Cisco Sysco

Sysco Corporation has been using SYSCO since the early 1970s.

Cisco Technology, Inc. started using CISCO in the 1990s.

CISCO sounds exactly like SYSCO.

Why is that OK?

For long-time readers, you know the answer has to do with those darn du Pont factors.  Here are the two du Pont factors that are considered the most important:

  • The similarity or dissimilarity of appearance, sound, and connotation of the marks.
  • The relatedness of the goods or services.

The first of the two key factors is a problem for Cisco Technology, Inc. The marks are identical in sound. It’s kinda interesting that the words look quite different but the complete identity of the sound is what’s going to control here. I can’t start a band and call it GHOTI* without running afoul of the band PHISH.

It’s the second bullet that gets Cisco Technology off the hook. It’s hard to imagine two more different areas of endeavor:

Distributing food products to restaurants and other foodservice companies.                       vs.Developing, manufacturing and selling networking hardware and telecommunications equipment

I find it very hard to imagine a restaurant owner called Cisco Technology to order eggplant for her moussaka. I find it equally hard to imagine her calling Sysco to buy a new router.

And that’s why it’s OK.




Shout out to Julie W. for the suggestion that led to this post.

Photo by Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons

*GHOTI = FISH if you pronounce GH as in “rough”; O as in “women”; and TI as in “friction.”


(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?


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?


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:


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?