You Aren’t Clever Enough to Get Our Trademark

Radios were once all the rage. Shacks were once a cool place to shop, but in the 21st century no one wants to shop at RADIO SHACK®.

Meet the “Radio Shack Problem“: A descriptive trademark that holds you back when markets and social trends move on.

Dress barn.jpg

This ad campaign by DRESS BARN® attempted to overcome a self-inflicted marketing wound by claiming that it’s really the customers who are too dense to get it.

OVERSTOCK.COM® is spending tons on advertising to convince customers that the word “overstock” in their name is just a great big misunderstanding and customers certainly shouldn’t think of them as an “overstock” company.

Rice Krispies

2-pound Rice Krispie Treat®

A recent trip to my local IT’SUGAR® showed they’re on track to become a Radio Shack Problem. IT’SUGAR sells candy bars the size of coffee tables. They also sell tchotchkes that aren’t made of sugar. Pretty soon they’ll be running ads to let everyone know they sell both edible and non-edible chazerei.

Non-sugar Chazerai

Tchotchkes

Don’t be a Radio Shack Problem. Pick a trademark that’s suggestive so it will stand the test of time: NEST®, ROOMBA®, APPLE®, GOOGLE®, AMAZON®. Those brands will go anywhere, anytime and do anything you need them to do.

The owners of those trademarks never have to berate customers for not understanding their brand because those companies didn’t mislead their customers in the first place.

 

Thanks to Liz B. and Max F. for sending stuff that suggested this post.

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A World Without Trademarks

We almost never personally know the person who makes the things we buy and, yet, we blithely go into the world and buy stuff.

That would be insanely more difficult without trademarks.

Imagine a trip to the grocery store where the packages identify the contents with generic names but nothing else.

You liked the IPA you bought last week. Is the bottle that says “IPA” from the same brewery? That TP was soft and yet strong. I wonder if this package labeled “toilet paper” is the same stuff?

Maybe you fall back on knowing the grocer personally and that she stocks stuff only from reputable suppliers, but last week you bought three cans of tomato soup. They were all good, but one was creamier, just the way you like it. Here you are facing a shelf of cans marked “tomato soup.” Which have the soup you like?

It’s hard enough to imagine traditional commerce existing without trademarks, but how would e-commerce ever work? What good is a product review without branding? How much confidence would you have in the goods you’d receive from Amazon® or PeaPod® without being able to order by brand?

We sort of know how it would be. Not many people are comfortable ordering produce online because the brand doesn’t really tell you whether the item is overripe or has been mishandled.

Now imagine that every purchase was as involved as finding that perfect peach.

Trademarks are awesome.

 

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(NO) Hidden Meaning

Getting your message across in a logo can be like talking on a cell phone with bad reception. It may end up a little garbled or your audience may not hear you at all.

The Procter & Gamble® logo featured above was used for 60 years before being scrapped in 1995. For most of the time it was used, it was the subject of a ridiculous urban legend about P&G’s supposed ties to the devil. Probably not the message P&G was going for.

Here’s one that tends to get through. What do you think of when you see the vertical lines in the Cisco® logo?

Cisco

It’s a stylized Golden Gate bridge, a call out to the city that gave the company its name.

Here’s one that often isn’t noticed at all. Can you spot it?

FedEx

Did you see the arrow in the negative space between the “E” and “X”? It’s cool when it gets across.

How about the message in the Amazon® logo?

Amazon smile

The curved line is both: a smile with a dimple; and a callout to the A to Z guarantee when you buy on Amazon.

Some logos are meant to playfully mislead. For example, this mark, where Hooters® is pretending that no one is thinking about breasts:

Hooters

It’s great to include a hidden or overt message in your logo as long as you can avoid an unintended negative interpretation. What hidden messages have you seen in logos lately?

 

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