Is Tata Motors Headed for Another Branding Fiasco?

Brand building is a very involving and time consuming activity. It takes immense effort to build a brand while even small mistakes or oversights can harm the brand immensely.

Name of a product plays an extremely important role in building brand. The name should be appealing, catching and should not annoy the customer. Also, the product should tug at the heart of the customer.

Let me explain with some examples. Pepsi launched their soft drink in China with a slogan, "Pepsi brings you back to life”. Well, nothing bad with it, but unfortunately in Chinese it translated to “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”. Well, this was a funny mistake, but if a company is going international, it should do its homework so that the targeted customers are not offended.

 Also, one famous brand for a product may not make another product famous. For example, Colgate had launched a series of frozen food products under the brand name “Colgate Kitchen Entrees”. The logic given by Colgate was that consumers can eat a Colgate meal, then brush their teeth with Colgate toothpaste. Well it did not go down well with the customer. How does it sound, “I had Colgate for supper”? The customer just wanted to brush his teeth with Colgate after a hearty meal. 

Another product that was launched was the “Cocaine”, yes you read it right. It was an energy drink launched by Redux Beverages, a Las Vegas Company. This drink had three times as much caffeine as in a Red Bull. The font in its logo resembled a white powder and its marketing language was rife with drug references. Not long after its launch, the drink was pulled off from store shelves by the USFDA. It was claimed by USFDA that Redux was illegally marketing its product as an alternative to street drugs, and was falsely claiming that Cocaine could treat disease and act as a dietary supplement.

Ford Edsel was a product that did not match the customer’s expectations, had wrong design cues and was launched at a wrong time. Though people claim that the Edsel was an unreliable clunker that was so bad no one could sell it, it was no more or less reliable than any other car on the market at the time.  However, in the run up to its unveiling, Ford had put out rumours that the Edsel would be a revolutionary car that would change the automotive landscape. But, when the curtain was finally pulled back, people saw that it was just another Ford with a different body. This did not meet the customer’s expectations. Then it was launched at a time when big cars were going out of favour due to a recession setting in. And finally, its grille had a certain anatomical resemblance which was not appreciated.

Skoda had launched the new Octavia in India as the Skoda Laura, while keeping the earlier generation model also on sale named as the Octavia. The plan was to position the Laura slightly above the Octavia and keep selling two generations of the same car as different models. All was well with the strategy except, the name Laura when used in Hindi in North India refers to the male genital in slang. How do you say now to your dad that “I bought a Laura”? It was another case of not understanding the local nuances of a name.

Tata Motors has already suffered a Branding Fiasco in the Tata Nano. Instead of focussing on the technology and packaging of the car as a happy city runabout, complete focus was on showing it as the cheapest car. The advertisements depicted it as a poor man’s car. Nothing wrong with it, but, in a country like India, the car is an aspirational product. No one wants to be branded a poor man, just because he is driving a Nano. The product, which was technically sound, good to drive and a fantastic runabout in congested cities of India bombed miserably. There have been attempts to rebrand it as a happy, technically advanced car for the younger generation, but the poor man’s tag refuses to go.

Tata Motors has come up with another great car, the Zica, but the timing and name of the product may create problems. This car is being launched at a time when the Zika virus creating havoc with new born babies in South America has come into news. This virus has created scare all over the world and there are advisories issued by countries against travelling to countries where Zika infections have been reported.

The Zika virus leads to birth of babies with deformed heads and is caused by mosquitoes. The same mosquitoes which cause Dengue and Chickangunia. India is home to these mosquitoes and a warning is going up in India against the Zika.

I do not think it is the right time to name a car Zica, especially when the revival of the Tata Motors has so much hinged on its success. Look up some other name guys.