My latest column for the Visual Thesaurus, “ ‘Hero’ Worship: The All-Purpose Admiring Appellation,” looks at the sharp increase in the use of hero in the media and, especially, in branding. Access is restricted to subscribers; here’s an excerpt:
More and more, the news media grant hero status to prominent people, regardless of verifiable valor. Earlier this year, for example, I heard an announcer for a San Francisco public-radio station referring to the jazz musician Dave Brubeck as “the late Bay Area hero.” In a 2007 post on his Editor’s Desk blog, journalism professor Andy Bechtel cited a front-page promo headlined “Heroes Pass Away in Movies, TV, Football.” Ingmar Bergman a hero? “Let’s be careful not to confuse achievement with heroism,” Bechtel advised.
But what really opened my eyes to “hero” was the U.S. trademark database. I’d been vaguely aware of a few brands with “hero” in their names, such as the music game Guitar Hero (introduced in 2005). I was surprised, however, to learn that there were 1,569 live “Hero” or “Heroes” trademarks and more than 2,000 dead (abandoned) ones. Even more surprising: more than half of all those marks, live and dead, were registered after 2001. Of the live trademarks, 610—nearly 39 percent—had been registered since January 2011.
Blog bonus! Here are some of the more interesting “Hero” trademarks I encountered:
- Liquid Hero (beer)
- Hangover Hero (from Hero Labs; no connection to Liquid Hero)
- Yolk Hero (egg separator)
- Bible Hero Vitamins for Children
- Hero cigarettes (trademark registered in 1951 and still in use)
- Tragic Hero athletic apparel
- Swing Hero (golf training aid)
- VINHeros [spelling sic]. That’s VIN as in Vehicle Identification Number.
- Neck Hero (bed pillow)
- Hole Hero (“adult novelty items … accompanied by a novelty cape”)
And in what can only be seen as an inevitable development, there’s also an Anti-Hero India Pale Ale, “for all the ambivalent warriors who get the girl in the end.”