The Brand name selection is fundamentally important because it often captures the key concept or association of a product in a compact and economical manner. Brand names can be an effective way of communication because they become attached to the products in consumers’ minds. It is critically important to be very careful in Brand name selection, as changing this brand element in future is extremely difficult. Brand name selection for a new product is certainly a combination of art and science. Companies have four strategic options in choosing a brand name:-
(i) Company Name
Companies that have built a reputation for product quality and commitment to customer satisfaction and have become household names sometimes use this strategy. All products are sold under the company name. This approach is less expensive, as it avoids research to select an appropriate name. It does not require heavy advertising expenditures to create brand name awareness. The name takes advantage of a good corporate image. Many Indian and global companies use this approach. For example, Nirma, Escorts, HMT, Philips, GE, Mercedes, LG, Samsung, Sony, Canon, Nikon and others use this approach.
(ii) Individual Names
Some firms adopt this policy and each brand has its own individual name. The advantage is that the company does not tie its reputation to the product. In case the product fails, or its quality is low, the company’s name or image is believed to be safe. The company can introduce lower quality products under an individual name without diluting the image of its higher quality product. For example, HLL introduced a low-priced detergent (Wheel) without hurting Surf.
The company also uses separate brand names for its range of bathing soaps (Lux, Liril, Pears, Dove, Moti, etc.). Procter & Gamble also uses this approach for its products (Ariel, Tide, Head & Shoulders, Pentene, and Vicks). The company searches for new names for its individual brands and this could mean name research expenses.
(iii) Separate Brand Family Names
Some companies producing many different products adopt this approach to select brand names. Such companies use different brand names for a category of products. For example, Denim brand of HLL has several products: Denim Deo, Denim Shaving Cream, After Shave, Denim Soap, and Denim Talc. The company’s Orchid brand includes several women’s beauty products. HLL’s Lakmé brand has several personal care products.
Combination of Company Name and Product Name (also called umbrella or endorsement brand names): Some companies follow this policy, such as Maruti Esteem, Maruti Zen, Fiat Palio, Ford Ikon, IBM ThinkPad, Acer TravelMate, Apple Powerbook, Hamdard Roohafza, etc.
(iv) Desirable Qualities of Brand Names
Kim R. Robertson is of the view that brand names selected are simple and easy to pronounce; familiar and meaningful; and are different, distinctive, and unusual. Kevin Lane Keller, Susan Heckler, and Michael J. Houston caution that brand name elements that are highly descriptive of the product category or its attributes and benefits may be potentially quite restrictive. For example, attempts at extending the Burnol brand so far have failed because of consumers very strongly associate Burnol with burns.
Sometimes a unique name becomes intimately connected to a product category and may threaten a company’s exclusive rights to that name. For example, consumers now use names Aspirin, Xerox, Luna, Scotch Tape, Surf, and Dalda to describe product category. Xerox means photocopy, Aspirin means acetylsalicylic acid, Luna means any moped, Scotch Tape means adhesive tape, Surf is synonymous with detergent category, and Dalda is any vegetable oil. In other words, the brand names have metamorphosed into generic names that cover entire categories of products.
Apple PowerBook is quite an effective name for a laptop PC. The word combines “book,” denoting a small product that holds a lot of information and “power.” Right from 1984, Apple has used the power plank to promote its computers. This power theme is also associated with the processors it has developed over time: Power processors G3, G4, and G5.
Principles for brand name selection
Brand names need to be clear and different to other brands on the market and be recognizable as a brand name, rather than a generic word
(ii) Easy to recall
Brand name should be quite simple, recognizable and easy to remember. Making a brand name too complicated or vague or too long should be avoided.
(iii) Avoid confusion
Think about how the brand name may be used. For example, “My Credit Union” is a cute name that has some interesting communication and slogan benefits. However, it probably has less impact for word-of-mouth benefits, as it creates confusion as to the actual name of the credit union when used in conversation.
For large companies that operate in multiple markets, how the brand name can be translated and communicated needs to be considered. Legal protection – brand names need to be trademarked and registered (varies by country), but some generalized names probably cannot be registered – such as, “chocolate” candy bar as it is too generic.