Saturday, May 14, 2011

Brand Names and Global Marketing

These two stories made me reflect on the strategic considerations in naming businesses and when taking brands global: 
This French Billionaire Is About To Invade America  and  FRENCH INVASION: Flash Sales Juggernaut Vente Privée Announces Plans To Kill Gilt Groupe. 

One has to presume that the combined marketing staffs of Vente Prive'e and AMEX must have considered how their brand may be pronounced by non French-speaking US consumers.  Or, may be not.  Memories of Chevy entering the Mexican market with the Nova (in Spanish pronounced No Va = Doesn't Go) come to mind - it became a classic of international brand screw-ups cited in international marketing courses.

So let's consider a possibility: Vente, pronounced by a Yank and partly thanks to Starbucks will morph into Venti (itself a confusing term to many Starbucks customers unaware that Venti=20 in Italian, which is the size of the drink - apparently a fork in the road offering a choice between ease for the consumer and marketing mystique was traveled toward the latter). Since Starbucks commands more "brain share", Vente may well evoke images of "large paper cups".

As to Prive'e, since the accented e is not conveniently available on US keyboards, it is inevitable that it will soon be lost to create Privee, in turn most likely to be pronounced Privy by many Americans, evoking visions of toilets.  Is "Large Cup Toilet" the image one would want to attach to one's brand entering a new market? I wonder.

These may all be conjectures, and yet possible outcomes. If you were launching your new startup in a new market, would you prefer avoiding a handicap even even if only a potential one?  If you were the king of global reach (AMEX) would you not have international staff able to recognize the risk of a trap? Or did pride in one's extremely (domestically) successful brand deluded the marketer into believing he can tech French to the locals (traditionally a distinctly unsuccessful effort)?

Stay tuned you may soon hear of VP, VenPri, or some other variation on the theme. 


PS If you are sufficiently opportunistically entrepreneurial to buy all domains with word combinations that could solve the above problem, let me know.  It will make for a nice story on entrepreneurship.


Marco Messina

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