Over at DuetsBlog, trademark lawyer Steve Baird has been keeping an eye on single-letter branding. Among his findings: Gatorade has slimmed down to “G,” Amazon is using lower-case “a” for its gift cards, and “the lodging industry appears headed toward serving up a regular bowl of alphabet soup.”
Once you’re aware of the trend, you start noticing examples everywhere. Here are three recent sightings of my own.
B Hotels & Resorts, an “upper-upscale” hotel chain (Travel Weekly’s adjective), was launched last week at The Lodging Conference. The South Florida company will acquire and convert existing companies rather than build its own. Corporate VP Christopher Tompkins used to work for the W hotel chain (a Starwood brand); he stresses that B is no mere copycat, but it's hard not to see certain parallels. According to Travel Weekly:
Like W . . . the brand plays off its one-letter name. Where W has adopted a “whenever, wherever” motto, B uses its one-letter name with all of its programs. “B green,” for example, emphasizes its environmental consciousness, “B activities” its fitness program and “B indulge” its spa.
According to HotelWorld Network, other brand extensions will include “B in Touch” (complimentary Internet access), “B Active” (fitness centers), and the B’stro (dining).
Cute wordplay, but wouldn’t “upper-upscale” be better conveyed by an “A”?
(Hat tip: Diane Prange.)
Disney Institute was created in 1986 to teach “Disney’s brand of business excellence” to the leaders of non-Disney businesses. Recent ads use the D from the familiar Disney logo (originally Walt Disney’s signature) as a prefix.
Fortune magazine, July 26, 2010.
Don’t ask me to explain that photo. Business guys thinking inside the box? Running around with their heads cut off?
And I wonder about the headline, too. Should we interpret it as “De-think”? That’s a little D’pressing.
GapBody Fit, which uses the letter G in its product nomenclature, is a sub-brand of a sub-brand.
Gap Body—a line of women’s underwear and personal-care products—has been around since 1998. The new sub-brand, which launched earlier this month, is “a chic new sport collection built for speed, flexibility, and balance,” according to the Gap email I received—in other words, an attempt to claim some territory from yoga-chic retailers such as Lululemon. (And, possibly and puzzlingly, to cannibalize sales at Athleta, a women’s fitness-wear company acquired by Gap* for $150 million in 2009.) Although the line includes tops and shorts, the identifying G prefix applies, so far, only to stretchy bottoms: gfast, gbalance, gstretch, and gflex.
My own letter grade for these efforts? B as in B-ware. Single-letter brands are open to misinterpretation: See, for example, Drake University’s “D+” ad campaign, which earned failing marks from nearly everyone who saw it. Single letters are also (a) hard to find in online searches and (b) bereft of emotional benefits. Finally, as Steve Baird observes, “It is not easy to own a single-letter as a trademark, at least one that enjoys any meaningful scope.”
The Times article to which I link contains a paragon of Buzzwordish, from Gap’s chairman and CEO: “This strategic acquisition complements our brands perfectly and allows us to leverage our new online platform to expand into this significant retail sector.”