Hotels, Ice Cream, and Shoes as Canvases for Great Brands
Seth Godin has written about how Nike is a great brand because we can imagine what a Nike hotel would look like.
So, let me ask a slightly weirder question: If Nike were an ice cream flavor, what would it taste like?
My guess would be something like a lemon zest sorbet, perhaps. (I’ll look for your best guess in the comments.)
Speaking of ice cream, Ben & Jerry’s is another great brand, like Nike.
Maybe you have a favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor. Maybe it’s Chunky Monkey? My favorite is currently Half Baked:
Although I have to say, the recent collaboration with Netflix, called Netflix & Chill’d, is pretty good too, and not a bad show of brand strength by Netflix:
(For the record, the ice cream gods have decided that Netflix tastes like Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Sweet & Salty Pretzel Swirls & Fudge Brownies).
Based on your experience with the Ben & Jerry’s brand, I bet you can even imagine what a Ben & Jerry’s hotel would look like.
How about another test of brand strength?
What if Ben & Jerry’s were a basketball shoe? What would it look like?
No guessing required this time: I present to you, the Chunky Dunky:
“The Chunky Dunky” is a limited run collaboration between Nike and Ben & Jerry’s that applies Ben & Jerry’s iconic trade dress to the iconic Nike SB Dunk Low shoe silhouette, named using a mashup of “Dunk” with Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey flavored ice cream.
I have bad news for you though, if you want a pair, you’ll likely (more on this below) need to spend $2,000 or more, as the very limited run sold out instantaneously and can only be found on the secondary collector’s market on platforms like StockX. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for fakes.
Collaborations like this are excellent ways to strengthen a brand, including its trade dress, well beyond the scope of the core goods of the brand owner. Usually, a brand owner can only enforce its mark against another mark if the use of the other mark is likely to create confusion about the source of the goods or suggests endorsement, sponsorship, or approval, because of similarities in the marks and goods or other factors. That can be difficult to do when goods are seemingly unrelated, for example shoes and ice cream. In fact, I would generally assume one’s ability to dunk is inversely proportional to the amount of ice cream they consume.
By expanding use of marks and trade dress to seemingly unrelated goods like shoes and ice cream, not only is a direct link established between the goods in question, the brand owner can show that consumers expect to see its brand on a wide variety of goods, making enforcement easier against copycat marks appearing on goods not offered by the brand. When possible, establishing a high degree of consumer recognition, or brand strength, can be a critical factor in the likelihood of confusion analysis used to prove infringement.
To my knowledge, neither the strength of the Ben & Jerry’s trade dress nor the Nike Dunk Low silhouette has ever been determined in litigation (unlike the famous colors of John Deere), but it seems fair to say that by now, the Nike Dunks are one of the most recognized shoes on the market, having been commercially available since 1985. The “SB” version (for skateboarding) was launched in 2002 and has appeared in countless collaborations, many of which are highly sought after among shoe collectors, a.k.a sneakerheads. Indeed, we may soon have a determination about the strength of the Nike Dunk Low silhouette via a recent lawsuit filed by Nike.
No doubt relevant to that lawsuit will be the fact that Nike owns multiple federal trademark registrations for features of shoe silhouettes, including the following which shows features of the Nike SB Dunk Low:
(U.S. Registration No. 3711305)
As described in the registration, the mark consists of the design of the stitching on the exterior of the shoe, the design of the material panels that form the exterior body of the shoe, the design of the wavy panel on top of the shoe that encompasses the eyelets for the shoe laces, the design of the vertical ridge pattern on the sides of the sole of the shoe, and the relative position of these elements to each other.
Meanwhile, Ben and Jerry’s might be the most beloved premium ice cream on the market. Ben & Jerry’s owns an incontestable federal trademark registration for its trade dress, as shown in this drawing on file with the United States Patent and Trademark Office:
(U.S. Registration No. 4176490)
As described in the registration, the mark consists of the image of a cow in black and white, standing on green pasture. The pasture has a shade of lighter green on the horizon where it meets an image of a blue sky with white clouds as part of the background.
Combine the trade dress of these two powerful brands and you have an extremely expensive shoe, almost all of the value of which is derived from the goodwill of the brands and scarcity of the shoe, rather than innovation or materials.
It’s ultimately the kind of exclusive collector’s shoe you might see on the feet of a person staying at a luxury hotel adorned in the trade dress of another famous brand, this fictional version imagined by graphic designer Tarek Okbir …
(HT: Brand New)
It might also be the kind of shoe you could come to own, despite its high price tag. The Atlanta-based rapper / activist Michael Render, known professionally as Killer Mike (blogged about on DuetsBlog here), has donated his own pair of Chunky Dunkys to Ben & Jerry’s get-out-the vote campaign. For more details visit www.action.benjerry.com/rtjsweeps by Oct. 25. Below, Killer Mike can be seen wearing his Chunky Dunky shoes in a recent photo by Diwang Valdez published in Billboard magazine and shared via Killer Mike’s Instagram page a few weeks back:
So dear readers, what brands would you like to see as either shoes, ice cream, or hotels?