Branding – how Irish can you be?



This is a question that I have been asked on a number of occasions.

It’s a tricky subject. Irish is our native language and we are of course justifiably proud of our culture and heritage. Also, Irish identity is indelibly linked with our nomenclature. The reality however is that some Irish names just don’t travel well. My own name which might seem straightforward to most was subject to much mangling – always unintentional – when I lived abroad.

This leads me to the Strictly Business series currently running on RTE where Sonya Lennon has been taking on business challenges with a diverse range of small companies.

These types of programmes can be somewhat formulaic but there is a lightness of touch about Strictly Business that appeals. Sonya is a good presenter and not overly preachy; her feedback to the companies is succinct and straightforward and delivered with great style (I would tune in just to see her dresses).

The participants in the series have been well chosen, all small businesses from different sectors and with engaging personalities at the helm. The story arc tends to run as follows:
• Company has a business issue that needs addressing
• Swift diagnosis of problem by expert
• Company is brought around to the proposed solution
• A challenge is set which the company meets admirably
• A bright future lies ahead

The third episode features the highly telegenic Jenny and David O’Halloran from the Aran Islands who have returned from New Zealand with their young family to take over the family seaweed company Blath na Mara. With backgrounds in agri-food and marine biology respectively they are well qualified to take the business to the next stage. Specifically, their plan is to evolve the product range into a prepared food offering, starting with a seaweed pesto made with hand harvested organic seaweed.

So far so good. Seaweed vegetables are full of nutrients and have been heralded as the new super-food. More usually packaged and sold in dried formats, an easier to eat presentation sounds like a winning formula. However, there is a slight problem. The new brand name being proposed for the food business – Eilír – doesn’t seem to be a good fit. Sonya has reservations. Consumer research affirms that this name just doesn’t work for a food brand (cosmetics maybe?).

Taking the feedback on board the company speedily rebrands to Aran Islands Seaweed Pesto proving that, sometimes, simplicity just works. The brand design also incorporates Bláth na Mara which ensures that the company’s uniquely Irish identity is not lost.

Aran Islands Pesto

Coming up with a good brand name is far from easy. Ideally, a brand should be a short-cut for customers and tell a story about the brand’s personality. It should be short, easy to pronounce and memorable. Ultimately, the aim is to make a meaningful emotional connection.

This piece wouldn’t be complete without a review of the pesto. I made a quick detour to Fallon and Byrne in Dublin’s city centre during the week to pick up a pack and in a happy co-incidence I bumped into the radiant Jenny (baby no 3 due in May) making sure the pesto was in stock. Nothing like some TV exposure to shift product off shelves!

While I’m not usually a fan of ocean derived foods, I can share that the pesto is delicious, with a sharpness that adds to its authenticity. A wake up call for the palate and a true taste of the sea.

Strictly Business is on RTE 1, Wednesdays at 7.30pm and RTE Player