In brand name game, shorter seems better

Kevin Wilson

Whenever I buy a generic product, I’m reminded of one of the final episodes of “Clerks: The Animated Series.” A bleeding man enters the convenience store and asks Randal, a clerk, if the store has Band-Aids. Randal informs the customer the proper term is “adhesive strips,” which leads coworker Dante to question the timing of a semantics argument while a customer is bleeding to death.

“Name brand word association is one of the more subtle threats to this nation’s free trade,” Randal responds. “It gives the larger, well-known companies an unfair advantage. I’m doing my part to keep the playing field level by weaning people off referring to generic products with brand names.”

Dante answers, “Way to show some backbone.”

Randal beams and retorts, “No spine of Jell-O here, my friend.”

As far as what’s on my mind today, I consider that Example 1. Example 2 happened this week. I try to be as prepared as possible at the office, and make sure my top drawer includes a stockpile of general medications (note to HR; they’re all non-prescription) and hygiene items. A coworker who’s well aware of this asked if I had floss, to which I opened my desk drawer an revealed a bag of flossers.

“Oooh, you’ve got doobers. Oh, that’s what me and the kids call those things.”

Though her family’s nickname might never catch on, it perfectly explains why brand names gain power. Nobody wants to throw around a flying disc; they want a Frisbee. And nobody wants to start their day with a bowl of toasted oat cereal when they can have Cheerios.

Simply put, these businesses capitalize on consumer laziness by making popular items easier to say. Maybe there’s a happy medium here, and it’s the key to cornering numerous markets.

Should I become a millionaire business owner, I will launch my own line of knock-off generic products, with names that both explain the product and shorten their names.

Why, let’s start with the very product Randal mentioned, Jell-O. It’s not hard to come up with something better than “flavored gelatin-based dessert,” but it’s tough to beat two syllables. However, I think I’ve got it: Chewfree. That’s the first thing I think when I see that dessert — hey, no chewing. As for Jell-O brand pudding, I think everybody would rather refer to it as Puddin’ and not Pudding. And while we’re add it, change the spelling to Pooden so we don’t have any apostrophe issues.

I’ll finish up with those angled flossers. The generics I bought were called them “Eez-Thru,” which might explain why they were 50 percent off. I’m going to call it “One Handed Floss,” then shorten it to “OH-Floss.” Later on, somebody will shorten it to “O-Flos.” And we’ll have this whole conversation about names one more time.

Do you have any product shortcuts? Send them my way, and perhaps you’ll be in on a market of sensible products with sensible names. How does “Doobers” work for a company name?