Name game

Watching the Oscars the other night, Mo’Nique’s “Best Supporting Actress” win got me thinking: what are the prerequisites to safely re-brand oneself by first name only? Mo’Nique (whose legal name is Monique Jackson) by all accounts delivered a masterpiece of a performance. The woman is obviously talented. But let’s be honest- a year ago or even a week ago, did she have the national recognition and star cachet to really merit the “mononame”?

Answer: it doesn’t matter, as long as you’re good.

I think the confidence and boldness of labeling yourself by your first name can almost imbue one with the aura of greatness and even be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hardly anyone had heard of a singer and dancer from Detroit named Madonna Louise Ciccone before she burst onto the scene as MADONNA. Same with Seattle Mariners superstar outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who broke convention (and possibly, the rules) when he had his first name, not last name, adorn the back of his official uniform jersey when he came over to the Major Leagues from Japan.

Here’s the catch, though. If you go with the “mononame” approach as a matter of conscious choice, you’d better be outstanding at what you do, and understand that the bar will be set high and stay there. Pretty risky move, as there is a fine line between confidence and cockiness, and if you’re on the wrong side of that line and fall a bit short on performance, look out!


That would be fed. reg. TM 2775910, for those of you scoring at home

Float like a butterfly, sting like a … brand?

One of the theses behind this blog is that, especially when it comes to commercial pursuits, everything has a label… all the world a brand.  That refers to people, too.

Here is one of many, many examples. A certain Muhammad Ali Enterprises LLC  is the legal federal registrant of the trademark “THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME,” in addition to the applicant for a derivative mark “G.O.A.T.” as an acronym. Presumably Mr. Ali would have some common law rights to “The Greatest…” anyway, via his frequent usage of the unique term well before filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Trademarking this term is nevertheless interesting, because as an allowed mark, by definition the term is taken out of the public domain for its specific categories, and belongs to Ali. He would have standing to go after infringers legally (as opposed to simply threatening beat the hell out of them, which is not as menacing today as it was in the 1960s).

So, Ali owns the mark. Of course, a trademark is of little value unless and until it is utilized in commerce. So… (bell rings) in this corner (visual: microphone drops down from the ceiling of the stadium, crowd hushed in anticipation, all eyes on the ring announcer), fighting out of the corporate offices of the M&M Mars food company in McLean, Virginia, wearing silver packaging adorned with clever sub-brands, and weighing in at about 12 ounces per item… SNACKS!!!

Yep, Mars rolled out some tasty munchables under the Ali “G.O.A.T.” brand. I actually know some of the folks behind the packaging and personally think it looks dynamite. I do think it is interesting to name any food product “Goat” even in acronym form and with a famous endorser, as actual goats are well known for eating garbage. Maybe I am overthinking it. Regardless, it does look great, and I have heard the actual product is pretty good too.

I am not sure how the G.O.A.T. food products are actually doing in the marketplace from a business perspective. The snack category is one of the toughest in the entire store, and Frito Lay is ironically enough the Muhammad Ali of their industry, having delivered knock out punches to new entrants for decades. I couldn’t immediately find any news on the G.O.A.T. food effort in my quick (about 5 seconds) search, which is a bit ominous for them. Nevertheless, the G.O.A.T. brand and subsequent launch does provide an interesting example of transforming people into products. As long as personalities have commercial aspirations, eg. until the end of time, they ought to think about that label.

Maybe a superstar boxer will emerge one day who can make an objective, fact-based claim that he, not Ali, is the greatest of all time.  If he wanted to get into the consumer products game, he’d have to call his brand “T.B.O.A.T.” (The Best of All Time), “R.R.R.R.G.” (Really Really Really Really Good), or something like that.

– PE