Set in my ways

I didn’t like “Herban” as a cute play on “urban” eight years ago (see my post here).  Guess what? I still don’t like it, even when the use is more closely connected to “herb” as it is here:

And at least from the outside, there was nothing to suggest why it might be “Denver’s Most Distinctive Dispensary.” However, it may be one of the best dispensary locations in Denver – it’s on the same block as Sweet Action Ice Cream, which I can confirm has some of the best pistachio ice cream this side of Sicily.

 

Destination: Appleton, Wisconsin and the wilds of I-80

The second daughter has now been comfortably (if humidly) installed at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. It’s a lovely little school with an undergraduate conservatory, and we will be happy to see our daughter enjoy a music-filled liberal arts education there.

Of course, there were items of interest along the way; after the freshman convocation I spirited my husband away to the historic Stone Cellar Brewpub (no relation, alas), where I’d dined with Daughter #1 when touring Lawrence, to enjoy the food and drink that makes Wisconsin famous: beer and cheese curds.

curds

They did not disappoint. We also learned that Stone Cellar is Wisconsin’s oldest brewery still in operation. Here’s an example of a bottling from when it was the George Walter Brewing Co., circa 1918:

beer

But the time came for us to bid our daughter farewell, and after a stop to visit cousins in Illinois (the best kind of cousins – ones who own a spectacular bed & breakfast with superb food [and yes that was a shameless plug]), we were left with a long and boring drive back to Denver on I-80.

What, then, besides listening to Rob Lowe’s Stories I Only Tell My Friends, kept us awake and motivated? Great barbecue in Des Moines, and wondering what could’ve possessed anyone to come up with this name for a fast food joint that we saw throughout Nebraska:

runza

Because all I can think of is someone saying in a crappy Italian accent, “don’t eat there, it gives you da runzas.” (Also, trademark pro tip: you don’t need to use the ® symbol every single time the mark appears on your website, particularly when you’re referring to the company rather than the stores and services they provide.)

Anyway, thanks to our younger daughter for following in her big sister’s footsteps by choosing a school outside of our customary geographic comfort range and thus allowing us to see more of the USA than we ever expected to!

 

 

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?

Geographic hopelessness

Sometimes you honestly don’t know where product brand names come from, especially if you’re a bargain shopper like I am and you frequent off-brand, low price establishments like TJ Maxx and Tuesday Morning (the latter of which makes me really feel like I’m slumming it). So often at such stores it’s a challenge to separate the wheat from the knockoff chaff. So when I saw this one I was pretty confident it was chaff:

GELA

Where do I begin? Well, how about Sicily? Gela is a small city on the southwest coast of Sicily that is the home of a huge oil refinery. Which therefore makes it the Secaucus of Sicily, and Gela is only prettier because – hey – Sicily v. New Jersey in a cage fight isn’t even remotely fair.

Thus, having been to Gela, I can’t ever consider it a lovely brand name for any product. And I figure that any company that named its product Gela had never been to Gela, and if they weren’t smart enough to research the name of a pretty town in Sicily – of which there are many – for their product, then I can’t trust them to make a product that is worth my investment.

Not sure if everyone else views things my way, but I’m sticking to it!

Bang the head slowly

 

 

 

 

Bellapierre

 

This item was in my daughter’s Ipsy bag this month. Where do I begin?

Okay, we have “bella,” which is Italian for beautiful, mashed together with “pierre,” which is French for stone. Except “bella” bears an extraneous and incomprehensible accent mark; the combination sort of means “beautiful stone” (and it’s sheer coincidence that I photographed it on my granite countertop). I know I am meant to ignorantly assume that the accent mark imparts a certain quelle-heure-est-il cachet to the product but alas, I cannot. Rather, I am stuck repeating two of my constant refrains when it comes to trademarks: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means” – and “I don’t understand the question and I won’t respond to it.

My daughter says the the liner is highly pigmented and is looking forward to using it and was happy to relinquish the packaging to her obsessive mother.

Destination: Italy

Of course there were magazines! How else could I have brought back this doozy:

emorroidi

I’m pretty sure that the idea of classical art and sculpture rarely crosses the minds of those creating hemorrhoid cream ads in the US, I’m just sayin’!

Destination: Caltagirone and Siracusa

Sometimes reality isn’t quite as poetic as I’d like. For example, this Stuffer brand yogurt that we ate in Siracusa –

stuffer

– would’ve been a perfect complement to this gut-stuffing breakfast that we ate in Caltagirone:

Caltagirone breakfast

Not that there was anything to complain about with respect to the actual content of the breakfasts!

Destination: Sicily; or, you might REALLY want to clean that fridge

No, really:

smeg

 

Sally’s own outdoor fridge, whose style and name I chronicled after our last visit, has nothing on Blue Smeg!

Actually, as Nancy pointed out several years ago, Smeg is the name of an Italian appliance company that makes retro, 50s style products. While there’s no denying the appeal of the appliances’ sinuous lines and saturated colors, I agree with Nancy that it’s impossible to get over the name. And yet they persist: the English version of the company website even has a feature called the SMEGazine. Thanks, Smeg!

Destination: London Heathrow again

Marie-Claire UK, the gift that keeps giving. This one’s not UK-specific, but I just had to comment on the cognitive dissonance of this ad campaign:

Where do I begin? With Boss Jour Pour Femme, in French for a perfume from a German company? With the clanking “Boss Jour” combo itself? I find the juxtaposition of these two words strangely disturbing and can’t quite put a finger on why. The tagline, “This Will Be Your Day” sounds more like a movie slogan than an enticement to purchase perfume. Is it the interior half-sideboob? The murky yellowish morning light, which suggests Beijing pollution rather than Tuscany sunrise? Or is it merely Gwyneth Paltrow’s preternatural smugness? I’m going to leave it at all of the above, but welcome insight.

Destination: Parigi

We stayed across the street from this restaurant when we were in Paris in 2008:


Our girls were 12 and 10 at the time, so you can imagine how much fun they had with this name! (It was also great pizza; too bad we strolled by on fermeture hebdomadaire day).

September Birchbox – Streamlined

This Birchbox biz has been going on for some time. So to keep things more lively, I’m only going to focus on brands that are new to me.

Let’s start September’s with a marketing doozy:


I have, in the past, raged against pointless misspellings. So the extra “n” in the recognizable name “Racine” was strike one for me. Strike two? Package copy that reads “Powerful anit-aging [sic] agent.” Strike three? The “About” page that reads “At it’s [sic] roots, Racinne, a Canadian Beauty Company.” A strikeout, with bonus points for unnecessary capitalization!

Next, Airelle:

Here we have the doctrine of foreign equivalents at work. Airelle is French for “blueberry.” When the product contains blueberry extract, airelle is merely descriptive of the goods. And in this case, at least as of my publication date, the PTO has correctly applied the doctrine to refuse registration of a foreign term that is merely descirptive of these goods. Airelle had better luck with Berrimatrix, the other mark on the package, and got that mark registered.

Here’s a mark I just love:

That’s Ruffian, if you can’t see it. Love the name, love the color.

Finally, here’s a product whose marketers appear to have given up on the naming process:

Even the Birchbox insert is stumped; they call the product “This Is a Sea Salt Spray.” It’s marketed by the Davines Group of Parma, Italy. You see the legend “More Inside” on the bottle? Well, it appears that’s the product line name, so other products in the line bear monikers of, for example, “This Is a Volume Boosting Mousse,” “This Is a Medium Hold Modeling Gel,” and the finalist in the Gertrude Stein competition, “This Is an Oil Non Oil.”

The Davines website clearly outlines their focus on sustainable beauty, which is laudable. More head-scratching than laudable, however, is the inclusion of Ayn Rand in their sidebar of “Things That Inspire.” Also head-scratching is their claim to have created the “Davines” name from the names of their children, Davide and Stefania. I can’t quite make that add up, certainly not in any way that gives poor Stefania equal time!

In any event, Daughter #2 advises me that salt spray is great for curly hair and is pleased to take this off my hands.

March 2013 Birchbox

I am excited – they went for “March Madness” as their theme for the month’s goodies, and I, for one, have no problem with this whatsoever. Likely to be confused with the NCAA? Nope. Likely to be viewed of as sponsored by or affiliated with the NCAA? Nope again. Is it March? Yes. Does Birchbox reference the NCAA sporting events that take place in March in its copy? Yes again. But I still don’t mind, because referring to the grand slate of basketball tournaments that takes place in March – and the ensuing frenzy – is appropriate, when the NCAA has elevated the annual tournament to holiday status. You can’t define a season – not to mention making untold millions from broadcast rights and tickets and all – and then tell the public they can’t call it what you’ve named it.


The same goes for the Oscars and the Super Bowl, by the way.

Now that I’ve hosed myself down after this rant, I’ll resume our regularly-scheduled Birchbox blogging.

Here’s my favorite naming of the bunch:



Caudalie products are made from antioxidants that are derived from the byproducts of winemaking. So I’m already predisposed to like them. Calling this new collection “premier cru,” or “first growth”? Now I love it. I’ve used their products before and have liked them, particularly since they don’t overdo it on fragrance. Read their story here; you’ll want to go there.

Next, we have another foreign import:



It’s Miss Me perfume by Stella Cadente – “falling star,” in Italian. I like the perfume name and the company name. Unfortunately, the scent is a bit too powdery for me.

Next,



Serge Normant, according to his website, is a “renowned hairstylist” with an “eponymous line of transformative hair care and styling products.” With florid prose like that, I’m intrigued. But after scouring the site I can only conclude that the wild coifs depicted on his home page are not the results I can expect from using this dry shampoo. But I’ll try my best.

Vasanti’s website is a lot less glamorous than Serge Normant’s. But since its offering, pictured here – 



 – contains the term “face rejuvenator,” who am I to refuse it?

Finally, this month’s bonus shows an example of a good old-fashioned laudatory mark:



That’s Madewell. Can any trademark geek tell me why MADEWELL is registered on the Supplemental Register for paint but on the Principal Register for clothing? I can’t come up with a principled distinction, but I suspect the PTO can’t either.
Enjoy the madness!

The cachet of English

When we were in Sicily, we were told that having an English business name is the way to impress locals. Here’s one example I found:

Yes, it’s a dog care store. And somehow I don’t think Mondo Cane would be a hit in the US the same way.
That English cachet appears elsewhere in Europe, but often makes less sense than the Italian example above. Here’s the cover of Lufthansa’s intra-European menu offering:
Was? “Nonstop you”? I don’t get it. 
The French are no better. Here, an ad for a juice drink:
“Be fruit”? No, that doesn’t work either. On the other hand, here we are in the country that came up with La Yogurt, so perhaps we’re not in a position to criticize.

Destination: Noto

Sicily is a vacation gift that keeps on giving – not just the wonderful memories and recipes, but the blogging material that I culled is well out of proportion to the nine days we spent there.

This ad for an upcoming blues festival performer that we found in a cheerful gelateria in Noto (the site of several other eye-popping finds, as you may recall) still blows my mind:
Do you think he chose this name because he’s rotund? Or do I have to post this again as a cautionary tale?

Destination: Marina di Ragusa’s finest caffè

Spotted in a cafe in Sicily:




See the ® symbol there? CAFE NOIR is registered in Italy for coffee and coffee shop services. So, French major, what does “café noir” mean? Why yes, it means “black coffee.” 

Now, is there any chance in hell that BLACK COFFEE could be registrable for coffee in the US? Of course there’s not, and trying to sneak a fast one past the PTO by stating that, for example, “caffè nero” means “coffee black,” rather than “black coffee,” thankfully, won’t fly. Look, if your client’s mark is a dud – descriptive or geographically descriptive – tell the client and save them the money, instead of fabricating definitions or feigning ignorance to the PTO. You’ll do us all a favor.

I’m not saying you should miss Caffè delle Rose in Marina di Ragusa, though. And take their cannoli, please, if you’re ever offered the leftovers:



Just take the claim of trademark rights con il beneficio del dubbio, as they say there.



  

The greatest love of all

This product provides me with an adjective with which I can pat myself on the back:

Alas, it’s not frizzante, so I didn’t drink that much of it. Bonus benefit in Sicily: una grande bottiglia d’acqua frizzante at a restaurant will run you a mere 2 €, far less than the same grande bouteille d’eau minerale gazeuse in France.

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.

Destination: Sicily in the1950s

Here’s my friend Sally’s grandfather’s Fiat refrigerator, an extension of the Fiat brand I wasn’t aware of before:

Plus it’s just gorgeous! I poked around the web to see if I could locate any more information on Fiat’s refrigerator business, but came up empty-handed. Anyone?
Meanwhile, here’s the Fiat we were privileged to drive in Sicily, pictured outside Le Cinque Vie, where we enjoyed an amazing dinner and warm welcome from Teresa and Sergio:
Not quite as swanky as the new Fiat Cinquecento, seen here at the Irvine Spectrum last month:
But it got us where we needed to be, and what a pleasure to park!

Destination: Sicily, where sex sells

Slapping an artichoke tattoo on a shapely model is kind of stretching it to make a connection between feminine pulchritude and the artichoke, don’t you think?

I don’t think that the slogan “Una Voglia Naturale” – a natural desire – gets you there. Or is that why she’s wearing an animal-print thong? Yes, I’m overthinking it. 
But there’s more, an item we spotted in a gelato shop in the town of Noto:
The complicated typography of this name is something that has to be seen on the website to be believed, as does the feverish language (at least in English), with such exhortations as “Be seduced by the taste of Se.xO’ . . . it is non-alcoholic with a pleasant fruity flavor for those who, like you, love living the rhythm of the night.” (Try saying that three times fast!) Let me tell you, even reading this ad copy can get your heart racing. 
Apparently someone in Noto was drinking the Se.xO’ instead of eating gelato like we were – at least that’s what this bit of garbage on the street suggested:
Yep, that’s the box for a Lover’s Fantasy Kit. Empty. Just sitting right out there on the street. 
And yes, I was the one who noticed it … all in the name of this blog, I swear to you!