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Friday, September 26, 2008

Choosing product names? Think short, easy to spell and pronounce

WHAT'S in a product name? A lot. Choose the wrong one and you could seriously damage your company's prospects; get it right and the world will beat a path to your door.

Ask Creative Technology. Calling its MP3 player the Creative Nomad Jukebox was a mistake as it was just too long and too complicated, said marketirig strategist AI Ries.

Although Creative was the first in the market with an MP3 music player, it lost out to Apple, which had a "superior brand name - iPod - and a superior marketing strategy" .

But not only' is the product name Nomad Jukebox a handicap, even the brand name Creative does not do the company any favours. If an Asian company like Creative wants to develop a global brand, it cannot take on such a generic name. "All products are creative," he said.

Mr Ries made his name from his book, Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind. He noted that successful companies advertised their products in such a way that consumers associated the function with the brand name. Look at Xerox - the product name has become a widely used term for photocopying.

Another problem Creative faces in trying to build up a global profile is that it is offering a broad line. of products and services marketed under a single brand name.
Mr Ries believes Creative "will never become a big global brand because the name encompasses too many products".

He points to the successful brands such as Starbucks, Absolut and Coca-Cola, which all sprang from a single product.

Once the brand is famous, however, it can extend its product line. Sony did this by establishing its presence with Wiilkman before branching into different products.

Traps that Asian companies fall into when trying to break into the global brand arena include forgetting how the name sounds in English.

Mr Ries said that with English being so widely spoken worldwide, companies cannot afford to ignore their brand name's English version.

Many Chinese brand names, he reckons, will not make it on the global stage simply because they are not only difficult to spell but also to pronounce for an English speaker.

This is not a problem exclusive to Chinese companies. While British and American firms benefit from their English-speaking cultures, European companies in places like Poland, for example, would be in the same boat.

A name should be "short, easy to spell and pronounce and connotes what the brand stands for".

Take Taiwan PC maker Asus. It has achieved much success after pioneering the first ultra-compact laptop computer, the Eee PC. But in the long run, Mr Ries thinks the "weak" brand name and the "weak" model name could be a liability.

Conversely, Ralph Lauren would not have been half the success he is if he had launched a brand using his real name, Ralph Lifshitz.

Asian companies do face an uphill task creating their own unique brand, agreed public relations expert Al Golin, founder and head of the worldwide PR agency GolinHarris.

He said that companies have to convince their consumers that the product or service they buy is real or authentic.

For Asian companies wanting to compete with longer, more established competitive brands in the marketplace, PR efforts will need to focus on reinforcing an image of "quality" among Asian companies.

Still, Asian companies may see the tide turning in their favour.

Mr Golin said there is an increasing awareness of "everything Asian" in the West - the Olympics will help - which the Asian firms should capitalise on.

There is an opportunity to combine a balance of their Asian origins and romance with modern marketing techniques to tell their stories around the world, he said.

via Straits Times


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