I’ve been tracking smart in product and company branding for a couple of years (see this blog post and this Visual Thesaurus column), but I’ve still been amazed and amused by a recent cascade of smart brands – a smartnado, if you will. Many of the newer smart brands don’t even incorporate tiny artificial brains: They’re just attempting to tell us that they’re geniuses at whatever they do.
For example, until last month I hadn’t known there was such a thing as smart cremation. Then I received a mailing from Smart Cremation.
Smart Cremation is the “smart choice” for “direct cremation services,” which no doubt are faster than indirect cremation services.
Here smart seems to imply “lower cost” rather than “connected to the Web” or “souped-up combustion.” But I could be mistaken.
If you’re hoping to postpone the need for Smart Cremation, you may want to stock up on SmartMade meals by SmartOnes. They’re smart, you see, because they use “ingredients and cooking techniques that you would use at home.” And you’re smart! But also lazy. Where to buy? Use the Smart Finder.
Originally seen on this Language Log post, which focused on the “n’t.”
Back in the world of technology, where smart first caught fire – it all started with smart bomb (1970) – last month’s CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas was littered with smart stuff. The Internet of Shit (“Why not put a chip in it”) doggedly documented it.
There was a smart belt…
…and a smart desk…
…and some weird-looking “smart apparel technology”…
…and a smart suitcase cover…
…and a smart pillow, so even your downtime can be high-IQ.
Macrumors reported on the Smart Cane (“If the user deviates from the ‘normal’ usage, or if the cane detects something like a fall, it will automatically alert a specified contact of this” [sic]). Mashable reported on a smart showerhead (“douche intelligente connectée”) from the French company Hydrao that uses colored LED lights to show you how much water you’re using.
And then there’s Edwin, “the app-connected smart duck you and your kids will love.” It (he?) has a nightlight, a “sound soother,” a waterproof speaker, a thermometer, and built-in songs and stories. It (he?) costs $49.99.
I poked around the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s database and found 12,240 live trademarks incorporating the word smart. Within the last 12 months, applications have been filed for Tattoo Smart (“purveyors of tools for the tattoooing professional”), DivorceSmart Esq. (“collaborative divorce and family law”), Smartliner (buses and minibuses; not to be confused with Smartliner boats), Smart Parka (clothing), Smart Bunk Bed (furniture), and Smartears (painful-sounding contact lenses, not to be confused with Smart Ear wireless earbuds), along with many more.
And an incomplete list of trademark applications filed just in January 2017 includes Smart Steer (remote-controlled toy vehicles), Smart Lock Technology (filed by a company called MySmartBlinds), SmartFactory RX (software for inspecting semiconductors), Smart Pooch (pet accessories, Keep America Smart! (application filed Jan 24, 2017, as a slogan to be used on clothing), Smart Driver (orthopedic surgery device), Smart O2 (air purifier), Farm Smart (meat), SmartFish (a Norwegian company making fruit- and milk-based beverages, but nothing with fish), and SmartPen (insulin injectors).
Are you getting the picture? Smart isn’t just a cane; it’s a crutch. It’s overused and meaningless. And it sets you up for future worries, As Mike Pope put it in a comment on my Visual Thesaurus column: “To my mind, it's not a winning strategy to label something ‘smart’ just because today it has more capabilities than yesterday’s model.”
My advice to entrepreneurs eager to cash in on this trend: Be smart. Find a more distinctive way to talk about it.