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Should a surname be used for a brand?

Şahsuvaroğlu, Tahsildaroğlu, Apikoğlu, Kiler, Çilek, Sarar… what all of these brands have in common is that they derive their names from the surnames of the people who created them or their familie...

Son Güncelleme: 01.02.2007

Şahsuvaroğlu, Tahsildaroğlu, Apikoğlu, Kiler, Çilek, Sarar… what all of these brands have in common is that they derive their names from the surnames of the people who created them or their families… The history of giving a company or products a family surname is as old as the history of branding itself. But experts says that today it is not advisable to use a personal or family surname as a brand. They recommend giving a brand a name which is easy to remember and using a word whose meaning gives an indication of the benefits of the product or service.

Martha Stewart is the most famous lifestyle guru in the USA. There are TV programs, magazines and stores which bear her name and which sell a wide variety of products to women. But in 2004 Martha Stewart went to prison because she was discovered to have given a false statement about shares in a company called ImClone Systems. Stewart was found guilty of stock market insider trading with a different company but the end result was not only that she was sentenced to five months in prison. Because all of the brands which bore her name were based on a single person. The disaster that befell the brands began at the same moment as the one which befell their owner. First sales of the magazine fell, and then TV programs were cancelled and advertisements were even pulled from the magazine. The brand has still not recovered. Because if someone who gives their name to a brand behaves irresponsibly then it destroys confidence in the brand.

This has once again raised the question of whether brands should be named after a family or personal surname. In fact, the history of giving a company or products a family surname is as old as the history of branding itself. This is a tradition which has started in an era when competition was not so intense. Today many of the brands we know from around the world actually carry the family surname of the people who created them.

When It Was Not Necessary To Aim For The Stars…
Interbrand’s list of the 100 most valuable global brands includes 46 which are derived from family surnames. They include brands such as McDonald’s, Disney and Toyota. But all of these brands were created in a market environment hungry for everything, in which there was no competition, and in which it was not necessary to aim for the stars in order to be different. As a result of minimal marketing, they became products. What has enabled them to survive down to the present day is that they have been able to adapt to changing market conditions, standardize quality, adopt innovative approaches and ensure continuous brand communication. But since the 1980s it has become much more difficult to transform products and services into brands. And a lot of mistakes have been made in branding. The list is headed by giving a brand a family surname.

A large proportion of the brands which are more than 30 years old, both in Turkey and the rest of the world, take their names from family surnames. For example, Maggi was created in 1884 by Julius Maggi, Lipton in 1893 by Sir Thomas Lipton and Lacoste in 1933 by Rene Lacoste. In Turkey, Apıkoğlu, which is a meat and meat products brand, was named in 1910 after the surname of the Apıkoğlu family. The Kiğılı brand was created by Abdullah Kiğılı who began to manufacture shirts 27 years after his uncle Kiğılı had opened his first general purpose store in 1938. The famous clothing brand Hatemoğlu and the furniture brand Çilek both bear the surnames of the families which created them. Ateşoğlu cheeses, Kutman wines, Hotiç shoes and Kiler supermarkets are just a few more of the brands whose names are derived from the surnames of the families who created them.

How Should One Choose The Name Of A Brand?
The famous marketing guru Philip Kotler says that surnames should only be used for groups, not for brands or companies. Kotler thinks that a brand should say more than just a name. He stresses that word used for the name of a brand should clearly indicate the usefulness and special characteristics of the product. Kotler continues as follows:

“The name of a brand should suggest a process, like MacDonald’s or Amazon. MacDonald’s directly indicates a process, a form of production and a style. An excellent brand should, like Harley Davidson, trigger an emotional response. It should promise value like Sony. And the names of the brands should say everything about you, including your personnel, performance and operations.” If companies are to achieve the goal set by Kotler then they must determine a strategy which will imbue the brand with emotional connotations and invest accordingly.

Assistant Professor Dr. Ferrah Uztuğ, head of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations at Anadolu University, thinks that the use in Turkey of different family names as brands will create problems in the future. Uztuğ says: “Choosing a name for a brand is a complex and difficult decision.” He argues that one should choose a name for a brand which includes the company’s vision and corporate values and the choice should be the product of strategic decisions such as positioning and a synthesis of promise and benefit.

Of course, choosing a name for the brand is essentially about securing a competitive edge and ease of communication. Uztuğ says: “When choosing a name for a brand, companies should bear in mind its phonetic characteristics, its ability to be remembered, its appropriateness to domestic and foreign markets and what it looks like when it is written down.

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