When brand names get damaged due to circumstances beyond your control

Copyrights and trademarks

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There have been numerous cases of brands suffering from events outside the control of the businesses behind them. These events include:

  • epidemics and diseases
  • formation of disreputable organisations
  • new words being introduced into a language which clash with words with negative connotations in other languages
  • acts being carried by people which give them negative publicity
Here are a few examples of brands which have suffered in one of the above ways:
  • SARS Soft Drink. A negative impact was imposed on the brand in the wake of the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) disease.
  • ISIS Book shop. Even though their name was originally inspired by the ancient Egyptian goddess, Isis, their shop has been targeted by vandals who possibly made a rash conclusion about the connotations of their name.
  • Ayds Candy. In a similar way to SARS Soft Drink above, this confectionary firm ran into difficulty after a negative association wth AIDS disease.
  • In November 2011, it was decided to change the name of a rollercoater ride from Zyklon as it was the same name as a poisonous gas used in the holocaust. Perhaps, in this example, a little more research could have avoided this problem.
  • Until 2008, A German clothing brand called Thor Steinar operated a store named Brevik (named after a town in Telemark, Norway). Because of the similarity to the last name of Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian far-right terrorist, the store was renamed.
Ways in which situations similar to the above can be avoided:
  • Invented words like Kodak and non-industry-specific names like Amazon, Puma, Apple work well, with the latter group least likely to cause problems due to them already having a known meaning.
  • Extensive research can of course minimise problems.
  • Avoid names which are too short as acronyms may get introduced which clash with such names
  • Keep an eye on the news and conduct regular searches, as if a rebrand is necessary, it is best to do it earlier rather than later, before negativity mushrooms.
  • Be prepared to launch campaigns to reduce the negative effect (if rebranding is not an option)
  • Investigate whether you can tweek the brand name and thus avoid a potentially more costly complete rebranding program.

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