Destination: France

There are some brands that linger in your memory because you’re eternally twelve years old, and this is one:

(Photo from Wikipedia).

Yes, Pschitt, a French citrus-flavored soda, has enchanted me since I first saw it in 1978. I’ve even blogged about it in the past.

So, following on the trend of product naming that perhaps might be, shall we say, unsettling, I offer you this:

Pschitt skincare. Or let me clarify – Pschitt Magic.

This certainly offers an excellent textbook example of what dilution by blurring might look like, but my bigger issue is that of the term’s significance in English. We trademark lawyers are always cautious about proposed marks that might mean something unsavory in a foreign language, and I’m surprised Garancia’s marketing team thought it was okay to sanction a mark that suggests to an English-speaking consumer that her treatment is nothing but “magic shit.” Between shit on my face and perfume that smells like shoes, I’m so far not seduced by French branding!

 

A shitty name

You would think that in naming a product, maybe it would be wise to avoid a euphemism for excrement, right? Seems like that’s a basic proposition that everyone can agree on, right? Well, apparently you’d be wrong. I don’t know why these folks chose CAcafe as their trademark, but I can promise you that capitalizing the first two letters doesn’t stop me from seeing the caca here:

cacafe

Apparently, others are on to the caca too.

 

 

Modernization is sometimes okay

Nancy Friedman has long deplored the trend of companies adopting newfangled and often ridiculous-to-pronounce or -spell names (Hello S’Moretgage). There are some companies, however, that in my humble opinion could use a bit of updating. One that comes to mind immediately is Tacoma Screw Products, long the butt of jokes from Seattle Times columnist Ron Judd (one thing I do miss about Seattle). Because, really, when your name is that hilarious the derision can far outweigh the value of the name’s communicative nature.

The same goes for this company, captured in pixels by my cousin Nancy (not to be confused with the earlier-cited Nancy):

Cleveland Vibrator

Oh dear … On the bright side, however, the first page of Google search of the company brings up only family-friendly (or I should say, “industry-friendly”) listings. I decided not to forge on, however.

You do have to feel for these companies that incorporate descriptive terms that have an unfortunate second meaning into their names – and then you can continue to laugh like you’re twelve again!

 

Destination: Sweden; scatology or eschatology?

Our beloved 10th grade English teacher, Mr. Sexauer (I kid you not!) is responsible for probably fully half of my prodigious vocabulary. Every week he assigned a list of spelling and vocabulary words from the book we were reading, and we dutifully memorized those definitions verbatim.* So when I was uploading this photo and considering what to write in light of my scatology theme, I had a flashback to one of those tests:

rump lyft

Yes, that’s right: Eschatology – “the study of great ends.”

Thanks, folks, I’ll be here all week. Don’t forget to tip your server.

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* I’m really not kidding. To wit: “Epigram – witty pointed saying.” “Sophistry – unsound series of clever-sounding reasoning.” “Atavistic – return to the primitive.” Mr. S generally presented the definition of this last one by jumping down on all fours underneath an unwitting student’s desk. There truly was nothing like 10th grade honors English at Fox Lane High School back in the 70s.

 

Destination: Scandinavia. Part 1, Scatology

know, right? Not Paris, not Sicily. The Levys are branching out! We took advantage of Volvo’s spectacular overseas delivery program to visit Denmark and Sweden, and we were not disappointed. (Except by the rain and cold. If I never see a certain v-necked gray sweater of mine again, it’ll be too soon.) Great food, scenery, museums, and people. The language, not so much; devoted readers know what a language whiz kid I think I am, but Swedish and Danish? Just impenetrable.

Still, there was entertaining/scatological branding galore. First on the list? This charming hat shop in Copenhagen:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Is that just like a small fart? I can’t even begin to guess, because the language, as I said, is impenetrable.

Next, also in Copenhagen, we have an impenetrable carshare slogan:

Smart i en fart

But funny, of course, because I’m twelve.

Next stop, a 7-11 at a gas station on the highway in Sweden, where we drove our new Volvo to visit my husband’s college roommate. (Think “Welcome to Sweden” but in reverse. Sort of.) And though we really had to get back on the road, I honestly could’ve spent all day savoring product names … like this one:

PLOPP

And this men’s shop was closed when we walked by, thus suggesting it didn’t live up to its name:

STAYHARD

That’s the entertaining start to our Scandinavian odyssey; more to come!

Edited to add that Funny Or Die has already made the Fart Car a reality. (H/t my friend Leslie at Blythe’s Blog!)

 

Destination: Disney World’s Wee Britain and Japan

Okay, actually it’s the UK, but really, after you’ve seen the episodes of Arrested Development that take place there, would you really call Epcot’s World Showcase land anything else?

The shopping in all of Epcot is excellent, though there’s always some product name that elicits eye-rolling or guffawing. Like this one, for example:

epcot mint balls

 

I could’ve bought some to see how, exactly, Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls would keep me all aglow, but I erred on the side of caution.

And this one, from the Mitsukoshi department store in Epcot’s Japan:

Hi-chew

Naturally, the only reply to the question “Would you like a Hi-Chew?” is “Gesundheit.”

Thanks. Don’t forget to tip your waiter.

More is often less

Would, or should, anyone really disagree with the proposition that the food you eat should taste good? I think not. But is that proposition on its own worthy of serving as a trademark? To wit:

Food Should Taste GoodW

I note that it’s registered, but think that registration won’t go far to enabling the mark’s owner to prevent others from saying – not using as a trademark – that food, in fact, should taste good. Your mission statement shouldn’t necessarily be the same thing as your trademark.

Similarly, if asked the question set out in this mark (which is registered, despite the absence of the symbol), I’d of course say “hell yeah,” though I wouldn’t necessarily view that question as a mark:

Wanna Betta Butt

While a slogan or catchphrase may be registrable with the PTO (because “Food should taste good” and “Wanna betta butt?” are not technically descriptive of the goods they designate), that doesn’t mean they’re good trademarks. Multiple word brand names do not roll trippingly off the tongue, are difficult to remember and thus susceptible to misidentification,* and ultimately make me think of one of Saturday Night Live’s most memorable fake brands, Oops! I Crapped My Pants!

 

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*Fun fact: I always refer to the women’s clothing store White House¦Black Market as “Black Tie, White Noise,” the name of a (highly underrated, IMHO) David Bowie album.

 

Unfortunate connotations

I’d rather not go into too much detail, but I’ll tell you that this product name –

snip

has the unfortunate consequence of making me think of this. And this timeless (heh) classic joke, which makes me really not want these chips, as if the cilantro weren’t enough to keep me away for life.  

Worse than melty

I can’t believe I haven’t yet found a reason to discuss my visceral disgust at the popular marketing term “melty.” What in dog’s name is wrong with “melted” and “melting,” I implore you? Every time I see a commercial using the term – and it rears its ugly head more and more often (though the public seems to have been cringing about it for many years now) – I scream at the screen. (I mean honestly, why not “meltish” then while we’re at it?)

So it was with even greater disgust that I turned over a package of Starbucks Via to see this fresh horror:

roasty

Yes, that’s “roasty.”

Now for a quick detour: I had the great honor and pleasure of being a guest lecturer on trademark prosecution at the University of Denver Law School last week, in a trademark class taught by the esteemed adjunct professor Marc Levy (okay, I had an in). And one of the topics I discussed my steadfast reminder to clients to look terms up in Urban Dictionary to make sure your new trademark isn’t a dirty word.

Let’s just say that Starbucks should’ve done that before forging ahead with its “roasty” usage.

 

Hair today, gone tomorrow?

Another entrant in the “just because you can doesn’t mean you should” sweepstakes:

image

 

Yes, it’s cute wordplay, and yes, it goes well with the Sexy Hair house brand.  But still, I’d prefer a bit more subtlety, perhaps because I’m fast approaching my mid 50s.

I can’t even

Is this the worst descriptor ever?

IMG_20140909_130115

Here’s a new test for you marketing folks out there: If it sounds obscene when you put it into the question “Is that your [BLANK] or are you just happy to see me?” – IT IS.

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’!

Like a virgin

Here’s a mark I’ve never understood:

betula

Mrs. Polyglot here can inform you that “betula” is Hebrew for “virgin.” Betula is also the scientific name for “birch” – but in my book, if you’ve got one translation of a word that you wouldn’t choose as your mark in English, even if you’ve got an alternate that’s less troublesome, think twice. On the other hand, I may work at home now, and have long lost the New York lawyer panache I once had – but you won’t ever see me in Birkenstocks, virgin or otherwise! I have to maintain some kind of dignity!

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!

Not just culture – trademarks too

We didn’t get enough of Sicily last time, so we decided to take the girls with us this summer after #1 graduated from high school. Once again, we made our way there via Munich, where a Lufthansa flight to Catania was the quickest way to get us to our destination, our friend Sally’s place at Marina di Ragusa in the south.

But first Munich – beer, beer, schnitzel, and beer. The Augustiner Keller and Zum Durnbrau restaurants were excellent, and the Neue Pinakothek a great place to escape the somewhat inexplicable crowds and 86 degree weather. And seeing old friends was the cherry on top of the sundae.

Or maybe this was:

Super Dickmann

Now, “dick,” in German, means “thick.” Unfortunately, this doesn’t save this mark from being absolutely hilarious in English. “Super thick man?” With what that item looks like? The small print doesn’t help either: “dick limitiert” means “thickly limits” or “thickly limited.” WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

In any event, Super Dickmann was only the beginning of a fantastic and fun-filled vacation. Stay tuned for more! Tschüss!