Hard can be the opposite of easy or the opposite of soft; we can solve hard problemswhile listening to hard rock. Or we can think long and hard about two new ad campaigns that use hard in a specific, modern way.
Today I’m guest-blogging at Duets Blog, a publication of Minneapolis trademark-law firm Winthrop & Winestine. My post, “Fly the Tasty Skies,” looks at new airline names borrowed from the produce aisle. JetBlue’s new Mint, which began operations last month, is just the latest entrant in a category that includes Peach, Mango, Vanilla, and Spice. The trend carries over to bank names, too—would you prefer a Tangerine or a Tomato?
Jet over to Duets Blog, read the post, and leave a comment if you like.
Now another Japanese airline is raiding the pantry. AirAsia Japan, which is wholly owned by ANA, the country’s second-largest air carrier, has been rebranded as Vanilla Airlines. (Or possibly Vanilla Air. Reports are inconsistent.)
To a speaker of idiomatic English, “Vanilla Air” may suggest a plain, nothing-special approach to in-flight amenities.** But that’s not how Japanese speakers perceive it, according to a report in Campaign Asia (all punctuation sic):
While the ‘vanilla’ is synonymous with ‘safe and boring’ in the English-speaking part of the world, it’s nothing of the sort to Japanese says McCann Worldgroup senior strategic planner, Sakura Irie. “The brand is clearly targeting young Japanese travellers so what it means in English, does not really matter.
“In Japan, vanilla does not have any connotation of being boring or bland – and the overall impression of the word is very positive. It is accessible, likable and familiar. Moreover, it gives the impression of being ‘pure and innocent’ and ‘kawaii’ – which means a lot more than ‘cute,’ it’s the feeling of emotional excitement, endearment and desire to be a part of or to own,” she continued. “It’s an interesting and in fact, very Japanese choice, I thought.”
AirAsia worked with “several” agencies on the rebranding, according to a Bloomberg.com report. Much is made in the press coverage of the report that AirAsia “sifted through” a list of 200 names, as if that number were astronomical and newsworthy. (The runner-up names were not disclosed. Spearmint? Cinnamon? Oregano?) In my professional experience, 200 names is a modest number to be developed for a major rebranding. I have to wonder, though, about the wisdom of presenting the client with that many names. That must have been one very long conference call.
But here’s a happy thought: Aren’t you looking forward to the merger of Peach and Vanilla? Mmm, swirly goodness.
No, not someone who lives in Mobile, Alabama. It’s another spin of the faux-comparative-maker machine.
“The Mobile Phone Just Got Mobiler.” Ad for Delta mobile app, back cover, The Atlantic, April 2013.
This particular ad is the only one I’ve seen that uses word play; other ads for the mobile app use a straightforward benefit approach (and depict the QR code that’s the whole point of the pitch). It’s always a little unsettling when an advertiser code-switches within a campaign.
My latest column for the Visual Thesaurus looks at how a very old English word, livery, has changed meanings over the last 700 years. Livery comes from Latin liberare, to liberate, via French livere, and it originally meant an allowance of clothing or food provided by a master to his servants or animals.
Full access to the Visual Thesaurus story is restricted to subscribers (who also get to read all the other great content on the site). Here’s an excerpt:
Meanwhile, in general usage livery’smeaning gradually shifted to “a servant’s uniform,” on the one hand, and “the renting out of horses for a fee,” on the other. (Livery can also be an adjective – “having the flavor or texture of liver” – but that’s beside the point here.) Livery also acquired a metaphorical sense of “outward appearance,” as in the line in a Shakespearean sonnet: “Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now.”
That figurative sense is the one preserved nonfiguratively in American Airlines’ “logo and livery.” But the path from Bard to brand was neither straight nor swift. Unlike many examples of contemporary commercial jargon, it first cropped up in the Old World and took more than a century to cross the Atlantic.
“This Is New York; We Need to Look Good.” New York Times, Page A8, Oct. 17, 2011.
Yes, friends, it’s a correctly used semicolon in a newspaper ad—a very rare bird indeed.
Hard-working semicolons play many roles in sentence-building. (For a summary, read Grammar Girl.) Here, the semicolon connects two closely related independent clauses. The copywriter could have used a period, which would have been equally correct; but it would have created a more staccato rhythm instead of gentle undulation. The latter is more appropriate to an airline, I’d say.
Unfortunately, what we’re more likely to see in ads is the comma fault (also called the comma splice), in which a comma weakly struggles to bridge two independent clauses. I’ve faulted Coca-Cola ads for their comma faults.
Below the headline, the Delta copy gave me more joy:
At LaGuardia, we’re starting over with a brand new Delta Sky Club®, locally influenced restaurants, and revamped gate areas with iPads that let you order food right to your table (and play games while you wait).
I don’t care about the iPads: it’s the serial comma after “restaurants” that made my heart swell with happiness. Granted, the serial comma is a style choice, not a black-and-white rule, but it’s a choice I happen to prefer. (It helps with clarity, always a Good Thing.)
I was also pleased not to see a hyphen between “locally” and “influenced”—an all-too-common error. Adverbs ending in -ly never take hyphens.
One more cheer for Delta: on the website, the customer-feedback section is labeled “Comment/Complaint.” Good for Delta for acknowledging that customers are sometimes dissatisfied.
Spotted at a bus stop on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco:
The “worldwider” coinage is, as we say in my narrow world, the brandable element. It seems to me to be built not from “worldwide” but from “wider”: you wouldn’t say “We’re getting worldwide,” but you might say “We’re getting wider.”
You may already search the Web on an Apple, make a phone call on a BlackBerry, and go shopping with a Plum card. Get ready to refill your fruit basket: Next year you’ll be able to fly on a Peach.
Peach is the name of Japan’s new budget airline, which will begin domestic flights next March from its base at Kansai International Airport. Flights to other Asian destinations are expected to begin in May 2012.
According to a press release, “Peach” was chosen because of the fruit’s association with “youthfulness, energy, generosity, and longevity.” The Japanese word for peach is momo—the name of the well-known Manhattan restaurant group Momofuku means “lucky peach”—but it’s the English word that will appear in all branding materials. The domain is flypeach.com.
Peach Aviation CEO Shinichi Inoue with an airplane model.
Counterintuitively—to English-speakers, anyway—the official color of Peach isn’t peach: it’s fuchsia.
“Peach” may seem like an original choice for an airline brand, but in fact it’s a recycled name. Peach Air was a UK-based charter airline (part of Caledonian Air) that operated in 1997 and 1998. It’s fondly remembered on some aviation forums.
I detected another echo of the past—indeed, the British past—in the Peach Aviation press materials. According to Peach CEO Shinichi Inoue, “Our airline will also reflect the smart sophistication that has come to represent the words ‘Cool Japan’.” At least the late, unlamented “Cool Britannia” alluded to something recognizable: “Rule, Britannia.”
UPDATE: Fast Company’s design blog reports that the interiors of Peach aircraft were designed by Neil Denari, “the L.A. starchitect behind the futuristic HL23 tower on the High Line.” The verdict: “It’s an aesthetic that falls somewhere between Virgin's sexy, clubby cabins and a box of Pocky sticks, which was roughly the point.”
Information is good. Pictures are nice. But if you want to win my heart, give me words. Give me something to read.
Trader Joe's understands my need to read—and my need to be cajoled and humored. Here are five sides of the TJ private-label tissue box: five chapters of a charming little story that's entirely of a piece with the whimsical, verbose, mock-old-timey Trader Joe's brand:
I really, really need this reminder.
On a much larger scale, but still in storytelling mode, is South Africa's Kulula Airlines. The airline calls itself "no-frills," but it's lavish with words that answer my questions about what's going on inside. (Via Swiss Miss.)
By the way, "Kulula" is a Zulu word that means "easily." And it's fun to say.
In compiling this list, I found myself marveling that—despite two serious economic downturns— so many major brands were founded, or came to prominence, during the '00s. My list is slightly skewed toward my personal interests—technology and retail—but I think it's a fair reflection of the decade. My criteria for selection:
Founded during the first decade of the 21st century or shortly before or
Had a significant impact on the way we do businessor live our lives during this decade or
Consistently made headlines during the decade (for better or worse).
Missing from the list: Amazon and eBay, which were founded in 1994 and 1995, respectively, and had already made a significant impact in the 1990s. And I've placed some other familiar brands in my Brands of the Year list, here. coming next week.
As they say, your mileage may vary. If your choices are different from mine, I invite you to leave a comment and share them.