Name Awards Professional Commentary on Company Names, Product Brands and Business Names

Tag Archives: Brighter Products

Connections And “Connections”

In a previous post (“Give a Man a Fish…”) I concluded with a promise to do a post in the spirit of James Burke’s great Connections television series, in which he showed the little-known historical connections among various scientific and technological advances. Fans of our sister blog, Brighter Products, are aware that I’ve done a few like this already (see, for example, “Where Is Blake Edwards Now That We Really Need Him?”), but this time I’m going to see if I can top myself, and do James Burke proud.

Politico? Fashionista? You make the call.

Starting with Yuengling beer. This has come on to our radar for several reasons. For one thing, we had mentioned it in the Brighter Products post “…Not Only Queerer Than We Suppose, But Queerer Than We Can Suppose.”. For another, Athol noticed that Dan Daub, Mayor of Tower City, PA, wore a cowboy hat crafted from a box of his hometown beer, Yuengling, at the Republican National Convention.

Apparently, Athol spotted this in the context of his interest in hard-to-pronounce (or spell) Chinese names. I have the advantage of being a Pennsylvania native, and knew at least the rough outlines of why he was off-base; for more, here’s an excerpt from the Wikipedia Yuengling page:

“Yuengling is pronounced YING-ling, and is an Anglicized version of Jüngling, its founder’s surname and the German term for “young man”. Many Americans who aren’t familiar with the brand often mistake it for a Chinese import because the name Yuengling sounds Chinese when pronounced correctly.”

So—not every Chinese (or even “Chinese”) name is hard to pronounce. In fact, an easy-to-pronounce Chinese name is at the top of my personal list of Reverse and Perverse Winning Names. These are names, often from family names of the founder, that all but scream: “This has to be a good product, because nobody would ever try it based on the brand name.” My favorite? If you ever find yourself in Hawaii, do yourself the favor of trying Yick Lung (yep—pronounced “Yick Lung”) potato chips. Their barbecue chips are the best I’ve ever had.

Other strong contenders include two now-defunct outfits: Crass Soda, and another gem from the Keystone State, Harshbarger’s Dairy. IMO, the slogan “Harshbarger’s—A Lactose-Intolerant’s Worst Nightmare” all but writes itself.

Athol did a little research and found that I should have another one in this category: Fekkai, which I had ripped in the post “Congratulations, Kraft, You’re Off the Schneid!

Turns out that Frédéric Fekkai is an immigrant of French-Algerian background, has had a successful salon in New York City, and is now going national with his products.

Early naming pioneers often doubled as optometrists to make ends meet

I stand by my criticism of the brand name, however, and will surprise Athol by deviating from my usual right wing, pro-free-market political stances. I would argue that the all-time greatest naming agency used to be run by the Federal Government. It was called Ellis Island. (Great at slogans, too, but “Giving the hairy and garlicky a fighting chance in the New Jerusalem since 1892” is way too P.I. for today’s mealy-mouthed history books.)

To fully appreciate the value of the services that Ellis Island used to provide, consider the following counterfactual: Frédéric Fekkai moved from France to New York in 1979, and is just now (2012) launching his products nationwide. Had he had to go through Ellis Island, by now every second home in the U.S. would have Figby’s Shampoo in the bathroom, and Figby, Inc. would have bought out rival Garnier Nutrisse. I bring up the latter just to see if anyone agrees with my contention that Garnier Nutrisse is an okay name for a shampoo, but a GREAT name for a really gay secret agent. Think Paul Lynde instead of Sean Connery (younger readers: Carson Kressley instead of Daniel Craig): “Nutrisse…Garnier Nutrisse.”

Least likely to be caught wearing a cowboy hat made out of beer cartons.

The Reverse and Perverse category is not original with me; I was introduced to the concept in an article I read some time ago, which cited the example of Hellman’s Mayonnaise, a brand name that left no doubt that, at one point, there really was a Mr. Hellman mixing up batches of this stuff. “Hellman’s” couldn’t possibly have been the output of naming consultants and focus groups—unlike, say, the bland, near-generic Best Foods brand.

The hipper readers are already on to this one: Best Foods and Hellman’s are exactly the same product, with the two brands used in different geographic areas (see their shared Wikipedia page). I happened to be thinking about this as I ran across some actual Hellman’s—not Best Foods—mayo in a recent run to Grocery Outlet.

Grocery Outlet is worthy of a full post on its own. Short version: it’s a Western-states deep-discount grocery chain specializing in bargain-priced overstocks and closeouts. Their opportunistic (their word, not mine) buyers wind up stocking their shelves with products from just about everywhere. On my first visit, I wound up with a bottle of house brand Winn-Dixie salad dressing. The closest Winn-Dixie supermarket is in Louisiana. I still have no idea how that bottle made it to the Bay Area.

Grocery Outlet’s god-like purchasing staff scoff at constraints of time and space.

But Hellman’s and Winn-Dixie aren’t the prize winner: that honor goes to Authentic Asia™ Tom Yum Soup (mentioned in Brighter Products post “M-m-m-m-m…Meat!”), which, according to the Authentic Asia™ web site, isn’t even sold on this continent…but that didn’t stop the adventurous types at Grocery Outlet.

So it will come as no surprise that Grocery Outlet is the global, cosmopolitan outfit that enabled me to join the august company of Brighter Products’ wine expert, Deep Creek CellarsPaul Roberts, in tasting an Argentine Malbec.

Regret to say, I came away rather unimpressed by the 2009 Espiritu de Argentina. On the other hand, we probably should consider that:

1. The wine cost $2.99 a bottle

2. It had a screw-top.

3. I bought it at Grocery Outlet, for Pete’s sake!

Do the kinds of things in the list above affect our judgment of consumer goods such as wine? You betcha, Red Ryder. A number of studies have been done, showing different reactions to exactly the same wine, when presented as priced higher or lower, or as coming from different places (California vs. North Dakota), or simply with a fancy vs. plain label. (The last one was what got me started on this, from a Science Channel program that I saw on cable, but was unable to locate on their web site…Science Channel, please contact SV Marketeerfor web design services.)

More enjoyable: $3.99 or $8.50?

In fairness, I decided to push the boat out a bit by springing for a $3.99 bottle of the 2011 Falling Star Malbec. IMO, a slight improvement over the Espiritu de Argentina, but it’s also from Grocery Outlet, and also with a screw top, so my expectations weren’t overwhelming. Would I have liked it more had I purchased it on-line from the Wine Legacy web site, where it enjoys a better review, and goes for $8.50 a bottle? Depends; the findings from the Wired Science study, and the logic of Art Poulos in Brighter Products post “Tetter and Kibes” point in opposite directions.

So…if you’re in the wine business, you need to pay attention to marketing and packaging, as well as the quality of what goes into the bottles. You know who else knows this? The Chinese! I recently participated in a Mechanical Turk study that asked my opinion of various candidate labels for Chinese wine. Fortunately, no one had the bad taste to suggest “The East Is Red”.

And…those of you who have been paying careful attention will note that we started with Chinese/”Chinese” names for adult beverages…and are winding up on the same!

Over to you, Mr. Burke.

–Greg Marus

“Your Egg Cream’s Up, Mr. Leary!”

No nuts…no problem!

So I get an e-mail from Athol, sharing with me the breaking news that there are not now, nor have there ever been, any nuts in the well-respected coffee brand, Chock Full o’ Nuts.

I had never assumed that there were any nuts in Chock Full o’ Nuts coffee, much in the way that I don’t look for nuts in my Grape Nuts. Nor grapes, for that matter. (The foregoing illustrates the concept of “First liar doesn’t stand a chance.”)

No grapes, neither…and we’re jake with that…

In the days prior to naming consultants like Athol, and web sites like Brighter Naming, lots of names came from the product inventors and manufacturers themselves, for reasons unique, idiosyncratic, and/or whimsical.

However, when C.W. Post his own self came up with “Grape Nuts”, I sincerely doubt that one of his motives was to see how much he could get away with under First Amendment protections. I don’t think the same can be said for the charlatans who gave us Country Time Lemonade Mix, a brand notable for a) its homey, evocative name; b) its pitch-perfect commercials, showing Gramps on the porch of the family farm house; and c) 0% lemon content. (Adding to the weirdness…this stuff is apparently made by, of all companies, Kraft Foods. See “It Wasn’t Broke, but We’ll Fix It…and Fix It GOOD” on our sister blog, Brighter Products.)

..but this really should have some lemon…

And for Pete’s sake, why is there even such a thing as “lemonade mix”? Lemonade is water, sugar, lemons and ice cubes—and you have to add two of those ingredients to the mix anyway! I mean, are we turning into a nation of—

Sorry—but this loops me back to the title. Comedian-actor Denis Leary is—with all due respect to Messrs Miller and Maher—the go-to guy for a truly politically incorrect rant. One of my favorites is his take on flavored coffees. He gets some at the 7-11, tells the clerk some foul-up poured maple syrup into the coffee pot, gets informed of “the flavor of the day”…and winds up with his plans for a restaurant that serves 4 items: steaks, whisky, cigarettes, and BLACK COFFEE.

Denis Leary, Curmudgeon Emeritus


I’d like a reservation, even if the non-smoking area is of the jazz-club variety (i.e., the first six inches above the floor.)

So that’s the reference to Mr. Leary; “egg cream” is left as an exercise for the reader.

–Greg Marus

Word Association

Word association can be the test of a compelling branding and marketing campaign. If I say “Kleenex”…you say “tissue”. If I say “Xerox”…you say “copy.”

The late, great Carroll Shelby…

Now if I say “Shelby”…I have to give a disclaimer about blatant, politically incorrect gender bias. I assume that members of the fairer sex are going to say “Huh?” The guys will all say “Cobra”.

Three reasons for this post: one, we recently ran a post on sister site Brighter Products about cult brands. (See “…Not Only Queerer Than We Suppose, But Queerer Than We Can Suppose.”) Two, the late, great designer, hot rodder, and entrepreneur Carroll Shelby recently passed away (aged 89, on May 10, 2012.) And, three…well, normally I’m immune to status symbols and cult brands. My $25 Casio works as well, if not better, than your pricey Breitling or Cartier. But when it comes to cars…my limited edition, first model year Shelby CSX is (last I looked) still running.

…his Cobra…

Shelby is also interesting as a contender for the title of Oddest Combination of Unrelated Products Under the Same Brand. Outside of cars and racing, his other claim to fame was his…chili mix.

…and his chili mix.

Have to say, though, that the “winnah and still champeen” in this division has to be the inimitable Fleischmann’s. Though various sales and mergers have divided up the ownership of this brand, I find the search engine results somewhere between amusing and amazing, as the first page gives you hits for their big 3: yeast, margarine, and gin. (Though the last is an ad from a distributor, not the current parent company, Sazerac. And, the first page had a new one even to me: Fleischmann’s vinegar.)

Fleischmann’s…not just for baking.

Apparently, somewhere out there, someone is pulling a loaf of home-made bread out of the oven, slathering a slice with margarine, and washing it down with a Gibson.

–Greg Marus

P.S. For another take on iconic names, have a look at Jess Holden’s post “The Right Names Go Down in History” on another of our sister sites, Brighter Naming.

“It’s a naive domestic black frock without any breeding, but I think you’ll be amused by its presumption.”

At our sister blog, Brighter Products, we cover consumer goods ranging from fashion to wine, so we were excited when we spotted the news that researchers at the University of Western Australia had found a way to create clothing from wine and beer. The fabric is the end result of some processes that begin with “a skin-like rubbery layer covering a vat of wine that was contaminated with Acetobacter bacteria.”

What pushed this over into NameAward territory was the realization that, if they ever manage to get this going on a commercial scale, they’ll need a name and brand that will convince people to don clothes made from what could be described as an upscale cousin of pond scum.

Mysophobic..and proud of it!

We think these guys got off to a good start, by calling the new fabric Micro’be’. Funny punctuation is always a risky move in a name, but this one seems to cue pronunciation as “micro-bee” rather than “mike-robe”. It does at least start the process of imparting information about the provenance of this new product. Let’s face it: you really don’t want to be the guy at the returns counter when some trendies find out how this was made after they bought it. Looks like some similar thinking went into the slogan these characters have already cooked up: ‘Microbes à la mode’.

Some free marketing advice to our friends Down Under: this really will pose a challenge when you try to go mainstream and mass-market so we suggest “casting against type” for your celebrity endorser—figuring if Howie Mandel will wear it, anyone will. But there might not be enough Australian dollars in circulation to persuade the world’s most notorious mysophobe to slip into an outfit made of Micro’be’.

–Greg Marus

Throw in “God”, and You’ve Got the Trifecta

Query: if you just ran across a publication called Garden & Gun, do you think it would be more likely:

A. To have articles like “Mayor Bloomberg’s Rooftop Organic Vegetables” and “MAC-10s Making a Big Comeback in The Bronx”; or

B. Be the sponsor of the “Made in the South Awards” contest?

Got to love the way this 3-word name tells you all you need to know about this publication’s (highly politically incorrect) target audience of affluent, Southern, NRA supporters.

This is actually the third time we’ve noticed Garden & Gun. The first was as a source of information on (of all things) Coca-Cola bottled in Mexico (see “José Bové, Your McBaguette Is Ready!”, a post on our sister blog Brighter Products.)

The second was when we spotted characters reading the magazine on the (recently cancelled) ABC series GCB. “Satire is what closes Saturday night…” George S. Kaufmann had that right; what he didn’t realize was that Dancing With the Stars just goes on forever.

–Greg Marus

P.S. For those interested in the Made in the South Awards, check out this post on one of our other sister blogs, Brand Name Awards.