The following is a repost from a Facebook post I made on 18 March 2015. Some edits are made to make it a more interesting read, and/or with additional commentary
Ever heard of Häagen-Dazs? Ok, without resorting to google searches, or any kind of resources except your brain, guess where the brand comes from?
Done? Now go google it, or just check wikipedia. Prepare to be mind blown.
A while ago, a friend introduced me to a new (for me) fast food chain, Texas Chicken. First impressions were ok, and now I know that there’s another state from ‘Murica that produces fried chicken. A quick search on the internet later, I found out that there was no Texas Chicken in the US, even Texas. Most of the world know as Church’s Chicken.
Woah, hold on, what?
One is called “foreign-branding”, another is a form of localization. The former is a tactic to make a brand more exotic, or associate with some other form of culture. People in certain places associate strongly with culture from other parts of the world- in Malaysia, that means Korea (sigh). It can also be used to divert people’s impressions of the brand if associated directly to the people running it. In the case of Häagen-Dazs, the founders are Polish immigrants (who are jews) trying to start a business . They picked a Danish sounding name as a sign of respect to the Danes who treated the jews well during world war II, and to associate themselves with quality- Danish dairy products are loved by Americans at the time, and have high quality. [The name is not exactly in Danish, or any language either. Just made-up words, and everyone knows the umlaut makes it cooler and exotic]
What about Texas chicken? Well, the original’s name is Church’s Chicken. Because the founder’s last name is Church. To avoid any negative connotations in certain countries, they changed the name to a generally more appealing name of it’s state, Texas. Just imagine the long chain of Whatsapp messages talking about “AGENDA DAKYAH CHURCH CHICKEN ” or something along the line with that. I’ve seen too many conspiracy theories type of messages (i.e. poorly researched, prejudice of race and religion, playing the race/religion card to support own businesses, etc.) spreading around Whatsapp to expect any sort of controversy as this. Remember the Cadbury halal fiasco? The effect is so strong that some other companies like McDonalds are already jumping in to promote it is indeed halal. Better to avoid any such controversies with a name change.
So,the point? If you need to name something to sell, check first. Is it truly unique? what would it mean in different languages? If it’s not unique, would you go into legal trouble? What would the name mean to your potential customers? First impressions are important, after all.
[Sorry for jabbing a bit about Häagen-Dazs being pricey. Never tasted it myself if it’s worth the money or not, too pricey to do that, but it drives the point about naming- and I really want to use a Shakespeare quote]