business

What’s in a name? A look at brand names that say little about the business

what’s-in-a-name?-a-look-at-brand-names-that-say-little-about-the-business

A company’s name is the foundation of its entire identity. A lot of grey cells (and sometimes, money) is spent on coming up with the perfect name for a business. It would seem that finding a name that succinctly encapsulates what the business does would be a given (bonus points if it’s witty, too!) but sometimes it isn’t, as it turns out.

For years now, some agencies and brands have had names that are poles apart from what they do or represent. Although brands like Apple and Virgin are legendary and don’t need to explain themselves anymore, some others mightn’t be as lucky. 

Why do so many brands and agencies have names that aren’t only eccentric but seemingly irrelevant? How does this work for them? Campaign India finds out.

First impressions 

One cannot be blamed for mistaking technology company SugarBox as a bakery. The brand does anything but sells freshly baked cookies, though; SugarBox Networks is a tech company that looks at enabling faster, cheaper digital access. 

The name was simply about relevance for the brand’s target audiences, explains Rohit Paranjpe, co-founder and CEO, SugarBox. He tells us why the name worked for its rural as well as urban cohorts. “It comes down to how you can add a sentiment to the word and how a person perceives it. You should be able to create brand names that create a positive emotion. What a person claims when they hear the word is what matters.” 

Some company owners believe that in isolation, most brand names don’t mean anything. 

Langoor, a word that means ‘Indian monkey’, can in no way be pegged for an agency providing digital services. However, its website claims that the name, which also means ‘crazy’ in colloquial Hindi, reflects its approach that one has to be crazy to be able to change the world.

22feet Tribal Worldwide is another name that gets one thinking. Its president, Preetham Venkky breaks down the logic behind the name. “As an agency, we wanted to ensure that we still took decisions with our gut instinct—the perfect pairing of insight and creativity. 22feet is the length of the human gut—a distance every aspect of our work needs to traverse before we take it to our clients.”

Apparently, the brand name Bewakoof is the love child of director Rajkumar Hirani and MTV Networks. The quirky apparel company also claims that the name reflects its light-hearted nature and playful stance. Prabhkiran Singh, CEO and co-founder, Bewakoof, believes that the brand has evolved into an “iconic, in-trend” brand, flaunted by Gen Z and the youth. “We’re almost like Aamir Khan of 3 Idiots—fun, playful and thoughtful. We live by the fact that a light heart will make the world a happier place.”

Boxing up the advertising world as advocates of beer cans and whiskey glasses on work desks post 7 PM isn’t new. It’s quite obvious, then, why Mehul Gupta’s SoCheers (short for social cheers) gets associated with alcoholic innuendos. The cofounder and CEO, says, “SoCheers was a social networking site; a mashup between Orkut, Facebook and Google Docs. After this plan didn’t work out, we shut the company in 2011 and converted it into an agency in 2013.” 

Malvika Mehra, independent creative director and brand specialist evokes Malcolm Gladwell’s theory of ‘Blink’ on human interactions. The theory explains how brand perceptions are immediately made in the first four or five seconds of any aural or visual stimulus. She believes that a brand name if crafted cleverly, can deliver subliminal cues about various aspects of the company. “Whether it’s its origins, the product or service itself, a personality they want to portray, their USP or their values and ethos, it’s definitely a potent weapon in the brand’s armoury,” she adds.

How bizarre creates a buzz

Venkky states that he wouldn’t have his company’s name any other way. “It has been a great conversation starter and ice-breaker. As a side benefit, we would get listed on top in agency listings that are alphabetically ordered,” he said, adding that the confluence of 22feet and Tribal made the name even more remark-worthy.

For Gupta, clients and acquaintances came up with several variations of the name, changing its meaning altogether. He tells us how the more traditional clients would pronounce the agency name as ‘Sochurs’—loosely meaning ‘thinkers’ in Hindi. 

Although the name has a celebratory connotation to it, he shares how many would spell the words ‘so’ and ‘cheers’ separately, admitting that it’s a pet peeve. He adds, “Whenever I receive an email with a space between ‘so’ and ‘cheers’, I would wonder why they just wouldn’t visit our social profiles where we’ve actively mentioned that it is one word. However, we realised that a lot of clients and applicants cannot identify that SoCheers is a single word.” 

Hoping to plaster the internet and help people say the name right, the internal team at SoCheers is even about to launch an influencer campaign. 

The funny instances 

“A typical Hindi-speaking village in Haryana would always have people saying—‘Arey Mithai ka Dabba aa gaya’ (look, the box of sugar has come). Similarly, a Marathi-speaking basti (settlement) in Kandivali had people translating sugar to ‘sakhar’ and box to ‘puda’. They would then address the brand as engagement – which is what ‘sakharpuda’ in Marathi means,” Paranjape recalls. That seems to have worked out well for SugarBox.

On the flipside, Singh reveals that the initial days of minimal resources for Bewakoof were rather problematic. 

He narrates a particular instance within the company that made for a proud story to tell. “The prospective in-laws of one of our employees told him that they couldn’t get their daughter married to a ‘bewakoof’ (stupid) man who worked for a company called Bewakoof. Must be cursing their bad decision now, because that early employee of ours is now a very rich man thanks to his Bewakoof ESOPs!” he shares. 

In the end, everybody’s appetite for the bizarre is different. Mehra believes that it all depends on who’s sitting on the other side of the table. 

Highlighting how one man’s food is another man’s poison, she says, “There are different approaches to a nomenclature exercise. Some brand names emerge out of a deep dive into etymology. Not every brand name needs to come from some deep thinking or serve a deeper purpose. It could very well have got crafted on a whim of the founder, or just because it kind of ‘sticks’. Nothing succeeds like success. So really, there are no fixed rules when it comes to naming a company.”  

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