I’m researching a longer piece on “plus” in branding, from plus size to Nic+Zoe to all those +-suffixed streaming services. Along the way I stumbled on a couple of new plussed-up brands with unusual naming stories.
This post was going to be a short riff on a line in that Inauguration poem by Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman—the line about the vine and the fig tree, which got me thinking about figs. Mmmm, figs. But one fig led to another, and next thing you know I was way down a figgy rabbit hole from which there was no escape. Go figure.
This month I’ve been reading Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America, published in August by Kurt Andersen. According to the publisher, it’s “the epic history of how America decided that big business gets whatever it wants, only the rich get richer, and nothing should ever change.” Andersen also pinpoints a when for the everything-going-to-shit: around 1980. (Perhaps you remember who was elected president that year.) Andersen is a deft writer who makes even dense economic theory fun to read—he is, after all, one of the founding editors of Spy, the satirical magazine of the 1980s and 1990s that dubbed DJ Trump a “short-fingered vulgarian.” For me, though, the book’s most interesting insights are about nostalgia and how everything became “retro” or a “reboot”—or, in movies, a sequel or remake. Andersen says we started retreating into nostalgia in the 1970s, as an exhausted response to the “disorienting” newness of the 1960s. But we’ve never really shaken off that nostalgia-fever. The entries under “Nostalgia” in the Evil Geniuses index fill more than a column, and include these headings: “of blue-collar workers for time when they were majority,” “default to, enabled building of reproduction-old-days political economy by economic right-wingers,” “as fuel for fantastical or irrecoverable post politics,” and “‘USA! USA!’ chant.” I quoted a particularly excellent sentence from Evil Geniuses in last month’s linkfest, which you can read here.
October 2019 marks the centenary of the Volstead Act, the federal legislation that led to the passage of the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution—and to the misguided 13-year social experiment known as Prohibition. From January 1, 1920, until Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s inauguration in March 1933, the manufacture, sale, and importation of “intoxicating liquors” were officially outlawed. As everyone knows, all of those activities flourished illicitly.
“Companies change their slogans and catchphrases all the time to keep themselves fresh in customers’ minds. But DiGiorno might be the only one that has kept the same catchphrase, but changed the implication.” (Eater)
“Sometimes I look at license plates for new prefix ideas. Sometimes I borrow from the names of cats or dogs.” How two women in Chicago create all those names for generic prescription drugs. (David Lazarus for Los Angeles Times; via MJF)*
Last week’s headlines were full of bovine references. I’m not talking about the usual bull: This was all about a fake cow with hundreds of thousands of (presumably) real Twitter followers—a cowfluencer, you might say—that’s being sued by a sitting U.S. congressman.
The cow in question (1,200 followers on March 18, 634,000 followers on March 24):
The congressman (404,000 followers):
Yes, Devin Nunes of California’s Central Valley, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, is suing Twitter over a parody account that tweets hashtags like #TheMooovement and #ProtectTheHerd and mocks the “udderly worthless” congressman, who owns a dairy farm not in his home county, as he often boasts, but in far-off Iowa. Nunes is also suing a parody account called Devin Nunes’ Mom and a couple of non-anonymous accounts, all of which he claims “repeatedly tweeted and retweeted abusive and hateful content” about him. He’s asking for $250 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages. Because Nunes is a public figure, the suits have little chance of succeeding, but they’ll keep a herd of lawyers busy for a while.
No, notthat “lit.” These brand names are inspired by literature and borrowed from the language of … well, language. Why? I can only guess. Maybe they want to communicate something about creativity and inspiration, but who knows? The names appear literary, but the stories their owners are telling are mysteries. And sometimes, as Dr. Freud might have said, a trend is just a trend.
Last week wine distributor Lot18 and MGM – producer of the Hulu streaming series The Handmaid’s Tale – announced one of the more harebrained merchandising collabs of recent years: three wines named after the show’s most prominent characters, Offred, Ofglen, and Serena Joy. It went about as badly as you might expect, and within 24 hours the wines had disappeared from the Lot18 website.