July 20, 2024
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Mis-spelling brands and a million dollar opportunity: Saturday Solologues, ET BrandEquity


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This week a colleague mis-spelt my name. And that mistake made its way into print. Awful as that may sound, it set me thinking.

Mis-spellings or wrong spellings are a million dollar industry. In the US, Toyota, which sounds like a straightforward spelling, is one of the top five most misspelled words in the auto industry. To be sure, the word Toyota, coined after the founder’s name Kiichiro Toyoda, was intended to make it easier for the average American and was one of the elements of the Japanese major’s strategy to break into the US market. Yet, Toyota is spelt as Toyta, Toyata, Tayota and even the founder’s name Toyoda, according to a report in Newsweek. The magazine reports that other auto brands also don’t have it easy. Maserati is the most mis-spelled brand name in the US (by nearly six out of ten respondents). Common misspellings included Maseratti, Mazerati, Mazeratti and Masseratti. And mind you, this is just one industry.

It could be chaotic in the world of fashion. Between Cristian Dior, Christan Dior and Christian Dior, which is the right one? Or even relatively simpler brands names like Chanel are often spelt as Channel. Don’t even bother if you are looking for accuracy in people writing the correct spellings of Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy. (Confession: I had to look up Hennessy to get it right.)

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Why would mis-spelt words make a business opportunity? Because in the world of bidding for competitor’s keywords on search engines like Google, this is an opportunity that runs into millions, if not billions. Keyword bidding can range from a few cents to thousands of dollars per click. If many customers are searching for the wrong spellings – as much as 60 per cent of US respondents got it wrong for Maserati, according to Newsweek – you might as well bid for the mis-spellings of competitors and still stay on the right side of the law. For example, every time someone searches for the wrong spelling of a competing brand, your brand can prop up in the search.

Last year, the Delhi HC restrained Booking.com from using the MakeMyTrip keyword in conjunction, on the Google Ads Program. However, there was no restriction in bidding for any of these words in isolation.

Whoever thought that spelling errors could provide such a rich business opportunity. Something that the English teacher back in school would not approve.

(The author is the editor of ETBrandEquity.com. This weekly column offers a sneak peek into the discussions, debates and introspection in our editorial team.)

  • Published On Dec 2, 2023 at 09:07 AM IST

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