Zits

Imagine starting a high-end brand using a word that brings to mind everyone’s worst memories from their teenage years.

When I first saw an ACNE STUDIO® store, I thought it was an exceptionally odd choice of trademark for a luxury fashion brand. I assumed, incorrectly, that “acne” meant something different in Sweden. Nope, the Swedish word for “acne” is . . . “acne.”

According to Wikipedia, ACNE was “initially an acronym for Associated Computer Nerd Enterprises that was later changed to Ambition to Create Novel Expressions.”

Interesting, but doesn’t explain the choice. If your inspiration were “Zeroing In To Style” you’d probably lay off the acronym.

The more I thought, the more I liked ACNE as a brand. It says it doesn’t care about your preconceived ideas. If you can’t think past being an uncool teenager, maybe you should buy your clothes elsewhere.

The approach is similar to a recent ad campaign for DORITOS® that “features no logo or brand name, to attract a younger, advertising-averse generation.” The ads feature bags in either solid red or solid blue and equilateral triangles with hashtags: #cheesy #cool #spicy #ranch.

Of course the DORITOS ads aren’t really free of logos. They’re chock full of logos: They’re just less obvious. This advertising appeals to people who think of themselves as advertising-averse. This is akin to the strategy used by ACNE STUDIOS. It says “You’re cool. So are we. Buy our stuff.”

Shout out to Liz B. for bringing the DORITOS ads to my attention and to Mary M. for making me think differently about ACNE.

Football-Shaped G

When people think about protecting a trademark, they usually think about a cease and desist letter followed by a lawsuit but there’s another way to protect a trademark. Here’s a great example of that strategy in action.

In 1960, the Green Bay Packers® starting using a football-shaped letter G as a logo.

In 1964, the University of Georgia began using a football-shaped letter G as a logo. Before adopting its new logo, the University ask the Packers for permission. The Packers said yes.

Why would the Packers give their permission? I don’t know but I can speculate. The Packers had two choices:

  • Refuse permission and:
    • Look like a bully; and, potentially
    • Spend a bunch of money to defend its rights while possibly not having strong enough rights to be defensible. After all, their logo is just a slightly squashed letter G and, in 1964, the G logo wasn’t even a registered trademark. Any legal action would be based on the Packers’ common law trademark rights.

OR

  • Give permission and:
    • Look like the good guys; and,
    • Maybe
      • Get some contractual rights for how Georgia uses the logo (colors, exact specs of the design, etc.); and
      • Set a precedent of getting people to ask the Packers for permission.[i]

Here’s the lesson: If you aren’t sure whether you can win in a legal battle and the other trademark user isn’t likely to tarnish your brand, it may make sense to give them permission rather than being oppositional.

Shout out to Julie W, a loyal reader of the Bee Blog and a frequent contributor of post ideas.


[i] Grambling State University also started using a football-shaped G as its logo in 1974. Grambling State also reached out to the Packers and was given permission.