I saw the funniest commercial the other week, the only thing was I don’t believe it was supposed to be funny.
It was one of those five-minute, 3 O’Clock in the morning spots for a bathroom de-mister product called “Fog-off!”
Said really quickly it was enough to bring a smile to the face of the 14-year old boy who takes control of me from time to time. (OK every few minutes.) The more the announcer said the product name the more I laughed. I wanted to call the 1-800 number just to hear the person on the other end say: “Hello, Fog-off!”
I would dearly love to be a fly on the wall in the boardroom, imagine the fun:
“Jenkins, Fog-off University; Fog-off for Mom’s and Fog-off
.. how are we doing?”
"Fog-U, Mother-Fogger and Fog-off.. are all performing well Sir.”
A lot rides on selecting the perfect brand name.
At the corporate brand wonderland that is Kraft Foods, naming a brand is done with the greatest of precision and a sense for the literal that would impress a Jehovah’s Witness. A new ranch salad dressing line that is light and tasty, with a refreshing hint of turmeric would be launched as: ‘New Kraft Light and Tasty Ranch Dressing with a Refreshing Hint of Turmeric,’ giving your average consumer a migraine, and the poor package designer a challenge as big as, well, the last brand that was launched by said company, BUT it played well with the focus groups. God forbid that the customer should become confused by needless creativity.
I love brand names that leave you wondering what the heck they were thinking. Brands like ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’. I look forward to their line extensions:
‘Oh my God, I can’t believe you’re going to eat that crap!’
‘Is that a heart attack you’re having or a simulated butter taste?’
I would buy this stuff just to impress my friends.
Brand names can have a power over us. Think of the uber-brands (not the taxi service but the bona-fide mega-brands) of the world. With smart crafting and a billion dollars in marketing you can make people pay more for your products with just a sexy wink of their name. Think of Starbucks. That name has people paying $4 for a coffee, and even more amazingly carry their marketing to the streets in the shape of cardboard cups.
I'm also impressed when brand names become product category names, for instance:
“Pass me the Post-it-notes Nancy.”
“Give me a Kleenex Bob,”
“Are you finished with that Kalashnikov Sergei?.”
I had my own moment of brand naming lunacy a few years ago. I opened a small production company in Chicago, we called “Spot The Monkey,” for no other reason that we couldn’t think of what to call ourselves. After Lake Shore Films and Chicago Film Institute etc. our Kraft literalness began to make us wince. We wrote Spot The Monkey as placeholder and it stuck. Within 24 hours we could not imagine our little empire being anything else. Even the IRS called to find out if we were for real! (True.) It was rather like naming one’s kids--even now I cannot imagine my wonderful daughterMeghan being any other than Meghan. Ditto Spot The Monkey!
That leads me to nonsense names. Google! Yelp! McDonald's!
I like the fact that, with familiarity, these names become to mean something.
Here's a list of product names that you can use immediately.
I promise my trademark lawyer will not be in touch.
Brand names that make me laugh are the best. Hence my glee when only yesterday I saw a commercial for a company called ‘Tuff Shed!’
“You want a place to store your tools? Well Tuff Shed buddy.”
14-year old boy summarily amused.