The Name Game: Product Marketing (Curios)ities


What is in a name? Well, some Shakespeare chap had quite a lot to say about it once. Plus, there are marketing folks who get the big bucks for making grown adults say words like "Snuggie" or "PediPaws," so there must be something to it.

Yet, ya ever buy a product, use it for forever, and then suddenly really think about it?

Like, half your life, you've been using this product every day and ZOT! In a lighting-bolt moment, you wonder: "Wha-? What the heck's that all about?"

Yeah, that's this post. Like the Infusium conditioner bottle...


Or In(fus)ium, rather.

What is with the gratuitous parenthesis? Have they been Hooked on Phonics as a part of some obscure reading literacy cult?...

Are we supposed to say that part of the word in more hushed tones? The way our grandmothers would whisper words like "female problems" or "cancer"?

This has to be the only product on the market who hopes you'll not only buy their product, but also diagram it in a sentence.

I mean, I'm a grammar nerd, so I'm totally down with that. But still-- the shower isn't really the place for clear thought on prepositional phrases and simple predicates...

No chalkboard, you see.

Note the wholly unnecessary word at the top of the bottle: (moistur)ologie. The, er... French study of moisture. Is that, like, a class you can take at the Barbizon Beauty Academy or something? (Moistur)ologie 200? You take it right after Ear(comb)ing Physiques 101 and (Mullet)ectomie 130.

Then I started questioning a product that's been around longer than most of our grandparents...


Head & Shoulders. We all know it, it's a household name. But isn't the name just a tad overly-ambitious? I mean, what on earth went on in that first marketing brainstorming session?

I see them all sitting around the table: "So what shall we call this new dandruff shampoo?"

"Well, it's for the head," one enterprising marketing exec would say. (We'll call him Adman A.)

And everybody nods at the wisdom of this statement. "For the head... yes, yes, excellent..."

Adman B: "But all shampoos are for the head!"

A moment of depression settles over the room.

Adman A: "Ah, but ours is so powerful it will encompass the whole, er, headal-neckal-shoulderial region!"

Adman B: "How's it do that?"

Adman A: "Well... er... some people have longer hair than others. Plus, we want to let everyone know how much better it is than the competition. We'll call it... Head & Shoulders!"

"Brilliant!"
After that, they went to work on the athlete's foot cream, "Toe & Ankle," the eyedrops product, "Retina & Eyelash" and the nosespray, "Septum & Sinus."

Those last three products really didn't take off as well as they were hoping.

Of course, it's also highly possible the name was intended to be a subtle indicator to men with hairy backs that by using this product, they can have smooth, silky and flake-free backhair.

Unfortunately, I have not been blessed with back hair, so I realize I'm only using 50% of this product's full potential.

Head & Shoulders then got me thinking about our local restaurant chain, Eat 'n Park. At first, when I moved to Western PA, and I'd hear people talking about this, I thought they were saying "Eaton Park."

Sounded classy. Like some upscale housing development with lawn art restrictions.

But it turned out, Eat 'n Park's a family restaurant, sort of like Kings or Denny's. So you go there and first you eat and... then you park?

Now me, personally, I prefer to park, then eat. Saves on gas. Unless we're talking the 50s phrase "parking," meaning "making out in the car.:

Which, now I think about it, could explain some of Eat 'N Park's continued popularity. In the 1950s, Lover's Lane might have seen a serious drop-off in attendance once word of a make-out restaurant got around.

Last, I just wanted to share with you all why I am not fit for high society...


See these? I bought these. Never, ever put me in charge of choosing wines, or whatever has cheerful packaging will win out.

I mean, I'm in marketing myself. I know better. But someone could pretty much create a new vintage called Chateau de Arsenic 2009 and if it were in a fun bottle, I'd be looking at it in the store, "Ah, adorable! This must make it a fine vintage worthy of consumption!"

Actually, these weren't too bad. Only, as proven, I know absolutely nothing about wines. Pepto-pink packaging and cartoon sheep are enough to sway me.

"Yes, Madame, we have an excellent Dom Perignon available today..."

"Ah, mais non, Monsieur. Not por moi. Instead, I sink I shall have... zat pink one."

Do you folks know any product names that make you say, "Huh?"

Does anyone else get caught up in the moment of good-lookin' packaging? I'd enjoy chatting about it in a moment of pleasant (humour)ologie and (camarad)erie.

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34 comments:

Hindleyite said...

Meh, Shakespeare used to make words up for his plays all the time. Fnurdletoot!

Jenn Thorson said...

Hindleyite- Er, bless you! Oh, sorry, you hadn't sneezed? :)

Jaffer said...

I remember in the early 80's Saudi Arabia, where a Head & Shoulder's TV Ad showed a woman with beautiful hair brushing off the white stuff off her dark suit - thus justifying the name.

There's Arm & Hammer which strikes me as old fashioned but I have come to like their whitening products.

The packaging and earthy colours of Gold Bond Medicated Powder also seem old fashioned.
The name can be mistaken by amateur Mining Prospectors instead of a "Gold Loan".

"Aiwa" is funny to folks who lived in Western Saudi Arabia because it means "Yes" in the local dialect.

As a kid I did not like the brand names "National" (Which is now part of Panasonic), Sanyo and Mazda. And I could never pronounce Mitsubishi.

Jenn Thorson said...

Jaffer- Apparently the arm and hammer symbol was the symbol of Vulcan the god of fire. Their web site didn't do much more explanation than that.

Gold Bond's packaging does still have that old-timey feel, doesn't it? Mazda was, I believe, the name of a god.

And I didn't realize "aiwa" meant yes.

Jaffer said...

Oh I thought the Arm and Hammer represented Thor and his Mjolnir !
Funny I mixed up Gods and their Hammers. Doesn't happen very often you know !

Yes, Ahura Mazda is the name of God of Zoroastrians.
Mazda built inferior cars in the 80's. Some models came in a light shade of "brown".

Jenn Thorson said...

Jaffer- Are one of your superpowers the ability to know most gods and their weapons? :)

My problem was, I never envisioned Vulcan with rolled-up sleeves. More of a toga-robe thing. :)

Karen said...

Personally, I'm all over the Toad Hollow Wine, just because I like frogs. Luckily, I don't drink wine (I like Gin, Bombay Sapphire, which has a cool name and an AWESOME bottle) so I just buy the Frog Wine and feed it to my husband. He mistakenly thinks he 'understands wine', so I just 'decant the vintage so that it may BREATH' and hide the bottle.

The man can't tell the difference between Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin and Freixenet Carta Nevada Brut which may possibly come in a box instead of a bottle, I'm not sure about that. I loves me some snobbery when I's gets the chance! It don't come along often. And I do like me some of that ezpensive champagne!

Jenn Thorson said...

Karen- "The Frog Wine"-- ha. I'm glad I'm not alone then in the discerning palate (er, cute label decision-making).

rethoryke said...

I think my favorite was "Devil's Creek Vodka", which had a pastel picture of a southwestern canyon on the front, and on the back it had "The Legend of Devil's Creek".

Apparently, the first settlers in the area tasted the water of the creek and decided they wanted all this wonderful stuff for themselves, so they named it "Devil's Creek" to keep others from wanting to use it.

Lame, yes, but even lamer was the small print further down the label which admitted that the stuff was made in Patterson, NJ! Yes, there's water there, and there are even falls, but _really_....

Although "Eau d'Joisey" probably wouldn't have sold, either....

Jenn Thorson said...

Rhet- Jersey water... MMMMM! Yes, Patterson Pipes doesn't quite have the same sound as Devil's Creek, does it? :)

Nothing like them sharing an elaborate story about the place their Vodka isn't from.

Tiggy said...

I like the bold name of Anusol. None of this messing around or beating around the bush like Preperation 'H' (what's the 'H' for?)

Anusol says "This cream is for your arse."

Jenn Thorson said...

Tiggy- Okay, that totally cracked me up. I've heard comedians suggest that Preparation H happened because A through G were flops.

What if you get Anusol and Ambesol (for mouth sores) confused? :)

Jen said...

I buy most things in pretty packaging. I'm the marketers dream. Even if the product sucks I'll buy it again because it looks cool. I have to get me one of those Pepto wine bottles.

As for Head & Shoulders. My dad and brother both had hairy backs, and necks and everything else. Neither of them used the product but I suppose if they had dandruff that would be the one for them.

Da Old Man said...

As soon as I saw the cartoon sheep, I knew that was the wine for you. :)
Head and Shoulders was a brilliant name. It works on many subtle levels. Plus, were they the ones who had the commercials brushing dandruff off one's shoulders?

Jenn Thorson said...

Jen- The Pepto wine bottles come in purple and red, too. This way I will not be the only one who succumbed to the Pink Wine Bottle of Much Fun and Color. Now I have quite the vision of your hairy dad and bro! :)

Da Old Man- Heh, you and me both, with the cartoon sheep. See, that was how it worked. "Oh, look! What cute sheep! I wonder what the wine tastes like?" As if sheep equate with grapes, right? Where did my logic GO? How does this HAPPEN?

And yes, the Head & Shoulders was the one brushing off the flakes. (shudder). I mean, I get it. But... yuk.

absolutelytrue said...

Who named Aflac and umm.. why?

freetheunicorns said...

I bought this wine named Fat Bastard because I thought it funny. Turns out it's a great wine.

I also came across Sticky Ass Glue at the hardware store the other day.

One last stupid product name. McVitie's has a cookie called Finger Marie. How that got by anyone I'll never know. But it's a classic.

Jenn Thorson said...

AbsolutelyTrue- I am imagining (because I am too darned lazy to Google it) Aflac probably is an acronym for something like American Federated er, Leather Albatross Company

(only not that. at. all.)

Litigous Accident? Um, Lizard Airplane?

Dunno.

Free the Unicorns-- I have seen Fat Bastard wine before in the store, but had not tried it (though it made me laugh quite a bit). Good to know it is better than it's moniker suggests.

I suppose the wine experts would be obliged to call it "full-bodied!"

Da Old Man said...

I knew you did. :)

One thing I don't get is Right Guard. What happens to your poor left parts?

Jay said...

Clearly, you and I are polar opposites when it comes to marketing susceptibility! There is no way on earth I could buy a product with that bizarre misuse of parenthesis, and 'witty' packaging just makes me wonder what they're trying to hide.

The exception is companies like Innocent, who do witty packaging extremely well. Their products come in simple shapes and restrained designs, but they'll put little jokes in there, like in the list of ingredients they'll put something like ' ... half an apple, ten plump blueberries, and two small stones*' and then you check out the asterisk and it will say 'we were kidding about the stones'.

LOL!

Shieldmaiden96 said...

I have to confess that I was loath to purchase Head and Shoulders when they were calling themselves DANDRUFF shampoo, being as I am a Queen of Denial, but when they called it 'dry scalp shampoo', I said, why, a formula just for me!

I've ended up with many packages of gum that tasted like bathroom spray and old lady smell because I liked the box it came in.

Jenn Thorson said...

Da Old Man- Gosh, I don't know-- lefties get such a raw deal. (But honestly, Left Tackle just doesn't quite sound the same as a product name.)

Jay- I only succumb to the witty packaging in the wine store. As for the parenthesis, Infusium is actually considered a good product over here. It's just trying to put on airs. And how does one put on airs in the US? Why, pretend to be French, apparently.

Shieldmaiden- Heh, yes they've done a whole new remarketing thing of themselves with their "dry scalp." And hey, I hope you feel better soon. I read your unfortunate Twitter!

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

It's not the names of the products so much as the periodic "New & Improved" sticker they slap on for months and months, like a Grand Opening sign.

ettarose said...

I am so glad no one brought up "Head On." Sounds just so wrong!

Jenn Thorson said...

Nanny Goats- I know in some industries (pharmaceuticals is one) there's actually a legal limit on how long you can use that "New & Improved" symbol (which makes sense really, or otherwise they'd be trying to say everything is new and improved).

EttaRose- Oh, boy, you said it. What a name and what a commercial!

Prefers Her Fantasy Life said...

I would totally buy the Head & Shoulders if it had "select" or "premium" on the bottle.

Jenn Thorson said...

Prefers- Well, sure, that's like dialing it up to 11, isn't it? :)

bob said...

i fancy myself a packaging patsy. and for some odd reason, it really kicks in when i'm perusing jarred pasta sauces.

Jenn Thorson said...

Bob- A "packaging patsy"-- I will have to remember that one! :) It's true jarred pasta sauces do have a certain... ambiance. However do you choose?

Nooter said...

i could use head -n- shoulders but then what about the rest of my furry body? how come theres no 'back, butt, -n- fuzzy legs' shampoo?

Jenn Thorson said...

Nooter- Well, maybe you need to contact the company. Let 'em know how you feel about that-- give them a heads-up, so to speak, on the kind of target markets they're missing.

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