Size and prominence of wording on business signs, product labels and hangtags will often emphasize brand signals. Yet, sometimes decisions are made to scream generic names instead.

Never having seen the above shown wacky fresh fruit until recently, my assumption was that Buddha’s Hand represented a clever brand name for a certain type of citron fruit. Nope, generic.

The source-indicating information on the above shown Buddha’s Hand hangtag — the trademark — is barely legible, so I’ll help readers out: Ripe to You represents the above shown brand name.

So, what are the best practices when it comes to marketing commodities over brands and vice versa? The Branding Strategy Insider had an informative take on this topic just yesterday, here.

From my perspective, since brands manifest reputation, relationships and experiences, there must be accountability, and sometimes apologies are needed. Commodities, nope, not so much.

I’m thinking that while Ripe to You apparently is working to create market demand and interest in the unusual Buddha’s Hand fruit, more emphasis on the fruit’s generic name may take priority.

It also stands to reason that as Buddha’s Hand citron fruit becomes as understood as cherry tomatoes, tangelos, and bananas, the thing will speak for itself, and the brand will be paramount.

It’s also important to remember that when work is needed to create demand for a new category of products, attention on a memorable generic name can be as important as the brand name.

Otherwise, a brand owner launching a new category might find itself forever working to avoid the slippery slope of genericide, can you say, Rollerblade, Velcro, Band-Aid, and Peppadew?

Thankfully for Ripe to You, the clever and memorable Budda’s Hand generic name was handed to it on a silver platter, leaving the field wide open to focus on and emphasize its brand name.

I’d love to hear more insights from our extraordinary marketers and designers about when and how to balance the marketing of commodities/brands — when do you lead with Buddha’s Hand?

We recently checked out a new restaurant in Minneapolis’ growing North Loop area, called Red Rabbit, what a great spot:

RedRabbit

 

The menu cleverly refers to the salad options as “Rabbit Food” — and the Italian Chopped salad spoke to me, but one of the listed “ingredients” left me wondering “what’s a peppadew”?

RedRabbitMenu

Not wanting to be too surprised before committing, as I was only somewhat prepared to compromise on the inclusion of “artichoke,” I took matters into my own hands.

And, believe me, at the moment, I wasn’t looking for a trademark story, but there is was, staring back at me on my iPhone.

In fact, Google said Wikipedia knows that “Peppadew is the trademarked brand name of sweet piquanté peppers (a cultivar of Capsicum baccatum) grown in the Limpopo province of South Africa.” With peppers, I’m all in (should help mask the artichoke), so I committed.

But, back to the trademark story, turns out, the USPTO agreed with Wikipedia (despite the lower case lettering on the menu), Peppadew is a federally-registered brand name for “preserved, dried and cooked fruits and vegetables,” not some generic type of food ingredient:

Peppadew

Yet, if the South African brand owner wants to keep it that way, and avoid complete loss of trademark rights through genericide, it really ought to educate and police restaurants on proper trademark use.

Or, maybe it is already doing so (Panera is reportedly on board), so perhaps Red Rabbit just hasn’t seen the memo yet, or maybe it’s being delivered by a tortoise, not a hare?

At any rate of speed, this kind of genericness evidence can be harmful to a trademark owner, so how hard should a restaurant work to get the trademark facts right in their menus?

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the salad was truly amazing (despite the artichoke), and I’m sure the Peppadew brand peppers made all the difference.