Saturday, July 29, 2006

Misspelling Your Business's or Product's Name for Absolutely No Reason

You know. Like Shop Rite. Or Savon Drugs. Or Surgrip. Or EZ Rent.

What we're overlooking I think, when we fail to get angry at names like these, is the hubris. The arrogance. What you need is to take a moment to consider the decision process that leads to a business changing Glow into Glo. Or Park into Parc.

The decision is a marketing one. It's based on sales and profit. Whichever name suggests itself as being the most profitable will be the one chosen. If Black & Decker was selling a new kind of flashlight, and test marketing suggested that "Faglight - The Flashlight That Makes You Gay" would sell the most units, they'd go with faglight. They really don't care. With that understanding, the next step is to wonder how they arrive at a name like Saf-T-Lite.

Well this is another one of my wacky pet theories. I think... that they think... that by taking a word like Light and making it Lite, that on a subconscious level we the consumer will draw this conclusion: "This is no ordinary Light. This flashlight is so special that the English language itself is unprepared to describe it with any accuracy. No, a new vocabulary is needed. A new lexicon that is up to the task of doing justice to a flashlight of this level of unparalleled awesomeness."

Let me put it another way. When you name your health bar PowR-Bar, the unspoken message to the consumer is this: "Look, we wanted to name it Power Bar. We did. Really. We don't think it's our place to intrude into this thousand year old language and start coining words for the sole purpose of selling snacks. That would be a really poor reason to invent a word. We know it. It was really only with the greatest reluctance that we're calling it PowR. But we had to. The word "power", at the end of the day, was just too puny and inadequate to describe the PowR of the energy boost you get from our product. We don't take this step lightly. It humbles us. Please forgive us, and enjoy a PowR Bar."

What it really is is a hustle. No, not the good kind of hustle, like when you're jaywalking. The shitty kind. "You are dumb. You will be fooled by our phonetic variant into believing we offer a product of a higher quality."

Well I don't like it. It pollutes the language. It hurts my eyes. Words like Lite. Like Cleen. And Froot. And Cheezy. I could go on.

Wouldn't it be refreshing to see a store called "Save Money Buying Drugs Here" or "Fill Your Car's Tank With Gas"? I would shop there. Wouldn't it be nice to see one business, just one, resist the urge to modify the word Quick into something like Qwik or Kwik? "Rowsdower's Quick and Easy Oil Change Shop" Yes, I'd like that.

Not to get bogged down in tangents, but what is Pine-Fresh supposed to mean? That expression is established now. "Wow, that smells pine fresh!" Why is pine inherently fresh? What if you had a moldy, rotting pine log. Would it still be pine fresh? I can accept bakery fresh, or creamery fresh, but that's about it. And what does "Smart & Final" mean? All sales final? It's contradictory. The "smart" means "You'd be smart to shop here." And the "final" means "All sales are final, so if you discover that what you just bought is defective, tough shit." Seems like you're entitled to either the quality boast or the defensive backpedaling, but not both in the same name.

Ah, what's the point. Product names suck. Marketing sucks. Advertising sucks. Everyone involved in marketing is stupid, and they think that you are even stupider. I hate them. Really. I really hate them. I hate these ads that are self-aware - you've seen them - where the ad concept is a bunch of people trying to decide on an ad concept. It's a fascinating but depressing window into the lives of these jerks. It's the commercials where it's a bunch of twentysomething advertising professionals, with the spiky-faux-behead-yet-well-coiffed hair thing, and they're sitting at a conference table throwing pencils at the ceiling, brainstorming a concept for a new Nissan, and it's all so self aware. And they each describe an ad concept and we get a quick cut to what that ad might actually look like, probably involving a bear on a footstool who suddenly goes crazy and sends the camera crew running and screaming, and then it's back to the conference table where there's an awkward silence while the guy who proposed it looks sheepish.

Or those Jack in the Box ads where the ad exec is pitching a marketing concept to Jack for the new ciabatta sandwich, and Jack says "Well why don't you just say it's baked on fresh ciabatta bread and it's delicious?" Or even just the Taco Bell slogan "Think outside the bun." That's a play on Think Outside the Box, which is a cliche from the ad industry, and it's clearly something invented by an ad guy who thought he was being extremely clever.

Marketing is a constant voice in your ear: "You are a moron. You are a moron. You are a moron...." It's all I can do to just keep my sanity.

3 comments:

coffeygirlb said...

OMG, this has always been one of my many pet peeves. It's just so patronizing and rediculous. My favorite is Kum and Go. It's a convienent store chain in our area. My husband calls it "ejaculate and evacuate" I much prefer that!

Rowsdower said...

Yikes. Of course, here in Vegas, a store really could be called Kum and Go and mean exactly what your husband suggests.

I've been gone a while. I'll see if I can't get worked up about something annoying this weekend to report on. Steady on!

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