Inspired by Joe R.’s recent post called, “Growing Up Brand,” I started thinking about brand names of yesteryear. Two of the visuals in his post were of “Sugar Pops” and “Sugar Smacks,” sinfully sweet cereal brands that I’ve enjoyed my fair share of over the years. Joe mentioned that “Sugar was not a dirty word back then.” Having “sugar” in the name was no doubt a smart decision at the time; it clearly said that these are sweet products that would immediately appeal to kids. Today, though, I just don’t think a name like that could be created and sold through the system. First of all, no one is bragging about sugar content, and secondly, the process of branding and naming has changed dramatically over the years. Brand names are now often focus grouped, chosen by management consensus and legal availability.
In other words, names are safer these days.
Product brands and subbrands often go with generic descriptors masked as brands by add-on suffixes. Thanks to Oscar Mayer’s successful Lunchables brand, we now have “ables” in every section of the grocery. Salad dressing called “Pourables?” No shit.
There’s nothing horribly wrong with names today, but perhaps they wouldn’t be so safe if there weren’t so many checks and balances in today’s world. Let’s face it: Some of the quirky names of yesteryear simply wouldn’t get through the system if they were being introduced for the first time today. Here is a look at three brand names that no consultancy, brand manager or focus group would ever allow to appear on shelves. Not for nothing, they happen to be great names.
Mister Salty has been around since at least the early 70’s and often appeared in commercials as a sailor made of pretzels. Similar to Sugar Pops, using the word “Salty” seemed like a great idea at the time, I’m sure. I thought this brand was phased out until I saw them in my kitchen as part of a pretzel and cheese snack pack.
Actual name: Mister Salty
Hypothetical focus grouped name: Mister Wholesome Snackers
An even worse name: Mister Sodium
Milk Duds have been around since 1926 and legend has it that F. Hoffman and Company in Chicago was trying to make a perfectly round candy. When they came out lumpy, an employee called the batch “duds” and the name stuck. I love this name and it still sounds unique.
Actual name: Milk Duds
Hypothetical focus grouped name: Milk Wonderfuls
An even worse name: Milk Blunders
Dress Barn has been around since 1962 and began in Stamford Connecticut. In 1983 they went public and now have over 700 locations. How is this possible? It’s a barn full of dresses. Is no one self-conscious walking in the door?
Actual name: Dress Barn
Hypothetical focus grouped name: Value Dress Boutique
An even worse name: Dress Trough