— Jessica Gutierrez Alm, Attorney

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA)’s decision last year to end its boys-only policy was met with mixed reactions.  Some lauded it as a progressive victory.  Others, including former Girl Scouts, viewed it as a thinly-veiled corporate strategy and a loss for girls.  As part of an early adopter program, more than 3,000 girls have already signed up to be BSA Cub Scouts.

To help solidify its more inclusive policies, the Boy Scouts also announced a new branding strategy.  Beginning in 2019, the organization will be known as Scouts BSA.  The rebranding efforts include a new tag line: “Scout Me In.”

The Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA) has been openly and decisively against the Boy Scouts’ policy change.  In a public letter to the Boy Scouts, the GSUSA expressed its concern regarding what it perceived as the “short-sightedness of thinking that running a program specifically tailored to boys can simply be translated to girls.”

In a blog post on its website, GSUSA wrote, “We believe strongly in the importance of the all-girl, girl-led, and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts provides, which creates a free space for girls to learn and thrive.”  It continued, “The benefit of the single-gender environment has been well-documented by educators, scholars, other girl- and youth-serving organizations, and Girl Scouts and their families. Girl Scouts offers a one-of-a-kind experience for girls with a program tailored specifically to their unique developmental needs.”

The Girl Scouts are now suing the Boy Scouts for trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and unfair competition.  The GSUSA asserts that its right to use the SCOUT and SCOUTING marks in connection with development programs for girls has been long recognized by the TTAB and the Boy Scouts.  GSUSA notes that the two organizations’ use of the SCOUT, SCOUTS and SCOUTING marks have, until recently, “either been preceded by words like BOY or GIRL . . . or appeared in a context making clear that the programs at issue were developed by one organization or the other.”  In the complaint, the Girl Scouts provide evidence of confusion among the public resulting from the Boy Scouts’ use of the ungendered terms.  Cited examples include cases of girls accidentally signing up for Boy Scouts programs and parents believing the two organizations have merged.

The GSUSA seeks an order blocking the Boy Scouts from using SCOUT, SCOUTS, SCOUTING, or SCOUTS BSA without “an inherently distinctive or distinguishing terms appearing immediately before it,” in connection with services directed to girls.

This is not the first time the two groups have fought over branding.  Prior to 1917, the Girl Scouts were instead known as the Girl Guides.  When the change to “Girl Scouts” was announced, the chief executive of the Boy Scouts accused the group of “trivialize[ing]” and “sissify[ing]” the term.  According to the Atlantic, the Boy Scouts even sued over the name change.

Just so you know, it about pushed me over the edge to have a blog post title with no capitalization. Not even one letter. In other words, all minuscules, no majuscules. It doesn’t seem right — to me anyway, as a trademark type.

Just like the first letter in the first word of a sentence must be a capital letter, so must be the first letter of each substantive word in a title, so must be the first letter of a proper noun, and so must be at least the first letter of any brand name, or so I once thought.

Hello, adidas, at&t, intel, and citibank, among others:

   

As you may have inferred from a prior post of mine on the adidas brand (there, I did it), I’m having a hard time accepting the apparent trend toward lower case brand names and visual identities.

Make no mistake, this trend appears to be gaining steam, as evidenced by the numerous "before and after" re-brand comparisons found on UnderConsideration’s Brand New blog over the past year or so, including girl scouts, jcpenney, sears, arn, postnl, airtel, spilgames, coinstar, pur, virgin atlantic, travel channel, nickelodeon, pwc, meredith, hub, astraltcbytechnicolor, cometxfinity, belk, mapquest, and:

Although I’d like to invite and actually welcome the far more professional wisdom of our trusted visual identity brethren and other learned branding and marketing types, until then, I’m guessing this trend has at least something to do with wanting to position a brand as being friendlier, less stiff and formal, more accessible, kinder, and gentler, etc. Perhaps a visual identity more likely to create a stronger emotional bond and connection between the brand and its consumers?

   

Perhaps the trend is explained by the visual equivalent of what I previously wrote about in Exposing Two-Faced Brands, the trend toward brand name truncation, and what Susan and I wrote together about in a second article about Exposing Two Faced Brands. Basically, The Shack has more emotional potential than Radio Shack, and The Hut is more connecting than Pizza Hut, and Chuck is more personable than Charles Schwab

Having said that, it is worth noting that some visual identity changes and re-branding efforts appear to have accomplished a friendlier approach by moving from all cap type styles to leading cap styles, but they don’t go all the way to an all lower case style:

And, for what ever reason, a few appear to be heading back in the opposite direction from their lower case roots:

What if the following brands were to migrate from an all capital letter visual identity to an all lower case format?

    

Some might be concerned about having an all lower case visual identity encourage genericide. As you may recall, Kleenex has engaged in consumer education advertising to discourage genericide. And, I suspect this campaign was inspired by the famous Xerox campaign to avoid genericide: "When you use ‘xerox’ the way you use ‘aspirin,’ we get a headache."

Indeed, all lower case news and media references are often relied upon by litigation adversaries hoping to prove the generic nature of their opponent’s federally-registered trademark.

To the extent this is a valid concern, was the Xerox brand’s movement to an all lower-case style a wise one?

What are your thoughts on this all-lower-case visual identity and branding trend?

UPDATE: