Pins & Tweets
Turning brand names into verbs or vernacular “may be as important to a new company as sleek site design or a sophisticated set of algorithms.”
After all, we live in an age when LOL (laugh out loud) and OMG (oh my God) are defined in the Oxford English Dictionary. We don’t look things up; we Google them. We don’t post photos; we Pin them. We don’t share our thoughts; we Tweet them. Twitter, in fact, has spawned an entire microsyntax (follow, @, and #hashtag) to a point where you don’t need to be a Twitter user to know what these terms mean.
“People are trying to understand what market they own in an industry that is flooded with similar companies,” says Jordan Cooper, a venture capitalist. “If you can take a piece of language that is commonly used and be associated with it, it’s a very powerful way to say you’re leading in your space.”
The challenge is that it can be difficult to impossible to make a fabricated term stick. “It’s not something a company can force,” says Jordan. “It happens on its own because a company has created a new behavior that has penetrated the industry.” Bing didn’t make much of an inroad against Google, for instance, while “Pinning” on Pinterest caught on easily. “When they go viral,” says Susan Etlinger of the Altimeter Group, “they’re naturally lightweight and unpretentious.”
[Source: Jenna Wortham, The New York Times, 5/6/12]
Garland Pollard has a website called BrandlandUSA where you can “buy and sell old brands.” Garland launched the site five years ago so he could blog “about classic American brands.” He added a classified-ad section and says he’s seen traffic steadily increase ever since. Indeed, interest in reviving old, discontinued brands appears to be on the rise.
Remember Astro Pops? Those “rocket-shaped” lollipops? Ellia Kassoff of Strategic Marks LLC does, and bought the rights to start making them again from Spangler Candy, which had discontinued them in 2004. How about Boast polo shirts? You know, with the logo that looked suspiciously like a marijuana leaf? John Dowling picked up the rights from Bill St. John, the tennis pro who launched the brand 1972, but that was pretty much gone by the early ’90s.
Eddie Riegel is bringing back the Seafood Shanty, a 14-restaurant chain in Pennsylvania and New Jersey that went belly up in the ’90s. The rights to the mark had expired and he managed to buy the restaurant’s original recipes for $7,500 from a former chef.
George T. Haley, a marketing professor at University of New Haven, notes that, among other things, it can be a lot cheaper to market an old brand than a new one. As a result, says BrandlandUSA’s Garland Pollard, “It’s pretty much open season for older brands.”
[Source: Angus Loten and Emily Maltby, The Wall Street Journal, 4/19/12]
Hormel’s “canned, spiced lunchmeat” continues to sell well despite its unfortunate association with “unwanted email.” We are talking, of course, about Spam, that “rectangular, 12-ounce can of ham and shoulder meat” first introduced in 1937 as “The Meat of Many Uses.” Its name was “short for SPiced hAM” and it was “an immediate hit with depression-era families.”
The brand’s challenges stemmed from the double whammy of a classic “Monty Python sketch in which every item on a restaurant’s menu includes Spam” and the rise of the internet in the mid ’90s. The Python routine inspired “chat-room users” to flood “computer screens with the word ‘spam’ to blot out the comments of users they didn’t like.”
Hormel’s initial response was to try to “assert its trademark rights,” but soon accepted that it simply needed to play along with the joke. Hormel has since “joined the promotion of the Tony-winning Broadway musical Spamalot,” and rolled out a “dizzying number of brand extensions, such as Spam Stinky French Garlic Collector’s Edition.” It opened a Spam Museum, launched Spam Jam festivals and introduced “a new Spam spokes-character, Sir Can-A-Lot.”
As a result, “Hormel sold 122 million cans of Spam last year, an increase of 11 percent over 2009, continuing a string of three consecutive years of strong growth.”
[Source: Karl Taro Greenfeld, Bloomberg Businessweek, 5/21/12]