Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Not always what the marketing man ordered

What’s the best brand name ever? Brasso must come close: short, unambiguous, even a bit of wit. The worst? How about Francis Barnett? A motorbike undermined by the manufacturer’s weak-kneed birth certificate.

Brand names encircle our lives, especially our youth. Reckitt & Colman went global as Reckitt Benckiser but for me R&C is a wooden peg sticking out of a fabric bag of dolly blue - whatever that was. Persil is middle-class detergent but who would trust cheaply ostentatious Daz? Dreft - for clothes so delicate you’d prefer not to wear them - somehow matches the translucent white flakes.

Shell, BP, Elf and Texaco snap out their oily names but Fina falls flat. As revenge I’m inclined to say Finner. Omega’s an OK wristwatch but Rolex is a supermarket trolley; Longines (my watch) speaks French chic and beats them both.

Cox’s Orange Pippin and Bramley Seedling have ancestry which Gala obviously lacks. Who would eat spreadable butter from Lurpak which sounds like an eructation? - the BBs do, but quietly. Qantas was too easily transmogrified into Quaint-arse (by Alf Garnett) to be taken seriously.

Lagonda became part of Aston Martin and serve ‘em right; sounds like a taxi you’d hail in Venice. Noilly Prat overcame English prejudice to help create the dry martini but it was a near thing.

I’ll never drink Byrrh, there was no need to spell it like that. I get the feeling a Stanley knife will cut. Same with Gillette but Wilkinson’s a subfusc hoo-ha. Never let a committee dream up a toothpaste name, otherwise you’ll get Sensodyne.

Where did this avalanche come from? From a question in a 1066 And All That exam paper: Why do you think of John of Gaunt as an emaciated grandee?

11 comments:

Lee said...

You know you have a winner when they enter the language as a descriptor for the whole range. Hoover. Xerox. Biro.

Julia said...

I think you're absolutely right about brands decided in committee. Sensodyne sounds as if the CFO made the final call!

Speaking of brands, is the Mushy brand an attraction or not?

Barrett Bonden said...

Lee: Welcome. I take your point but my main interest was customer perception of these often expensive labels. When ballpoints were first introduced my grandmother decided to pronounce them Bee-Row, not only undermining the marketing man's finest hour but evoking (I think) a form of self-raising flour.

Julia: The worst brand names these days are the unpronounceables, often incorporating numerals and symbols and attached to whizz-bang comms outfits. Mushy? As in mushy peas? Well I eat 'em but only on special occasions and when I feel the need to slum.

Occasional Speeder said...

I was always with you where "Butty Bach" was concerned - who'd ask for a drink you can't pronounce? But then I found out it was Welsh for "little friend" and I liked the thought that a pint of beer could be just that..

Fedorovna said...

Oh BB, it's Lux Flakes, Dreft was (is?) a powdery substance to be used for your 'delicates'. My favourites include Swarfega, Germolene, Liquafruta whose factory in the 1950s (in Camberwell Grove believe it or not), released a powerful garlic whiff over the whole area well before the pungent bulb was commonly found in London greengrocers. Elastoplast also (ahem)works well... could be one of those descriptors.

Plutarch said...

Marmite, yes. Vegemite, perhaps not.

Barrett Bonden said...

All: I'm cheered by all these comments since it appears no one saw the craggy, densely packed, quite ugly sonnet I posted overnight after this post. It attracted a thumbs down from my brother and has been removed. My reputation remains intact (well, more or less).

OS: That does make the Welsh stuff more linguistically acceptable but I still don't intend to order it by name. I'll go as far as "Another pint of that, please." (Points.)

Fedrorovna: Welcome (may I say?) tovarich. You see what happens. One tries to make a hairy-chested, spit-in-the-gutter blog slightly more appealing to women and one goes arse over tip. Of course you are right and, on reflection, Dreft hints at something alone and palely loitering: the sort condemned in my detestable home town for carrying their handkerchiefs up their sleeves.

As I say the aim was to explore personal reactions to the names rather than the products themselves. Swarfega always seemed to be taking a hell of a risk given that anyone needing to remove carbon-steel shavings from their hands might better call for a blow-torch. Germolene is so deliciously old-fashioned and dates back to a time when we were all rather vague about infection. Liquafruta, the name, was composed by an engineer without a shred of poetry in his system.

As to Elastoplast: we'd just moved to the USA and our daughter had, I think, tumbled over. Mrs BB said "I'll just put an Elastoplast on that." An American, overhearing, said, "Ma-am you'd better ask for Band Aid or you'll bleed to death."

Plutarch: Sounds like an insect.

Hattie said...

My current favorite brand name is Sluggo. The slug bait.
Have you ever looked at Japanese English brand names, such as the well know Pokari Sweat, a sports drink?

herhimnbryn said...

MARMITE ( can't live without it)

Bishop's Finger Beer ( sans the rude joke!)

Smith's Crisps ( and yes, I do remember the twist of blue paper containing salt)

Rouchswalwe said...

I happen to like hairy chests.
And Pokari Sweat is in a class by it's own (but it actually doesn't taste all that bad).

Barrett Bonden said...

Hattie: Japan was supposed to open a whole new door on gustatory and brand name experience. I think Sweat was merely a name
to tickle the fancy of Occidentals, make them think they'd done something terribly extreme. I have a good memory for tastes (esp. wine) but Sweat has evaporated from my memory banks. I wanted to be the first to eat a caramelised grasshopper but a French journalist (Natch!) was seconds ahead of me; both of us were disappointed since it tasted like sticky straw. Hundred-year-old eggs looked ba-a-ad ma-a-an (I mean black) but tasted like blanc-mange. The one thing that really got to me was a dab of something to go with my Japanese breakfast which tasted like (closest I can get) petrol; a middle-ranking manager of Citizen Watch, my host, was sent to find out and it was said to be a combination of extreme horse-radish and (I think) sea urchin. That made the trip worthwhile.

HHB: I was trying to extract people's reactions to the names alone. In fact in Switzerland slang une grosse marmite means a very low-grade lady of the night. So be careful when pursuing your passion in that country. I don't see how one can separate the gesture from the person - a bishop's finger is the same as anyone else's, a gesture of contempt and my non-ecumenicism would prevent me drinking it. Smiths Crisps are notable for their complete lack of thought-up brand name because they date back to a time when that was all there was.

RW (zS): My chest is getting more and more hairy the older I get. When I'm 101 I'll be the most desirable chap you've ever known. See above re. Sweat. Sorry about all that repeated stuff about Japan which I've already paraded in WW.