What’s in a name? The difference between buying and being sold

whatsinanameProperty projects in Bangalore, and perhaps other major Indian cities, started getting some exotic names a few years back. Ranka Colony or Keshav Niwas or Dipti Kunj were no longer enough. Names with a builder’s name followed by Elite or Luxuria or foreign locales like Espana or Hyde Park or Belmont started taking root. It was a different matter whether that led to better quality, but I am sure they started selling better.

The same has happened to financial products over the past few years.Right from financial media to actual financial services, the focus is on making it sound interesting, exciting and attractive, irrespective of the actual product.

The fact that news is actually entertainment is evident from some of the names that programs on business channels have.

The names of the English ones are a bit more sophisticated. “The 2.30 Factor”, “What’s Hot” and “Rush Hour” or something like that. During prime time viewing, they tend to get a bit spicy too. Like “Top 10 @ 10” or “Business 20:20”. And if you want to mix business with pleasure, and are in the mood for taking advice, they tend to get a bit more chill-type, like “Global Mantra” or “Crystal Ball” or “Market Guru”.

But all that pretence is dropped when it comes to Hindi Business Channels. So consider names like “Antim Baazi” or “Aakhri Souda”. Even better names are “Vaayda se Faayda” and “Dopahar Dhamaka” or the even more creative, solid-sounding “Pehredaar”. One may think of these as names of Hindi movies or serials, but they are names of programs on business channels.

These are still, perhaps, supposed to be for serious viewers of Hindi business channels, as they are for programs aired during market hours. If one wants even more spice, it is clear that prime time evening is the slot for true entertainment. So a few days back, I saw “D Street ka Don” in which a person with a hat and dark glasses talked like a hitman taking calls on stock related questions. There used to be a program called “Saas Bahu aur Sensex” apparently for women investors.

The fact that financial products have become consumer products is evident from the names given to them. It is clear that they are being sold not bought.

whatsinaname82-Play-ballThis trend is most common in insurance products, started many years back by none other than our government behemoth LIC. Most LIC products had some nice sounding, mostly Hindi name – likely with a ‘Jeevan’ in it. So you had money back policies named “Jeevan Surabhi” and “Jeevan Samriddhi”, or pure term policies named “Anmol Jeevan”. Couple policies or child policies were aptly named “Jeevan Saathi” and “Jeevan Kishore”.

Now this has got extended into a confusing mix of Hindi and English policy names. So one has continuity in the form of “Mahalife” or “Raksha Shree”. And the more creative names in the form of “Sudarshan” or “Swarna Vishranti” – perhaps for retirement. Like English channels, it gets a bit more sophisticated when the names are in English. So we have “Young Achiever” or “Life Guard” or “Cash Gain”. It is quite clear that the goal is to have a wonderful sounding name that attracts the buyer to take a look in a crowded market, and then if he is interested, one can talk about features and financial aspects if required.

Mutual Funds also used to have such funny sounding names a few years back. Like there was a TIGER fund, a SMILE fund, a FORCE fund, a SPiCE fund, and some exotic names like India GenNext. But they seem to have more or less reverted to simple names like Equity or Blue chip or at best Top 100 fund – which are hardly exciting. Some of them, specially the Tax saver and Index funds, have outright boring names. Perhaps it has got to do with some regulation and the fact that no one is interested in selling mutual funds any more due to cut in commissions.

So far I haven’t quite seen a naming frenzy in fixed deposits yet. But that may not be too far. I guess so far fixed deposits are bought, not sold.

May be there is a lesson there. What needs to be bought is not being sold. What is being named well and sold should, perhaps, not be bought. Definitely not due to the name. After all, what’s in a name? There is a difference in buying something and being sold something. But then, I guess, how else do you make finance interesting?

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