Metaphors are a good choice for trademarks. A metaphor typically requires some thought, imagination or perception to understand the connection between the mark and what’s for sale.

Remember what a floating feather might suggest metaphorically? Yes, a good night’s sleep. So, the symbol works well as a distinctive non-verbal trademark for a pharmaceutical sleep aid.

Metaphors are everywhere. According to James Geary, we utter about six metaphors a minute. He also notes: Aristotle’s classic definition of a metaphor is “giving the thing a name that belongs to something else.” This approach serves as a powerful trademark tool too.

Over the weekend, during the constant barrage of nauseating political ads, I found myself more focused on the few interspersed commercial advertisements, allowing me to appreciate the metaphorical thinking embodied in Allstate’s Mayhem ads:

“The character Mayhem is essentially a metaphor for any disaster that might befall a member of the target demographic, and tries to warn people that if they don’t have enough insurance coverage, they could have to pay for it out of their own pockets.”

Sure enough, Allstate has secured inherently distinctive federal service mark registrations for MAYHEM, and the slogan MAYHEM IS EVERYWHERE for: “Insurance services, namely, writing and underwriting insurance in the fields of property, liability, life, and casualty, and providing ancillary services thereto, namely, administration and claims adjustment; financial sponsorship of athletic events; financial sponsorship of charitable organizations.”

As it turns out, MAYHEM also serves as a branding metaphor and suggestive, federally-registered trademark for all kinds of different sporting goods offered by all sorts of brand owners: Scheels’ towable floats, Eastman’s archery arrows, Lost’s surfboards, Crosman’s airsoft guns, Rawlings’ lacrosse equipment, and Rawlings’ baseball bats.

So, not only are metaphors everywhere, but it appears even non-Allstate Mayhem is everywhere too, at least in the world of sports equipment.

Ahem, of course, none of that equipment would be appropriate for any of the athletic events sponsored by Allstate’s Mayhem.

By the way, in case you’re wondering, Havoc is everywhere too . . . .

  • James Mahoney

    Mayhem is one of the best ad campaigns out there. Excellent creative, remarkable execution, consistently surprising, marvelously entertaining. Hats off to both the agency and to the client, who had not only the wisdom to see the value here, but also the guts to approve it in the first place.

    The only thing that would make it better is if the sponsor’s name were intrinsically , intuitively and indelibly embedded so that people would ask, “Did you see the new Allstate commercial?” Instead, they most likely ask, “Did you see the new Mayhem commercial?”

    This is a small point though. It’s devilishly hard to come up with something like that (the original Budweiser frog commercial being the gold standard), so when you do, it falls into the “extra special credit” column.

    Like Mayhem, forgettable commercials/campaigns are everywhere, so the good ones are pretty easy to spot. But even among those standouts, Mayhem earns an A+ in my book.

    Back to your subject, Steve, the question is: At what point did the Allstate powers-that-be recognize that they were onto something successful enough to trademark (and that it had accumulated enough recognition to be inherently distinctive)? That’d be interesting side of the story to know…