Size and prominence of wording on business signs, product labels and hangtags will often emphasize brand signals. Yet, sometimes decisions are made to scream generic names instead.

Never having seen the above shown wacky fresh fruit until recently, my assumption was that Buddha’s Hand represented a clever brand name for a certain type of citron fruit. Nope, generic.

The source-indicating information on the above shown Buddha’s Hand hangtag — the trademark — is barely legible, so I’ll help readers out: Ripe to You represents the above shown brand name.

So, what are the best practices when it comes to marketing commodities over brands and vice versa? The Branding Strategy Insider had an informative take on this topic just yesterday, here.

From my perspective, since brands manifest reputation, relationships and experiences, there must be accountability, and sometimes apologies are needed. Commodities, nope, not so much.

I’m thinking that while Ripe to You apparently is working to create market demand and interest in the unusual Buddha’s Hand fruit, more emphasis on the fruit’s generic name may take priority.

It also stands to reason that as Buddha’s Hand citron fruit becomes as understood as cherry tomatoes, tangelos, and bananas, the thing will speak for itself, and the brand will be paramount.

It’s also important to remember that when work is needed to create demand for a new category of products, attention on a memorable generic name can be as important as the brand name.

Otherwise, a brand owner launching a new category might find itself forever working to avoid the slippery slope of genericide, can you say, Rollerblade, Velcro, Band-Aid, and Peppadew?

Thankfully for Ripe to You, the clever and memorable Budda’s Hand generic name was handed to it on a silver platter, leaving the field wide open to focus on and emphasize its brand name.

I’d love to hear more insights from our extraordinary marketers and designers about when and how to balance the marketing of commodities/brands — when do you lead with Buddha’s Hand?

  • Mark Prus

    Nothing wrong with choosing to lead with Buddha’s Hand…it is far more interesting than the brand name Ripe To You. The race in branding often goes to the fastest who has the mostest regardless of the legal shortcomings of not owning the trademark. In other words, who can get there first and have the biggest impact. Prilosec OTC scored a huge win by touting “Zero Heartburn” with the disclaimer “It’s possible with Prilosec OTC” (brilliant marketing that enabled them to own “Zero Heartburn”). Other Proton Pump Inhibitor brands that followed Prilosec OTC to the OTC marketplace had to compete with “Zero Heartburn,” which is an impossible task. If Ripe To You does its job, they will effectively own Buddha’s Hand until someone chooses to unseat them by spending a ton of money (unlikely in this category as we aren’t talking pharmaceutical margins here).

  • It is a rare occasion where the brand name is boring and nearly descriptive while the generic product name is interesting. Sure, the more interesting name should play a leading role to increase the chance of a conversation getting started, a memory being made and all the stuff we need to have a valuable brand.

    But, and this is a big but, what if the generic name is talked about at great length, or a Stephen Baird blog post goes viral and Justin Timberlake inserts it into his Halftime show, a little lyric on Baird and the Buddha’s Hand fruit story.

    Who gets attribution, other than Mr Baird?

    Long before we drank flavored water, Coca-Cola soft drinks could be descriptive to build the category first and then take credit as the leading brand. But, is someone building the category of strange hand like fruit? Wouldn’t someone want to have a more interesting brand name to go along with the Buddha’s Hand?

    Let’s just pick on the “Ripe to You” brand a bit first. Why would someone name any food brand in such a way. My immediate thought is, “well I hope it is ripe to me, who else is it ripe to and where is the ‘to’ leading me?” The name is not only boring it conveys the wrong message in fruit by causing the shopper to question “ripe.”

    Now, who would like to come up with some new names for this?

  • Hmm. Let’s add a little context from some raw data we have available. Over the past 12 months, the word “Buddha’s Hand” has risen from near zero organic search to almost the rate of search as the venerable “Honeycrisp” apple in the United States. Certainly, this is not an apples to apples comparison (Ha! Couldn’t resist!), but it does tell us a little something about the strength of a name in the fruit category. Interestingly, the top searches remain Chinese language. That could mean that this fruit has a long way to go before it peaks, giving brands such as “Ripe To You” plenty of time to pivot and carve out a distinct niche. But if no one knows about Buddha’s Hand, the discussion is moot.