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Branding Letter “G” — Will Lightning Strike or Will Thunder Be Stolen?

Posted in Advertising, AlphaWatch, Branding, Food, Marketing, Sight, Television, Trademarks, Truncation

The makers of Gatorade® apparently like to engage consumers by asking questions. They used to ask, “Is it in You?” The “it” being Gatorade®, of course. Most recently, Gatorade® has embarked on a massive teaser ad campaign — apparently to re-brand Gatorade® — asking, “What is G?” — a question that begs answering in the mysterious ads.

You might be interested to know that trial attorneys are taught not to ask questions — at trial — if they don’t know the answer. A related and good rule of thumb for marketers might be: Don’t ask a question, if you don’t know and — perhaps more importantly — if you can’t own the answer.

This may be especially good advice when competitors and other sellers of related products are able to truthfully answer the question posed in their favor, and “steal your thunder,” or perhaps “lightning,” as the case may be. For example, just picture the makers of these beverage products collectively raising their glasses in answer to Gatorade’s bold question “What is G”?

G by G PURE ENERGY already is a federally registered trademark for an energy drink.

G already is a federally registered trademark for bottled water too.

G is a trademark approved for publication by the U.S. Trademark Office for soft drinks.

G3 is a federally registered trademark for fruit juice, not to be confused with Gatorade’s G2.

G5 is a federally registered trademark for soft drinks, again, not to be confused with G2.

G JUICE already is a federally registered trademark for sports drinks and other beverages.

G is a proposed trademark allowed by the U.S. Trademark Office for fruit drinks.

G ENERGY MADE FOR WOMEN is a federally registered trademark for fruit drinks.

ELIXIR G is a federally registered trademark for non-alcoholic cocktail mixes.

“EROTIC G-SPOT DRINK” is a federally registered trademark for sports and isotonic drinks.

ENERGIZING GIMME A G has been approved for publication as a trademark for energy drinks.

G GLEUKOS is a federally registered trademark for sports drinks.

Gee Whiz . . . and there are more Gs where these came from, but I think you get the point.

For more of a marketing critique of Gatorade’s alpha-truncation-re-brand, continue after the jump.

Even putting aside the unanswered legal questions in Gatorade’s truncation to a single letter, the makers of “G” — in the end — may be sorry they asked the bold question, not necessarily for legal reasons, but business reasons, after hearing the infinite number of possible responses to the question, many of them negative or otherwise unhelpful associations with the otherwise famous and dominant sports drink brand.

For example, the campaign already has been criticized for apparently ignoring “Gangsta” as one possible answer. Unbound Edition cleverly noted that “Gatorade Fumbles With Its G Spot”. How about a “G” of cocaine or some other illegal substance? As Bob Garfield of Ad Age recently posted: “In a world where X stands for Ecstasy and H stands for heroin, you’d better take care how you sling around your Gs.” Some apparently use “G” as an abbreviation for GHB, a/k/a “Liquid Ecstasy“. How long will it take the keepers of the Gatorade® brand to recognize the need to avoid having the iconic “Gatorade Shower” become an abbreviated “G Shower”, after recognizing that “G” is also an abbreviation for the word “Golden”? So, it is probably safe to say that the J (jury), so to speak, is still out on whether asking “What is G?” is an effective way to re-brand Gatorade®.

Finally, some have argued that any Gatorade® re-branding should have moved toward making the word mark synonymous with the Lightning Bolt logo. That is a topic for another day. In the meantime, to test this argument, you may want to check out my post concerning non-verbal logos that truly can stand alone. As for today, the “G” re-branding campaign seems to go way too far in attempting to “own” one of the twenty-six letters in the alphabet, especially so, with the crowded field demonstrated above. As Graphicology Blog aptly noted: “A couple spots cannot give meaning to a letter overnight, and I’m not sure many years of advertising can either.”

 

  • Great post! I’ve been thinking along these same lines. Still can’t quite figure out if they are really “re-branding” or just executing some visual design tweak that some graphic designer had. (The bottle still makes clear reference to Gatorade.) I guess time will tell if this is a transition from the full name to the short version or if they will resort back to the full name after this campaign has run its course.
    Still, amazing how (apparently) little thinking went into this execution. Between the trademark issues and the colloquial language issues, this name change would have never made it through our screens. I presume you would have put your foot down too, if Coke asked you to check the name.

  • I was fortunate to work on Gatorade when we had it at Bayer Bess Vanderwarker in Chicago. At the time Gatorade was still using “Gatorade is thirst aid for that deep down body thirst.”
    Most of the work was pretty traditional package goods advertising. The stuff was very over thought and not that good. I thought the Element 79 stuff was much better. This new stuff is total crap. It’s not tough, it’s not inspiring. It’s some wanky style mongers who are trying to put a ghetto handle on a product that had an actual brand history and a relevance to a few generations of athletes. “G” reminds me of a client we had who named a Barry Diller TV station “Miami” No matter how hard you tried to make it a brand, you came back to the fact that: THE NAME HAD ALREADY BEEN TAKEN. “G” is stupid and will fail miserably.