Tiger, Tiger, burning bright

HARISH BHAT | Updated on September 28, 2011 Published on September 28, 2011

Cricketer Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.


NEW DELHI, 24/01/2008 : Beranger Magarinos , Senior Manager, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) launching Britannia Tiger Banana biscuits in New Delhi on January 24, 2008. Photo by_Rajeev Bhatt   -  Rajeev Bhatt, The Hindu

A marketer's tribute to Tiger Pataudi, and an analysis of why so many brands are called Tiger

Tiger Pataudi, swashbuckling captain of the Indian cricket team, was my hero during my school days. In the pre-television era of the early '70s, I would admire his lanky picture in magazines, and in the sports sections of the grainy black-and-white newsreels which they played in cinema halls those days. Handsome, stylish, enigmatic, attacking batsman, fearless leader, the aura of royalty … this was a heady cocktail. Pataudi was not merely my hero, but India's biggest sporting brand those days.

When he passed away last week, those images came tumbling back into my mind. I pay tribute to him in this article, by visiting the world of “Tiger brands”. Some of the finest brands in the world and in India are named “Tiger”, and, of course, Pataudi leads this pack. In virtually each such case, the brand name “Tiger” has come to denote energy, speed and power, which is the natural imagery triggered by this ferocious and majestic wild animal. So read on, for a brief voyage through the interesting world of Tiger brands, and why they bear this name.

Tiger Pataudi

He won an overseas cricket series for the first time ever. He has been called India's finest captain. In his own words, despite losing sight in one eye, he never lost sight of his ambition. There are many stories behind his being branded “Tiger”. One of my colleagues tells me he was initially called Tiger because of his love for shooting, on his estate. There is even a myth that he once shot a man-eating tiger dead. His attacking and fearless style of play, reminiscent of a tiger attacking its prey, has been quoted as another reason. But I will go with what another Indian cricket captain Ajit Wadekar has said, that the nickname Tiger was a tribute to Pataudi's legendary fielding abilities: he was as quick as a tiger in the field, and his tigerish patrolling of the covers was legendary.

Tiger Woods

One of the greatest golfers of our age remains a sporting legend and an inspiring draw, despite the well-publicised failings of his personal life. Woods was, however, branded Tiger for a very different reason. His father had a close friend in the Vietnamese army, called Vong Dong Phong, who also had the same nickname, Tiger. It was in memory of this friend that the son was named. This Tiger has been on successful prowls on the golf courses and also off them, so in hindsight the name has been quite appropriate. Undeniably, the epithet “Tiger” has also given an enticing ring to his name, compared to being called something more normal, say Jack Woods or Roger Woods, or even Eldrick Tont Woods, which is his given name. That says a lot for the power of a unique brand name.

Tiger Beer

Singapore's first locally brewed beer is also one of its most famous brands. Its famous advertising line – “It's time for a Tiger!” – has not merely drawn millions of thirsty consumers, it has also inspired books such as Anthony Burgess's first novel, titled Time for a Tiger. Tiger is a good brand name for a beer, as it signals the strength and kick that one expects in an alcoholic drink. It is interesting to note that the tiger shown on the label is a happy tiger, undoubtedly the right mood for beer. The brand used its name even more interestingly during World War II, when some raw materials required for making strong beer became scarce. It quickly launched “Tiger Cub”, a lighter version, for a few years. But what I like best is how the brand has taken forward several elements of the name. Its official Web site provides additional meaning to three alphabets in the word ‘Tiger': ‘i' stands for No. 1, reflecting Tiger's ambition to be the world leader in beer; ‘g' looks like “8”, the most auspicious number in many South-East Asian countries, and ‘e' denotes the lineage of Heineken Europe, the brand which provided the initial technical expertise that went into the making of Tiger Beer.

Tiger Biscuits

Britannia's largest brand of biscuits is a household name in India. The name ‘Tiger' in this case has possibly been triggered by the need to make these biscuits instantly recognisable across India, even in semi-literate consumer households, particularly as this brand is targeted at the mass market. Even if a consumer cannot read English, he can immediately recognise the Tiger graphic on the packs, while asking the kirana shopkeeper for a pack. However, in contrast to the sleek animal which appears on the labels of Tiger beer, the tiger displayed on these biscuit packs is always an animated, fun version. Used in this manner, the brand name conveys both fun and energy, which is a perfect proposition for a brand of nutritious glucose biscuits aimed primarily at children.

Tiger Balm

The world's best known pain-relieving formulation sports a gentle tiger on its labels. The origin of the brand name, however, is a story that is common to so many brands: It is the name of the founder's son. The balm was first developed by a Chinese herbalist who worked in the court of the Chinese emperor. However, it was his son Aw Boon How (in Chinese, this name means “Gentle Tiger”) who branded the ointment, and began widely marketing it. He named it after himself, much like Ford cars, Lipton tea and Chanel perfumes were named. The wide popularity of these labels today goes to show that brands named after owners or founders are a very good choice, they certainly convey authenticity and heritage, even if they have no other profound meaning. In the case of Tiger balm, it has also helped that the tiger is associated with the Orient, therefore cueing geographical origin of the product.

Wagh Bakri Tea

The Hindi word for Tiger ( Wagh) is used alongside the word for Goat ( Bakri) as brand name of one of the best known brands of tea in Western India. Several elements of branding work well here. Firstly, strong ( kadak) tea is sought after in many parts of our country, and the tiger certainly conveys strength. Second, the name subliminally conveys tea for everyone, given that these two animals are virtually at opposite ends of the spectrum on various aspects of their personality. Third, the combination of opposites – a ferocious tiger living in harmony with a gentle goat – makes the name quite memorable. There is a lesson here for marketers, and also a subject of enquiry for consumer psychologists. The tension between opposites, in a brand name or proposition, tends to create a unique impact on people. Have you ever reflected why?

Tiger matchboxes

“Tiger” is one of the most popular brands of matchboxes, anywhere in the world. Since childhood, I have seen matchboxes carrying the ‘tiger' logo. I am told the brand is equally popular in Sweden. The excellent book Matchbox Labels, written by Natasha Lomas, features the ‘Tiger' brand on its cover. A close cousin is the ‘Cheetah Fight' brand. Perhaps the reason here is similar to Tiger biscuits: The graphic makes the brand instantly recognisable to a vast numbers of consumers. Also, like the poet William Blake has famously told us, the tiger's eyes burn bright, much like a matchstick is expected to. Hence, ‘Tiger' is an instant connect for this inflammable category.

The stories of all these excellent brands hold good and useful marketing lessons on the subject of how brands are named. But I sign off here by paying respects to the one and only Tiger who burns bright in our minds today. Tiger Pataudi, a legend. An aristocrat and a gentleman, an attacker and a fearless captain. But above all a tiger who patrolled the covers ferociously and became one of the country's most inspiring people-brands.

(Harish Bhat is Chief Operating Officer – Watches, Titan Industries Ltd. These are his personal views.)

Published on September 28, 2011
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