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.

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.

Is it just me (again)?

Or does the Glo whitening device mouthpiece displayed at my local Sephora here . . . 

. . . look like a stylized representation of the female reproductive organs? Compare and contrast, if you’d like:

Image thanks to WebMD.

Once again, calling it like I see it.  Why yes, Glo was designed by a man!

Fun fact: A mall security guard stopped me after I took this photo and told me photography was prohibited in the mall.  I think he was full of it, but didn’t have a snappy comeback grounded in the law.

No fatties, please!

I don’t create brands; I just clear them as trademarks. I like to assume there’s some master list of rules for branding – at the top of the list being “Never Use the Term ‘Fat’ When Marketing to Women.”

So I was shocked to find this ad in March’s InStyle:

What surprises me most about this name is that the term “fat” isn’t even being used here to suggest enhanced hair volume, which is the only possible reason I could see using “fat” in connection with hair. No, Fat Foam is hair color. So while the trademark lawyer in me says “hey, at least the mark isn’t descriptive,” the weight-conscious woman in me says “Do I want to buy a product that will make me a fat ANYTHING girl”?  

Spelling counts

Perhaps I haven’t yet mentioned this yet on the blog, but long ago and far away, I was a spelling champ.  While I doubt I could win one today, given the kind of words contestants have faced lately (stromuhr?  Really?), I’m still intolerant of poor and lazy spelling – which intolerance has carried on, I’m proud to say, to my children, who have learned that if they want to continue using Facebook they must be “friends” with me, and thus may not litter their Facebook discourse with lazy shorthand spellings.  

Which leads me to the copy of Town & Country I was perusing at my surgeon’s office today: Besides the usual array of jewelry ads (did you know that the latest is slices of precious stones?  Neither did I), Social Register galas and furniture for palaces, I encountered an article on perfumes from which I snapped this photo:

Okay, first there’s Absinth.  I cannot for the life of me figure out why the normally-spelled word “absinthe” had to be truncated to create this perfume name.  When I go to Google, of course it says “Did you mean: absinthe“? Well, of course – because that’s the correct spelling.  I just wish I could get inside the minds of the geniuses who came up with it, or at least have a recording of the brainstorming session and the eureka moment.  I can imagine it went something like “Well, absinthe has such a mystique about it but there is that illegal drug aspect . . . so if we take off the ‘e’ maybe that won’t come through so strongly?”  No, I didn’t think so either.

Look, the bottom line is that I don’t like meaningless misspellings.  I just drove home behind a Kia Sorento this afternoon, and that bastardization baffles me every time I see it. Kia kept the spelling of Sedona normal – why couldn’t they leave well enough alone with Sorrento?

Finally, I simply have to say something about Essence of IX.  And as usual, there’s a buildup: My mother didn’t learn Roman numerals.  Many of my Sundays growing up were spent providing my mother with the answers to Roman numeral clues for the New York Times crossword puzzle.  But my kids haven’t learned Roman numerals either.  Maybe I just had the luck to live through the Golden Age of Roman numerals in the late 60s and early 70s.  

But I know my mom and my kids aren’t alone: On a train ride in Paris several years ago, we heard an American woman talking about getting back to the Hotel George V – only she pronounced it “George Vee.”  We only barely maintained our composure.  So I am concerned when I see a product called “Essence of IX” – because I am just not sure that the purchasing public these days is educated in Roman numerals sufficient to ask for Essence of Nine rather than Essence of Icks.  

InStyle Blogging

It’s that time of the month again . . . No, not that; the InStyle magazine just arrived, and as I do every month, I wonder how on earth I keep receiving the subscription, never having ordered, paid for nor renewed it.  This month I decided to make lemonade by turning my monthly analysis into a blog feature.  No doubt my subscription will miraculously vanish now, but until and unless it does, here goes:

1.  Impressed with the pillows at Thro Home.  Kind of surprised the PTO permitted registration of that and THRO alone for pillows, but I’ll go with it.  Especially with pillows like this one:

2.  Here comes Givenchy with yet another “flanker” perfume. This one flanks its Ange ou Demon brand, and is called Ange ou Demon Le Secret.  Uma Thurman as spokesmodel or not, any perfume that can be described as “fruitchouli rose bubblegum” is destined never to grace my shelf.  As for the name, it’s cumbersome even in French – and since Americans have trouble pronouncing even “Givenchy” correctly, I think uttering the whole mouthful would be a daunting prospect.

3.  Yuck.  Let me get that first one out of my system, though I warn you, there may be more.  New product from Dr. Perricone: Cold Plasma, an anti-aging wrinkle cream.  Yuck.  Now, I suspect there are problems on the false advertising front, particularly if the formula doesn’t contain actual cold plasma.  But I’m going to focus on the registration, because there’s a minefield out there.  The PTO, once again snoozing and clueless, let this application go straight through without objection, which just blows my mind.  I’m sorry, if it contains “cold plasma” it’s descriptive and thus unregistrable, and if it doesn’t, it’s deceptively misdescriptive and thus unregistrable.  Am I the only one to whom the mark suggests that the product contains cold plasma?  Yuck.  Yet there is no information on the Perricone site to indicate that the product has any connection to plasma whatsoever.  Finally, and I’m just saying, the statement of use for the COLD PLASMA was filed before the CAFC BOSE decision – wouldn’t you have been careful about filing a statement of use saying the mark was in use on all of the goods in the application when in fact I just don’t see the website showing any lip products or cleansers bearing the mark?  But that’s just me and my over-caution.  And?  Yuck.

4.  Macy’s INC brand advertises its spring chic line with the tagline “Edge & Flow.”  Like this?

5.  Not Soap, Radio bath and beauty products.  Cute product line, not a bad name, but why the comma?  The exhaustive Wikipedia etymology of the phrase “No soap, radio” provides ample history and analysis of the phrase and the jokes in which it was used (I just thought it was another of the myriad ways my mother has for saying no).  Based on that history, I conclude that the comma is optional.  So why not leave it out of the brand name?  Are there many brands that include a comma?  And for that matter, why not just “No soap radio”?

As for the rest, it’s mostly extravagantly impractical footwear.  Really.  See you next month.


Mea culpa

I have been slacking, and my number one fan (Hi again Dad!) is complaining about the blogging drought.  And since he’s snowbound today, I’m going to have to pull a rabbit out of my hat to come up with a blog post.  But it’s going to be random, I warn you.  (I clearly don’t have Nancy’s celestial connections.)

First, a great band name: We Were Promised Jetpacks.  Pretty much the halcyon cry of resentment over what the 21st century has failed to provide us.  And pretty awesome Scottish rock, for a bunch of 21 year-olds.

Second, in the perfume strip deathmatch between Flowerbomb by Viktor & Rolf, and Flora by Gucci, Flora wins by a nose.  But I find the music on the Viktor & Rolf site curiously enchanting. On to more of what’s in this month’s InStyle . . .

Nancy already raised the pharmaceutical naming issue today and in the past, but there’s yet another name that’s been gnawing at me – Pristiq.  Although it’s an antidepressant, I can’t help thinking that it sounds a helluva lot more like a feminine hygiene product.  Imagine the cross-marketing opportunities: “Feeling blue and not so fresh? Pristiq, now with intimate wipes.”  Okay, maybe not.  I’ll move on.

But not far.  So maybe it’s just me, or maybe I exaggerate for effect, but I get so confused when I hear the Brits talk about “loo rolls.”  I always think “isn’t that the guy who sings ‘You’ll Never Find’?”  But it’s not, and in fact, Jezebel is reporting that the British have clearly achieved new heights in loo roll – i.e., toilet paper – luxury.  That’s right, the Waitrose supermarket chain is now offering loo rolls with cashmere fiber.  With the world in an economic downturn, I hardly think that ultra-premium toilet paper is what Britain needs now, but I can also hardly say that I understand European toilet paper marketing concepts

And finally, as this post is already in the toilet, I will leave you with some examples from FailBlog of how education has failed our country, or at least deprived people of the ability to recognize double entendres.

Rocky and Bullwinkle pic courtesy of Photobucket.




Extra credit: “Chivas,” according to the goat soap’s website, means “female goats.”  Sounds like an admission against interest as far as descriptiveness, no?  Though perhaps not quite far enough to achieve genericness and run into the azucar morena problem.

(I just realized that this exam format must be a subconscious tribute to my sister’s completion of one half of her legal education.  Heaven help her!)

Meanwhile, happy Chanukah where appropriate; blogging may continue slopeside over the holiday break, but you never know, so I wish you a merry Christmas where appropriate as well, and a very happy New Year to all.

h/t Dooce.

For our collective Benefit

I’d like to pay tribute today to one of my favorite brands – Benefit Cosmetics.  Benefit has been referred to as the “friskiest luxury brand,” and with products such as BADgal mascara, You Rebel tinted moisturizer, Dear John (“a movin’ on facial cream“), and thrrrob “turned on facial powder,” combined with a winkingly retro graphic design, their target demographic would seem to be twenty- and young thirty-somethings.  And I’m sure that demographic provides the lion’s share of their sales.

But my secret-no-more is what Benefit offers to us femmes d’un certain age: The most comprehensive line of eye care and undereye dark circle camouflage products around.  Thanks to Lemon Aid, Boi-ing, Eye Bright, Ooh la Lift and Lyin’ Eyes (guess what song is now going through your head?), I can leave the house without strangers wondering if I’ve either had a serious mascara malfunction or have simply not slept in the past decade.

Yes, this undereye maintenance regime is pricey.  But I prefer the expense to scaring myself to death when I catch my reflection in the mirror.

So bravo, Benefit.  Now can you please please please bring back Bahama Mama lipstick?

I don’t get it

I am going to have to give Lancome a big thumbs-down on the branding of its new anti-aging serum.  Yes, I know, it’s meant to be suggestive of the exciting! discovery! of a product that “boosts the activity of genes,” whatever that means (and I’ll let folks like Rebecca Tushnet or the other Levy lawyer sort out the issues with such advertising).  But I just don’t think that “geni-” followed by a consonant is a good prefix, and I don’t think there’s any way you can see Lancome’s new Genifique or pronounce the mark without thinking “genitals.”  I don’t think their accent aigu helps (and my apologies for omitting my accents, but I know my blogging software will balk if I insert them).

Anyway, it’s another example of my twelve year-old inner voice’s speaking, but I just can’t shut her up!


The youngest Levy got braces this week. I reveled in the opportunity to sit by her side to offer moral support, because the orthodontist’s office has great magazines and I was woefully out of touch on new product developments and interesting ad campaigns.  Herewith the round-up:

Perfume cage match: Lancome’s Magnifique, with glamorous Anne Hathaway, meets Givenchy’s Absolutely Irresistible and funky Liv Tyler.  Both use a red color scheme, but the winner hands-down is Magnifique.  It’s an elegant ad, Hathaway looks ravishing, and the name, while not thrilling, is concise.  Absolutely Irresistible is apparently a “flanker” perfume to Givenchy’s Very Irresistible, and I don’t think either of those works.  Plus, the picture of Tyler is kind of goofy.  I am guessing I’d also like the Magnifique scent better, as Absolutely Irresistible apparently contains an element of patchouli, which makes me violent.

Now for the celebrity perfumes, and another cage match between two divas:  Talk about uninspired nomenclature – Christina Aguilera’s new scent is called – you guessed it – Inspire.  And the tagline?  Keep your seatbelt on for this one: “Follow your inspiration.”  Has motherhood stripped her of raunch and pizzazz?  Her perfume website merely exhorts the customer to “stand up for what you believe in and strive for your dreams.”  Aguilera poses beatifically in the ads’ photos, which is incongruous with both her image and, IMHO, the purpose of wearing perfume.

In sharp contrast is the campaign for a new fragrance from Jennifer Lopez: J. Lo’s new scent is called Deseo, which means “I wish” or “I desire” in Spanish.  Her tagline is evocative – “Let desire lead you,” and the sultry photos of Lopez convey an image that matches the perfume’s name.  J. Lo wins this match handily.

Now off the perfume trail, but continuing on in the luxury goods market, we have a jewelry brand called Tous.  Needless to say, I have issues with this mark’s pronunciation.  I would expect monoglot Americans to pronounce it as “toose.”  French speakers, however, would pronounce it as “two,” except of course if it preceded a word beginning with a vowel, in which case it would also be “toose.”  Singer Kylie Minogue is this company’s celebrity endorser, and “her” slogan in the print ad I saw was “I love Tous.”  Well, my polyglot brain goes crazy there – is she saying “I love everyone”?  I guess I just worry way too much about these things.

Just a really great ad – Edward Norton for Breil Milano watches.  Never heard of the brand before, but here’s an example of outstanding photography of a really interesting actor, not just a pretty face, that helps propagate brand recognition.

And from the sublime to the ridiculous, an ad campaign I’ve been meaning to comment on for quite some time: Mucinex and its anthropomorphic Mr. Mucus.  Why, oh why, do we have to be assaulted by this grotesque character?  And the slogan “Mucinex in. Mucus out.” – feh!  Believe me, I’m not a squeamish sort, but I find the constant repetition of the word “mucus” in the Mucinex television commercials really unappealing, to the point where if I were afflicted with a condition for which their products might help (and I no doubt will be this winter, and as we always ask in our family, “Where DOES snot come from?”), I would deliberately not consider their products.  So there, Mr. Mucus!  (Almost as annoying as these commercials, and only tangentially related, is the misspelling of mucus the noun as “mucous.”  The latter is the adjective.  Thank you.)

Holiday greetings to all.  I hope to provide ski-blogging this season!

Destination: Paris

I just spent a delightful week in Paris with my parents and daughters, and spent time with old friends and family there too.  Lots of fun brand-spotting, car-spotting, and wining and dining. 

For years I enjoyed coming to Paris and shopping at a store called Jess (no link, it’s not there anymore).  Now, having given my daughters more or less French names, we enjoy spotting souvenir items like keychains bearing their names, and shops with names like “Romeo et Juliet” and the like, in a country where their names are more common than theirs are here in the US. 

However, this one just, shall we say, blew us away:

That’s the sniffer for a perfume called Juliette Has a Gun.  Lovely, no?  According to the website, the English version of which is rather incoherent, several perfumes are planned under the brand.  Miss Charming, for example, is “the perfume of a virgin witch, docile and provocative . . . One instant, holding up the pressures of the world and the next, crying hot tears over the death of Enzo, her bowl fish!”  (I did not make this up.)  Citizen Queen, another of the fragrances, is “not only this edgy lady, or the most glamorous, or the most intimidating, she’s just all that at the same time, a Beauty on her own.” 

I don’t know, when I think of major French perfume houses, I think of “la maison de Guerlain” or “la maison de Dior.”  I just don’t think la maison de Juliette Has a Gun really rolls off the tongue.  Once again, however, I fear I am not the target demographic . . . tant pis alors.

More from Paris tout a l’heure.

Is it hot or is it me?

Well, I’m not the only one to see that P&G’s new ad campaign for Secret has a lot going for it: “Because you’re hot” is one of the best double entendre taglines I’ve seen in advertising lately.  And “Flawless” is an outstanding mark, though I would caution the admakers against weakening it by using it in copy (e.g., “5 new facets of flawless performance.”)  And although the Secret website is clearly focusing on the younger market, I think it may be the older ones among us who get the bigger chuckle out of “because you’re hot.”  I know I do . . .

When the work is done for me

The commenters on this Jezebel post about Kate Moss’s new perfume Velvet Hour really say it all – except for the fact that it appears that an ill-advised layout can sabotage the impact of a good mark. 

Suggesting flatulence?  Not really the best idea for a fragrance ad.

Sublime and Ridiculous in One Convenient Location!!!!!!

Pedicure time!  And you know that means a hefty dose of magazines.  Hit the jackpot today reading Marie-Claire (not nearly as good as the original French magazine, but fine for my purposes) where I learned about Ralph Lauren’s new fragrance, Notorious.


Evocative, sexy, brooding – just the right kind of name for a perfume.  And then, while researching Notorious, I found he’s also got one out called Pure Turquoise, which, IMHO is pure genius.  But then I learned more.

Here’s the deal.  I don’t for a moment begrudge Mr. Lifshitz’s having changed his surname.  I think “Lauren” balances out Ralph nicely, and the full name has obviously acquired tremendous cachet.  Certainly naming a perfume “Lauren” was a no-brainer.  But “Ralph” alone?  Sorry, not the equivalent of “Lauren.”  This is one case where the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.  I’m at a loss to understand how a name that is slang for “vomit” can form the anchor of a line of perfume marks.  Yes, there’s not only Ralph, Ralph Hot and Ralph Wild, there’s also Ralph Rocks.                                                                                           

I’m all over vanity marks in the perfume biz – I see nothing wrong, for example, with Michael Kors naming his fragrance line Michael.  (A scent l can actually wear without succumbing to migraine, in fact.)  But that’s Michael, and not Ralph.  My guess here is that the Ralph Lauren brand has such cachet and draw for the young adult market that the slang meaning is irrelevant to the purchasing decision.  I can just envision that unfortunate conversation though:

    A:    What’s that perfume you’re wearing?
    B:    Ralph.  
    A:    That makes sense.
    B:    Why?
    A:    Because that’s what it makes me want to do. 

UPDATE: In discussing this post with my brother-in-law Paul, aka the Funniest Uncle on the Planet, we came to the horrifying realization that Ralph Rocks would be a great name for a brand of petrified vomit . . . that is, if such product existed.

Fun fact: A family friend almost married the then-Mr. Lifshitz.  Her parents discouraged her, however, as he was in the shmatte business and they thought he wouldn’t amount to anything.  Oh well.