Mumbai: Who would have imagined that an automobile company would fall prey to a debilitating virus transmitted by the Aedes mosquito. And yet, Tata Motors Ltd on Tuesday said that it would rename its soon-to-be-launched small car Zica to dodge any negative association with the dreaded Zika virus. The announcement was made a day after the World Health Organization declared the mosquito-borne Zika virus and its suspected link to birth defects as an international public health emergency.

While this is not the first time that a company has had to change its product name due to unfortunate associations, it is uncommon. “In this day and age arriving at a new brand name is an extremely complicated and tedious process, so unless there is a really strong rationale for it, one would not recommend it," said Lulu Raghavan, managing director, Landor India, a strategic brand and design consultancy from the WPP Group. “You would rather try and build new equity and meaning into the brand, than ditch everything the brand has and start from scratch."

The firm has decided to hire a social media agency to crawl the web for all future projects, just to ensure that the potential brand names they choose are not dogged with any controversy in any part of the world. “A basic Google search is not enough anymore," she said.

Here are five instances where companies chose to change their names or product names due to negative associations with the word.

1. Umbro: The English sportswear and football equipment manufacturer and subsidiary of the Iconix Brand Group found itself in a corner in 2002, after it realized that one of its trainers named Zyklon shared its name with Zyklon B, an insecticide which emitted a deadly gas when its crystals came in contact with air. The deadly gas was used by the Nazis to kill thousands of Jews in concentration camps. The company issued an apology for its unintentional mistake and pulled the shoes off the shelves. Zyklon is also the German word for cyclone.

2. ISIS chocolates: In 2013, Belgian chocolate-maker changed their name from Italo Suisse to ISIS as it no longer had much association with either country, according to a Reuters report. A decision it soon regretted in 2014 as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) started releasing horrific videos of beheadings and murder on YouTube. It led to stores refusing to stock their chocolate till the company decided to quickly ditch the name and adopt Libeert, the family name of the company’s owners, for their chocolates.

3. ValuJet Airlines: In 1990s, American low-cost carrier ValuJet Airlines was luring passengers with cheap fares and great deals on domestic and international routes. However, in 1996, business nose-dived after one of their planes, Flight-596, crashed due to illegally stored hazardous material. The airline was grounded for a few months. Passengers stayed away even when it resumed operations due to its reputation for poor safety and maintenance. In 1997, it merged with a smaller regional operator and renamed the airline AirTran Airways, along with a dogged pursuit for safety, which finally got the airline off the ground till its merger with Southwest Airlines in 2011.

4. Reebok International Ltd: In 1997, the sportswear and equipment maker was stunned to find itself in the middle of a storm when its sneaker, called “Incubus" drew a lot of criticism from consumers and the media, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the company was criticized for picking the name Incubus, which according to medieval legend, is a demon that has sex with sleeping women. A spokesperson for the company told WSJ that “nobody involved in launching the shoe knew the meaning of the word. It was run by lawyers for possible trademark violations, but no one bothered to check the dictionary. Someone should have looked it up. There are no excuses and we apologize".

5. Philip Morris Co. Inc: In 2003, the maker of cigarette brands such as Marlboro and Chesterfield changed its name to Altria Group. A change that the company hoped would bring “clarity" to a corporation that also owned Kraft Foods, the makers of Oreo Cookies. Critics maintained that the change in name was just a smokescreen. According to a report in Time magazine, the name change unfortunately did not work for the company, as it just reminded consumers that the company wanted to avoid being blamed for the adverse health effects caused by its tobacco products.

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