| July 22, 2013
By Gordon Pincott, Chairman, Global Solutions Millward Brown
When you travel around other countries, as I was travelling around India the other week, you come across many brands that you have never heard of. One that caught my eye on my recent trip was Catholic Syrian Bank.
For a brand unknown to me, it conjures up an amazing array of associations. I have been lucky enough to wander round Damascus in quieter times, with its wonderful markets and spectacular mosque. Today, Syria is in the headlines for other reasons and the imagery is deeply troubling. ‘Catholic’ also evokes sounds, sights and smells, although the church has also been in the public eye for less positive reasons. Even the word ‘Bank’ stands not only as a category descriptor, but also has associations of trust and solidity, of conservatism and exploitation.
So it would be difficult to imagine a brand with richer or a more diverse set of mental connections. The only problem is that I still know nothing about it as a brand. What makes it meaningful? What does it stand for? Why is it different?
Sometimes we talk about brands as if they are brought into existence by marketers, but the moment the name is attached to the product it already brings connections. The marketing challenge is to shape these. The Catholic Syrian Bank would have a near impossible task of overcoming the legacy of its name. No wonder marketers tend to either go for names without too many existing meanings, or sometimes invent an entirely new name for their brand (see this previous post from Nigel about unique brand names – did you know Häagen-Dazs is a made up name and its origins lie in New York City?).
In contrast, the owner of Swastik Logistics, another brand new to me that I discovered in India, had little doubt what they were doing. The Swastika is a long standing symbol of well-being in the Indian sub-continent. However, the Swastika also conjures up associations of hatred and violence due to being adopted as the symbol for the Nazi Party in Germany in 1920. It would be interesting to see what brand name associations those in Western countries have of Swastik Logistics. That is another careful consideration marketers must make when deciding on a brand name: a set of positive associations in one country could be negative in another.
So what do you think? Can you give examples of other brands and their brand name associations?