Brand Names

Okay, I actually had a napkin full of notes for a longwinded post tonight, but something happened that takes precedence – has a new design!


I think that the actual logo looks a little plain, but I like the shadow effect and the way the top story is displayed. I also like the fact that they kept some things the same … Seamless tabs. Very nice. And ESPN Motion? Somebody get me a freaking broadband connection. If at some point in the future I have my own broadband connection, I may again make my homepage. If it’s seriously TV meets Internet … hoo boy.

So what was I going to post tonight. First, a small topic I want to hit on. Okay, my parents have DirecTV, and it gives us both East Coast and West Coast feeds of the four major networks. So I’m watching a Los Angeles station earlier tonight and the local news promos a story called “Best Hotel Pool in Vegas.”

Think about that for a minute.

Is there ANY real news worth reporting? I guess CNN covers it all … Anyway, it got me thinking – since national news isn’t worth covering, maybe I should do a “Best Back Yard in Allegany” story/competition. I mean, it would be completely biased, and I would probably openly accept bribes. My parents’ own back yard would definitely be a finalist. But they kind of have a scenic yard rather than a football yard. So this got me thinking about the old Back Yard Football League (BYFL) and Back Yard Soccer League (BYSL) from high school. (Damn … I’ve been away from RIT too long.) I don’t really want to elaborate further, but I might if someone asks me to. I’ll say this: my team was the “F’in Wankers.” We had shirts made up.

On to the main story. Brand names. This theory is open to review, but I have three categories of brand names:

1. Brands that have become synonymous with their product. Band Aid. Alka-Seltzer. Reynolds Wrap. Saran Wrap. Kleenex. Band Aid commercials now actually say “Band Aid Brand adhesive bandages.” It’s akward, but it’s possesive.
2. Brand names drawn directly from the purpose, origin, or form of their products. Life Savers. Clorox. WD-40. Pepsi. Coca-Cola. Kleenex again. Band Aid again.
3. And then there are newer brands. I started thinking about this post when I saw a Swiffer ad. It’s kind of in a tough spot. It’s revolutionary for what it is, yet it’s in a genre of products that are entrenched in this 1930s – 40s – 50s culture. The look of the ads falls pretty much right in line with what you’d expect. If you’d never seen a Swiffer ad or a Mr. Clean ad before, you probably wouldn’t think that one was any more remarkable than the other. But Swiffer needed a name to both fit in and stand out. I try to think of it as a brand name that is drawn from its purpose, origin, or form. Do you use it to “swiff” the floor? Does it look like something that “swiffs”? Does it come from a “swiff”? I don’t know. “Swiffer” is very abstract. It only gives me the vaguest notion of sweeping dust … I think they tried to tie “sweep” in there. But what about the “iff”? Maybe they just went with a slight bastardization. That’s how the evolution of language works. Still, it’s pretty abstract. And that got me thinking.

What products use the most abstract (and for that matter, bizarre) brand names?

This is an easy one. Modern prescription drugs. Let’s take a look at some.
Tagamet. Those are the ones I could think of. Some that I found on web sites are:

I think the problem with prescription drugs is not only that they’re so complicated, but that they are so abstract and so far removed from tangible life. A tool used to sweep the floor isn’t that far removed from “Swiffer.” But how do you describe a little pill that tastes like nothing that will prevent your sneezing when you go outside? It’s not easy. So I guess companies like Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline have to come up with strange names for their drugs. (Side note #1: Want more strange drug brand names? Take a look at the product pages of Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, and Pfizer.) (Side note #2 … forget it.)

Then there’s the names of companies themselves. Some articles have already been written on this subject, including an article in Salon.
KPMG becomes (sort of)
Bearing Point. Anderson Consulting becomes
Accenture. AT&T Bell Labs becomes
Lucent. Hewlett-Packard spins off Agilent. Philp Morris becomes Altria with a cute little multicolored square. (But I do like’s color scheme … might have to steal it. #003366 for a background color makes me feel all tingly.)

Finally, I just want to say that all those links were a pain in the ass. Night.

Brand Names