It costs dollars to create a brand. It costs dollars to protect a brand. And, it probably costs more dollars to protect an inherently weak brand and mark over a strong one. So, choose wisely.

The resulting point of weak and narrow trademark rights was driven home on our drive home from a Canadian fishing trip last month, as we passed through International Falls, Minnesota:

DollarIntlFallsA pair of dollar stores, also known as “extreme value” retailers, can be seen competing side by side, with fairly boring names, sorry Dollar General and Family Dollar. Apparently, Dollar Tree is just across town. But, no Dollar Depot or Super Dollar there, at least yet.

It left me wondering, is there insufficient margin in this segment to warrant even a modicum of creativity, or might there be some hope out there for marketers to see dollar signs in their eyes?

When the generic name for the services being offered (dollar store) has the word DOLLAR in it, do marketing types really need or want to have DOLLAR constitute half the retailer’s brand name? Perhaps minimal creativity communicates low prices, part of the brand promise?

Well, if you’re guilty of being a slave to the almighty dollar, maybe DOLLAR DAZE won’t leave you a day late or dollar short, thanks to the alliteration and double meaning, assuming you can tolerate sound-alike Dollar Days. Better yet, and dollar for dollar, my money is on DOLLARAMA?

Yet, not to be undersold on prices or creativity, Jack’s 99 Cent Store — More Than Just a Dollar Store, appears to have a personality that is anything but boring in the heart of New York City.

It is interesting to note that neither of the original trademark registrations for the oldies (DOLLAR GENERAL and FAMILY DOLLAR) contain disclaimers of the word DOLLAR, so dollars to doughnuts, over the last forty plus years, the dollar store segment was recognized as a generic category.

You can bet your bottom dollar that Dollar Tree did not disclaim “dollar” in 1993, but it did as early as 1998, as did Dollar Fare, Dollar Side, and Mighty Dollar in 2005, and Dollar Smart and Super Dollar — both in 2009, Cheaper By The Dollar a year later, Dollar Max in 2011, and Country Dollar in 2012, but most recently, Dollar House had to disclaim the word “dollar” from its USPTO intent-to-use application, leaving me to wonder what’s left in the house? Same with Dollar Station, begging the similar question of what is left when the Dollar has left the Station?

You’re wondering what the $64 Question is, right? How about, does this crowded field of DOLLAR brand names for dollar stores confirm yet another meaning to the phrase weak dollar?

Or, to ask the question slightly differently, would you pay top dollar for any of these DOLLAR brand names, or would you start from scratch with something fresh? Hello, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet.