s of ”lip”s like the tea. Brooke Bond is not named after James Bond. Or Brooke Shields. Nestle is neither a bird’s nest, nor warm hugs. Cadbury is not a buried cat (as I thought with horror as a child.) And no, Colgate is definitely not the gate to college, even though all the advertisements show college kids. These were all named after their founders.

Sometimes western products are not named after its owners, but after their scientific capacity. The more scientific sounding the name, the better. Neutrogena, for example, is a leading face cream. Its name is mad up of two parts: “Neutro” coming from nutrition, and “gena” coming from generate. This potion is actually going to “gene” rate nutrition. It promises objective, scientific and measurable benefits, instead of the sentimental qualities like Fairness and Loveliness. This form of naming usually combines two words: the first part says what the product will give, and the second part is an appendage that suggests action. It is actually a pretty common strategy found in many Western brand names. For example, Blistex, a popular brand of lip balm in America, scientifically promises to cure “blisters”. In the famous Viagra, “vi” derives its name from virility which means positive male characteristics like vigor and strength. The traditional proof of virility was the number of children you had. The second part “gra” is a generic appendage that “gives” virility. Dayquil and Nyquil, day and night versions of cold medicine, promise you a tran”quil” time in the day and night. In Nepal the cough medicine Honeytus is popular, which promises nothing but a taste of wonderful honey. Another western strategy is to include the ingredients of the product into the product name. A famous example is Coke that originally contained “coc”aine, according to New York times writer Clifford D. May.

There are also some brands that manage to combine the scientific promise with the owner’s names. For example, the original Vick of Vick’s VapoRub is the manufacturer’s brother in law, Vapo and Rub of course mean vapor (steam) and rubbing motion, two things that we often use Vicks for. There are a few exceptions to this rule that manage to throw us off: Sunsilk, we would think, is a South Asian brand, with its sentimental focus on sun and silky hair. But no, it happens to be a British brand. Grooming products like Axe come out with suggestive names every other day (Hypnotic, African Duo, Touch, and many more). But on the whole, the trend of sentiments versus science is a significant trend by which we can differentiate between brands made for Nepali and worldwide clients.



arjun said...

primarily, its a cultural thing - south asian naming culture. arjun, santosh, laxmi, bishnu, hari, krishna, sita, sabitri, santosi, devi, kalpana, dip, suraj, surya, kiran, aakash, mohandas, mahatma.......
gotta be some historical/mythical character or something to do with human nature/character or the natural environment unlike joe,
tom, harry, dick, larry, sam, lee, johnson, ..
particularly useful marketting strategy when the potential market of more than a billion people knows the intended effect of consuming the product without even touching it.

sewa said...

thanks a lot for your feedback arjun,
i m writing a sequel to this, i will surely include this info too :)

Geshan said...

seems good.

sewa said...

thank u geshan

Anonymous said...

i Am sure you did a lot of research in it and i found interesting with all the examples you laid...I was expecting one commercial name Super Top Ma luga layi chamkilo Banaunchu...Cause is what i learn a commercial in my childhood..Nyways a wonderful thought Sewa Hats off to you :)

sewa said...

thanks a lot, anonymous person, will keep super top in mind :)

Anonymous said...

One Coincident listen carefully UNISEF launched Iodine Campaign creating Advertisement in South Asia Using a Celebrity. Meanwhile A a private contraceptive Company Launched advertisement casting the same celebrity in TV commercial. When a campaign was launched and after research Iodine patient was still increasing. Later came to know that Commercial was on aired simultaneously and people perceive consuming iodine could lead to contraceptive ;)

sewa said...

hmm that's intersting, something else to study about advertising!

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