A watch retail outlet at a renowned mall is flooded with different brands. A woman leafs through a plethora of watches to choose from. After much deliberation, she picks up two of her choicest brands. One that has a Swiss connection and the other that doesn’t. She puts down one and finally buys the Swiss brand. Wonder, what made her choose a particular brand with a region name over another? And why do brands use place names while branding their product?
“The region or city is used to co-brand because the brand then draws on the expertise or distinctive image that the location has developed with respect to that product category,” says Nirmalaya Kumar, Director of Centre for Marketing, and Co-Director for Aditya V Birla India Centre at London Business School, adding, “A city helps give the brand a degree of authenticity. For instance, Parma (in Italy) is known for ham or Paris is famous for women’s fashion; Switzerland is known for watches and chocolates, while India could be for yoga or ayurvedic medicines.”
The idea behind using a city or region name is to use the equity of the city or a region. According to Harish Bijoor, brand expert & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, “City and regions have the habit of having their own brand equity and brand weight. A new brand, when it adopts a city name, is able to run faster with existing equity and quick recall. For instance, Alpenliebe takes time to build, but Bombay Sapphire, a gin by Bacardi, is easier to promote.”
The history of Yardley London, the cosmetic brand that entered the Indian market in 2008, helped the brand connect with the Indian consumers. The brand’s history can be traced back to 240 years. “Yardley London has a historical connection with London. The brand has served the royalty for over two centuries now,” points out Sriram K Iyer, Business Head, Wipro Yardley Consumer Care.
And this is communicated through Yardley’s brand ambassador, Bollywood actor, Katrina Kaif. “Our brand ambassador shares a strong bond with London city. Thus, she adds value to our brand. And therefore, the brand name has been able to create a product differentiation in its category,” adds Iyer.
The language the city speaks
Communication for such brands isn’t much different except when they wish to highlight their liaison with the place. “Everything boils down to source credibility. If a product has been genuinely derived from a particular place then values or the characteristics of that city are shown in their advertisements,” says ad man Prasoon Joshi, Executive Chairman, McCann Worldgroup. “There are some brands that also use place names in their brands without any genuine connection. But that is because they want to impress their target audience,” notes Joshi.
On the other hand, Peter England, the men’s apparel brand, shies away from showing off its English ties. The brand, which was launched in India over a decade ago, has its roots in England. The brand was born in 1889 in Londonderry, Ireland and originally doled out apparels for British soldiers. In 1997, Madura Fashion & Lifestyle, a subsidiary of Aditya Birla Group, brought Peter England to India. Over a period of time, the brand got rid of its English effect in its advertisements. “The target group of the brand consists of consumers who have graduated from tailor-stitched shirts to ready-made shirts. Job seekers, generally beginners, are on the brand’s radar. Thus, the TVC for the brand focuses on self-belief quotient of the target audience rather than its British history,” says Sujay Ghosh, Vice-President, Mudra Communications (South).
Pavers England, the European footwear brand has journeyed in India with a tagline ‘A European brand, an Indian heart’. American outdoor wear brand that largely focuses on footwear, Timberland, was born in Boston (US), has nothing to do with Timberland village in England.
But can a city name Joshi, impress sales? Joshi feels ‘not’. “Cosmetic brands such as L’oreal Paris, don’t bother much about their association with the fashion capital. Their ads concentrate on product benefits than their origin. As a consumer, I would buy a product that is good and not because it has ‘Paris’ in its name.”
Other brands such as DKNY (Donna Karan New York) and FCUK (French Connection United Kingdom) are more successful for their collections than their brand names in the Indian market. French Connection adopted FCUK as an acronym, when a controversial ad campaign featuring ‘fcuk fashion’ hurt European sensitivities. The company name since then has stressed on the brand’s attitude.
The Indian way!
While international brands have exploited the idea of naming a brand based on place name, Indian counterparts have adopted the same strategy but those who are at the bottom of the pyramid. These companies are generally registered under the Geographical Indications or the GI Act. However, it isn’t mandatory to get the brand registered with GI to sell it. Harpreet Oberoi, IP Corporate Counsel, Jotwani Associates (a renowned Delhi based law firm), says, “If I am from Darjeeling and selling Darjeeling tea without registering it, that doesn’t mean I need to pay any consequences, even if Darjeeling tea is registered under GI Act.” However, Oberoi emphasizes that a producer can’t produce a product anywhere other than its originating place if the product is registered under GI Act. Thus, the GI tag prevents the misuse of that particular area.
So does a GI tag help brands in surviving competition? “The GI tag conveys about the quality of brand based on history, folklore and tradition. It enables them to build a reputation and provide a basis for differentiating commodity products, which often fetch a premium price,” says Rahul Mittra, Founder and CEO, Brandsmith, a brand management firm. But he adds, “While GI helps differentiate products originating in one geographical area from those produced elsewhere, they simultaneously reduce the distinction between companies producing competing products in the same geographical area.”
Mittra feels that a brand by just deploying GI in its brand name cannot reach out to the consumer, apart from systematic distribution.
But whatever be the challenge, it won’t be wrong to say that a brand cannot alone sail the cut-throat competition by associating itself with a place. A brand needs right publicity, ground promotion and brand loyalty in order to reach out to the smart Indian consumer. Like they say- ‘What’s in a name?’
(With inputs from Abhishek Kumar)