Business Today

That which we call a car

Two syllables work best when branding a car - although regional nuances can play spoilsport.

Print Edition: October 31, 2010

Former Hyundai India President B.V.R Subbu has an interesting story about how the best-selling Santro was named. The Hyundai management felt that the Atos brand under which the vehicle was sold in Europe would not work in India.

The top brass of the Korean carmaker's Indian operations along with a clutch of branding experts were holed up in the Mediterranean resort of Saint Tropez. Their mandate: To find an alternative moniker for the compact car for India. It didn't take long for one of the copywriters in the group to come up with the name Santro, inspired no doubt by the seaside resort town on the French Riviera.

Then there are instances of unfortunate baptisms, such as the Skoda Laura, which is a perfectly delightful name in most necks of the woods. However, if pronounced in a particularly harsh way in north Indian slang, the Laura gives the phrase 'hot rod'(typically modified American cars with large engines) a rather unenviable connotation.

The Laura is actually the new Octavia in international markets, and it was only because the Czech carmaker decided to keep the older product on the shelf here that there was a need to find a new name. Hyundai's new version of the Accent had to be rechristened the Verna for the same reason although it is still known as the (new) Accent elsewhere.

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