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Brandstand: Naming strategies in the experience age

In the new age of experience and e-commerce, where many successful brands appear with limited calendar time, the role of naming must change rapidly to connote a memorable, evocative and distinctive flavour of the experience

Till very recently the name of the brand represented ably the reputation and pedigree of the maker, designed to evoke a truck-load of associations at its very mention. The custodians of both corporate and product brands are very diligent in building a deliberate halo of impregnability and uniqueness that would be a valuable precursor to the actual consumption. This is exactly why a deliberate element of gravitas was ingrained in the name, often involving the identity of the creator or the very unique formulation that defined its very existence. In the new age of experience and e-commerce, however, where many successful brands appear with limited calendar time, the role of naming must change rapidly to connote a memorable, evocative and distinctive flavour of the experience. Thus becoming a valuable arm of the larger outcome instead of remaining a lofty and detached symbol of ownership and origin, both increasingly less relevant in an era of performance.

A very appropriate example to illustrate this evolving pattern is the naming of the latest subsidiary of Singapore Airlines designed to be the ‘low-cost’ shadow of its formidable legacy parent. Armed with a visual identity far removed from category conventions it is called ‘SCOOT’, thus an imaginative take of a word that represents an irreverent and dismissive verbal gesture. Its philosophy and actions are designed to make travel an instinctive and spontaneous experience supported by ease of access, including some very attractive fares and maximum flexibility. Apart from its many other virtues, Paper Boat is also a triumph of Experience Naming, with a very identifiable symbol of nostalgia incorporated in the very name, thus opening up limitless possibilities of brand expansion. As a matter of comparison do consider Real, Tropicana, Minute Maid, B Natural and its set of fairly conservative category-inspired peers. A successful South Indian Quick Service Restaurant chain called ‘Vaango’ is distinctive in the maze of eponymous coffee houses and origin-inspired traditional eateries thriving on authenticity of the cuisine. Once again, the name being the shortcut for a certain modern and QSR-inspired experience that attracts the new-age customer and in turn protects valuable heritage through innovation.

The evolving school of Experience Naming clearly stays away from certain traditional codes while equally candidly adopting certain new-age virtues. Firstly, it clearly stays away from overtly connoting the category output most directly, unless that is the unique source of value which happens most rarely. Then it also steers clear from trying to latch on to an established pedigree as in this world that is also becoming a less-valuable stimulus. It also consciously avoids unnecessary gravitas even in the most serious categories and instead tries to evoke relevance through a realistic pillar of the experience. Finally, it does not attempt to become the primary flag-bearer of lofty reputation as that is indeed the prerogative of the performance. Instead what this new age of Experience Naming does most successfully is to bring alive the essence of the experience through a simple, easy-on-tongue and ownable word or set of words, infused with a right dose of emotional affinity that is truly the vital adhesive. In fact, if the name is able to do all of the above and still connects effectively to the heart that is the seeding of a winning formula. Most importantly, this name does not aim to be the gatekeeper for consumption but instead a primary and important arm of the holistic experience.

As in many other cases, the digital world driven deeply by experiences has been the pioneer for making this thinking move forward to the traditional off-line world. Especially for services that have been pioneered in the new media including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube. A little less so for extensions of traditional services, thus the more conventional naming of Trip Advisor, Yatra, Makemytrip and its many peers now resorting to clever conjoint words. Incidentally, Lonely Planet, a brand which originated in the depths of the old economy, has most evocative experience-oriented name in the entire category globally. A whole host of other examples in the new-age tech services world bears testimony to the benefits of instilling the experience up-front, starting from the inspirational Amazon. What did help in all this was the disregard for traditional reputation that is intrinsic to this channel for which experience is the only wholesome stock-in-trade without the crutches of historical fame.

The big opportunity now lies in conventional sectors to emulate the emerging trend of Experience Naming to add more layers of value in an increasingly competitive environment, which is actually way more than simply clever coinage that is often adapted. For starters, the liquor industry is still caught in the Reputation Nomenclature trap, with a slight exception in white spirits and not whisky and beer. In the fashion industry as well, branding is restricted to traditional inspirations with a larger experiential dimension often not adopted. Restaurants and eateries have embraced experiences as part of the product design most admirably but that has not yet extended adequately to naming. Hotels stay stuck to the mores of lofty expectation except deliberately in the budget-sector and that too as an attempt to differentiate vis-à-vis the full-service offer.

In the lucrative area of Personal Care, which incidentally was an early adopter in Experience Naming, the approach is still very connected to the origin story and the fame of the corporate brand. In packaged foods, essentially a fun category, apart from once again playing with words to create fresh sounds not much innovation is actually being exploited. In the case of Venture Capitalists and new-age financial institutions, the pattern is smart loftiness which renders a contemporary air without taking it remarkably further. Media brands as well stick to the owner’s knitting with Republic at least giving a hint of the owner’s ambitions to becoming an alternative institution to Parliament. A lesson can actually be learnt from authors of books who try hard to abbreviate the journey in a few words, less successfully emulated by creators of movies.

It is fairly definite that Experience Naming is potentially a powerful element of the brand experience and thus a significant marketing tool. Not as a source of reputation or category output or clever coinage as per current habit but as a genuine expression of the core integrity of the brand. This is applicable for corporate brands, Government brands, products services across the spectrum and can well be initially tried in the naming of sub-brands, in the case of established organisations. One must be suitably matured and courageous to realise that we are truly in the age of experience, where reputation is chiefly a function of consistent and able performance in recent memory and not historical evidence. So, the role of the name must move on to play a necessary distinctive but evolving dynamic role in the new marketing mix.

As an added advantage Experience Naming will also help the maker form a finer emotional connection than the more traditional approaches. As it has the ability to be an imaginative foundation to leap forward to a set of experiences, thus potentially transcending the rational transaction. This must logically then extend to a design philosophy in packaging, fonts, templates and communication that continually amplifies the core experience, as demonstrated wonderfully by Paper Boat. At its very best the name will also set an inspirational context for product development acting as both springboard as well as self-imposed limitation. It is truly time to pack the name with far greater meaning rooted in real experience and not just identifiable reputation or inevitable output.

(Shivaji Dasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: shivajidasgupta@inexgro.com)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of BestMediaInfo.com and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

 

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