Trademark lawyers need to face the facts. Despite decades of ardent counseling to the contrary, business executives and marketers are not only testing the waters with the treatment of their most valuable brands as verbs, in some cases, they are diving in head first, committing substantial resources and effort toward the clearly stated goal of "verbing up" and having their brands used as
I’m mostly wearing my consumer hat today, having just returned from a youth baseball tournament in Phoenix this past weekend, where we stayed at the six month new Drury Inn & Suites shown above. As you may recall, and if so, you will have noticed the irony because, last September I riffed about the Drury name and asked whether a name change might be in order, to avoid the inevitably negative dreary name associations.
In case you’re wondering, I didn’t set out to test my previously stated opinions about the name and whether it actually represented the brand well, but as it clearly was meant to be, and as it clearly was meant outside of my control, the team we traveled with selected this hotel, so I anxiously awaited the trip and then paid close attention to whether my perceptions about the name would match the actual brand experience.
I’ll have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by all three Ps: The property, the people, and the price. It was almost as though someone had read my previous post, from about six months ago, and purposefully set out to distance the name from the actual brand experience (after all, you can’t even read the brand name in the website photo can you?), building a beautiful and non-dreary hotel property with real curb-appeal and attractive interior ammenities, staffing it with amazingly cheery, caring and genuine employees, all at a very reasonable price point. More likely, my prior post simply was based on incomplete information. Oh, and this is not a paid endorsement, and I did pay full price for the room, or I’d have to tell you, as we learned from Steven Weinberg’s analysis of the new FTC guidelines applicable to bloggers. Anyway, this got me thinking about judging books, and even brands, by their covers.
We’re all taught at an early age, not to judge a book by its cover, but we do. I suspect that most of us also judge a brand by its cover too. Cover of a brand?
by Mark Prus Marketing Consultant at NameFlashSM
As a professional name developer, I think about names all the time. One of my favorite times to think is when driving. No, I am not “texting while driving.” But when I pull up behind a car at a red light, I notice the name on the…
Last week we blogged about the dreaded D-Word and how some marketers unwittingly undermine trademark rights in a brand name by explaining that the name "describes" or is "descriptive" of the goods or services sold under the brand.
We also have blogged about the danger of "taking a suggestive name, mark, or tag-line, and using it descriptively in…
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.
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).
Absolutely no details about the settlement were provided, so it’s hard to understand how Kare 11 is able to pronounce this as a "win" for Lion’s Tap over McDonalds, although it certainly plays into the seductive David and Goliath…
This sponsored banner ad is currently appearing in AdAge’s Daily News on-line newsletter:
How many boxes of tissue do you suppose this ad is responsible for selling?
If the answer is none, that is probably fine with Kimberly-Clark since the return on investment for this ad is measured quite differently, I’m sure, given how the…
What does Twitter have in common with Kool-Aid, Mickey Mouse, and Spam? Maybe nothing, at least yet, but I predict that it will soon, unless Twitter retains some talented PR help in a hurry. Why?
The Kool-Aid, Mickey Mouse, and Spam brands all have spawned secondary or alternate and negative non-trademark meanings that have become part of the English language, meanings in each case that lack positive brand associations, to say the least. If Twitter is not careful it will find itself “following” the likes of Kool-Aid, Mickey Mouse, and Spam, and be in the similar undesirable position of tolerating language changes that distract from their brands and favorable brand messages, to be left watching others make generic use of their brand names to communicate a variety of ideas and meanings that are neither flattering nor brand building.
Although intellectual property lawyers of the Dr. No variety may not like to admit it — I submit that, not all slippery slopes are created equal. While some slippery slope cautions might prevent a few bumps and bruises in traveling along a particular path (e.g., the one on the left below), I suspect far fewer slippery slope cautions actually prevent life-ending falls from perilous cliffs (e.g., the one on the right below), yet other man-made slippery slopes specifically are designed for fun and enjoyment — not danger — and have generated enormous sales over the years (e.g., WHAM-O’s SLIP’N SLIDE brand products).
So, putting aside Professor Douglas Walton’s teaching that the slippery slope argument is “often treated as a fallacy,” it is worth asking what brand of slippery slope most accurately represents the risk associated with marketers using their brands and trademarks as verbs?
As discussed in Part I of my Just Verb It? series, many marketers love the idea of having their brands embraced as verbs, but many trademark lawyers totally forbid any “brandverbing,” i.e., “mis-using” brands (adjectives) as verbs: “Why? To prevent brand names and trademarks from becoming generic names and part of the public domain for anyone to freely use, even competitors.”
No doubt, genericide — the ultimate fear of using brands as verbs — equals certain trademark death, a horrible result from both marketing and legal perspectives; but, I submit it doesn’t necessarily follow that brandverbing activities automatically result in trademark death or genericide. To be sure, far more than a single act of verbing a trademark or brand must occur before a majority of the relevant consuming public no longer sees the claimed trademark or brand as identifying and distinguishing certain products or services as coming from a single source. Given this, there must be an opportunity to engage in some thoughtful and creative level of brandverbing without committing trademark suicide, right?