Whatt?

Often times, marketers will slightly doctor the spelling of a common word to give their brand some distinctiveness and additional meaning. Doing so can also help (or even be required) to gain an enforceable trademark, as trademark law does not allow for terms that are simply descriptive.

This one is sort of silly, however. It’s a restaurant called “Eatt” (sic) that recently opened around the corner from my office. It’s actually a great place. Or should that be “greatt”? Too bad the naming and branding regime sort of stinks. I hope it doesn’t hurt the fundamental business proposition, but it might. This stuff matters.

When Imitation Isn’t So Flattering

If the track on this new Weber Grill commercial  sounds vaguely familiar, it is because it is a shameless and flagrant attempt to replicate the style, songwriting, and energy of the Black Eyed Peas without actually having to pay them. Think of it as sort of a store brand generic of the real thing. Horrible!!!! (For those of you scoring at home, the track is called “You Light Me Up,” by some band called “Open Sky”). What is Weber’s goal here- to dupe consumers? Save a few bucks by hiring a cheaper studio band? That’s pretty cynical, and it’s a pretty bad business practice. First, I doubt they are really fooling anyone. Second, we know the Black Eyed Peas are very commercially savvy, have put a lot into building their brand and reputation, and this has “copyright infringement lawsuit” written all over it. I would guess that their lawyers have sent a few nastygrams to Weber already.

As an aside, the whole “look at these fat people dancing, isn’t that funny” thing has also been done a million times, another sign that the Weber team was more intent on ripping off other people’s ideas than creating new ones. They make great grills though- I am a happy and enthusiastic owner of one. It’s another reason this bums me out.

Anyway, loving a good pan as I do, I am still laughing at this reaction to the new commercial posted on a message board by a consumer: “Two thumbs down, and middle finger up to the marketing team that came up with this.” Well put!

If you think honesty doesn’t sell, by the way, check out the eye popping business results for the new Domino’s campaign from Crispin Porter + Bogusky, which admirably (and brilliantly) recognized the giant elephant in the room and basically said “okay, we know you think our pizza sucks, so we made it better.”  How refreshing- and how effective.

The integrity issue aside, let’s hope that more clients and agencies turn to forthrightness simply because they want to build better brands. We would all benefit from it.

Will it fly?

I have to say that it is very wise that the powers that be behind the United/Continental merger announced today decided to retain the “United” name, and not go with some sort of awful hybridized or hyphenated name, or even worse some new name of dubious meaning… but that is one @*#& hideous looking airplane right there.

Looks like the United name stays, but so does the Continental design identity. They should have just picked one whole branding regime and gone with it!

I’m perplexed. Does the above illustration mean that a United pilot will retain control of the wings, fuselage, and engines, but a Continental guy maneuvers the tail?

It is historically risky business to play mix-and-match with brands and design elements when a number of entities come together… or generally, for that matter. By definition there is no design integrity, and it can lead to confusion. The merger between JP Morgan and Chase provides another example, although that time, they apparently decided, “aw screw it, let’s just mash everything together.” In the logo below, the circular rotating thingy is derived from Chase, and I think the typeface is derived from JP Morgan.

I think it’s sort of lame, actually. It reflects the inability to make a real decision.

Of course, there is one particularly famous example of doing a Frankenstein combo job on a number of different design elements, and having it work beautifully (I guess I should specify, have the new design work beautifully… some cynics might say the jury is still out on the rest!)

It’s the Union Jack… a very clever combination of the flags of England, Scotland, and St. Patrick’s cross (an older Irish symbol) to signify the United Kingdom.

Unfortunately for design enthusiasts, if that preliminary airplane rendering above is any indication, this new United/Continental merger is no Union Jack. Let’s see if my spell checker picks up “fugly” (yep)

-PE

Ridiculously Ridiculous

My wife and I had the privilege of dining at a terrific new restaurant in Chicago called Sunda earlier this week. The dessert- one of the best I have ever had- reminded me of an unintentionally amusing but nevertheless telling comment that NBC hockey commentator Ed Olcyzk made in reference to a goalie playing the game of his life: “Just… tremendously tremendous.” Said dessert is also a great branding example, which is why it appears in this blog.

First, about the dessert. It’s basically deep fried ice cream, but tricked up (as if deep frying ice cream weren’t enough). It was nearly an out of body experience. Interestingly and brilliantly, the restaurant labeled this item “The Ridiculous.” They branded it! And an apt name at that. The waiter AND owner stopped by our table and asked us how our Ridiculous was. It was… well… ridiculously ridiculous.

A much more memorable experience than if it were simply “deep fried ice cream.” The name added a dimension to the experience. And… it can be ownable to Sunda if they go so far as to trademark it, as they probably should. Superb example of adding value by branding, even in unexpected places.

Great Product, Berry Disappointing Brand

For those of you who have ever had the good fortune of indulging in Berry Chill yogurt, a new concept launched in the Chicago area not that long ago, you might agree with me that this is honestly one of the greatest edible products of all time. I am not being sarcastic at all. This stuff tastes phenomenal and is really just… different, in a good way. The flavors are distinctive. The serving idea of being able to dress it up with Oreos, M&M’s etc. is genius. From a nutritional standpoint, incredibly, the stuff is so healthy it’s almost even good for you. Even the serving utensils and bowls are distinctive and quite user friendly. This is a truly spectacular product… and quite unique to the marketplace, too.

So why, oh why (sniffle, reach for the Kleenex here) did the owners have to go and brand it “Berry Chill”? I am concerned, mainly as a fanatical consumer, because I want this product to be around forever… and the lackluster name can’t be helping the enterprise sustain itself over the long haul. The reason I don’t like the name is that it is really just descriptive. Actually, because of this descriptiveness, I’m surprised they were able to even get awarded a federal trademark for it (and it looks like it really took some doing, based on the publicly available records at the USPTO). Oddly enough, they way they contextualize their product- “Yogurt Couture”- is much better. Maybe that could be a primary brand option.

So much opportunity here. The company hasn’t been around for very long so it’s probably not too late to change to a handle worthy of the mindbogglingly great product.

– PE

Who dat getting a cease and desist letter?

Maybe there's a reason his identity is concealed

File under, “incredibly rare example of attorneys at a huge oganization known for its aggressiveness actually standing down.”

In the IP community, there was much hubbub about the NFL reportedly trying to crack down on the famous “Who Dat?” slogan being used liberally and freely by New Orleans Saints fans. At first, reportedly, the NFL claimed the trademark as their own… that is, until a brave contingent of Saints fans pointed out that based on the use date that establishes rights, the mark had oh… about a 100 year head start on the NFL itself. Or something like that.

I’m sure the NFL could have dug in and tried to make a case out of it– and I am all for hawkishly enforcing brand rights and cracking down on infringers, generally– but this one didn’t pass the smell test. Credit to the NFL and their attorneys for recognizing this, doing the right thing, and changing course. I think the idea of “open source” has been terribly misused and in many ways the concept is the antithesis of enforceable IP rights, but sometimes if there is a passionate group of people who want to use a mark… especially if there isn’t a slam dunk legal case… LET ‘EM!

If the NFL were to view the same development a bit differently, what started as a “shock & awe” campaign of legal letters might have instead started as a marketing effort and community outreach opportunity. Next time!

– PE

Bees Knees

This is my second post here, and I can already tell that I am going to have to really work hard to strike as even a balance as possible between citing great branding work and panning the heck out of things. Sometimes it’s just plain more fun to go after the clunkers.

Anyway, I absolutely love this Haagen-Dazs work. Hats off to the Goodby Silverstein crew and a forward-looking client team behind this. Of course, there is great strategy and imagination behind this, beautiful design work, and superb integration of the idea onto all touch points… no surprise, with Goodby involved. What really struck me, however, is that this is such a good example of branding and intellectual property strategy merging… a subject of great interest to me. Note the TM on the logomark, for example. “HD heart HB” is not just a great idea, that led to a great name and a great design, and a great website … it is an IP regime, and it’s ownable and defensible. Terrific.

Sometimes being a combination brand guy and citizen consumer can be depressing, because there is so much really bad and uninspired creative product out there. Revelations like the Haagen-Dazs honeybee effort, however, make me glad I chose this field as a profession.

Full disclosure: I like bees and all things apiary. I find bees to be extremely interesting and compelling creatures. This factor probably helped draw my attention to the Haagen-Dazs effort, but honestly, I really like it for the design and IP factors I mention.

– PE