Unseen Power
  World Leading Brands / Products



The intrinsic worth of a reputable product name, and its value in promoting business, has early recognition in an unabashed piece of opportunistic advertising brought about by the demise in 1799 of one Nathaniel Godbold Esq. He (or more likely his immediate successors) had his tombstone in Godalming churchyard (Surrey, England) made into a permanent advertisement1 viz:

Sacred to the Memory of Nathaniel Godbold Esq

Inventor & Proprietor of that excellent medicine

The Vegetable Balsam For the Cure of

Consumptions & Asthmas.


He departed this Life, The 17th day of Decre 1999

Aged 69 years.


Hic Cineres Ubique Fania














Likewise, tombstone advertising is given further example by Sampson2 who reproduces a sketch of the headstone of one:

Jeremy Jobins – An Affectionate Husband – And A Tender Parent.

His Disconsolate Widow – In The Hope Of A Better

Meating – Continues To Carry On The Long Established Tripe And Trotter Business At The

Same Place – Before Her Lamented Bereavement.


Anno 1830














The base stone had inscribed: Redder-Pause & Notice The Address.

The word 'Meating', incidentally, is an intriguing, and no doubt deliberate, misspelling. William Smith, writing in 1863, also notes an enterprising widow.




Sacred to the Memory of John Roberts     Stonemason and Stonecutter,

Who Died on Saturday, October the 8th, 1800


N.B. The Business is Carried on by his Widow

At No 1 Freshfield Place









These examples certainly weren't the first advertisements3, but as acknowledgment that a good product, reputation or name shouldn be wasted, there is little to equal them. The successors to Godbld and Jobbins understood that a commercial reputation is hard to get, easy to lose, but of inestimable value if it still shines and has the right pedigree. Indeed, in this last instance it is known that Jobbins Tripe & Trotters survived into the early twentieth century. Advertising (wherever you can!) is central to effectively marketing a product (see below) and is a process of indoctrination, which:

a) initiates product awareness and interest from the consumer

b) simultaneously begins brand reinforcement

At the same time, it:

c) creates brand image, brand identity  (in toto, 'brand awareness')

d) communicates and adds product value, conveys trust, power and potency.

Consumer interest (that is curiosity) is initiated through ceaseless persuasion that the merits of a product are worth of investigation (through advertising which initiates brand building). Once the product is purchased and accepted (which may be an interactive process, based on promotion, consumer trials and evaluation) it is then necessary, by being prominent and conspicuous, to harden the consumers interest. In short, what one calls the product, and how it is packaged and targeted (its brand vitality) is crucial because to be successful one attempts to create a product identity, representing the products attributes and excellence, which seeks to endear itself to the consumer.

The intention is to instill a sense of product superiority in theconsumer. Repeat purchase of a product by consumers takes place because all the decision factors for choosing the product (that is, the products performance and promise - quality, consistency, fitness for purpose etc, etc) have been met, and - if quality is consistent – will continue to be met. Good branding strategies then, are designed to reinforce a good product and affect a product or brand loyalty, by instilling a conviction that the consumer can with confidence forsake all other competing brands. A good brand name then is wholly evocative of the product's attributes and qualities embedded in the consumers mind.4 Hence, the way the product is styled (named, packaged and presented) can give all the visual indicators and stimuli needed to endorse the consumer's previous decision to buy (creating 'salience' - i.e. the attributes and importance of the brand to the consumer).

This is even more important if the product in question has strong product competitors or brand rivals, i.e., the manufacturer of budget. disposable, flint-wheel, pre-filled, propane gas cigarette lighters has product competition from quality refillable lighters, wooden matches, piezo-electric gas lighters and battery ignited lighters. The brand rivals make disposable flint-wheel, propane gas lighters too, and will tend to have the same product competitors. Yet, of the huge number of everyday products we see now, proportionately few brand or product names became so familiar to consumers that they acquire a near generic status. Nevertheless, the modem market for products is so vast that those familiar names we do know run into the thousands.

All of us instantly recognise products such as Guinness, Hovis, Persi,Oxo, Kellogg, Hoover, Bovril, Camay, Pyrex, Pepsi-Cola, American Express, Brook Bond, Ford and the list goes on.

These examples have all became household names - but was it the product itself or the name that struck first? Marketing types would give arms and legs to know if (a) the question is valid, and (b) if there is an inherent secret of success. For all the struggling of marketers and product image-makers, the right brand name is an elusive quality.

Bryson cites General Foods who reviewed 2,800 names before choosing Dreamwhip for its artificial cream. Ford's new Edsalflagship saloon car in the early 1950s took 20,000 possible names (18,000 from Ford's advertising agency Foote, Cone and Belding and 2,500 from Ford staff) not one of which were accepted After an agony of indecision. Racer, Ranger, Corsair and Citation were given precedence but in 1956, Ford's chairman, Ernie Beech, in a moment of sycophantic stupidity, threw everything out and pulled Edsal, the name of Henry and Clara Ford's only child, from the reject list (thought to have connotations of 'Hard Sell').

After terrible production problems, a horrible front design an Oldsmobile sucking a lemon'), horrendously poor reliability, constant and expensive re-builds at the production line and $450 million dollars later; Ford abandoned its newborn product.

Witness the scarcity of strong brand names or trademarks in the personal computer business. No matter how hard the marketing people try, there are few well-established and instantly recognizable logos in the field. Compaq is arguably one as too is Apple. IBM (International Business Machines) is certainly another, but IBM got their reputation in the old days when they were pre-eminent in big mainframe computers (see elsewhere this book). As testimony to the difficulty of raising 'public awareness', recall (if you can!) the incomprehensible and ineffective advertising campaign by Wang Computers ('Not today, Hosay') a few years back.

Brand name fame is seldom an overnight occurrence, but attempts are continually being made to create buzzy, instantly memorable product names. In the marketing world, strategic branding is supposedly a science, yet only 5% of the 16,000 new brand names to appear in the US each year are completely new. The others attempt to capitalise on existing, successful, brand names. Of the appearances, some 50% of these 'new' brands have a life expectancy of less than a year. Mimicking and imitation however may be outlawed. New US legislation on the ‘dilution of brand names’ could soon prevent designers evading 'copy-cat' litigation by making it illegal to utilise names or designs which are strongly suggestive of a ‘supermark’- (defined as a 'famous' or well established brand or mark). In England, the problem was highlighted when the Asda supermarket chain introduced a chocolate biscuit to complete with the current brand made by United Biscuit. The Asda brand, Puffin, was adjudged by UB to be pirating their Penguin brand (logo and all) and the result was High Court litigation {Independent 25 February 1997).

Copying then is dangerous, and it remains marketing wisdom that it is often far more valuable to employ an old established brand or trade name than to plagiarise an existing one, or move into unchartered territory and risk something entirely new. A recent example is the resurrection of the Ronson name, once famous in the 1950s for its cigarette lighters and electric started in the 1890s by the Swede Louis V Aronson (1869- 1940) in Newark, New Jersey, Ronson (the anglicised version of Aronson) was a small ornament manufacturer (Art Metal Co) first in New York and then, later, in New Jersey (Art Metal Works). Aronson raised $5 million by selling his patent on electro-plating but retained the right to employ it for his own products. In 1897, he developed a ‘Safety Match’, a sulphur striker instead of the more dangerous and more common phosphorous.

Teaming up with London-bom Alexander Harris, they revealed a mutual interest in developing new ways of flame ignition. Learning of a new metal alloy (ferro-cerium or Auermetal after its inventor Dr. Carl Auer von Weisbach) that produced a continous spark stream when abraded, they set to work to incorporate it into a self-contained lighter. Called 'flint' like its natural counterpart, Auermetal, alon with newly available petroleum based fuels (1914), made it possible to produce self-contained lighters (first patent 1910 – the Pist-o-Liter; then in 1913, the first 'striker' lighter, a fuel soaked wick ignited by a scratching stylus (wand) against a striker - the  ‘Wonderlite’).However, the company lacked the decisive inventive and engineering creativity and it was only after Aronson visited Alfred Dunhill in England that he focused on a practical single motion lighter arrangement. At each refinement, the Ronson range became more popular.So famous did Ronson become that in 1958 it was a name known to almost 97% of subjects polled in a US/UK survey.


Ronson US steadily lost ground throughout the 1960s and 1970s because of strong competition from cheap imitations and subsequently, Ronson UKthough having sales of £128   million, ceased trading   in     1981. Nevertheless, the name is still strongly implanted in consumers’ minds – in China and in other Far East regions it is the generic name for a lighter. Re-launched in 1982 (as Ronson  Exports  Ltd), Halkin   Holdings   Ltd purchased Ronson in 1994 (renaming as the Ronson Group pic UK, Ronson Inc US).  Ronson products

(now lighters, pens, sunglasses and cuff-links) enjoy a strong brand

and trade name lineage. The UK group suffered a severe trading

setback in 1996 through a factory fire but, at the time, Howard

Hodgson (CEO) remained confident that the operation would still be

positioned to expand and maintain market penetration.

Of the 150,500 trademarks registered in the US prior to 1922 than 10 were in use before 1870 and only a handful existed between 1885 and 1890. As a result, we are not surprised when Bryson points out that in 19 out of 22 product categories, the company that owened the leading brand name as early as 1925 still has it today. In short, a well established brand name is virtually un-erasable in consumers minds, as in the case of the General Electric food blender - in 1989, US consumers were still ranking GE food blenders second best, 20 years after the company stopped making them!

A brand name can be neither generic, nor directly descriptive (you'll have a battle getting Cheese Sandwich biscuits registered!) Nor can a brand name remain exclusive if the status changes, i.e. from a brand name to a descriptive or generic name If it does, it then becomes indefensible by the originator. A brand name is a trademark - a trade name the name of the manufacturer or business/trading entity owning/employing the brand/trademark.

Trade names can become brand names and so too logos, drawings and other depictions or illustrations that characterise, represent or distinguish the business/trading entity (the company) or its product from another. Once registered, they are protected by law. Brand names, strictly as a product trademark, should remain unique to the product - but where a brand name becomes generic there is, as noted above, a distinct risk that it will lose its exclusivity. Advisable, also, is the separation of trade and brand names - it reserves the product image even if, or when, the brand fades or is lost As example, is the Unilever trade name. Unilever is unassailable as a manufacture of quality cleansing and toiletry products and can compete with itself over its own various brands. At a push it could oust one of its own products knowing it could confidently return to the market with another product instantly advantaged by the strongly positioned Unilever reputation (which, like Virgin, ICI, Hoover, IBM, BA,Hoover, Sony, Dyson, Ford, Levi etc, etc have become brands in their own right). Taking the point above, advertising which implies that the brand has universal appeal, (and might be considered as the universal -generic - term for the product) is hazardous.

Trademark protection then can be lost if it becomes evident that the name is, by usage or claim, generic. Thus in the USA, the American Thermos Co exulted 'Thermos' as a 'household word' and lost its trademark protection5. So too. Gramophone6, Aspirin, Linoleum, Yo-Yo, Cornflakes, Cellophane, Milk of Magnesia, Mimeograph, Lanolin, Celluloid, Dry ice. Trampoline, Escalator,Shredded Wheat, Kerosene and Zipper. Furthermore, in New Zealand, the fruit growers found that they could not retain exclusive use of the name 'Kiwi-Fruit'; there had been a failure to register it anywhere as a trademark. Now New Zealand Kiwi-Fruit has been renamed ZESPRI by a London-based branding consultancy (on the basis that the name conveys 'zest'?). Hoover (c.f.) is another reminder that the right product with the right name can leave an indelible mark that will forever influence the consumer and thus profit a company, but without squandering its trademark Protection. Only in the UK has Hoover near generic status (for vacuum cleaner) and so far is free

from challenge (as too Xerox, but this is a definite risk!).

It comes as no surprise that most washing and cleaning products have names concocted for effect. Thus, Daz is derived from 'dazzle' (to blind, astonish confound etc). Daz is an early example of a detergent (alkylaryl sulphonate detergent with phosphates) containing fluorescent brightening agents. Likewise, Surf, but here not only is there a suggestion of white, frothing waves crashing in along a sun-bleached sea shore, but the name has a more mundane derivation from detergent surfactant (which itself is formed from the chemical term surface active agent) and refers to the 'wetting' properties of the detergent. Brillo scouring pads, on the other hand, are even less esoteric, being a name chosen simply to heighten the impression of 'brilliance' in cleaning stained kitchen ware (see elsewhere in this book).

Such names are not necessarily trivial, though clearly these examples are meant to convey the product's principal attribute, property, function or claim (consider Glist - dishwasher tablets that make the crockery Glisten or Mr. Sheen - furniture polish that creates a surface sheen, terms which are almost synonymous to shine and gleam). However, promoting a new product name means agonizing over subtleties of consumer perception. Brand appeal and brand awareness are not always positive qualities (i.e. choose a name that suffers ambiguous pronunciation, connotations or inflection and your product could crash even though consumer preference is high). On top of this, it must gain peer recognition within the 'targeted'

consumer group (as an extreme example, a chocolate bar called, say, 'Coco-Sludge,' has the wrong connotations and risks poor sales to those who might otherwise buy it - see elsewhere in this chapter).

Furthermore, names must be neutral if the product is to be sold internationally. A strong trade or product name in English may be, inadvertently, a term of abuse in Arabic. Indeed, the reverse is true.

Coon cheese, with its racial allusions, was once constantly advertised in the Gulf states, whilst similar howlers have been cited by Room. According to this source, a Finish lock de-icer was marketed under the name Super Piss while a French soft drink went into the shops under the label Pschitt. However, the story that in the old East Germany, toilet paper was designated Krepp may be apocryphal!

Subjective evaluation is critical - even the colour identity of the product must be right. Pepsi-Cola are still counting the enormous cost ($7,500,000 and not the $500,000,000 widely publicised) of going over to its 'blue' campaign which had the marketing concept of linking the product and its promotion to 

the colour blue, supposedly
because blue is subjectively 'cool and would appeal to the younger 'ice cube' fraternity (sonic argue that yellow would have been better!). Some the only result has been a slight dip in sales, which has the consolation of being less of a failure than Coca-Cola's early eighties campaign for Coke which reformulated the drink and its promotion with disastrous results.

A further reminder of how easy it is to miss comes from Rolls Royce who, in an effort to maintain the mystique in the naming of their marques, tried to follow the Silver series (Ghost. Wraith and Phantom) with Silver Mist. It was pointed out however that 'Mist' in German means anything from crap to bullshit rubbish, droppings, dung. manure, codswallop and so on, which resulted in 'Mist' hastily being replaced with 'Shadow’.

Likewise, Fiat were not to know that their naming of a new family model as the Punto was slang Spanish for 'little willie (penis) which given the macho male Spanish consumer, could be commercial suicide for Fiat.

Spanish dialectical anomalies have also created problems - Spanish isn't simply just Spanish. Bryson quotes the case of mainstream Spanish bichos meaning insects, whereas in Puerto Rico it colloquially means testicles. Male Puerto Rican consumers were bemused to be told by a pesticide maker that its product would bring death to bichos (which, given the role of pesticides in reducing sperm counts, might not be far from the truth). In the same way, Miami residents of Cuban extraction were shaken when a bread maker referred to its products as being 'un bollo de pan which was Cuban slang for a woman's private parts. Similarly, when Purdue Chickens translated its slogan 'It Takes a Tough Man to Make a TenderChicken' into Spanish - it came out as 'It Takes a Sexually Excited Man to Make a Chicken Sensual'. Nevertheless, sales rocketed.

Global advertising (insisting on using the same marketing message in every country) has had its failures too. It was reported (London Times 20th Aug. 1995) that Pepsi's 'Come Alive With Pepsi' became translated as 'Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back From The Dead' in one Asiatic language.

Similarly, Kentucky Fried Chicken's 'Fingerlickin Good' was received by the Chinese as 'Eat Your Fingers Off' whilst washing powder advertisements that showed three stages of washing baffled consumers in the Middle East. After a pile of unmistakably soiled garments, the advertisement then showed powder being added to the wash followed by a view of spotlessly clean clothes. It was forgotten by the marketing people that in this particular region people read from right to left!


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