Marketing a benefit that just doesn’t sound good

I posted this article on Twitter recently, but thought I’d address it in more depth as I am still reeling from the premise of toilet paper that touts itself as so strong that “1 feulle peut suffire” – one sheet will do.  Now, I am a fan of Lotus products – I love their small tissue packs, with handkerchief-sized tissues that are nice and thick for the serious nose-blower, and a sleeve of them is often one of my main purchases in Paris on a trip to Monoprix.  However, and without probing in detail the factual bases for their advertising claim regarding one sheet, I am giving a thumbs-down on this campaign.  Adding insult to injury is the fact that the name of the product all too explicitly conveys their marketing M.O.: Just 1. 

See?  Even thinking about it makes you not want to buy it.

H/t Why Travel to France

Hooray for common sense!

The court doesn’t call it fair use, but fundamentally the appearance of a Gottlieb pinball machine in a few minutes of a movie is fair use, IMHO, under principles of both copyright and trademark law.  And plaintiff’s argument that its product’s appearance in a movie starring noted anti-Semite Mel Gibson could harm its business reputation?  Don’t embarrass yourselves, okay?

And yes, this is a topic I’ve written about before and will no doubt write about again.

H/t Marty

(You can play the game too – I copied this image from Wikipedia.  I’m using it not to suggest sponsorship or affiliation by The Who, but rather to illustrate the term pinball referenced above, in a way that will have “Pinball Wizard” running through your brain for the rest of the day.  Oops – I’ve discussed this concept before as well!)

Did they think before naming?

Skiing at Steamboat Springs is awesome – lots of powder, and sun after a frigid start.  But two landmarks on our blizzardy trip up here couldn’t fail to catch my eye: First, what we’ve now found is a chain of gas station/mini-marts called Kum & Go; and second, a sign for Master Bait and Tackle.

A point of maternal pride to report for a change of pace from the smut: When my husband was reminding us to ski wide “s” turns in the powder, the littlest Levy said, “You know, a Sephora S.”  Oy, I’m kvelling!


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!

While the puppy sleeps

Apologies for being such a bad blogger.  I have been consecrating puppy naptime to both client work and, as usual, laundry.

Two branding-related thoughts since the canine incursion into our household, however:

(1) Two friends recommended the dog food brand Royal Canin.  Okay, fine, but how do you pronounce “canin”?  Like “canine” in English, or as if the word were French?  Or “ca-neen”?  I am deeply troubled by this;  still, since Reggie likes it fine, I will continue to buy it and will try to turn off my overactive brain.

(2) Reggie came to us with an intestinal bug that required treatment with a drug called Panacur.  Last I checked my dictionary, “cur” was a derogatory term for an aggressive dog.  I’m at a loss for any further etymological detail about this product name (panacea + cure comes to mind, but why for this?); am I the only one who thinks it’s slightly offensive?  I mean, can you imagine an analogous pharmaceutical name for humans? Beneschmuck?  Aidadick?  Am I missing something?  I plead sleep deprivation, so it’s definitely possible I’ve missed something in my daily torpor.

And now, said cute puppy with her favorite toy.  No, not me.

Cross-marketing gone horribly wrong

This is what we call in French a cauchemar:

I fondly remember the November of my junior year in Paris – learning what all the signs saying “Il est arrivé” meant – that the Beaujolais nouveau had arrived.  Pretty much the cola version of red wine, it went down quite easily.  

But this?  Only for kitsch value, sorry.

h/t Why Travel to France.

A sudden interest in pet product branding . . .

Why are my kids suddenly pondering the potential for confusion between PetSmart and Petco?

Here’s why:

Meet Reggie.  That’s short for Regina Lampert, Audrey Hepburn’s character in one of our favorite movies, Charade.  There’s a lot more than a new world of branding for me here – so this old dog will be learning some new tricks.  Stay tuned!

Destination: Paris et les jeux de mots

I love wordplay.  I wouldn’t call myself a master, but dilettante? Sure.  So one thing I enjoyed observing in Paris was how the French employ multi-layered and even multilingual wordplay to create product and business names.  This shop was on our way to the bus:

Took me two days to figure it out: Harry Cover?  Well, if you pronounce it with a French accent, it’s haricots verts, or green beans.  Great name for a produce shop, and the figues were delicious.

Then there’s my kids’ favorite non-patisserie snack – Pom’Potes.  Where do I begin?  Well, there’s pomme, which means apple, compote which is the same in English, and pote, which is slang for “pal.”  Put it all together and you get a name that’s cute and catchy.

Not a play on words, but a product name in which my daughters reveled?  Pschitt, a light and refreshing lemon-lime soda.  Click on that link and you’ll see that its makers realize what an entertaining name it is too.

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.

Retaliatory branding? Pourquoi pas?

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. A French vintner was frustrated with complaints that the wines of his region, Languedoc-Roussillon, were crap.  So he created “Le vin de merde” – shit or crap wine.  Apparently it’s not half bad, and that fly on the label adds that certain quelle heure est-il, non?

So the irony here is that the wine sold out almost immediately.  But I just love the connoisseurs in this video who taste the wine and pronounce it palatable.  Real French Joe Sixpacks.  And the slogan is nice too – “le pire . . . cache le meilleur” — the worst hides the best.  Hey, a votre santé!

Brilliant Political Advertising

John Aravosis at is one of several to report today that the Obama campaign has bought advertising in Xbox 360 games, within the games themselves: 

My kids inform me that Obama advertising has been appearing online at the Neopets website and at the Merriam-Webster online site (Confession: though I do encourage them to use the New Oxford American Dictionary, with its masterful editing, sometimes they’re too lazy to grab the hefty tome). 

As they say in the old country, this is saichel.  The technology is there for the using, and that’s just what the Obama campaign is doing.

Planning Fall Break

Fall break is fast upon us, so the logistics of our upcoming trip to Paris with the grandparents (yes, we are extremely lucky) are occupying my time.  I was trying to figure out how best to get us from the airport to our apartment, and this slogan caught my fancy:

Translation: “The whole world is our guest.”  Génial!

Turns out my favorite museum, the Jacquemart-André (love the café), has a “buy three, get one kid’s admission free” plan.  That will work!

Stay tuned . . .

The feta cheese precedent

Found this tidbit about a Lebanese plot to attack Israel over misappropriation of tasty food items on Above the Law.  This article is an amazing example about how intellectual property rights and decisions relating to them can be misconstrued at every level – from the party seeking vindication of a right to the media reporting on the topic. 

The article and the assertions in it are simply inarticulate.  There is a reference to a “food copyright”; a reference to foods that “the Lebanese considered their trademarks”; the notion that an EU decision on feta as a geographic indication is precedential in Lebanon and/or Israel (it could be – but I couldn’t find any authority to support it); and the claim that because foods such as tabouleh, kubbeh, hummus, falafel and fattoush had been produced in Lebanon prior to Israel’s establishment, Lebanon has the right to be their sole producer.  (Since Lebanon attained statehood only five years before Israel did, and those foods were clearly being made in those lands (and others) perhaps even centuries before the establishment of today’s borders, this claim is feeble). The conclusion that “the Lebanese Industrialists Association is working on registering all the foods and ingredients and submitting a report to the Lebanese government since only it can appeal to the international courts against Israel and ‘prevent it from stealing the foods that others produce'” — well, it’s breathtaking.

Can’t we all just get along and enjoy a good meal?

Nothing new under the sun.

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while, so excuse me if it’s not breaking news.  Am I the only geek who noticed that Home Depot’s slogan, “You can do it. We can help,” was long ago a slogan for Diet Pepsi?  And am I the only one who can still sing the Diet Pepsi jingle that used the slogan?  I can’t find musical evidence online, but here’s a UK quiz  showing how weak the slogan is there.

Lame name, unappealing concept

Meet Kraft’s new Bagel-fuls


Completely lame name, and from a trademark perspective it’s always risky to have a plural trademark that you’re compelled to use in the singular.  But that’s not important now.  Rather, let me thrill you with Kraft’s own description of why the hell anyone would want cream-cheese stuffed bagel tubes: “Bagel-fuls are one example of how we are reframing our categories. Part of this strategy includes making our products more relevant by understanding key consumer trends, like quick meals – and their impact on our business.”  Color me ignorant, I just thought food was there to sustain and nourish you.  Don’t get me wrong;  I confess to buying some packaged and portion-controlled foods for convenience’s sake along with the rest of America.  But somehow a food item that either appears to have had its genesis in a focus group or an inside joke or dare is just not that appealing to me.  And the visual of a woman delightedly consuming this decidedly non-bagel shaped product while another woman looks on with envy?  Yeah, I figured that one out too.  Suffice to say, when my husband and I saw this commercial our visceral response was “Ewwwwwwwwww.”  Your mileage may vary.

An article both accurate and mouth-watering

I consider it my duty to give credit where it’s due, and to point out accurate analyses of intellectual property rights by non-IP geeks.  Corby Kummer does an excellent job in this article about bread wars; or, what happens when collaborators in a recipe split up.  Kummer makes clear that neither a recipe nor a method of making bread is subject to protection, and that apart from a catchy and non-descriptive name, trademark protection isn’t available either.  Indeed, Kummer quotes baker Jim Lahey as saying “rather than squabble, bakers should do their best to help each other increase sales and steal back sales from the industrial producers that caught on to the idea that “artisanal” bread sells.”  Hmm . . . should the fashion industry take a slice from the bakers’ loaf instead of clamoring for protection of clothing designs?

Political Meta-Commentary; or, Destination: Pueblo

“Change isn’t just a slogan.”  That’s Barack Obama today in New Mexico, commenting on John McCain’s recent habit of swiping Obama slogans.  It’s an interesting push-pull on the descriptiveness issue: Obama, by providing concrete evidence of the changes he hopes to make as President (e.g., on health care), uses “change” descriptively and comparatively.  McCain’s use, on the other hand, is suggestive to the extent he’s not offering proposals for change – yet descriptive if we’re looking at his flipflopping on issues

Now for a gratuitous Obama photo, taken Monday in Pueblo, Colorado:

I figure that Obama’s repeated mention of McCain’s slogan theft is a faint but legitimate excuse for introducing more political discussion on a trademark blog.  Plus, in the immortal words of Queen Elizabeth in BlackAdder, “who’s Queen?”

UPDATE: Adding this video about the change issue called “Senator Obama, closed captioned for the badass-impaired.” 23/6 is a great resource for campaign snark. 

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 . . .

A Political Genericness Refusal

I say this over and over again: Certain terms and ideas are not capable of exclusive appropriation by one party as trademarks.  Keith Olbermann gives a stellar real-life example of my oft-repeated maxim in the context of what he sees as one party – here, the Republican party – attempting to appropriate for itself as its brand the tragedy of September 11, 2001. 

Kudos to Keith for his grasp of what a trademark is, and more importantly, for his insightful message.