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Article by Mohan Babu


Story of the $5 million name

As analysts ponder over the impact of MIT’s demand of millions for the use of its name, and the subsequent pullout from Media Lab Asia in India, MOHAN BABU justifies that a name is a valuable brand and consequently a corporate asset

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet..” So said Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. Why then all the brouhaha over MIT pulling out of the “Media Lab” name, supposedly an exclusive moniker for the use of which they demanded $5 million? Traditionalists, especially those raised in semi-socialist mould in India are wondering if a name can really be that valuable, and if so should Arun Shourie have paid up the amount to MIT? Will the lab continue to function without the name, with just the support of the Indian government? All these questions are going to be pondered over by experts in the weeks and months to come.

From a corporate business standpoint, a name is indeed a valuable asset and the reason why companies like Coke and McDonalds assiduously guard their valuable brands. As per a recent Business Week magazine survey, Coca Cola, the world’s most valuable brand, is worth upwards of $69 billion. At a very pragmatic level, all that coke sells is a bottle or can of fizzy, sweet water with a pinch of “secret chemical” thrown in for good measure. However, you and I buy not just a can of water but a red can of refreshing thirst quencher from a familiar name, which promises consistent experience time after time anywhere in the world you happen to consume it. Corporate brands and logs convey an image in the minds of consumers and users.

A Rolex watch, a BMW auto, Nike swoosh or the Microsoft logo convey in a word or two what a sales person may not be able to convey in an hour’s persuasive presentation. The allure, image and ideas associated with such world-class brands is a topic that marketing mavericks ponder over endlessly. For the rest of us, sufficient to say, a brand name does sell.

The same concept of brands and names applies to academia and research too. A professor from Harvard or Yale generally commands more awe, respect (and consulting fees) than his peer from a community college in Anytown, USA. The same applies to graduates from prestigious schools and universities. An IIM graduate in India will command more respect (and) money than an equally qualified peer from, say, Mysore University. Why is it so? This is something that will take a research paper or book to explain, but is an irrefutable fact that most of us are familiar with. Research in IT, a topic dear to most of us has similar biases: an article or whitepaper published by the Cutter Journal, Forrester or Gartner automatically commands the attention of the readers because of the name associated with it. Similarly, articles from The Wall Street Journal or Harvard Business Review are automatically quoted as gospel by business leaders.

With this preamble we can get back to the discussion: Was MIT justified in asking for $5 million in return for the use of its “MIT Media Labs” name? It is hard for me to talk about the value of MIT’s name or even if it is worth the millions of dollars, but the fact remains: MIT is a brand to be reckoned with in the global technology research marketplace. And if they happen to ask for something in return for the use of their name, well, they are probably justified.





About the Author

  • A Bio and profile of the author, Mohan Babu, can be found at his homepage
  • Mohan has authored a book on Offshoring and Outsourcing (Publisher McGraw Hill, India), a link to which can be found here
  • Mohan has also authored an Online book on "Life in the US," available for free download.
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    For FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America, visit the Ask-A-Desi section

    ©Mohan Babu: All Rights Reserved 2005

    Mohan Babu is an international consultant trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ where IT meets business. E-mail: mohan He is also the author of a recent book on "Offshoring IT Services"

    All rights are reserved. Mohan Babu ("Author") hereby grants permission to use, copy and distribute this document for any NON-PROFIT purpose, provided that the article is used in its complete, UNMODIFIED form including both the above Copyright notice and this permission notice. Reproducing this article by any means, including (but not limited to) printing, copying existing prints, or publishing by electronic or other means, implies full agreement to the above non-profit-use clause. Exceptions to the above, such as including the article in a compendium to be sold for profit, are permitted only by EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT of Mohan Babu. 

    Disclaimer: This document represents the personal opinions of the Author, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Author's employer, nor anyone other than the Author. This Article was originally published in Express Computers


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