Some marketing types have said that having your brand name verbed by others is heavenly, well beyond flattery, kind of like a marketer’s Shangri-la. As you may recall, we have explored the legal implications of the verbing of brands here, here, here, and here.

What about having your brand name used as a reference point 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.

          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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"What am I?"

Every invention begs this essential question of identity.

The answer is found in the product’s descriptor. A descriptor defines a thing, categorizing it, framing it, positioning it and signaling its intended future.

A product that doesn’t claim to break new ground adopts its category’s standard convention. For example, a new, run-of-the-mill digital camera would be marketed as a "digital camera".

A revolutionary product, on the other hand, deserves an innovative product descriptor. And, sometimes, a me-too product benefits from one, too.

The trouble is, innovation is easier done than said.

I wrote in this article about the "brander’s paradox": Human instincts make us wary of unfamiliar and different things, yet differentiation is essential to a product’s success.

By definition, an innovation is unfamiliar. How can its product descriptor differentiate without triggering people’s fear of the unknown?

The New York Times gives us an idea in this recent article about product descriptors,

"When people encounter something they don’t recognize, they make sense of it by associating it with something familiar."

The most effective new descriptors combine familiar terms in unfamiliar ways. They make product function or form clearly understood, even upon first exposure. Novel descriptors insufficiently informative should at the very least pique interest.

Descriptors that differ

The products shown below the jump illustrate different approaches:


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Have you ever experienced or observed marketing styles that might be fairly described as high-octane, fast-paced, or perhaps, so hopped-up on Red Bull® or some other energy drink, there is simply no time for meaningful collaboration, much less careful, proactive, strategic thinking or planning? Perhaps a fun, exhilarating experience, but what are the consequences?

If you have, as you might know first hand (or at least imagine), this style can seriously compromise valuable intellectual property rights and protection. You know when the trademark attorney gets the call if this style controls, right? Immediately upon encountering a serious and unfair competitive threat. But in many instances, this will be long after a coherent strategy might have been created, well after packaging is designed and introduced, well after marketing materials are finalized and distributed, long after websites have been launched, and well after all the unknowing, but self-inflicted damage is done. In some cases the resulting damage is manageable and can be repaired, other times it is not, and legal claims that might have been strong and viable suddenly have turned dead-on-arrival.


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