I had a little extra time before meeting a friend at SFMOMA to see the “Soundtracks” exhibit (highly recommended), so I took a detour through for the food court of the Westfield San Francisco Centre on Market Street, looking for interesting brands.
I scored right away. “Interesting” doesn’t even begin to describe Loving Hut.
There is a lot going on here.
This all-vegan fast-food café had just opened for the day and there was already a long line of customers. I stood to the side and marveled at the weird name – a cousin of Pizza Hut, maybe? – and that fantastically hideous logo.
“Our Hero, Our Values.” Image from DeliveryHero.com. All web content is in English.
Last week San Francisco-based ModCloth (“democratizing fashion one indie, vintage, and retro-inspired style at a time!”1) became the first retailer to sign the Heroes [sic] Pledge for Advertisers, a promise not to digitally alter images of models. The pledge was created by the Brave Girls Alliance, which wants to give families “multi-layered, diverse, intelligent, and strong media characters to enrich their girls [sic] imaginations.” (I’m not sure what Brave Girls Alliance has against possessive apostrophes. And while abstaining from Photoshop is rare in fashion photography, I doubt that actual heroics are involved.)
1 For more “One X at a Time” slogans, see this, this, and this, for starters.
2 MX is an abbreviation for other words, too, including motocross (the sport) and Mexico (the Internet country code). My favorite Mx—brand new to me—stands for Mixter, “an uncommonly used English honorific for genderqueer. It is a gender neutral title used by few people and its use has yet to be made official in general, although Brighton and Hove city council in Sussex, England, voted in 2013 to allow its use on council forms.” (Source: Wikipedia)
3 Of course, there’s always the strong possibility of a less-elevated rationale:
Via TechCrunch, transforming nerds into heroes since 2005.
Heroes:Quidsi, the parent company of a clutch of e-tailers (Diapers.com, Soap.com, Look.com, et al.), thinks very highly of its workforce and “culture.” Its employees aren’t just model citizens. They aren’t merely heroes. They’re superheroes! With … superpowers?
Food portmanteaus: Taco Bell is testing a quesarito (a hybrid quesadilla/burrito), which will come as old news to Chipotle customers. The owners of a couple of Shoprite markets in New Jersey claim to have invented the donnoli (hybrid donut/cannoli). At the Donut Fest in Chicago back in January, an NPR reporter tasted a doughscuit (“an impossible mix of doughnut-fried sweetness and crumbly biscuitness”) And the Portland, Maine, bakery Little Bigs got slapped down in its attempt to sell a cronut imitation as a crauxnut. Little Bigs asked customers to suggest a new name. The winner: C&D (for “cease and desist”).
And this just in: The New York Timesreports on the cragel (croissant + bagel), the mallomac (Mallomar + macaron), the scuffin (scone + muffin), and other hybrid baked goods.
I’ve been tracking the (over)use of “hero” in branding for about a year. I rounded up my findings for a Visual Thesaurus column last September on “‘Hero’ Worship,” but the “hero” pileup continues, as these recent sightings indicate:
Discovery Communications’ Military Channel rebranded last week as the American Heroes Channel. (Whoops—“not a rebrand but a broadening,” said group president Henry Schleiff.) “American Heroes Channel expands on the American Heroes Channel’s [sic] promise to honor the great defenders of our freedom, while providing a rare glimpse into major events that shaped our world and the trailblazers and unexpected advocates who made a difference,” according to a press release.
Draper University of Heroes is an unaccredited institution whose curriculum does not, you may surprised to hear, include CPR, firefighting, or hostage negotiations. Rather, students learn “media training,” “branding,” “fundraising,” and “innovation.”
From the home page:
Located in Silicon Valley, Draper University of Heroes is the brainchild of free-spirited venture capitalist Tim Draper, aka “The Riskmaster”. We are an unconventional world-class residential and online school for the brightest young entrepreneurs from around the world. We built this school because the world needs more heroes.
Tim Draper, a founder of the venture-capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, is on the record as saying he modeled Draper U after Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series. He even borrowed the lightning-bolt motif for his logo.
Finally, if you watched last Sunday’s Academy Awards broadcast you were assailed with the show’s theme, “A Celebration of Movie Heroes.” The definition of “hero” was a little elastic, encompassing Superman, Tom Joad, Karen Silkwood, and—that pint-size wizard again!—Harry Potter. After the ritual In Memoriam montage Bette Midler sang “The Wind Beneath My Wings”; “Did I ever tell you you’re my hero?” never sounded more sycophantic than when accompanied by a portrait of “Julian Meyers, publicist.” And best-actor winner Matthew McConaughey told the audience that his hero is “myself, ten years from now.”
The menu is from the fast-casual restaurant chain Chili’s, which uses “Plus Up Your Steak” throughout the franchise.
Commercial verbifying of “plus” began at least 70 years ago with Walt Disney; “plus up” has a specific, non-Chili’s meaning in governmental budget negotiations. Read more.
Camera company GoPro has been advertising its new Hero3 models. (I’d missed the Hero1 and Hero2, which may not have been promoted as aggressively.) The company’s tagline is “Be a Hero,” which is slightly awkward. (“I am a camera”?) Tip: Never use your product name generically.
I recently encountered the term “annoyvation,” one of whose definitions is “an innovation born of a small annoyance.” TicketZen fits into this category. As its home page puts it, “Parking tickets suck. Paying them doesn’t have to.” (Good idea, fuzzy syntax, what with those confusing -ings.)
Jessica wrote in her Beauty Marks blog about Samplicio.us (“Simply Better Surveys”). Mr. Verb wrote about “the hilariously named” Englicious, which “aims to be a complete online resource for teaching English grammar in UK secondary schools.” And scientist/educator Marc D. Hauser’s new book about human cruelty is called Evilicious.
More -licious names here (and follow the link in that post for still more -liciousness).
Last week I received an email from Democrats.org with the gratuitously syllabified “com•pro•mise (v.)” in the subject line.
And yet in both the featured quote and the call to action “compromise” is a noun.
Read more about dictionary definitions in advertising and branding in my Visual Thesaurus column “Branding by Definition.”
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.