The scold

Just because you can get away with a salacious product name doesn’t mean you should. Effen vodka is one such name I’ve been annoyed about since I first saw it. The Effen reviews vary, but I think the real appeal must be asking for it at a bar. And while Suxx wine has been dubbed “a very fun fruit bomb” by wine critic Gary Vaynerchuk, the well-mannered, middle-aged suburban mom and lawyer in me really doesn’t want to ask my wine merchant, “Do you have any Suxx?” Neither do I want to offer Suxx at my next party. Both names are just too much. They’ve eschewed any attempt at wit for pure shock value.


So I was even more shocked to see this at Ulta today:



When used in connection with hair, the term “blow” is customarily followed by “out” or “dry.” While the omission of those terms arguably makes “blow” as a mark somewhat more protectable as a trademark (and I’ll spare you the details), when I see “blow” alone, I think of two alternatives, neither of which has to do with hair, and both of which would make me uncomfortable to ask for the product – as uncomfortable as I’d be asking for Effen or Suxx, quite honestly. Or Head, for that matter. 

Are you naming your product for shock value or to build an enduring brand? Remember the immortal words of David St. Hubbins and Nigel Tufnel: It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.

Out of the mouths of babes

Last night my fifteen year-old hollered, “MOM! Is it ‘Pet Smart’ . . .  or is it ‘PETS MART’?” Well, dog my cats, as it were; I’d never thought about it that way.  Yes, PetSmart is, like New Shimmer, both a floor wax and a dessert topping. Although the logo would suggest the former,


PetSmart - Pet supplies and pet products for healthier, happier pets
the latter interpretation works just fine!

Drinking with my ladybrain, part deux

I tried. Really, I gave them more than the benefit of the doubt (and my Riedel stemless-ware). But these two wines just left me disappointed.




Lulu B pinot noir: cute, French – from Corsica. How could it be bad – we drank Corsican wines this summer and loved them. Middle Sister Rebel Red, a California zinfandel, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah blend? Well, I have a middle sister, and I just love her. Both of these wines weigh in at a friendly 12.5% ABV, so I wouldn’t fall face-down into my dinner, a fate that can befall me with hefty, port-like California syrahs and zinfandels.  

But it was not to be. Lulu B had a disjointed nose and tasted like stale cough syrup, while Middle Sister had a powdery, incense-like flavor and a sour, skunky nose, like a cabernet franc gone very wrong. Both were very light-bodied, and both seemed dead on the palate, as if a step in the winemaking process had been omitted. I gave them time, and even sought corroboration from my husband, who only affirmed my perceptions. 

Now, from the trademark perspective? I don’t know who got there first, but this looks to me like a good example of trade dress infringement. I just don’t know who’s infringing whom. I could easily make a case for assuming there’s a connection between the two brands, based on the similarity of the label designs. I might not win – don’t get me wrong, these things are subjective – but I could certainly argue likelihood of confusion and pass the red face test.

From a brand perspective, I think Middle Sister goes a bit overboard: they use not only the distinctive Middle Sister house brand, but also a “sassy” varietal descriptor; here, the Rebel Red for the red blend, Wicked White for the white blend, Smarty Pants for chardonnay, Surfer Chick for sauvignon blanc . . . it goes on throughout the line, only reinforcing the girly nature of these wines.  

Yes, it’s clear that these wines target female consumers. But how about more emphasis on the wine and less on cutesy nomenclature? These two just made me sad, despite their cheerful names and labels. As with Cupcake, maybe I picked the wrong varietal in the line, and if you check CellarTracker, you do occasionally find positive reviews of some of these wines, so if anyone out there has a suggestion for a good one in these lines, let me know. So far, though, the female-friendly labels and marketing seem to be obscuring mediocre product. 

But I shall soldier on, so stay tuned!

Lowbrow meets highbrow

I like stupid wordplay as much as the next guy, and this one has tickled me since we moved to Denver:




The cognitive dissonance of “DAM Good” with Daniel Libeskind’s architecture suits the wild west very nicely, thank you. 

Plus, it’s a very groovy museum. And kids like it too!



For my high school sophomore . . .

. . . who loves Julian Casablancas and the Strokes, here’s an article from Jezebel reporting on Azzaro’s new men’s fragrance, for which Casablancas is the spokesmodel. Or singsmodel. 


Although I do fall into the demographic of middle-aged mom, I actually like the Strokes. Whether or not the scent is truly “the embodiment of rock and rebellion,” I can’t yet confirm, though I’m not so old that I wouldn’t be qualified to determine it! But what I am qualified to address is the name of the new fragrance – Decibel. Yep, it’s a winner. Arbitrary, suggestive, but not silly. Literally, I guess, you could say it’s for the man who wants to make an audible statement. In addition, (and take note, marketers, because this one is really clever): the logo on the microphone-shaped bottle is dB, the abbreviation for decibel. 

The website’s story could use its purple prose pared back a bit, as well as its copy proofread (example: FREE YOURSELF FROM DICTATES, BURST OUT OF YOUR STRAGHTJACKET [sic], EXPRESS YOUR FEELINGS) but all in all, it’s a solid effort.



Conclusion: this one’s a rock star among fragrance names.