Thursday, October 30, 2008

Frank 'Lefty' Rosenthal and other gangster names

I'm a huge fan of gangster names. (Don't ask why.) The reasons, if you still insist on asking me, are pretty obvious. What's not to like. They're distinct, they communicate the unique quality about a particular gangster and they make you smile. Attributes that are eminently useful to have in a brand name. Shown here, Frank 'Lefty' Rosenthal and his sisters. (Yeah, right.) He died recently. Here's a bit about him: 'GAMBLERS usually go on until they have run out of both luck and money. Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal went on until he was blown up. But then Lefty was not your usual sort of gambler.' For more on Lefty and his exploits, read the rest of his obituary here. Meanwhile, Googleji and myself have unearthed some links on what makes for a good gangster name. (You'll find them all at the end of this post.) They're instructive in that most of the qualities that go into making a good gangster name apply to product brand names too. Jokes apart, you could learn a thing or two about brand names from gangsters. And us. (Picture courtesy Getty Images.) Link love.

Hot is no longer hot shit

Hot This. Hot That. How many times have you been assaulted by names that desperately latch on to the Hot prefix in an attempt to sound cool? The compilation below should once and for all, hopefully dissuade future namers from adding to this cliched genre...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The (N+1)th name

If you're stuck for names, here's a genre that will come, very handy. Think of a number. Say 7. What's the first thing that strikes when you think of 7? Seven Deadly Sins. Name your brand Eighth Deadly Sin. Yeah, it's that simple. Remember, this formula works best for categories that are receptive to somewhat creative names. Attached below are some classic amplifications of this genre:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Where Barack Obama becomes An Bin Rong

If you want to know the Chinese equivalent of your name, there's now a fun tool to play with. If you're bored like me, try it. Here are a few samplers: John McCain -> Meng Zhi Heng, Sarah Palin -> Peng Sheng Rui, Sonia Gandhi -> Guo Xi Nuan, Muthuvel Karunanidhi -> Kong Mu Tian, and Jayalalitha Jayaram's is Zhang Zheng Yi. The only hitch with this software is each time you type in the name, it gives a different result. I haven't figured out why. But I guess, the idea is not to get serious. So I won't.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Names on your mind

'It is what every advertiser would have dreamed of - brand names have a unique impact on our brains. Brand names engage the "emotional", right-hand side of the brain more than other words, new experiments suggest. And they are more easily recognised when they are in capital letters.' More such gyan on how brand names affect our brains can be found in the rest of this quite old, but immensely fascinating, article from the New Scientist.

Obviously, this business of naming is a lot more serious than some of us would like to believe. So the next time you ask us to come up with a brand name, think of what it does to your brain. Not pocket. (Image courtesy)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

An Ale Named Arrogant Bastard

I am in love with this name. It's shameless, provocative, unpretentious, clear-headed and a swell choice for a strong tasting ale. It's a classic case study name that gives the brand an advertising story from day zero. The 'You're not worthy' tack wouldn't have bubbled to the surface if AB hadn't been picked. Launched in 1996, by California-based craft brewery Stone Brewing Company, this proudly bitter beverage has its share of devout gluggers. What they've bought into is part-product, part-imagery. And why won't they. Which egoistic sonofabitch wouldn't like to hang around with a brand like Arrogant Bastard? Picture courtesy: Wikipedia. For more on the brand, visit their website.

Friday, October 24, 2008

1000 names of Vishnu

Hindus have a unique tradition of eulogy. Every god is appeased with flattering name-calling. The supreme god Vishnu was showered with a thousand names by the wise old men of vedic times. To a novice, the Vishnu Sahasranama (Vishnu's thousand names) might seem like one more nama-sutra like compilation. But in the eyes of a giant like Adi Shankara it was something more profound. Since we are mercenary namers, we shall just stick to the literal meaning of the name list. And leave the interpretation to the masters. The reason why I've posted the Sahasranama is some of us are Sanksrit-challenged. The names can give us a hint of how a new Sanskrit name can be welded together. Before you pore over the list, say a big thank you to this site for painstakingly putting it together...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Nmes in SMS

Is the about-to-be launched version of the 'Mountain Dew' bottle the first brand name to be communicated in 'Smese' (the language of SMS)? Check out the way it is written and from the looks of it, it seems to have gone down pretty well with the 'commenting' crowd. Could this be the start of a new trend in naming? Why not. Imagine a product targetting kids; say a children's magazine. How interesting it would be if they chose to communicate their brand name in 'SMese'. Of course the grown-ups wouldn't approve. Which is precisely why it's likely to work swimmingly well for the young 'uns. We think more brands should try to strut their stuff in 'SMese'. It mkakes for a more personal conversation with consumers. And now for the obligatory question to elicit a reaction: Any other brand names in 'Smese' that you can think of? (No, not come up with, but think of that already exist.)

List of Indian Rock Band Names

IIIrd Sovereign
5 AM
13 AD
Acrid Semblance
Amidst the Chaos
Asian Heat
Barefaced Liar
Bhayanak Maut
Blackhole Theory
Blacklight Infinity
Blind Image
Blood & Iron
Brute Force
Cassini's Division
Crimson Wood
Dark Crucifix
Demonic Resurrection
Dry State
Fizzy Soul
Garden of Thorns
Grungy Morphines
Half Step Down
Hollow Caust
Indian Ocean
Indus Creed
Joint Family
Junkyard Groove
Killer Tomatoes
Level 9
LBG (Little Babooshka's Grind)
Molotov Cocktail
Native Tongue
Nemesis Avenue
Neolithic Silence
Null Friction
Old Saying Jungle
Orange Street
Pin Drop Violence
Public Issue
Purple Blood
Raghu Dixit Projecy
Rock Machine
Shaair N Func
Shakuni & The Birds of Prey
Silk Route
Skinny Alley
Soul Burn
Souled Out
Stiff Neck Syndrome
The Banned
The Hobos
Them Clones
Thermal And A Quarter
The Lost Symbols?
The Salvation Crusade
The Superfuzz
Unforbidden Souls
Undying Inc.
Who's Jim?
Zero Gravity

What does Aegan mean?

When I first heard the name Aegan, I had a waddafuk moment. Why on earth would a tamil film be named after the Aegean Sea? Intrigued, I googled for the etymology of Aegean Sea. It threw up a little story on a Queen named Aegea (meaning The Pole in Greek). That didn't seem convincing. My mom came up with a better explanation. She said it may have a Sanskrit origin. May be it's a short form of Ekalavyan. Just when I was about to take her word for it, I read an interview with Ajith, today. He let the kitten out of the bag. Aegan is one more name for Lord Shiva. It means All in one. When he uttered those words, I was like, why didn't I think of it. Anyways, that's the story.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

When a catchy name can hurt...

Movie naming is a tricky business. The catchier the title, the greater the expectations from the film. And expectations is a very heavy burden to carry. A lot of directors have learned this the hard way. Titles like EMI (Easy Monthly Installment), M3V (Mudhal Mudhal Mudhal Varai), Snakes on a Plane are a little too catchy. Either they explain the story in a pithy way or they have no connection at all to the plot. Good titles avoid being catchy. They intrigue (North by North West), provoke (Blackmail), offer the premise in an interesting way (Strangers on a Train), introduce a new phrase into public lingo (Dial M for Murder) and sometimes lower your expectations by opting for the seemingly innocuous (Birds). May be, some day the movie industry will wake up to this realisation.

Go ahead, copy

When you don't have enough money. When you have a huge market waiting to give you their money. When you want to hit the ground running. When you don't want to make people remember one more thing. When you are lucky enough to be operating in a market like India or China. When you don't have to worry too much about being slapped with a law suit. When you don't want to waste your time with a naming company. Or when you just want to be like Google, launch a soundalike brand. To piggyback is an old and quite successful marketing tactic. And strategy. We think it also works in Naming. Don't agree with me? Fine, agree with someone 'respectable'.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Is Maya the most famous Sanskrit brand name?

I have this theory that, this century, we are gonna see a lot more Sanskrit brand names as namers the world over have sucked the juice out of Greek and Latin. I'll dwell upon this in another post. Meanwhile, let me state what I have discovered. I can't think of a universally recognised Sanskrit brand name. The only one that came to my mind is the Oscar-winning VFX software Maya. Christy Turlington's Sundari is not yet international. And there are not too many challengers from India. So am I right if I declare Maya as the most popular Sanskrit brand name?

Monday, October 20, 2008

A whole lot of hot air

When Nike, and Michael Jordan, launched the 'Air' series of basketball and running shoes, which eventually came to be known as 'Air Jordan', it was perhaps the first brand - apart from airlines and sappy pop bands like Air Supply - to use the word 'air' as a brand name or extension. A combination of Jordan's extraordinary ability to 'fly', some great advertising and the presence of a crucial 'benefit' in the 'air' suffix meant that the 'air' in the Nike worked like a charm and sold many millions of pairs of shoes for them. Does the 'air' in the MacBook Air work quite as well for Apple? I think it does.

Apple, I believe, is the Nike of personal computing. Like Nike, it has always been about path-breaking style and revolutionary product developments coming together to deliver a clearly superior product to its consumers. That's why 'Air' is the appropriate brand name for the world's lightest personal computer from Apple. Just like it was the right name for the world's lightest shoe, from Nike. Right, so would 'Air' work just as well if it were tagged to an offering from Microsoft? Obviously not anymore. But what if Microsoft had launched the world lightest operating system (hypothetically speaking, of course) and chosen to call it Microsoft Air? I think not.

I think that after Nike usurped the word 'air' for itself, it needed a company like Nike to take the 'air' back from for other uses. A company like Apple. Not Microsoft.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A family of fiery names

Discrete Logic (the Montreal based company that was swallowed by Autodesk in 1999)is a well-chronicled pyromaniac. I mean, look at the names of their products: Flame, Flint, Fire, Inferno, Riot, Stone, Spark and now Combustion. Considering that all these are brands of editing/effects/compositing software do aid in creating films that set the silver screen ablaze, methinks these are marvelously apt.

Factonama # 4

The Danish butter brand Lurpak debuted as Lur Mark in 1901. Lur is a Scandinavian wind instrument. It has been immortalised as the visual mnemonic in the Lurpak logo. Wikipedia informs us that any instrument that receives sound is referred to as a lur, today. For example, a telephone handset is called telefonlur.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Names We Like # 3

This online shoe store has clocked a stellar performance in the last 10 years. People still keep raving about its 'pay-your-employees-to-leave' policy. I like the brand for its name. Derived from the Spanish word for shoes, Zappos is a 2-syllable contraction of Zapatos. Phonetically, it's a nephew of the uber-cool sounding Zappa. And imagery wise, it might conjure up visions of a wizard with his magical wand. This brand is a classic example of a literal yet exotic name. In the sense, those who know Spanish will know it means shoes. And those who don't know might assume it's a foreign brand. My one teensy issue with the name is it sounds kidulty and not adulty enuf. But I guess, that adds to the likability. Given the constraint of being a mass brand, I think it's a good choice.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Factonama # 3

This is an image of the Siachen Glacier picked from the Himalayan Club website. Discovered in 1907,apparently Siachen means the place of roses in the Balti language. A reference some people attribute to the abundance of Himalayan wildflowers found in the valleys below the glacier. Ironically, Siachen is also the highest battleground on Earth. That makes it a curious mix of guns and roses.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Factonama # 2

Long before Horace Smith & Daniel Wesson got together to found Smith & Wesson, they founded another firearms company by the name Volcanic Repeating Arms Company. This was in 1852.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Names We Like # 2

When you work on a name that's already famous, you run the risk of being labeled, a plagiarist. But when you add a little touch of imagination to your source name, there's always the scope for magic. I call such names Remix Names. C2B2 is one such creation. It's a nod to the 1968 movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which was in turn a nod to the children's book of the same name by Ian Fleming. For an animation flick aimed at kids of the Jetix generation, I thought Cheenti Cheenti (Hindi for Ant Ant) is an apt title. It uses 2 words that's part of the every day vocabulary of every North Indian kid. And as the plot is about Black Ants vs Red Ants, the name makes eminent sense. Me thinks, the catchiness of the name will ensure the movie is a multiplex magnet. I also feel, the film will do well in the DVD circuit as the title leaps at you the moment you look at it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Indian surnames & their meanings

Will keep updating this list as and when I get some time...please feel free to contribute...

Agarwal = Derived from Agarwala or 'a descendant from Agroha' (the ancient name of Hissar city). Agroha had 18 districts - Garg, Mangal, Kucchal, Goyan, Goyal, Bansal, Kansal, Singhal, Jindal, Thingal, Airan, Dharan, Madhukul, Bindal, Mittal, Tayal, Bhandal, and Naagal. All of these names are synonymous with Agarwals.
Ahluwalia = A descendant of a person from Ahlu (a village near Lahore).
Ahuja = A descendant of Ahu. Does anyone know anything about Ahu?
Arora = A descendant from Aror (today's Rohri in Sind).
Bandopadhyay = Venerable teacher.
Banerjee = Teacher from the village of Bandoghat.
Bharadwaj = One who has strength or vigour.
Bhat/Butt = Priest or Scholar.
Bhattacharya = Priest & teacher.
Chaturvedi = Learned the 4 vedas.
Chattopadhyay = A teacher with roots from the Chatta village in Bengal.
Chopra = Descendants of warrior Chaupat Rai.
Dhawan = Messenger on the field of battle.
Dubashi = Person who knows two languages = Translator.
Dutta = Drived from Aditya or Sun.
Dwivedi = Learned in 2 vedas.
Gill = Lake/Moisture/Prosperity.
Guha = Another name for Lord Kartikeya.
Gupta = Ruler/Protector.
Iyer = Derived from Tamil word Ayya which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word Arya which means Noble.
Iyengar = One who has undergone the 5 purification rituals.
Jain = Follower of Jainism. Which is derived from Jina (one who overcomes).
Jha = Reciter.
Johar = Sanskrit for Jewel.
Joshi = Practioner of Jyotishi or astrology.
Kakkar = Strong.
Kapoor = Descendants of Moon.
Kaul = Means well-born. Derived from Sanskrit word Kula.
Kaur = Princess.
Khan = Turkish in origin. Means Chief/Ruler.
Khanna = Derived from Khanda (sword).
Khatri = Punjabi version of Kshatriya (ruler). Khanna, Kapoor, Seth, Mehra, Malhotra, Chopra and Walia are all Khatris.
Kocchar = Armour.
Krishna = Dark.
Mahajan = Means literally Big People. Perhaps an indicator of status.
Malik = Arabic word for King.
Mehra/Mehrotra = Descendants of Mihr (Sun).
Mishra = Mixed or blended.
Mukhopadhyay = Main Teacher.
Nehru = One who lives on the bank of a Nehr or canal.
Patel/Patil = Village headman.
Rana = Ruler. Some speculate it's the male version of Rani.
Saini = Head of army.
Sethi = Derived from Sanskrit word Sreshti (Merchant). Incidentally Shetty/Chettiar has the same roots.
Shah = Persian word for Monarch.
Sharma = Joy/Protection.
Shukla = Bright.
Singh = Derived from Sanskrit word Simha which means Lion.
Tagore = Anglicised version of Thakur (Lord).
Talwar = Swordsman/Sword.
Tandon = Warrior or sun.
Trivedi = Learned in 3 vedas.
Verma = Shield.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

List of Theronyms

Theronyms are brand names derived from animals. Here's my list of brands that have used this technique...

Bison (Inner wear)
Black Dog (Scotch Whisky)
Camel (Cigarettes)
Cheetah Fight (Matchsticks)
Cobra (Beer)
Corgi (Publishing)
Crane Paaku Thool (Betel Nut)
Crocodile (Apparel)
Deer Brand (Basmati Rice)
Dolphin (Car)
Dove (Soap)
Eagle (Thermos)
Elephant (Cables)
Firefox (Browser)
Gator (Internet advertising)
Haathi Cement
Hush Puppies (Shoes)
Impala (Car)
Jaguar (Car)
Kingfisher (Beer)
Lion Dates
Mountain Goat (Beer)
Mustang (Car)
Lacoste (Apparel)
Office Tiger (BPO)
Pelican (Publishing)
Penguin (Publishing)
Peregrine (Investment banking)
Puma (Sport gear)
Red Bull (Energy Drink)
Reebok (Shoes)
The Famous Grouse (Scotch Whisky)
Tiger Balm
Tortoise (Mosquito coils)
Turtle (Apparel)
Yak & Yeti (Hotel)

Please add to the list.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Congress Kadalebeeja

This CK (short for Congress kadalebeeja) Bun is extremely popular in Bangalore. It's a buttered, lightly toasted masala bun loaded with spicy, crunchy peanuts and quite yummy. Anyone has any theories on where the 'Congress' in the name comes from? Here's one I'm not so sure of. That said, it is very funny.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Kinda like Paris Hilton

Hands up (and comments down), everyone who can tell me who the men shown in the picture are? Clue: Theirs is a brand so popular it has become the de facto name for the product category. And if you know the answer, can you give me the names of 38 other people who are like them? All is revealed in this most engaging slide show of the story behind 39 of the world's leading brands named after people: Trivial pursuit. Warning: It doesn't work in Google Chrome. Warning: It doesn't work in Google Chrome. (That's just in case you didn't believe me the first time I said it.)

Naf said

Shown here, Ad for the Naf Naf Spring collection. The naf-naf is saying, "Pink is my fetish." Almost everybody knows the story of The Three Little Pigs and how the big bad wolf huffed and puffed and blew their houses away—all houses except one. But it seems that only the French named the little pigs — Naf Naf, Nif Nif and Nuf Nuf — and 35 years ago, brothers Gerard and Patrick Pariente decided to name their clothing store after the pig that built the house made of stone and survived the wolf — Naf Naf. Greedy for more? Go to the source.

I tell you, these fucking Chinese

A brand of condoms named after football ace David Beckham has taken the Chinese contraceptive market under its sway. Although the Beckham contraceptive is not being endorsed by the former England captain himself, its makers claim that the users will 'score in the bedroom like David does on the pitch'. (Actually, he doesn't score all that much ... on the pitch.) This brand now sells more than any other brand in the country. (Source: Google)

Monday, October 6, 2008

A gross name that doesn't stink

Pet odor/stain relievers usually opt for straightforward, off-putting names like Urine-Off and Urine Gone. But I liked this one. It rolls off the tongue well. It rhymes. And the best part is: it don't stink. A brand owned by the Four On The Floor company, this name surely has legs.

Factonama # 1

In 1957, the Wooster Rubber Company decided to go in for a name makeover after 37-years of existence. They decided to step out of the clouds of obscurity by embracing their most famous brand name as their company name. They called themselves Rubbermaid Incorporated.

45 Classes of Trademarks in India

1. Chemical used in industry, science, photography, agriculture, horticulture and forestry, unprocessed artificial resins, unprocessed plastics, manure, fire extinguishing compositions; tempering and soldering preparations; chemical substances for preserving foodstuffs; tanning substances; adhesive used in industry

2. Paints; varnishes; lacquers; preservatives against rust and against deterioration of wood; colorants mordents; raw natural resins; metals in foil and powder form for painters; decorators; printers and artists

3. Bleaching preparations and other substances for laundry use; cleaning; polishing; scouring and abrasive preparations; soaps; perfumery; essential oils; cosmetics; hair lotions; dentifrices

4. Industrial oils and greases; lubricants; dust absorbing, wetting and binding compositions; fuels(including motor spirit) and illuminants; candles, wicks

5. Pharmaceutical, veterinary and sanitary preparations; dietetic substances adapted for medical use, food for babies; plasters, materials for dressings; materials for stopping teeth, dental wax; disinfectants; preparation for destroying vermin; fungicides, herbicides

6. Common metals and their alloys; metal building materials; transportable buildings of metal; materials of metal for railway tracks; non-electric cables and wires of common metal; ironmongery, small items of metal hardware; pipes and tubes of metal; safes; goods of common metal not included in other classes; ores

7. Machines and machine tools; motors and engines (except for land vehicles); machine coupling and transmission components (except for land vehicles); agricultural implements other than hand-operated; incubators for eggs

8. Hand tools and implements (hand-operated); cutlery; side arms; razors

9. Scientific, nautical, surveying, electric, photographic, cinematographic, optical, weighing, measuring, signalling, checking (supervision), life saving and teaching apparatus and instruments; apparatus for recording, transmission or reproduction of sound or images; magnetic data carriers, recording discs; automatic vending machines and mechanisms for coin-operated apparatus; cash registers, calculating machines, data processing equipment and computers; fire extinguishing apparatus

10. Surgical, medical, dental and veterinary apparatus and instruments, artificial limbs, eyes and teeth; orthopedic articles; suture materials

11. Apparatus for lighting, heating, steam generating, cooking, refrigerating, drying ventilating, water supply and sanitary purposes

12. Vehicles; apparatus for locomotion by land, air or water

13. Firearms; ammunition and projectiles; explosives; fire works

14. Precious metals and their alloys and goods in precious metals or coated therewith, not included in other classes; jewellery, precious stones; horological and other chronometric instruments

15. Musical instruments

16. Paper, cardboard and goods made from these materials, not included in other classes; printed matter; bookbinding material; photographs; stationery; adhesives for stationery or household purposes; artists' materials; paint brushes; typewriters and office requisites (except furniture); instructional and teaching material (except apparatus); plastic materials for packaging (not included in other classes); playing cards; printers' type; printing blocks

17. Rubber, gutta percha, gum, asbestos, mica and goods made from these materials and not included in other classes; plastics in extruded form for use in manufacture; packing, stopping and insulating materials; flexible pipes, not of metal

18. Leather and imitations of leather, and goods made of these materials and not included in other classes; animal skins, hides, trunks and travelling bags; umbrellas, parasols and walking sticks; whips, harness and saddlery

19. Building materials, (non-metallic), non-metallic rigid pipes for building; asphalt, pitch and bitumen; non-metallic transportable buildings; monuments, not of metal.

20. Furniture, mirrors, picture frames; goods(not included in other classes) of wood, cork, reed, cane, wicker, horn, bone, ivory, whalebone, shell, amber, mother- of-pearl, meerschaum and substitutes for all these materials, or of plastics

21. Household or kitchen utensils and containers(not of precious metal or coated therewith); combs and sponges; brushes(except paints brushes); brush making materials; articles for cleaning purposes; steelwool, unworked or semi-worked glass (except glass used in building); glassware, porcelain and earthenware not included in other classes

22. Ropes, string, nets, tents, awnings, tarpaulins, sails, sacks and bags (not included in other classes) padding and stuffing materials(except of rubber or plastics); raw fibrous textile materials

23. Yarns and threads, for textile use

24. Textiles and textile goods, not included in other classes; bed and table covers.

25. Clothing, footwear, headgear

26. Lace and embroidery, ribbons and braid; buttons, hooks and eyes, pins and needles; artificial flowers

27. Carpets, rugs, mats and matting, linoleum and other materials for covering existing floors; wall hangings(non-textile)

28. Games and playthings, gymnastic and sporting articles not included in other classes; decorations for Christmas trees

29. Meat, fish, poultry and game; meat extracts; preserved, dried and cooked fruits and vegetables; jellies, jams, fruit sauces; eggs, milk and milk products; edible oils and fats

30. Coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar, rice, tapioca, sago, artificial coffee; flour and preparations made from cereals, bread, pastry and confectionery, ices; honey, treacle; yeast, baking powder; salt, mustard; vinegar, sauces, (condiments); spices; ice

31. Agricultural, horticultural and forestry products and grains not included in other classes; live animals; fresh fruits and vegetables; seeds, natural plants and flowers; foodstuffs for animals, malt

32. Beers, mineral and aerated waters, and other non-alcoholic drinks; fruit drinks and fruit juices; syrups and other preparations for making beverages

33.Alcoholic beverages(except beers)

34. Tobacco, smokers' articles, matches


35. Advertising, business management, business administration, office functions

36.Insurance, financial affairs; monetary affairs; real estate affairs

37.Building construction; repair; installation services


39. Transport; packaging and storage of goods; travel arrangement

40. Treatment of materials

41. Education; providing of training; entertainment; sporting and cultural activities.

42. Providing of food and drink; temporary accommodation; medical, hygienic and beauty care; veterinary and agricultural services, legal services, scientific and industrial research, computer programming; services that cannot be classified in other classes.

43. Hotels & Restaurants.

44. Medical, Beauty & Agriculture.

45. Personal & Social Services.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Matsushita renames itself as Panasonic

Imagine a father choosing to rename himself after his successful son. Doesn't happen in real life. But in the marketing world, it's a common practice. Matsushita is the latest to be bitten by the renaming bug. Panasonic means Everything Sound. But some of the products of Panasonic have no connection with audio, like say ovens, irons, vacuum cleaners, digital cameras, washing machines, electric cookers and massage loungers. So does the name change make sense? If you take a literal view of things, no it doesn't. But luckily for Panasonic, it's a coined word. Not many know its meaning. And that helps. Videocon enjoyed the same advantage. The name has a strong video cue. Still the company uses the same brand name to plug washing machines and what not. For all those who pooh-pooh coined names, these are cases in point. A coined name lets you straddle categories. An instantly decodable name like Mobile Store limits you to mobiles.

Names with memes

One of the theories I've been quite influenced by is that of 'The Selfish Gene', popularized by Richard Dawkins. (Yes, the engaging intellectual, militant atheist and fascist 'Darwnizer') (Darwin+Sermonize). In that he talks about memes. Put simply, memes are stories. And names that come with a story attached to them can add or take away from the equity a brand lends to a product is something I have been saying for sometime now.

Here's a rather more involved take on the same thing, said differently: "When children acquire the name “George Washington” they typically acquire the associated descriptions “first president of the U.S.”, “man who had wooden teeth.” When they acquire “Santa Claus” they associate with the name “jolly fat man who lives at the North Pole” or “man who brings presents on Christmas day.” The negative existential “Santa Claus does not exist” expresses no literal truth. Still it pragmatically imparts truths: truths such as that there is no jolly fat man who lives at the North Pole and wears a red suit or that there is no one who brings presents to the world’s children on Christmas Day. These things, though not literally semantically expressed by the negative existential sentence, are true." More such absorbing insights can be found there.

Extract Ctrl x, Ctrl v'ed from: 'Names That Name Nothing' by Frederick Adams. Professor of Cognitive Science & Philosophy, University of Delaware.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Any takers for this guy, moron?

I researched and researched. But could not find one brand in this world with the name moron. So I decided to do something path breaking. What if I create a concept fashion brand called Guy Moron? Will it click? Will anyone proudly sport this tag? The rational me says, no way dude. Why would anyone proclaim their idiocy? The irrational me says, of course they will. There are some folks out there who revel in self-deprecation. This brand is for them. This brand is for me. I mean, I'd rather wear a Guy Moron tee than one with Armani emblazoned on it. The more I think of it, the more exciting it sounds. It makes a great gift item. Girl friends who were dumped could gift their Exes, a Guy Moron. Stand up comedians will get a free laugh by just wearing one. The label is a camera magnet. Anyone will want to snap you up if you tuck yourself into a Guy Moron...the possibilities are immense...don't you see it?

Is Vertu really a top-end name?

Nokia's own Patek Philippe equivalent of mobile phones is Vertu. Every phone costs a bomb. But does the name ignite any imagery in your mind? Nopes. Not at all. Vertu is French for virtue. It's a name like Wondera or Magnifique. It states the obvious and stops short. There's no hint of exotica. No story value. To be brutally honest, it's flat as a pancake. Compare it with any premium brand you can think of, I am sure, Vertu will lose the premiumness battle, hands down. Wonder why, Nokia chose this name. The only explanation I can think of is - apart from being 5-letter, 2-syllable words, Vertu and Nokia share the same numerology score (5)! Can you come up with something more convincing?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Why your baby needs us

Because when you leave it to the machines or people who think like machines (read: big name branding companies), this is what you are likely to end up with. That's why, to quote Unantha, "If you want a name for your company, brand, kitten or illegitimate child, do write to". Or else, you might just end up being shilled a bunch of names like Pistoer, Dlvil, Nlcleynde, Stenglad, Venj, Phaviker, Abeaerber, Lamorth or Zerkk for your baby. All nicely packaged in a powerpoint presentations. Of course.

Supernames for Superheroes

We love our heroes. (Some, a little more than the others.) My favourite is Batman. In fact, I prefer the name 'Dark Knight' to 'Batman'; 'Batman' just sounds ... well, batty. 'Dark Knight' on the other hand - besides being a 'second-level' name - is more befitting the caped crusader's exploits. (Don't you think?) All of which brings me to a list of 'Superhero' names this gent has lovingly compiled and categorized for us. It makes for interesting reading. In other related developments: I discovered I'm 'Chrome Cat'. What Superhero are you?

A Name That Helps by Claude Hopkins

Ad man Claude Hopkins wrote this piece, way back in 1923, in his book Scientific Advertising. While you may not subscribe to his views entirely, read it out of respect for a great advertising mind...

"There is great advantage in a name that tells a story. The name is usually prominently displayed. To justify the space it occupies, it should aid the advertising. Some such names are almost complete advertisements in themselves. May Breath is such a name. Cream of Wheat is another. That name alone has been worth a fortune. Other examples are Dutch Cleanser, Cuticura, Dyanshine, Minute Tapioca, 3-in-One Oil, Holeproof, Alcorub, etc. Such names may be protected, yet the name itself describes the product, so it makes a valuable display. Other coined names are meaningless. Some examples are Kodak, Karo, Mazda, Sapolio, Vaseline, Kotex, Lux, Postum, etc. They can be protected, and long-continued advertising may give them a meaning. When this is accomplished they become very valuable. But the great majority of them never attain that status. Such names do not aid the advertising. It is very doubtful if they justify display. The service of the product, not the name, is the important thing in advertising. A vast amount of space is wasted in displaying names and pictures which tell no selling story. The tendency of modern advertising is to eliminate this waste. Other coined names signify ingredients which anyone may use. Examples are Syrup of Figs, Cocoanut Oil Shampoo, Tar Soap, Palmolive Soap, etc. Such products may dominate a market if the price is reasonable, but they must to a degree meet competition. They invite substitution.

They are naturally classified with other products which have like ingredients, so the price must remain in that class. Toasted Corn Flakes and Malted Milk are examples of unfortunate names. In each of those cases one advertiser created a new demand. When the demand was created, others shared it because they could use the name. The originators depended only on a brand. It is interesting to speculate on how much more profitable a coined name might have been. On a patented product it must be remembered that the right to a name expires with the patent. Names like Castoria, Aspirin, Shredded Wheat Biscuit, etc., have become common property. This is a very serious point to consider. It often makes a patent an undesirable protection. Another serious fault in coined names is frivolity. In seeking uniqueness one gets something trivial. And that is a fatal handicap in a serious product. It almost prohibits respect. When a product must be called by a common name, the best auxiliary name is a man's name. It is much better than a coined name, for it shows that some man is proud of his creation. Thus the question of a name is of serious importance in laying the foundations of a new undertaking. Some names have become the chief factors in success. Some have lost for their originators four-fifths of the trade they developed."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What does Gandhi mean?

Baby name sites insist that the name Gandhi means Sun. I had my doubts. Because there is this tamil word for Sunflower called Suryagandhi. If Surya means Sun, clearly gandhi can't. So I delved into the Capeller Sanskrit dictionary and I found that Gandhi means smelling of or perfumed with. That's interesting. Because Rajiv Gandhi will mean smelling of lotus.
Now that sounds more BJP than Congress, right?