I spent my junior year of college in Paris, on Middlebury College’s year abroad program. It was an amazing, eye-opening, exciting and educational year. I made friends who are among my closest today; I honed my French, became an honorary Paris native, saw old movies, learned how to drink – basically all one could want from a year abroad.
It’s clear to me now that my destiny as a trademark lawyer was being forged even back then – back in the early 80s, long before I thought about law school. Why? Because I was obsessed with the (then and now) hilarious English-esque brands adopted by French companies. This one never failed to elicit gales of laughter:
We native English speakers simply couldn’t resist genericizing the term, e.g., “where should we flunch?” Yet somehow, we could never bring ourselves to flunch at Flunch. Grim fast food just wasn’t on our agenda, which probably predicted the foodies some of us are today. I’m still always amazed by the throngs in Paris at Flunch and McDo’ and their ilk. I can’t believe Flunch is still alive – but I’m glad it is so that I can relive the chuckles of my college days.
Levy summer vacation time! Yippee! This year, Paris via Copenhagen. Why Copenhagen again? Because we loved it last summer, and it was the cheapest fare from Denver. Our girls loved Tivoli, we rekindled our romance with herring at Restaurant Amalie, and generally cracked ourselves up at the incomprehensible and impenetrable Danish language.
Also, chewy candy cars:
Stay tuned for more European branding antics!
I think we’re moving past pink and frilly to encouraging full-on addiction:
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!
I’ll grant you there’s a potential for innuendo here (if you’re twelve, and I still am), but given how it appears one is supposed to use this, at least the lay versus lie problem is addressed correctly:
Not sure how I feel about this Breckenridge shop from a 43(a) standpoint:
False suggestion of a connection? Not visually, with those emphatically-non-Muppet characters, but aurally? Discuss amongst yourselves.
As if the placement of this display of paperware right in between Manischewitz matzo and Gefen tuna in the Passover aisle of my local King Sooper’s weren’t sufficiently offensive, check out the brand name of the paper products:
I’m guessing that the store’s large Orthodox customer base won’t let the display remain there for long. As far as the brand name, though – that’s sheer coincidence.
Spotted at a construction site in Breckenridge, CO:
If you think my husband and I did not immediately break into song when we saw this, you just don’t know us.
Call it the Colorado mindset, but I am finding this legend on my new favorite breakfast item a mite suggestive:
But with 2015’s marijuana sales in Colorado hitting nearly a billion dollars in revenue, and taxes on that revenue going to school construction projects, I’m happy to toast that!
Women, that is. And in light of today’s high-stakes oral argument in the Supreme Court over access to abortion , I am posting again because Ithink it worthwhile to highlight this excellent marketing campaign for an IUD:
SKYLA as a mark is youthful, calling to mind the (IMHO incomprehensible but whatever) millennial craze for the name “Skylar” (and its equally icky spelling variants). But what I really like here is the “Plans prioritized” tagline. It’s an alliterative tribute to Planned Parenthood, while at the same time being nicely communicative.
Reproductive rights are human rights, and I am hopeful the Supremes will continue to recognize that fact and turn the states away from their march to the back alleys of the past.
Doesn’t this ad really just say “hey, ladies, it’s okay to drink alone?”
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but why not make it explicit rather than a hidden message on a bottle?
The big island of Hawaii: Hiking through Volcanoes National Park on ground younger than I am; unbelievable fresh fish; whale watching; the rainbow of tropical fish visible to even the novice snorkeler … basically, it’s paradise.
Also, if you forgot your own, you can buy or rent one, apparently:
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:
Apparently, others are on to the caca too.
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:
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!
Catching up again … Great trademarks, in my view, suggest something interesting about the product they’re designating, without telling the consumer exactly what the product is. These two magazine names are among the best I’ve ever seen:
This is King Arthur Flour’s magazine, and I can’t think of a more evocative name to convey the magazine’s mission – to provide baking information and inspiration. SIFT is an example of a mark that, while it is indeed descriptive of a microscopic and discrete aspect of the goods/services identified, nonetheless effectively communicates something evocative about what it identifies, yet without describing what the goods are.
So all hail King Arthur for SIFT!
In a different vein, we have LUCKY PEACH:
What a great magazine name! At best all I can get from the title is that it might have something to do with food; when I look up their website I see a standard food and cooking site. Yet at the same time, any website that runs a feature on the snackability of Trader Joe’s offerings is right up my alley. So as a brand junkie, I can state with confidence that I am far more likely to grab an issue of LUCKY PEACH off the rack at Whole Foods than I am to pick up Real Simple or Bon Appétit.
Don’t get me wrong – as the daughter of a charter subscriber to both New York and Automobile magazines, I understand the value of a descriptive name for a magazine. But sometimes, breaking free from descriptiveness can work for a magazine, I promise!
Apologies for the hiatus. Getting daughter #2 into college is no less time-consuming than #1 was. Stay tuned.
So here’s something from a weekend in Ventura, California this summer:
Crappy photography, but it’s Wienerschnitzel, “The World’s Largest Hot Dog Chain.” Ummm, isn’t Wiener Schnitzel that delicious dish of breaded and pounded veal made famous in Vienna (hence Wiener)? Why yes it is. How did we get from veal to drive-through hot dogs? Well, we borrowed wiener for hot dog long ago and its use was made ubiquitous in the Oscar Mayer Wiener jingle that pretty much anyone of a certain generation can sing start to finish. I am guessing that this is one of those situations where Americans hear a certain foreign phrase and use it irrespective of whether it means what they think it means. That is, they hear wiener and know they’ve heard wienerschnitzel so assume the two are related and why not name the wiener joint something that sounds foreign?
Well, they are related, but from a trademark perspective I actually think the name is deceptively misdescriptive! If I see a place called Wienerschnitzel, because I know what real Wiener Schnitzel is, I’m going to be disappointed when I find there’s none on the menu. But once again, I suspect I’m not the target demographic. And what those who haven’t tasted the real thing don’t know won’t hurt them.
Apropos of yesterday’s post, I was reminded of another business’s logo that cracked me up every time I drove by one of its construction sites:
Well, someone must’ve gotten the picture, so to speak, and the company has changed its name and logo. But if ever there were a logo to call to mind this immortal scene from Arrested Development, this one’s it!
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):
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!
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:
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.
Spotted in Denmark: Two brands that fall into the category that Nancy Friedman calls “imperative-verb business names.” I like to call them hortatory marks.
The first is the fabulous hotel we stayed in, STAY Copenhagen. No, the name wouldn’t work in the US. “Where’d you stay?” “STAY.” “No, I asked you.” You get the picture. No matter, it was a fantastic sleek, Danish modern (duh) hotel where they upgraded us to the penthouse suite for no apparent reason, and where we luxuriated in style with views of the up-and-coming neighborhood and the river. Not to mention the heartbreakingly attractive staff and the cute grocery store downstairs with fresh strawberries to die for … Okay, I digress. But STAY plays cute with its name, as you can see here on the Do Not Disturb sign:
And if you plunk around on its website, you’ll see they really leverage the “stay” wording, in a way that I’d hate for a US trademark client but can be much more permissive about where English doesn’t reign entirely supreme.
In the same imperative vein, we were exhorted to have lunch at Yo! Sushi at the Copenhagen airport:
My reaction? More like Yo! I’m still hungry but I have no money left!
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:
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.
* 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.