In recent years, UK consumers have got used to well-known brands changing their name. Marathon became Snickers; Opal Fruits became Starburst and Jif cleaning fluid became Cif. Sometimes these name changes are down to problems with intellectual property rights or issues with the translation of a name into a foreign language but increasingly, it is part of a deliberate strategy to create global brands.
My first car was a Vauxhall Nova. In Europe that car was marketed as the Opel Corsa. The reason for the different name in Europe was that when translated into Spanish Nova means ‘won’t go’; not the best name for a model of car. When Vauxhall redesigned the Nova in the mid-1990’s, the name was dropped and the car was sold as the Corsa in the UK.
One product which bucked this trend was Twix, the chocolate and caramel chocolate bar. In that case, it was the European brand name which was changed to match that of the UK. Mars did not own the intellectual property rights to the name Twix in continental Europe. For that market, the confectionery bar was known as Raider. Mars was able to buy the European intellectual property rights for Twix and so they decided to drop the Raider name replacing it with Twix, the name used in the UK and North American markets.
Talking about the change of the name from Raider to Twix, Philippe Villennus, Mars Marketing Director said that his company’s vision was the creation of global mega-brands that met the following criteria:
- That met important, durable and global needs
- That represented the highest levels of quality
- That are omnipresent all over the world and within east reach of everyone (both financially and physically)
- That have high public confidence
- Are the product leaders in their segment.
On his last point, where brands were not a segment leader, they were to be dropped. For example Mars did this by dropping the Treets brand.
Villenus stated that the creation of a global brand name was only worth doing if:
- It increased both market share and sales (i.e. it wasn’t just for stylistic reasons)
- It reduces production, packaging and promotional costs
- It makes brand management easier
- It provides easier opportunities for brand extension
It is fairly obvious that if you move from two brand names for one product to a single name, it will reduce packaging and production costs. It also means that a single advertisement can be used across regional borders. Often advertisements need only to be dubbed into the language of each country within that global region.
Growth in market share and sales is more difficult to quantify and significant market research is required to ensure that the re-branding strategy will be successful. An example where this did not take place was proctor and Gamble’s attempt to rebrand Fairy Liquid as Dawn in Germany.
P & G used the brand name Fairy for washing liquid in the UK and Germany. Elsewhere in Europe only the Dawn brand name was used. In the UK both the Dawn and Fairy brands were sold but on completely different attributes. Fairy liquid was sold as a premium brand which cleaned dishes better and lasted longer. Dawn was a fighter brand. In Germany, both Fairy and Dawn were sold on their ability to ‘cut through grease’. Proctor and Gamble wanted to keep the Fairy brand in the UK but to sell only the Dawn brand across Europe.
In Germany, the Fairy brand was dropped. The result was a massive drop in both sales and market share for the Dawn brand.
Proctor and Gamble did recognise that the Fairy brand was a creator of significant customer loyalty. It’s long tradition as a quality product had significant consumer value which did not exist with the Dawn brand. P & G had not appropriately accounted for customer opinion in their pan-continental branding strategy. The name transfer did not provide a benefit to consumers. The harmonisation did not identify marketing gains in terms of packaging, product recipe or promotion. The name change had not altered P & G’s productivity rate.
For smaller firms there are still lessons to be learnt from the above examples. When you are choosing a product name, consider where your company growth might lead. If you have to use different names for your products in different geographic areas, you might incur significant costs. All the better to research a product name which can be used everywhere as your business expands geographically. For example, I recently saw an advertisement for a small brewery. The brewery was called the Piddle Brewery and it produced a product called Piddle Ale. This may be appropriate in the brewery’s current geographic market but in the part of the UK I come from, piddle is a euphemism for urine. It might not be advisable for the brewery to sell its product under its current name in that part of the UK. If they do want to expand to my home region, it is likely a new brand name will be required with all the additional production and promotional costs that implies.