Monthly Archives: November 2012

Zumba- The Success Is In The Name

Zumba is a dance fitness program that has taken the world by storm. As mentioned last week, it has become many people’s favoured way of getting fit and is now one of the biggest branded fitness programs in the world.

The Name

A lot of Zumba’s success is in its choice of name.  Imagine if Zumba had been given a different name; imagine if the company had opted for a less distinctive name.

People are often drawn to descriptive names that tell the world what kind of activity or product the business behind the name offers.  If the founders of Zumba had gone with this approach, they could have ended up with a name like ‘New Latin Dance’.  Not only is this a boring, impersonal name, but it is also legally ineffective as discussed in this blog.

If you think about it, a descriptive name is the equivalent of not giving something a name. New Latin Dance does not sound as good as Zumba, but it’s not just about whether a name sounds good.  There are also powerful legal reasons why a descriptive name should be avoided.  The wrong name would limit a business’ development too.

Names matter because they are the way in which the law protects a business against various unfair competitive practices.  Specifically, the name is key in determining the extent to which you can control use of a name.  The law does not give a business much control over who uses a descriptive name.  It’s free for everyone to use.

Therefore, names that describe the activity of the business, such as New Latin Dance, are not capable of functioning as a trademark.  The practical impact of this would be felt by a Zumba type business because it would be difficult, if not impossible, to stop unlicensed providers of its classes.

Suggestive names

But even if the founders had chosen a less descriptive name, opting for one that was suggestive of the activity, and capable of being trademarked, they would still have found it difficult to control use of the name.

While suggestive names can be an extremely good choice, they are unsuitable for some business situations.  For a Zumba style business which has ambitions to extend its reach into other areas as Zumba has done, a distinctive name is essential.

So, the question how effective a given name would be for your plans depends on your plans.  The point I want to emphasise is that a name raises a number of legal issues, and should never be finalised without consulting a brand lawyer.

Where a name leans too far in the direction of descriptiveness, bear in mind that even though you may secure a trademark over it, you may find it harder to enforce your rights.  You may have to spend a lot of time and money, and even then find it difficult to prevent others from using your name.  That is why the EasyGroup spend far more money on litigation than does Ryan Air.

Why does such control matter anyway?

Through having a name that is highly distinctive and trademarking it, Zumba is able to control who uses its name, meaning it can license its programs so that those who want to provide Zumba classes must pay it a fee.

Zumba has become much more than just a dance program.  As mentioned, the choice of name has contributed to the company’s success giving it excusive rights through trademark registration.  The company’s ability to trademark its unique name in a number of categories is the reason why it is able to generate additional revenue from the brand.

How seeking an early trademark contributed to Zumba’s success

Not only did Zumba choose the right kind of name, but if it had failed to register a trademark when the dance took off, the rapid success of the dance could have rendered its name generic, jeopardising the founders’ chances of registering a trademark.

For similar reasons, Microsoft nearly lost the chance to register its Windows name, having waited five years to file a trademark application, by which time it was considered ‘merely descriptive’ in relation to computer software, nearly destroying Window’s brand equity.  Microsoft eventually secured a registration, but would a new company have had the resources of Microsoft to pursue its case?

Significance of a trademark

Without a trademark, anyone could have freely used the name Zumba in relation to goods and services, meaning Zumba could not have required people to pay a fee to offer Zumba dance classes.  The upshot would have been that Zumba would have remained a small scale short term business rather than the massive brand that it’s become today.

This demonstrates how the value of a brand is in its name.  From that, licensing and other opportunities flow.


If you don’t have a name that can be trademarked as a word, or if your name leans too far in the direction of descriptiveness, consider rebranding because it’s the name that opens up possibilities to create valuable assets.  The name is key to reaching your goals if they involve achieving a big scalable business.

Zumba – Reasons for The Brand’s Success

Zumba is a dance fitness program that has taken the world by storm. It has become many people’s favoured way of getting fit with as many as 14 million taking weekly Zumba classes, meaning that it has become one of the biggest branded fitness programs in the world.

However, Zumba does not just stop at classes.  It runs instructor training courses, sells its own apparel, soundtracks and merchandise, has its own Z-life magazine, and has even become a video game so that people can take part in its classes from the comfort of their own  home (and without fear of judgemental eyes watching all those wrong moves!)

Zumba is much more than simply a fitness program- it has become a brand, and a successful one at that. As Charlotte Philby in the Independent points out, the fascination with Zumba has become almost like a cult ‘A lot of people get fanatical about it. For people who are looking for something in their lives, it offers a closeness, a family aspect that you don’t get in a gym’. It has become something of a lifestyle brand that promotes Zumba’s vision and philosophy of ‘health and happiness, and of loving everything you do, especially your workout’.

Rather than just fitness, Zumba sells this emotion and feeling of freedom with its powerful tagline ‘Ditch the workout, join the party’.

A Lot of Zumba’s Success is Down to Choosing the Right Name

The name ‘Zumba’ has become synonymous with this emotion of freedom and that is why people looking for a dance class might choose a Zumba dance rather than the range of other dance classes available in the market. It is also what attracts people to buy Zumba branded apparel, soundtracks and other merchandise, because people are buying into this feeling of freedom that is encapsulated by the Zumba name.

Although a lot of the business’ success has been down to its creation of a brand that has really connected to its audience on a level that no other fitness program has done, the very choice of name also plays an integral part.

Next week we will be looking more in depth at why the name is such a good choice from a legal perspective, and how it has enabled the company to control the use of its name so that it can make profit from its brand.

The name is also an extremely powerful choice from a branding point of view as well. Not only is it distinctive, originating as a made up word, but the actual sound of the name helps to reinforce the image of fun, energy and freedom that the branding communicates.

Interbrand, discussing brand names from a linguistics point of view, points out that names starting with the letter Z often ‘evoke speed energy or precision’.  This is because the ‘z’ sound is quick and crisp.

Often people don’t realise that names can be highly evocative and the right name can stick in the mind of a customer. With its wide reach and broad range of products, having a name that is catchy, memorable and well-suited, has been instrumental to Zumba’s success.

A lot can be learnt from Zumba. Not only does it demonstrate the power of creating a brand that goes beyond the product or service you provide- that really connects with your customers, but it also demonstrates how a name can be an effective tool within this branding process. To learn more about why the choice of name by Zumba could have been disastrous, and why even a good choice of name is useless if the name is not capable of achieving a company’s vision, keep an eye out for our blog next week.