Brands, Brand Names and F…U

Selecting a brand name is guided by a number of considerations. At the simplistic level a name is considered to be good if it meets the following criteria: short, simple, easy to pronounce, appealing, unique and does not infringe upon intellectual property rights.

Naming a brand is not exclusively governed by the motivation to develop connections at the superficial level which can create easy recall and identification. Meaning transference is also an important consideration by which a name is made to operate at a connotative level. To many who take the name at the literal level nothing would seem obvious except some kind of abstraction (especially when the name is semantically generated). But for the target customers the name evokes the intended meaning.

Brand naming strategies include: dictionary words with a given meaning (Surf , Fair & Lovely); names that suggest product quality (Dove- soft or Jaguar- speed); semantically generated without any dictionary meaning (Kodak, Dettol); and invented names (semantically devoid of meaning but created by removing a part of a proper word with meaning like ‘Fanta’ from ‘fanta-stic’).

Signs operate at connotative and denotative level. When a credit card is named platinum, gold or silver, the names create a hierarchy drawing directly from the value spectrum of these metals. When Pepsi is promoted as a ‘cool’ drink, does it signify temperature or an attitude? The brand builds resonance based on an attitude which is called cool and it has very little to do with temperature.

In the early Eighties a brand of jeans was launched in Indiaand it was called ‘fu’s’. The brand was created in late Sixties in theUS. The brand name level did not mean anything. These appeared to be a random collection of letters ‘FUS’. The lack of context prevented its symbolic transference of meaning. But soon people ‘filled in’ and deciphered the meaning at their own personal level. It meant using a four lettered word against one of the leading jeans wear brands. In theUS, this brand was perceived to an abbreviated form of an expression where same sentiments were used for a designer. Jeans as product acquired symbolic character which represented counter culture- rock n roll, eastern spirituality and liberated sexual orientation. Brand such as ‘FCUK’ literally stands for ‘French connectionUnited Kingdom’, but perceptually  these letters are adapted by the readers to interpret the name in a very different way (probably intended deliberately). It is very obvious that it is a misspelled dictionary word.

Tanishq, recently launched ‘Zoya’ brand of super premium diamond jewelry to cater to the top tier of the jewellery market. In a bid to cover all segments it has also created a brand of affordable diamond jewelry to target young adults in the price range closer to a branded pair of jeans.Indiabeing a young country, this market offers a promising opportunity. The brand name for this range is ‘FQ’. The pairing of these two letters forces us to decipher a meaning and it all depends upon how these are connected with each other in our memory structure. Phonetically, the name does trigger associations which have little to do with diamonds or jewellery but an attitude. The connections are purely attitudinal and personality centric.


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