“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.”
Quoted by Juliet, from the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
If you remember your high school AP Lit class, this is the part where Juliet tries to convince Romeo that a name doesn’t define people or things, because people and things are what they are regardless of what they’re called or how they’re perceived.
Really, honey? You think so?
Obviously Juliet did not live in the branding age of the twenty-first century. Fortunes have been won and lost on just the right branding of a name or idea.
Take Grumpy Cat, For Example
Who in their right mind would think that a cat with a permanent frown could turn into a million dollar brand? Certainly not the people who own Tardar Sauce the real life kitty behind the Grumpy Cat , one of the world’s leading brandable business names.
Back in September of 2012 Tabitha Bundesen’s brother, Bryan, innocently posted a picture of a scowling Tardar Sauce on Reddit because he thought the cat’s naturally abrasive expression was funny.
Apparently, so did everyone else. However, people assumed Bryan Photoshopped the kitty’s unfriendly expression on its flat, little face, so he posted more pics (along with some video) to prove that the cat really did look like it’d just navigated 10 miles of L.A. freeways on a Friday before a three-day weekend. But regardless of (or maybe because of) the cat’s perceived antagonistic demeanor a fan base swelled up around “Grumpy Cat” faster than you could say pass the Tardar Sauce.
Soon other folks started using Grumpy Cat pics to create memes that went on to become viral. Fortunately, Tabitha Bundesen was smart enough to see branding potential. Within a few months of that first Reddit post, Tabitha filed a trademark for Tardar Sauce’s image along with the name “Grumpy Cat.” Thus protecting her right to collect residuals from anyone who decided to make T-shirts, mugs, tote bags, or whatever with the Grumpy Cat brand.
So What’s in a Name, Juliet?
Well, in this case the Grumpy Cat Corporation is now estimated to be worth $1 million, stemming from merchandise ranging from Christmas cards to Grumppuccio™ Iced Coffee. True, Grumpy Cat is a brand that evolved from public interest, but with a little bit of thought what’s to stop anyone from creating equally quirky brands using the Grumpy Cat model as a blueprint?
For example, the producers of the TV show Jackass branded a new character in film called Bad Grandpa. This is both the name of the film and the character. Like Grumpy Cat, Bad Grandpa is counterculture in that he’s not a warm and fuzzy grandparent who just jumped off a Norman Rockwell painting. On the contrary, he’s so far out on a limb he’s offensive to half of America. But it seems the other half is buying movie tickets multiple times per person. This is a brand that not only pays of at the movies, but is also the gift that keeps on giving in ancillary markets.
So what’s in a name? Nothing in particular, unless you turn it into a brand. Then it becomes the thing that keeps your business flush with cash. Just ask the Grumpy Cat. She and her owner are “scowling” all the way to the bank.