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Sugary-Sweet or Saccharine? Sugarpova and Vanilla Air

Two interesting pieces of sugary branding news out today, Maria Sugarpova may play at the US Open & Vanilla Air will take the skies with implications.

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Two interesting pieces of sugary branding news out today —

  • Maria Sharapova is apparently considering legally changing her name to be Maria Sugarpova for the duration of the U.S. Open to bring attention to her candy line, Sugarpova. (The Guardian)
  • AirAsia Japan is changing their name to Vanilla Air. (Economic Times)

Sharapova’s Sugarpova is a PR Stunt

Sugarpova...Sharapova
Sugarpova…Sharapova (Photo credit: arnold | inuyaki)

In Maria Sharapova’s case, she’s built her reputation and fortune on the name Sharapova. But as key stakeholder in the Sugarpova candy line, even the reports that she is considering changing her name (just for the U.S. Open) is bringing untold visibility and press to the Sugarpova business. Whether or not she actually completes the name change is irrelevant. This is a PR stunt — and it’s working. The world-wide press is talking, and she doesn’t need to be introduced at the U.S. Open as Ms. Sugarpova to have successfully promoted the new business.

The Wisdom of Vanilla Air?

Certainly, in the West, the word vanilla has connotation that will be quite difficult to overcome. The Inquirer reported: “We chose vanilla as our brand name because it is popular and loved by everyone in the world,” the airline’s president Tomonori Ishii told a news conference in Tokyo. “I think it is a very cute name.” Cute it maybe, and it’s certainly true that most everyone likes vanilla, but still Vanilla Air seems decidedly  — well, vanilla.

Interestingly, there are a number of other budget airlines with food based names: Mango Airlines SOC Ltd. in South Africa,  and SpiceJet Ltd. in India, and ANA owned Peach Aviation. (Japan Times). This seems strange as in the intellectual space for budget airline, the single most important brand attribute for a budget airline is arguably the ability for the passenger to arrive safely at their destination.

It would seem that there surely was a better choice among the 200+ names considered, but at the end of the day, a name is just a name. It’s the surrounding branding that goes into it that will determine the relative success (or failure) of the brand. Okay, well that and their safety record.

What do you think? Are Sugarpova and Vanilla Air smart branding moves? Or a little to saccharine and ill considered for true success?


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Tisha Oehmen

Tisha Oehmen is a professional brand strategist and a leader in the branding field. She was recently named a member of the Global Guru’s Top 30 Brand Gurus. She is also the co-founder of Oregon-based Paradux Media Group and the best-selling author of the book, Finding Brand: The Brand Book Tutorial.

Possessing expertise in both front- and back-office operations, Tisha conceptualizes, develops, and implements initiatives to foster brand effectiveness like no other. With over 15 years of experience in branding and marketing, Tisha has successfully led large financial institutions and health care companies down the path of renaming their business.

Where Tisha really shines is in the work that isn’t done. Sometimes a name change for a business isn’t in their best interest and after meeting with Tisha, they are able to find the true value and equity that has always been in their brand. Tisha has a special knack of being able to communicate the value so that the CEO/Business owner can see its luster and then with a little polishing, make it shine company wide.

Tisha is best known for developing long lasting branding campaigns that speak to the heart of the business, the brand, and the community. True brand, no matter how big or small, has longevity. Creating branding campaigns that have longevity, that have a laser-like focus, is where Tisha thrives.

Tisha received her M.B.A. from the University of Oregon, from where she also earned a B.A. in Political Science. She enjoyed a distinguished academic career punctuated by enthusiastic and successful participation in competitive speaking events, and holds numerous awards for her skill in public speaking. Tisha is widely recognized for her ability to capture an audience’s attention with her straightforward and engaging speaking style.

When not working, she enjoys golfing, baking, reading, and hiking with her partner, Mike, and their two dogs, Chloe and Jackson. She’s also an active member of Rotary International, the Chamber of Commerce, and is a very proud supporter of the Oregon Ducks. Tisha lives in Eagle Point, Oregon.

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