Branding Blog

H1N1 or Why society accepts poor Brand Positioning?

Written by Dale Berkebile | Fri, Oct 16, 2009

Ok so early on this big flu hype was called the Swine Flu. I am not sure if that was because it came from pigs or if you only caught this thing if you were a dirty swine.

Anyhow, this Flu is a perfect example of how marketing works. Ok so first they roll it out as the "Swine Flu". Well the pig raisers of the world wanted nothing to do with this name. By golly this is going to stop people from buying swine! First off do most people go to the store and buy swine chops? No! Do the pig raisers of this world have a valid point in wanting to change the name of this Flu? Sure they do! They know that perception is reality to some degree. They surely did not want this epidemic tied with there industry. Even though people do not buy swine at the grocery store, people eventually would start tying swine to pigs and surely stop buying beacon, porkchops and whatnot.

So the question remains shall we change the name? Ok, let's change it. But what in the world are we going to change it to? Well, we could hire a branding consultant to help us position this thing as a fearful epidemic with a strong name that taps into peoples emotions similar to how swine flu tapped into the pig raisers society, or… heck why don't we just let "Joe Scientist" create a name to position this epidemic.

How about H1N1. Aaaaahhhhhh! Wow just typing that is scary I hope I didn't catch it. Ok, yes a little sarcasm there. The point is this. What the hell does H1N1 mean? I am sure it has something to do with science and not a team of scientists naming it Harold #1 and Natalie #1 and shortening it down to H1N1.

The problem is H1N1 as a new name for this disease is nearly a disastrous as the flu itself. This is what happens when someone names something without a care in the world. Think about this would you ever name your child H1N1? Chances are unlikely. So why name anything else this name.

The key to marketing is first off understanding your prospects. In this case potential flu victims. What matters most to them? Staying healthy, right? And what scars them, catching the flu and dying, right? So why not create a name that is scary for the flu and a name that re-enforces healthy way to fight of the flu for the name of the flu shot? How's HyNoxin for the flu name. This still uses the H & the N if those are truly relevant but emphasizing the Nox which brings up the thought of noxious  or toxin and implies poisonous or deadly. This might be a better name for the flu. Now lets look at the cure's name why not something like Fluicur. Pronounced "Flu-a-cure". Hmmm, talking about the problem "flu" and how you fix it "cure".

Anyhow, the whole point of this article is that businesses make the same mistake as the health industry or whoever named the H1N1 epidemic. They through a name out and want with it. Company's doe this with their company name, their product names and their service names if they even brand these at all. 

You really need to take some time and think of the customer and what's in it for them. Obviously you do not have all the free media coverage that the H1N1 virus has, so it might be wise to develop an effective name that works even with a small budget. 

The H1N1 name took me months or maybe even a year or so now to remember it just because the name is so poor and means nothing to me. The swine flu on the other had has instantly stuck with me. A name is an important part of any marketing program.

Choose your name wisely!