Here's a game to play while you're waiting for the cable guy. How many usage gimmicks can you spot?
(Photographed at the Westfield San Francisco Centre.)
1. Anthimeria--substitution of one part of speech for another. "Faster" is an adjective (a faster rate) or an adverb (let's go faster!), but here it's being used as something ownable: a noun. (My previous posts on anthimeria in marketing are here, here and here.)
2. Pompous capitalization. Faster isn't just a noun here, it's a proper noun, like Tom, Dick, Harry, and Comcast.
3. Pretentious TMing. Using the trademark symbol after "Faster" makes you think (erroneously) that Comcast has managed to corner the intellectual-property market on this one word. In fact, Comcast may or may not have filed for trademark protection of the entire "We own Faster" phrase; the only symbol that signifies actual trademark registration is ®. Registered slogans (as opposed to names) are usually denoted by SM for "service mark."
4. Unnecessary quotation marks. Are they visible air quotes? Is sprees meant to be ironic? Perhaps Comcast is saying to us, "You call that a spree? We laugh contemptuously at your so-called 'spree'! We spree ever so much Faster™ ourselves!" Your guess is as good as mine.
5. Gratuitous fictional secret sauce. PowerBoost: Now with NoSpaceBetweenWords.
This ad is just one example of a Comcastian effort to reinvent the English language. I'd noticed "Karaocasting" on a billboard, and reader Dave Blake pointed me to a new TV commercial that features "snurfing" (sneakily surfing the Internet while on the phone). The gangly new words are called "Triple Slanguage," part of Comcast's "Triple Play" campaign. Go here to view flashcards with definitions for phoruption, splurjobbing, and the rest of the Comcastictionary.
If you're feeling a little cynical about all this, you're not alone. As a commenter wrote on the Broadband Reports forum, "I wish they'd stop making up words for marketing purposes and just add more HD [high-definition] channels."
Ooooh, very good. I think that the spurious capitalization on "Faster" is necessary for their particular strategy of trying to coerce the word into a trademark-y thing. (If you capitalize it normally, the tm-ing tactic doesn't really work -- ?)
About the only one they missed is the complementary trademarking these days of discarding caps and -- very popular -- vowels. Led by Our Friend Flickr, and now imitated by Hipster Websites Everywhere. Perhaps they could rebrand it as PowrBoost. Or "now with powrbst." (One sees why I don't work in this field.)
As for service marks and the rest, I continually marvel at the chutzpah of companies that think to sm everyday phrases. Holiday Inn has service-marked "Forgot something?", as noted in the little signs they leave in hotel bathrooms. And I noted recently that AMC theaters has sm'd "Silence is Golden" as part of their (futile) campaign to get people to shut up during movies. Seems to me that companies used to at least invent their own slogans, dunno. :-)
Posted by: mike | October 17, 2007 at 06:20 PM
One thing to be thankful for, it's 2007 and not 2000. Otherwise, it'd be We.Own.Faster.
Tbere's also some slippery alliteration with the 'slow your shopping sprees'.
What I don't understand is the intent of the ad. They purport to be Faster, but they want you to slow down your online shopping? Huh?
Are they saying they 'own' Faster, so shoppers are no longer allowed to shop fast? Wha?
Is there some context we're not aware of (i.e. a wider marketing campaign, perhaps with an ongoing story?)
Posted by: Lucas Ng | October 17, 2007 at 07:35 PM
Lucas, I think that "own Faster" here is used in the sense of "if you want faster, you should come to us." There might also be a not-unwelcome play on the sense of "owning" as used in contemporary slang to mean "better than" -- "I totally owned you in that game."
Good point on slower shopping "sprees" -- what _do_ they mean, anyway?
Posted by: mike | October 18, 2007 at 01:41 AM
Good column. One nit to pick. You said: Registered slogans (as opposed to names) are usually denoted by SM for "service mark."
It may be true, but it shouldn't be. In the first place, if a slogan is "registered," then its owner is just as entitled to use the "®" with it as with any other trademark. Moreover, for UNregistered trademarks, TM is properly used for goods and SM for services, irrespective of whether the mark is one word, two, or a multi-word "slogan." Thus: "Just do it."™ "Got milk?"™ "Don't leave home without it."SM McDonald's.SM NIKE.™ Of course the term "trademark" has two uses: to generally identify any kind of trademark (trademarks, service marks, certification marks, collective marks), or to specifically identify a mark used with goods---as opposed to the term "service mark," which is used only to identify a trademark used for services. So "TM" is always correct, for any kind of trademark, but "SM" is correct only for marks used to promote services rather than goods. Got it? Trademark lawyers are your friends.
Posted by: Bob Cumbow | October 18, 2007 at 10:45 AM
Mike and Lucas: I can't say for sure, but I think the context of the ad provides a clue: it was smack in the middle of the entrance to a major shopping center. So perhaps Comcast wants you to slow down in the "real" world and speed up in the virtual world.
After I wrote this post I began thinking about the opportunities Comcast missed. Why not build on Triple Slanguage and transform Faster(tm) into Fasterocity or Fasterfication or Fasterness? And (following up on Mike's point about contemporary usage of "totally owned") why not go all the way and say "We pwn Fastertude"?
Bob: I was hoping a trademark lawyer would mosey over and set things straight. Thank you!
Posted by: Nancy Friedman | October 18, 2007 at 10:59 AM