The Lincoln Project was launched in late 2019 by a group of high-profile Republicans (or ex-Republicans) who see the current president as “a clear and present danger to the Constitution and our Republic” and who seek to “defeat President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box.” (Read more about the Lincoln Project.)
Worthy goals, supported by a sober, elegantly designed website.* So why were the Lincoln Project’s first ads, which appeared before this week’s New Hampshire primary election, such an amateurish bungle?
Now, I won’t deny that Phonetic Computer Eyewear is a distinctive name in its field, but only because it’s so utterly misleading. Phonetic means “representing vocal sounds”; a phonetician is a linguist who specializes in the study of speech. Nothing at all to do with eyesight, sharp or blurry.
Which explains why Jennifer Nycz, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University, was puzzled.
Wait-why “phonetic”? why a schwa logo? do they hope the coolness/hipness of phoneticians will transfer 2 the brand? https://t.co/VGIxSjRXZg
There’s something slightly bananas about this slogan:
“Taste Me Do Good” bananas.
The bananas in the boxes are grown in Ecuador following organic, fair-trade practices. That’s very commendable. But the marketing language—from that slogan to the name of the growers’ community, Interrupción—is less appealing.
In today’s New York Times, advertising columnist Stuart Elliott reports that Turner Classic Movies – one of the “classics” I wrote about – is stepping up its marketing efforts, starting with a subtly redesigned logo.
As Turner, a division of Time Warner, pursues its experiential strategy for TCM, it counterintuitively is not playing down the “Classic” in the channel’s brand identity to appeal to younger consumers. Indeed, after the recent graphics redesign, the word “Classic” “has been accentuated,” [TCM general manager Jeff] Gregor said, and now appears in boldface, with “Turner” and “Movies” remaining in regular type.
Although research has found that two-thirds of the channel’s estimated 62 million viewers each month are ages 18 to 49, Gregor said that “ ‘Classic’ is not a negative in any way,” because viewers deem TCM to be “more a mind-set than an age,” providing “context and curation” for the films it presents.
(What is it about “Classic” and Atlanta? In 1985, another mainstay of the city’s business landscape, the Coca-Cola Company, added the word to the brand name of its flagship soft drink, Coca-Cola, and removed it in 2009.)
Also, what is it about “curation”? I’ve been writing about this pretentious word and its derivatives for years now, and even included “curate” in not one but two Words of the Year lists (2009 and 2011), which should have been the kiss of death. But apparently there is no cure for the curating fad.
I had to have some body work done on my car, a Honda Civic Hybrid, and I needed a rental for the duration. A friendly woman from Enterprise Rent-A-Car picked me up at the body shop. We had this conversation en route to the rental office:
Me: Can I rent a hybrid?
She: Oh, yeah. We have lots of hybrids. But not full hybrids.
Me: [silent, puzzled]
She: You know, they still need gas.
Me: [not sure I heard correctly] But … isn’t that what a hybrid car is? Gas and electric?
She: I mean, they’re hybrid but not completely electric.
I pondered this for the remainder of the drive. I thought at first that my driver simply didn’t know that “hybrid” means “a combination of two things.” (The word originally meant “mongrel.”) That she had some other definition in her head.
After I got back home I did a little research and learned that there are, in fact, full hybrids and mild hybrids. A full hybrid—the Toyota Prius, for instance—can run on just the (gasoline) engine, just the (electric) battery, or both. A mild hybrid, like my Civic, can’t run on battery power alone; it needs both power sources.
Maybe, I thought, it was “full hybrid” that had confused Ms. Enterprise.
Enterprise does rent Priuses, and they are indeed full hybrids—meaning they run on gas and/or battery power. Enterprise does not rent plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) like the Nissan Leaf or the Tesla, which are not hybrids at all: they run on battery power alone.
I thought about Ms. Enterprise, who looked young enough to have spent her entire driving life in the world of hybrid vehicles. (The Prius was introduced in the U.S. in 2000, the Civic Hybrid in 2001.) I wondered whether for her, and maybe for a whole cohort of younger drivers, “hybrid” had lost its original “combination-of-two-things” meaning and now signifies “less than 100 percent gas-powered.” Or, perhaps, just “nontraditional in some nonspecific way.”
Of course, a sample size of one isn’t much to go on, and I may be over-extrapolating. Let me know if you have additional data.
Meanwhile, at the Enterprise office, I encountered another not-quite-right expression.
“We will be CLOSED on MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 2nd in observation of the Labor Day holiday.”
Yes, you “observe” a holiday like Labor Day, but the noun that’s wanted here is observance, not observation.Observation is a synonym for “perception”; observance means “the act or custom of celebrating a holiday.” (Mighty Red Pen wrote a nice explanation a few years back.)
And does anyone say “Happy holiday!!” in connection with Labor Day? Not in my experience.
From classic rock to Turner Classic Movies, from Classic Roast coffee to MapQuest Classic, we’re living in a new Classic Era. My new column for the Visual Thesaurus looks at the many ways classic, noun and adjective, is used in branding, sports, technology, and other realms.
Full access is restricted to subscribers. Here’s an excerpt:
In April 1985, Coca-Cola — then celebrating its 99th year — announced it would be retiring the original Coke recipe and replacing it with reformulated “New Coke.” The switch was a huge miscalculation, triggering public protests and boycotts. Less than three months later, the company bowed to pressure and brought back the old formula under the name “Coca-Cola Classic.” Finally, in 2009 — long after “New Coke” had disappeared from shelves — Coca-Cola dropped the “Classic.” (It endures in the names of various Coca-Cola Classic sports tournaments and road races.) By then, “classic” had come to signify, to a large part of the population, “the original version” or “the previous version” or even “the good stuff before they started messing with it.”
And here’s a blog bonus: In his new book Yes, I COULD Care Less: How to Be a Language Snob Without Being a Jerk, Bill Walsh—a copy editor for the Washington Post and author of two other books on language and usage—devotes a chapter to retronyms, words that “differentiate the original sense of something from a new iteration.” Dairy milk and hen egg are two of his examples. And then there’s this:
Now that all manner of dessert-y concoctions are called martinis merely because they’re served in martini glasses, the menu-journalism community has had to invent the term classic martini. …
Then there’s the daiquiri. If you’re younger than 45, you probably don’t know what that really means. A daiquiri is rum, lime juice and sugar. … “Oh,” you big-city-cocktail-bar-frequenting youngsters are probably thinking right now, “you mean a Hemingway daiquiri!” Uh, right. That seems to be right up there with a classic daiquiri among efforts to indicate that a daiquiri is, in fact, an actual daiquiri.
Extra credit to Walsh for “menu-journalism community.” (I wrote about “The X Community” trope back in 2010.)
Acumen (formerly the Acumen Fund) has one that’s incorporated into its new logo. It “serves as a moral compass to ground us in the kinds of leaders we hope to be and to reflect the values of leadership required in an interconnected world.”
Her hands are gloved in purple paint because purple was “the color of absolute seduction for Mr. Saint Laurent.” The fragrance’s tagline is “Daring Is an Art.”
The last word (for now) on manifestos goes to copywriter-turned-novelist John Kenney. This is from his new novel, Truth in Advertising (Touchstone, New York, 2013):
And what is a manifesto, you might ask?
You may have a vague notion from history class that a manifesto once referred to the soul of a revolution: blood, sweat, and tears on paper, codifying women’s rights, civil rights, human rights, economic justice, religious freedom. Today, it’s about diapers. Or cars. Or refrigerators. Or gas grills. Or dental floss. In advertising, a manifesto is something that sums up a brand, one page, maybe two hundred words. Name the product and my people will write the manifesto for it. Superlative claims, a badly skewed world view, sentences like, “Because let’s be honest—what’s more important at the end of your day than your family … and their enjoyment of grilled meats?”
My latest column for the Visual Thesaurus, published today, looks at a word that I’ve been seeing a lot in fashion reporting and advertising: “tribal.” That’s “tribal” as in “tribal chic,” “tribal trend,” and “tribal style.” Or in this ad from Piperlime:
Beyond the bad pun, what does it mean? Here’s an excerpt from my column:
In past decades “tribal” styles might have been called “exotic,” “primitive,” “ethnic,” or “multicultural”—adjectives that now seem patronizing. “Tribe” and “tribal,” on the other hand, have gained status and hipness in the educated First World. Joel Kotkin’s 1994 book Tribes: How Race, Religion, and Identity Determine Success in the New Global Economy paved the way by positing that “tribe” could be a modern, urban construct. (Kotkin’s thesis is that Jewish, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and British people are sophisticated “tribes” whose shared identity, rather than politics, contributes to their economic success.) In 2008 the influential marketing writer Seth Godin published Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, which told readers that thanks to the Internet, a tribe is any connected group of people.
The upshot: tribes are now cool. So cool that at least four marketing agencies in the US call themselves Tribe, and Tribal DDB is the name of “a digitally centric global advertising agency” that’s part of the huge DDB network.
Revisiting a few topics I’ve blogged about previously:
Yet another happy-umlaut-embellished brand name to add to the list: BüK(“pronunciation: boook”).
A BüK is an actual paper product that costs $1.49 and is 16 to 32 pages long. Choose from a variety of themes, including CookBüK, WordBüK, and SpookBüK (horror stories). If you’re in the hospitality business, you can order some PillowBüKs (love that name and all it implies) to leave in guest rooms.
BüK joins Füd, güd, Häagen-Dazs, and otherbrandnames in which the umlaut serves no purpose other than decoration.
By now, Dunkin’ Donuts should really be called Dunkin’ Toroids: the chain is, believe it or not, the number-one retailer of bagels in the United States. Last week the company jumped on the “artisan” bandwagon and introduced Artisan Bagels, which feature “a soft and chewy texture with bolder flavors.” Dunkin’ Donuts is now positioned to compete with Domino’s Artisan Pizzas, Starbucks Artisan Style sandwiches, Tostitos Artisan Recipe chips, and Panera Bread’s “artisan fast food” for top honors in the Culinary Buzzword Olympics. More about the artisaning of American brands here and here. (Via The Impulsive Buy.)
In a January post about “slut” in brand names, I mentioned Eggslut and Bookslut but neglected to include the most venerable slut of all, Los Angeles’s Retail Slut(“Rude and Nasty Clothes for Chicks and Dicks”). The original store opened in 1983 “as one of the first shops to bring punk and gothic style to Melrose [Avenue].” Over the years it changed locations four times; the Wikipedia entry says it finally closed in 2005. There’s no merchandise available on the website, which appears not to have been updated in a while but which does include a long list of celebrity shoppers, among them Andy Warhol, Madonna, Pat Benatar, Iggy Pop, Ice-T, and one Buster Bloodvessel.