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.

Be clear

Craft beer sales in the US, which in 2012 commanded 10% of the beer market, have reached 19% as of this year. And as this linked article indicates, it’s a battle out there between Big Beer and craft breweries to control that market. So the corporate conglomerates are trying to find interesting messaging for attracting drinkers to those mass market beers. Like this:


Now I’m all about Stella’s ad copy here (omitted due to my incompetent photo skills) – it reads “Raising the bar and everyone in it. For over 600 years.” 600 years of brewing is a long time, and you get a nice pat on the back for it. But “Be Legacy“? I suspect they’re trying to convey the message that classic or traditional or old and well-known beers should be valued for that history, which again, is a laudable sentiment. But “legacy” seems overly subtle to me. And if the “Be” part is meant to suggest Belgium, and that tagline then means Belgian Legacy, well, that’s way too subtle!



Drinking with my ladybrain for a change

I think we’re moving past pink and frilly to encouraging full-on addiction:

comfort wine

Comfort wine / it’s anodyne /it’s not going to tax your palate / it’s just going to slide down your gullet!

Don’t get me wrong – I like my wine just fine, though two glasses are about my limit these days. But I’m midway through this excellent memoir of alcoholic life by Sarah Hepola, and really do think that some of the mommy wine marketing can be seductively destructive. Plus, I’m a wine snob, so trumpeting a chardonnay’s sweetness through the “custard” designation is never going to appeal.

I couldn’t even bring myself to buy it to determine if “custard” was accurate, because I was too embarrassed to be seen buying “comfort wine,” even for research purposes!


Sad ad?

Doesn’t this ad really just say “hey, ladies, it’s okay to drink alone?”

Santa Margherita

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but why not make it explicit rather than a hidden message on a bottle?

Drinking with my ladybrain, summer rosé edition

With the usual apologies for the blogging drought, where has summer gone, etc. etc.

Now, I haven’t broken out the ladybrain in some time, but the skyrocketing popularity of rosé wine offers a few more names that skew feminine or girly. Here’s one that was a pleasant surprise despite its packaging:

Wild Thing rose

The name, the flowers, the “Rendezvous Rosé” blend name – all suggest a weekend without kids, or a bachelorette party, or something otherwise trivial and feminized. Yet this wine is a delicious and spicy but dry carignane blend, and at only 13.5% alcohol it complemented our slapdash dinner nicely but could easily stand on its own as an aperitif.


I’m so fancy

It has been quite a while since I last did any drinking for research purposes. Let me tell you, this one isn’t likely to make me resume the practice:


I think the only way this wine’s marketers could’ve pandered to their target market more would be to have made the label pink. With flowers. And a photo of Ryan Gosling.

N.B. Somehow I lost all my photos in my blog transition. I apologize. Technology is hard.

You drank it all night long?

A dear friend in London spotted this gem on an Austrian ski trip and knew it was right up my alley:

I think I’ve found my next winetasting/blogging gig: celebrity/vanity wines. Time to research!

Birchblah …

Sometimes I think I have the attention span of one of my teenagers. I’m just not as excited as I used to be about the arrival of the Birchbox. I got bored with the Ladybrain tippling too; maybe I need a new source of trademark amusement.

Still, maybe there’s a reason I’m bored. Could it be …

And Dr. Jart+ is back:

I only include this repeater because of the marginal excitement I’m experiencing trying to figure out just what “Water Fuse” might mean for my skin.

Then, a totally random name that I applaud only for its lack of descriptive character:

I’m going to assume that it’s an ivory lace colored highlighter and not a highlighter for ivory lace.

And now, the winner in the clutter/overclaiming class:

Bare Love. Not all that interesting. But that’s not all: There’s Oliolove, and Luxury Body Fuel – all of these are claimed as trademarks. Not all that interesting, but as always, when it’s about cures for dry skin, I’m a bit more indulgent.

Still … I may have to go back to drinking with my ladybrain for more trademark amusement!

Destination: The ski resorts of Summit County, Colorado

We need more snow, but that didn’t stop us from heading to the mountains for the MLK weekend. Some good skiing, some good dining (mostly thanks to yours truly – try this for a crowd-pleaser), and some interesting branding.

First, at Pug Ryan’s Steakhouse and Microbrewery in Dillon, good food and good beer AND smutty beer names:
Made us think back to driving past the Church of the Big Wood near Sun Valley in Idaho … (there’s gotta be a better way to say that!)
Then, in the “glad I don’t represent large luxury brands so I don’t have to be a bad guy” category we have this one from the main drag in Breckenridge:
Very cute poodles inside and out, but not a name I’d have chosen – at least not without solid legal representation and the money to spend on it!

Destination: Drinking in Vegas with my Ladybrain

Florence Nightingale here got the chance to escape the convalescing and now healthy patients for a weekend with good friends in Las Vegas. Now, I hate Vegas for myriad reasons, not the least of which is that you’re guaranteed to see someone smoking while wearing an oxygen tank and sitting at a slot machine. Everything in the suitcase needs laundering when you get back, and you’ve got a nagging cough that just wasn’t there before you inhaled a lifetime’s worth of secondary smoke in one weekend. But hey, good food and drink and good friends – it was worth it.

People-watching there is excellent, but I found more intriguing the billboards advertising legal services, like this one:
“Re-Defining Personal” indeed! If this ad isn’t targeted at women, with its pinkish tones and especially with the himbo on the left, I don’t know what is! We saw several other lawyer ads with the same type of glamorous headshots, but nothing like the open-collared gentleman in this ad!
Vegas is all about getting you intoxicated enough to do wild things and spend lots of money, as The Hangover movie franchise has deftly illustrated. Before the proprietor of a downtown liquor store yelled at me to stop taking photos, I snapped a photo of this candidate for the Drinking with my Ladybrain hall of fame:
According to the Crosby Lake Spirits Company, which makes Kinky, Kinky is a “naughty infusion of premium vodka” distilled with mango, blood orange liqueur, and passion fruit. The website? Well, its photos aren’t subtle. I’d say this drink is marketed to men trying to seduce women into doing something kinky. As I’ve still got a nearly-full bottle of Nuvo in my fridge, I think I’ll give Kinky a pass.
Finally, we saw some brand extension of what Nancy Friedman has called “the curse of strong drink”: 
Now you can find not just Feckin Irish Whiskey but Feckin Spiced, presumably for a feckin good time. And I do like how they let you click to “Find a Feckin Stockist” on their site! This one seems like good-hearted vulgarity, and not just vulgarity for vulgarity’s sake (Suxx Vodka, I’m looking at you!)
So Vegas was a good time, and since it’s a great midpoint for getting together with friends from Seattle. And for classic kitsch if you’re headed that way: run, don’t walk to the Peppermill – the bygone “glamour” of its Fireside Lounge is not to be missed.
P.S. A thank you once again to Nancy for reminding me to get back on the ladybrain drinking/blogging horse! 

Ladybrain-free wine blogging

Three long years ago, I promised to blog about the Western Slope of Colorado and its produce and wine. Life somehow interfered with the execution of that promise, but in the meantime, we’ve had the chance to learn more about Colorado wine – specifically, that it can be quite good and has great potential to keep improving. But don’t just take my word for it – others are spreading the word too.

On our visit to Colorado wine country three long years ago, we toured many wineries in the Palisade and Paonia areas. So many, in fact, that we returned with 33 bottles of wine! Veterans of several summertime tours to eastern Washington wineries, we were well-prepared with ice packs and Styrofoam coolers to ensure the safe journey home of our bounty in 100-degree heat. (Heat wasn’t a concern once we hit a mudslide that washed out the road on our return. We got to see a lot more of the state than we’d expected when we took an exciting detour over Kebler Pass [unpaved!] and then through Crested Butte. But I digress …)

One of our favorite stops on the trip was Canyon Wind Cellars in Palisade. The wines were uniformly excellent, and the setting? Stunning:

So why do I bring this up, three years later? Well, we’re still drinking their wine: their 47-Ten everyday blend is quite reliable (see this review of their rosé, where it performed admirably among more well-known names and regions) and was available at Costco this season at what the French call a prix intéressant. And I just love their tagline:

That’s right – Wine With an Altitude! Cheeky and evocative, it’s a great tagline that reinforces the key proposition here: this is Colorado wine! Remember, if you’re wedded to a descriptive or not all-that-distinctive trademark, a tagline can make all the difference. But don’t trust me on that: trust Nancy, who wrote the book on taglines (or at least parts One and Two!)

Destination: Sicily and non-ladybrain wine

As you know from my renowned* Drinking with my Ladybrain feature, wine is often marketed to women as a way to escape from the travails of a woman’s daily life. Well, that sentiment is not just for the ladyfolk – meet my friend Sally’s cousin Fabio, and his La Pausa wine:

As Fabio explained to me, slowly enough for me to understand his Italian, it’s a very light red wine meant for relaxation and enjoyment – for drinking now, with good friends and family. La Pausa means just that – the pause, or break. Dinner with Fabio and his wife Toni was one vital component of a lovely and relaxing break from our harried lives here at home.
And not only did Fabio make good wine – he also made delicious fresh ricotta. We ate it the first night we were in Sicily and it was so good it brought tears to my eyes. (Okay, I may have been somewhat inebriatedly slurring something along the lines of “This is why we came here!”) You can approximate its freshness using this recipe from David Lebovitz, but I don’t think you can approximate the joy that Fabio brought to the table.
*In my own mind, that is.

Drinking with my ladybrain VI

Okay, Portuguese wines. Usually good values, real depth in the reds. We’ve drunk a few and quite enjoyed them.

My guess on this one:
Leftover grapes, and the marketers thought “why not jump on that ladybrain bandwagon” (or words to that equivalent in Portuguese) since obviously those ladyfolk won’t know the difference between good wine and plonk, and if we put lacy pink squiggles and a woman’s name on the label, we can offload it. Really, Moira’s? Isn’t that an Irish name, not a Portuguese name?
Well, for $6.99 it was borderline drinkable, and, unlike the Chateauneuf-de-Pape we opened earlier, not corked. Still, this one really smacks of a desperate attempt to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

Drinking with my ladybrain V

I promised; now I’ll deliver. Here it is once again, Nuvo:

I’ve kind of dumbed down the drama of the bottle by photographing it on my dining room chair against my dull gray dining room wall (gotta get that repainted one of these days!) Here’s how it appears on the Nuvo website:
Nuvo Sparkling Liqueur
Definitely a more feminine look than in my photo. Still, this photo doesn’t begin to capture just how electrically pink Nuvo was when I poured it; it’s nearly neon in its intensity.
Nuvo markets itself as “a lifestyle choice for trendy individuals.” (And may I also add that it’s clumsily and incorrectly marked as “NUVO©“?) Whoever those individuals may be, the web copy also advises that drinking Nuvo is for “Celebrating Life Everyday [sic]” and that it “comes housed in a gorgeous, perfume-like bottle that adds flare [sic] and decor to any event.” Again, whatever that means.
So what does it taste like? The site says it’s made with premium French vodka, sparkling white wine, and passion fruit nectar, intended to “dazzle your taste buds and delight your palette [sic].” Dear Reader, I am sad to report that my palate was not delighted. Fizzy vodka with disinfectant is more like it. It’s also very strong, with a kick like wasabi. Lest you think that this is just my own bias, I can promise you that the four other adults who tasted it this weekend also marveled at Nuvo’s harsh and astringent character. The pink perfume flask was definitely deceiving.
A few things I don’t understand, though: The Nuvo website’s “mixology” section suggests mixing Nuvo with … wait for it … more vodka, for a new sensation. Another variation includes mixing tequila with Nuvo, which sounds just disgusting. And while I see from the website that Nuvo is targeting both the “urban lifestyle” and “Latin spice” markets, I have a hard time picturing anyone other than a woman picking up this pink bottle. Perhaps that’s why Nuvo has branched out to add Nuvo Lemon Sorbet, which they refer to as being “sleek like a yellow Lamborghini.” Sleek it may be, but at 25% alcohol, I think I’ll have to pass. 
The good thing about Nuvo? One, despite my kvetching about its taste, it’s a pretty good name – a phonetic spelling of the French word nouveau, so its appearance is really distinctive. And two? It’s a liqueur, so it should stay drinkable for a while after opening, which will enable me to use this with guests as a cocktail conversation piece, if you will. Not bad for an investment of $10! 
(And for Nuvo’s website’s copywriters? Check out this invaluable resource so you don’t make me [sic] again: !)


Drinking with my ladybrain – you were wondering where it went? Have no fear, it’s coming back, now that I found this:

Two thoughts before I even open the bottle: (1) the slogan beneath the brand name reads “L’esprit de Paris.” Je suis desolee, mais je crois que non. And (2) the youngest Levy opined that the bottle top looks like a sippy cup for adults.
Stay tuned for the lowdown on what’s inside the bottle!

Mail-order inspiration

Sometimes I get so damn lazy that a month goes by and I realize I haven’t posted anything. And I certainly can’t live on Ladybrain blogging alone. So I just invested in a monthly blogging inspiration plan: I joined Birchbox, a new service that sends you deluxe (or “luxe,” as they say) beauty samples every month. I’ll be able to report back not only on the trademarks of these samples, but also on whether I like them or not. (And I may have to enlist my daughters as guest bloggers, especially when I receive hair care samples!)

So far, I can only comment on the Birchbox name itself. I love the name, but would caution them against using “Birchbox” itself as the generic name for what arrives every month. This usage, for example, appeared in the email confirming my membership: 
Monthly Birchboxes are on a magazine schedule


Your trademark is Birchbox – don’t make it plural. Use a generic term after and with the trademark, e.g., Birchbox sample boxes. That way, the inevitable competitors won’t be able to say “well, we don’t know what else to call it.” Tell them what to call it and you won’t have that problem.
Anyway, stay tuned!

Thinking about drinking with my ladybrain

So what William Grimes in the NY Times doesn’t ask is this: Are the wines with these rude names worth drinking? I guess I’ll have to do the dirty work. If the “bitch category,” as he phrases it, actually has some good wines to offer, I’ll throw my hat in the ring, or tip my glass, or whatever metaphor needs mixing. If not, I’ll just stick with this bitch:

Drinking with my ladybrain IV

This one’s pretty shameless. I can only imagine the tired marketing conversation that birthed “Little Black Dress” as a wine brand targeted to women.  Fact is, though, the wine’s not bad. Varietally correct, decent fruit, good with food. You can even see here that we managed to consume about half of the bottle:

But for the life of me, I cannot fathom what would prompt the marketers of a product targeted to women to put a wire hanger on the label. Mommie Dearest is the least of it – the wire hanger is, more poignantly, a potent symbol of illegal abortion, and the pain and indignity women suffered before Roe v. Wade

I’m all for pinot noir and little black dresses. I’m also for remembering that a woman’s right to reproductive freedom shouldn’t be taken for granted. I just don’t think that those are two great tastes that taste great together.

In honor of that right, I’ve just contributed to Planned Parenthood. Because I want to keep those wire hangers as history and a bad memory.

Drinking with my ladybrain, part 3

My toy poodle hasn’t been featured recently in these pixels (hey, I can’t really say “in these pages,” now, can I?) but she’s always either on my mind or at my feet. I recently let my daughters take a stab assisting me with Ladybrain shopping at Incredible Wine & Spirits, one of our wine shopping mainstays. In loving tribute to our Reggie, they quickly zeroed in on this one:

While in most circumstances I’ll say “French? Poodle? Wine? What could be bad?” I’ll make an exception here, and say merely that if “I love the label” is your main criterion for purchase (and you love poodles too), this may be your wine. If you like good wine, however, this may not be your wine. It has less acid than I expect to see in a California Sauvignon Blanc, and its fruit fades quickly. I’ve drunk worse, though, and could see this being serviceable on a hot summer afternoon.

However, the back label gives me serious concern. A poem, “by” the wine’s apparent mascot, Sark, (Sark?), contains this stanza:

Get Petted, Sleep Alot.

Did the wavy or dotted lines under “alot” in your word processing program not tip you off? My dog, thank you very much, can spell. In English and French, bien sur.

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!