Destination: Southern California

Came across this classic sign during our weekend getaway to Orange County:

It struck me that the X+Y formative in branding right now (see Nancy here) is merely an updated version of the “[descriptive]-N-[descriptive]” branding style so popular in the 70s (e.g., Linens-N-Things [founded in 1975]). Somehow I think all the fancy X+Y names would look a lot less snooty if the plus sign or ampersand were replaced with “n” …

Also, the most California thing ever:

 

Destination: Maine, Memories, and My Theory of Inevitable Marks

Into each life some rain must fall; after 39 years of vacationing in Maine together, my parents’ long run ended when my father succumbed to complications of kidney failure in April. But the tradition must live on, and so I joined my mother for the annual pilgrimage to honor lobster, shopping, and really long walks on the beach, and a now 40-year tradition.

The lobster, shopping, and long walks on the beach were, as advertised, unparalleled. And it had been years since I’d savored the joys of New England ice cream; I will report that the Bay of Figs ice cream at Mount Desert Island Ice Cream was possibly the best I’ve ever tasted.

And then there were the Maine-centric trademarks, two to be precise, that reignited my interest in defining a theory of what I call “inevitable marks” – marks that are logical, inevitable plays on words based on a feature of the goods or services, or of their geographic origin. You could think of it as a subset of descriptive terms but I like to think of them more as inevitable – insofar as it’s an inevitability that someone will come up with this idea for a mark or business name.

For Exhibit A, I can think of nothing better than this:

 

(I kept the picture large because the dude really was out of central casting.)
Maine Squeeze for a juice bar? It’s a natural, right? I’m sure there’s a Maine Event for a hair salon too. (Okay, there is, but it’s in Florida, so that makes no sense and opens a branding opportunity in Maine, right?)

And then this one:

I can’t deny that it’s clever – but it’s just never going to be protectable beyond the instantaneous recognition of that cleverness.  Why? It’s meat in Maine. But again, clever. As any name in Maine that uses the state’s two-letter ME abbreviation would be (ME Time for a spa, perhaps?) But that’s still going to be geographically descriptive, and lots of Mainers will want to use ME as a prefix, and should be able to.

Anyway, as you can see, I’m still formulating my inevitable marks theory, and was glad to have the opportunity to do so on a road trip with Mom where we could reminisce about Dad.

Making #shitmanteau happen, as is my wont

Let’s put “glow” and “lotion” together to make GLOTION, for a lotion that helps you glow, right?

(A) Ick, mostly because I see the unappealing “glot” in the word; and

(B) You’ve adopted the #shitmanteau but then used “glow lotion” as the generic term for the product, thus hamstringing your ability to argue that this coinage is distinctive.

(C) Say this out loud. It just sounds icky.

 

I have questions

First, did you have to? As I always say, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Second, the SAXX mark is registered. Did Saks Fifth Avenue not care about it enough to oppose or sue? Their famous stylized mark is registered for “all articles of wearing apparel for men and boys,” FYI.

The PTO cared, for what it’s worth – and Saxx masterfully overcame the initial 2(d) refusal in a tour-de-force office action response that pulls no punches about the SAXX mark’s connotations, and indeed admits that the intention of the mark is to call male genitalia to mind. A ballsy approach, one might say – and a successful one. Kudos!

Next, while I have some curiosity about what a “ballpark pouch” might be, I’m not curious enough to Google it and suffer the consequences of the ads that might subsequently be served to me.

And finally, I guess “modern fit” is always preferable to, say, a medieval fit. Especially when it comes to underwear.

(Photo credit to my dear friend Adam, who is always on the lookout for me.)

Camera roll catch-up: Jess gets her dander up

When I see that a mark like THRŌ is registered:

for goods that include, you know, throws – I get all kinds of irritated. The owner has to disclaim the term “throw”  apart from the mark as shown – so what do they get? The ability to use the word with the diacritical mark? Against whom could you possibly enforce the registration? WHY BOTHER SPENDING THE MONEY? FFS, the mark is THRŌ for a throw, it’s right there on the hangtag?

Herein my rant for the day.

Camera roll catch-up: More brands of my youth

That’s right, PSSSST! dry spray-on shampoo. A revelation 40+ years or so ago and a product that probably started returning to the market about five years ago (I’m guessing – I suddenly started getting it in my Birchbox shipments). Yes, I can remember what it smelled like, but no, I cannot remember any commercials or catchy jingles. And what a great onomatopoeic trademark!

Camera roll catch-up; slogan edition

I’m pretty much worn out with all the CRAVE marks and variants out there, and their underlying suggestion that we’re all desperately trying to maintain healthful diets but are nonetheless captive to insatiable cravings that possess us and impel us to reach for something naughty.

But for dog’s sake, if you’re going to go the crave route, could you at least get the informal gerund correct?

CRAVE’N? Not “cravin'”? I despair.

Camera roll catch-up meets brands of my childhood

My mom was an indifferent lunch maker when we were kids, but I suspect she had a secret thing for these, because they were the processed snack food most likely to show up in our lunchboxes:

I love everything about Ding Dongs – the flavor, the texture, the name, and the zany font that appears on the packaging. Not as romantic a trigger as madeleines, but I cherish the memory nonetheless.

 

Camera roll catch-up

Yes, I’ve been remiss. And each time I scroll through my iPhone to find a photo, I come across photos I’ve taken expressly for the purpose of blogging them. So here comes a new feature to showcase my photographic impulses.

The name is – [chef’s kiss] – just wonderful. The mark is even registered. However, a bit of a wrinkle there: the registration covers this stylization:

Trademark image

The owner filed its section 8 declaration using a photo of the product as it appears in my photo above. Is this the same commercial appearance? But the PTO accepted it. But this raises my eternal question of why don’t people simply file for the word mark rather than a stylization that they might change five years down the road?

 

 

Comparison beer shopping

I love when I can capture a lesson in trademark distinctiveness in one photo:

On top, you have OMISSION beer. Oh, what a superb name. Authoritative and succinct – and suggestive of the fact that something is missing, though the mark itself doesn’t say exactly what. Instead, it leaves that task to the little box on the upper right-hand corner of the cardboard case: “Crafted to remove gluten.” There we go – now the consumer is aware of a factor vital to its purchase decision.

And then below OMISSION, we have GLÜTINY. Where to begin? Well, I cannot ignore the pointless metal umlaut  (aka röck döts!) that they’ve stuck over the U. Maybe, along with the skull-and-wrenchbones logo, they’re trying to destigmatize gluten-free beer to indicate that metalheads can drink this too? Oy. Then there’s the strange term “GLÜTINY” itself; assuming it’s a homophone for gluten-y, doesn’t that mean it’s gluten-filled or glutinous or gluten-rich? And wouldn’t that then not make any sense whatsoever for a beer that has been “Crafted to remove gluten”? Or wait – is it supposed to rhyme with “mutiny”? Yes, according to the New Belgium website. (And if it’s a gluten mutiny, I see we have yet another #shitmanteau on our hands!) But I still think that if you have what is essentially the word “gluten” in the name of a gluten-free/reduced beer, you are confusing the consumer as to what the product actually contains … as well as whiffing at the opportunity to create a good and distinctive mark.

Shitmanteaux in Toyland

Spotted in the toy aisle at Target:

It’s very hard to pronounce the T in EnchanTimals (and I can’t figure out why it’s capitalized) – so if you do attempt to utter the word without emphasizing the T, you sound like you’re three sheets to the wind. But I’m confused as well: if this #Shitmanteau means “enchanted animals,” which is which, the girl or the fox? I’m so glad my girls are past the age where this would appeal!

 

Illiteracy in America

How on earth are we to expect kids these days to spell right when we create brand names with pointless misspellings?

There’s no reason I can think of to spell “divine” the way Valspar – now Sherwin-Williams does here; the term would be equally registrable and protectable as a (laudatory but not descriptive) trademark if spelled correctly. You lose at least two points here, says the spelling bee veteran.

But you get suspended for this one:

I blame Scrubs for making Elliot happen as a girl’s name (though I love the show, don’t get me wrong). But I blame dingbat parents – and here, toy companies – for distorting the name’s spelling, presumably to girlify it.  I’ve tried to wish it away as Ellie T – but no, that’s unjustified.

Destination: New York

Please excuse the lousy photo quality here. We were running to meet friends on a visit to NY last month, but I had to stop to get the shot:

Yes, that’s CALLAHEAD … for portable toilets. The name elicited a huge groan among our party!

(Psssst, Callahead – your registration has been cancelled! It sure looks to me like it’s in use!)

Not again

Did you listen to yourselves with this copy?

“Meet Monsieur Big. Fall in love with every stroke!” Indeed.

Because I’m twelve.

 

Phonetic equivalents

Sooooooo – it’s pronounced like “Dallas,” right?

Any other pronunciation wouldn’t make sense to American English speakers who are aware of that major Texas city. Hey, I wonder if they’ve opened a Fallas in Dallas! Did you go to the new Fallas? I think I’d better stop now before it gets ugly …

H/t to my cousin Jamie, who’s always on the lookout for me!

 

Destination: Corona del Mar, California

So of course there has to be a juice bar, right? Because California, right?

I just can’t decide whether or not this is what I call a shitmanteau (and yes, if you follow me on Twitter you are well aware that I am trying to make #shitmanteau happen) – i.e., a portmanteau that just doesn’t work.

I think I’m going to err on the side of calling this a shitmanteau because the “sej” part of the word is so incongruous to the English language.  But your mileage may vary.

Meanwhile, the Summer House restaurant just next door was a superb lunch location and our weekend getaway to sunny southern California was everything we could’ve hoped for – good friends, good food and wine, serious Fitbit mileage, real estate envy, and always, always in the OC (don’t call it that), quoting from Arrested Development.