We’ve written quite a bit over the years about the Spectrum of Distinctiveness for trademarks, and the all-important difference between suggestive marks and merely descriptive ones, with only the former being allowed immediate rights based on first use.

Creativity is what separates the power of suggestion from the weakness and limbo of descriptiveness.

—Aaron Keller, Capsule

How do you feel when you’re being a bit indulgent? Guilty, perhaps. Sometimes it’s just something small, something you can enjoy without too much of an afterthought. The whipped cream atop your favorite coffee house (low fat) drink might be one of those treats. It is for me.

But recently I’ve noticed

   

Dear Coke:

I love you. You are an incredible product. You are the Babe Ruth of soft drinks, the proprietor of the word “cola,” and most of all, the brand of all brands. Your brand is not just bulletproof; it’s indestructible—even from self-inflicted damage.

Interbrand, the global branding giant, recently valued you at

         

Every Sunday I go through the circulars in the paper looking for new products. I usually spend a lot of time with the ads from the national drug store chains (Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid). Recently, I observed that each chain seems to have a radically different philosophy on store brand naming. And while this observation isn’t earth shattering, it exposes the marketing strategies (or lack thereof) of each chain.

For example, check out the allergy section. The big brand names like Benadryl®, Claritin® and Zyrtec® all have store brand/private label competition. Walgreens naming protocol for its store brand is pretty straightforward and seems to be designed to help a consumer find the Walgreens knockoff of the branded product. You can buy Wal-dryl, Wal-itin, and Wal-zyr, and the packaging is color coded to make it easier.  This is a very consistent strategy that is designed to make life easier for the consumer and also designed to build the “Wal-“ prefix as a brand.

          Non-Drowsy 24 Hour Allergy,Tablets          

                    

At CVS, you have to be a well-informed consumer or a doctor to get it right because CVS attempts to align symptoms with branding. For example, the CVS version of Benadryl is called Allergy, while the CVS version of Claritin is called Non-Drowsy Allergy Relief (non-drowsy being a key benefit of the active ingredient in Claritin), and the Zyrtec knockoff product is called Indoor/Outdoor Allergy Relief (Zyrtec is the only brand with indoor/outdoor allergy claims).

                                     


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Hopefully you enjoy riddles. It is late Sunday afternoon, 4:30 pm to be exact. Too early for valet parking at Fogo de Chao, a wonderful Brazilian steakhouse, so you drive two blocks and enter a parking lot with the following sign:

You had a very nice dinner and now you’re ready to leave the parking lot at 6:15 pm. Based on the above sign (and contract, by the way), how much do you owe the parking attendant? Instead of humming the Jeopardy thinking music theme song, might I suggest you consider humming the 1970 Five Man Electrical Band tune “Signs” during your calculation. And for any ’70s challenged folk, I’ll prime the pump for you: “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind, do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?”


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