As I mentioned last week, Apple’s present iPhone Xs billboard advertising campaign is ubiquitous at the moment, especially this image, totally flooding the Minneapolis skyway system, and beyond:

Putting aside whether the unique lighting and reflective nature of the indoor billboards do justice to the art of the iPhone Xs ad, I’m also questioning whether the Xs repetition might be, excessive?

See what I mean? Above and especially below, with stretches of hundreds of feet — in the frozen tundra of our Minneapolis skyway,  nothing in sight, but the same, glaring and reflective Xs ad:

A few questions come to mind. Repetition in branding, yes it’s important, but are there no limits?

In other words, we know Apple can afford to dominate our skyway billboard space, but should it?

And, if so, with what? Apple’s user-generated content campaign was welcome, brilliant and unique.

But, what is the end goal of covering the Minneapolis skyway, with a train of identical Xs boxcars?

Isn’t the art of the ad lost when it is the only thing in front of you, or should I say Outfront of you?

A boring train of Xs boxcar ads builds no momentum to a destination, like Wall Drug ads on I-90.

Where is this train of repetitive ads supposed to take us, online to drive more holiday unit sales?

That seems doubtful, the ad doesn’t explain why one should replace an earlier version with the Xs.

Ironically, Apple’s current struggle is distancing itself from the stock market’s focus on unit sales.

Billboard advertising is said to be effective for brand awareness, but Apple hardly struggles there.

I’m not seeing the point of this ad, and repetition won’t solve the problem of a saturated market.

I’m just left feeling like I paid too much for my Xs, because Apple wasted too much on these ads.

Yeah, we usually mean this Apple, when we spill digital ink, not today, instead the edible varieties:

Hat tip to Erik Pelton who tweeted about the federal registration of LUDACRISP for fresh apples.

We know something about non-ludicrous trademark protection for apples > First Kiss and Rave.

They are newly minted brands for the MN55 Apple, a cross between HoneyCrisp and MonArk.

As it turns out, Honeycrisp might have been a trademark, but for its inclusion in a plant patent.

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, does that include juris doctors who are into trademarks?

Or, would it be ludicrous for Apple, you know the iPhone XS one, to name a device Honeycrisp?

If only Honeycrisp could be a University of Minnesota apple trademark; Apple still has a chance.

To grasp lessons learned from the Honeycrisp story, and fully digest the Best Buy brand refresh, join us in Minneapolis on Thursday, a few seats remain for our Creative Brand Protection II event:

Winthrop & Weinstine’s Trademark and Brand Protection practice group will host a few hours of trademark and brand protection education, food and drink, and networking!

For the educational portion of the evening, we’ll share valuable insights and guidance for those who love brands and want to learn creative strategies for maximizing their value.

Yours truly, will moderate a panel discussion joined by:

  • Karen Brennan, Senior Director, Intellectual Property, Best Buy
  • Anne Hall, Technology Strategy Manager-Life Sciences, University of Minnesota
  • Aaron Keller, Co-Author: The Physics of Brand; Co-Founder Capsule Design
  • Tim Sitzmann, Trademark and Brand Protection Attorney, Winthrop & Weinstine

The panel will share best practices and creative approaches to both launching new brands and refreshing a mature brand. The panel will develop a robust discussion using the University of Minnesota’s MN55 apple launch and Best Buy’s brand refresh to explore the following themes:

  • Transforming a commodity into a valuable brand
  • Strategies for selecting and owning names and marks
  • Carving a path for global trademark and brand protection
  • Legal considerations for refreshing a brand’s visual identity

Reserve your spot now, space is limited. We hope you will join this lively and informative event!

And, I’ll say it again, if only Honeycrisp was an apple trademark, or an Apple trademark . . . .

In the meantime, since Honeycrisp is generic for fresh edible apples, is this stylization distinctive?

Nope, the pedestrian style is not striking enough to be trademark ownable, contrast Miller’s Lite.

—Mark Prus, Marketing Consultant at NameFlashSM

Like many professional name developers, I opened 2010 by making fun of the Apple iPad name. Steve Jobs gave a strong case for naming the “tablet pc” in a way that was consistent with previous Apple naming conventions (iPod, iTunes, iPhone), but many of us poked fun at the similarity of the name with feminine hygiene products.

Who’s laughing now?

Through the first three quarters of the year Apple sold over 8 million iPads and is projected to sell another 5 or 6 million during the last quarter of the year. And if you do a Google search and look for people making fun of the iPad name, you pretty much come up empty.

Was iPad a great name? I still think Apple could have broken the mold and gone with a more inventive name. But frankly I think Steve Jobs could call the next Apple innovation “Poop On A Stick” and it would be successful (side note: as an Apple shareholder I really hope they don’t try that).

From a trademark standpoint, Apple is still not in the clear on iPad. While they bought the “global rights” for the iPad trademark earlier this year, a new dispute claims that “global rights” did not include China. Not exactly sure who needs to go to geography class, but I am sure the Cupertino lawyers will figure it out.

But I suspect a bigger problem may be lurking for Apple. The iPad is the first tablet pc that has been embraced by consumers and in a way it is defining the category. There are iPad competitors but Apple has an estimated 95% market share. So what is the risk of a dominant market position? One risk is a “genericizing” of the product name.

Think about it…when people talk about the portable device that holds thousands of songs they call it iPod, regardless of the actual product. The iPhone has become the “category identifying” name for a smartphone. However, neither the iPod nor the iPhone have anywhere close to 95% market share.

In a previous Duets Blog post, Steve Baird raised some precautions a trademark owner could take to prevent “genericide” of a brand name (Kleenex in this example). According to Steve, if the "majority of the relevant consuming public" (more than half) continues to understand Kleenex® as a brand, the exclusive trademark rights will remain intact.

Is iPad the next “Kleenex?” Well, if you conduct a Google search on iPad you get over 189,000,000 entries. A similar search for “tablet pc” only produces around 21,000,000 results. I’d say with a 95% market share and a 9 fold lead in search results, the iPad name may be on a very slippery slope heading towards genericide!