When Taglines Go Bad

Devon Thomas Treadwell | Branding,Humor,Taglines | Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Today P. Scott Cunningham of the Miami New Times imagines the bureaucratic comedy of errors resulting in this:

We Useless

Pollywog on the Ed Schultz Show

Devon Thomas Treadwell | Pollywog News | Monday, April 27th, 2009

Last week, Devon Thomas Treadwell, Principal of Pollywog, was interviewed by Ed Schultz on his nationally radio syndicated show.  Listen here:

Rolls-Royce Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost

Devon Thomas Treadwell | Branding,Naming | Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Yesterday’s announcement by Rolls-Royce that it will call its newest model the “Ghost” reminds us of the power of names that have both positive and negative connotations.

The name “Ghost” is a slimmed-down version of “Silver Ghost,” the legendary model that Rolls-Royce introduced in 1906. Following in the, er, spirit of supernatural names, the company later produced the Phantom and Wraith.

While this history helps “Ghost” instantly mean “legendary Rolls” to vintage car buffs and those old enough to remember the original, for others the word “ghost,” er, conjures up a host of negative imagery.

But that’s what helps make it such an effective name. It has the power to trigger a reaction.

As I explained in “It’s All Good,” if a brand is desirable, and its name happens to have both positive (“other worldly,” “exciting,” “rare,” “inaccessible except to a few”)  and negative connotations (“creepy,” “dangerous,” “evil,” “nonexistent”), cognitive dissonance sets in. The human mind is unable to hold conflicting beliefs for very long, so people will either:

  1. Convince themselves that the negative belief isn’t important (“It’s called a Ghost, but it’s still a Rolls-Royce, so it doesn’t matter.”)
  2. Add more comfortable beliefs that outweigh the negative (“This car isn’t named after a spirit–it’s named after the first Rolls.”)
  3. Or change the beliefs so they’re no longer inconsistent (“Ghosts are powerful and scary–I kind of like it when people think of me that way too.”)

This process is usually not one that people labor over. In fact, it can be done in a Malcolm Gladwell Blink–cognition and decision-making so rapid, it takes place without conscious awareness.

Maybe it was a no-brainer for Rolls-Royce to reach back and, er, resurrect a brand name from its venerable history. On the other hand, naming this model “Ghost” was not without risk of being off-putting for certain customers.

So I have to give Rolls-Royce credit for branding the car with a daring name. From a naming and branding perspective, “Ghost” fires on all cylinders.

“Outer Space” is the New Black

Devon Thomas Treadwell | Branding,Line Extensions,Naming | Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Colourlovers.com provides a handy list of all 120 current Crayola crayon colors (along with their hex and RGB values).

And while we’re in the crayon box, check out this full list of crayon colors and the years they were added or deleted. I can remember the thrill of getting that fat box of 64 colors, which included a built-in sharpener and  a crayon called “Flesh.” When its name was changed to “Peach” in 1962, it was probably my first lesson in racial sensitivity.

Other colors dropped from the box since my childhood coloring days: Maize, Lemon Yellow, Blue Gray, Raw Umber, Green Blue, Orange Red, Orange Yellow and Violet Blue. (How can anyone color without Raw Umbrage–er, I mean Umber?)

Along the way from its original package of 8 crayons to today’s bountiful box of 120 colors, Crayola recognized the limitations of using actual spectrum color names, which are broad and abstract, and began using metaphors in their naming strategy.

Among the newest crayons in today’s box: Mango Tango, Jazzberry Jam, Inch Worm and Wild Blue Yonder.

On a related note,does anyone think this is a good idea?

Crayola Coolerz

This is a line extension that fails to leverage Crayola’s core brand essence–creativity and play. It’s just a beverage. While it may catch a child’s eye as he’s passing by in a shopping cart, Crayola branding does nothing for a juice cooler, and a juice cooler does nothing to enhance the Crayola brand.

Plus,  I’m no longer 8 years old, but still–the thought of drinking a crayon is, well, yucky.

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