One for the railroad!

One for the railroad!

This Spring has brought torrential rains. More than that, the season’s been delayed. That meant I could recently capture a freight train go by without the cover of foliage. Boxcars, liquid tankers, open-topped coal and scrap cars, grainers and gondolas. Many graffiti-laden, some empty, some loaded. That engine pulled it all!

I love a good train ride. Not the commuter sort but a true “going-some-place” trip. Even better if it’s spontaneous. The steady rumble of the carriages snaking over the ties and the metal-on-metal clanks as the wheels round a curve are soothing. The clickety-clacks are rhythmically lulling. Real sounds, not intrusive noise. I’d much prefer the clatter of the rails than the clutter of loud, lazily-worded hype polluting the airwaves as I fill up. Having to press “Mute” is akin to the “2” if I want English. Even silence in this country has now become hard-earned and costly.

I digress. Or make that “derail.” But wait, the common train of thought here is freedom. Freedom to think, move, react or say. Or not to. Freed from lame commercial pitches at every turn. Friends, decibel-level and frequency do not make up for poor content.

Hobos…now they had it right. At least the general idea. And by that, I don’t mean bum with his hand out or ex-con transient. I’m talkin’ original globally mobile, small-carbon-footprint, bohemian type: the westward-bound, hard-working migrant. Which made me curious about the word’s origin. Possibly homegrown, “hobo” could come from “ho, boy,” a worker’s call on late-1800′s western US railroads. Or it may be derived from an early 19th century English dialect term, hawbuck, for “lout, clumsy fellow, bumpkin.”

How Boxcar Willie entered the picture? Whooaa, the tracks of my mind. But what a nickname! If you’re not familiar with his music, here’s your ticket. Scruffy beard, pin-studded floppy hat and jacket lapel, overalls and the trademark bandana. That’s the self-proclaimed world’s favorite hobo. Accompanied by his red bandana-necked band wearing striped conductor hats. And for the train buff, the ultimate whistle! Whoooo whoo!

Maybe it’s May-bell-ina.

Maybe it’s May-bell-ina.

I’d love to be in France today. Not because it’s International Labor Day or May Day, but because I could easily get my hands on a bunch of lilies of the valley. Every May 1st, the French celebrate the white, bell-shaped blossoms in the Fête de muguet or Lily of the Valley Festival.

Sweethearts once gave each other bouquets or sprigs of these diminutive sprays on this day. Those in the know still do. You see, it signals the return of happiness in floral speak. The tradition also lives on for this harbinger of Spring Summer as people exchange potted plants of the dainty bubbles peering out from green-sheathed stalks. For its scent, shape, color symbolism and delicate structure, this lily’s an ever-popular, if not expensive, bridal choice. If it’s good enough for Kate Middleton….

A lily of the valley by any other name? OK, I’ll agree with Juliet on this. There’s Lady’s tears (the drooping blooms evoking such), which might explain why ladies wore a stem upside-down on their dresses…the better to catch a glimpse or waft of their inner beauty. And Mary’s tears (for those shed at the cross). The botanical name, convallaria majalis, meaning “valley” (in reference to its preference for lowland habitats) and “of May” gives us May lily and May bells as alternates.

From lush, broad leaves emerge perishable tender hoods. Images of lily of the valley were common on postcards during the mid- to late-1800’s. Yes, floral-obsessed Victorians can claim to be the original flower power culture, often setting out on a lily picnic on Whitsunday (the British associated the LOTV with the return of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles) to gather wild ones in the nearby woods.

Aahhh! Alongside fragrant gardenias and hyacinths, the sweetest things.

Chic cacao: for the peeps, by the peeps.

Chic cacao: for the peeps, by the peeps.

Happy Easter, y’all! In Finland, nothing says “Hyvää Pääsiäistä!” like the Mignon, a handmade chocolate egg “nougated” out with almonds and hazelnuts and poured into a real eggshell. A Fazer classic since 1896 (outside of WWII), and the Finnish company’s second oldest product, the egg was a favorite of the Russian czar’s family. To this day, the confection (originally from a German recipe) can only be found around Easter in-country and in select export markets…the US not being one of them. For all those coveting one (or more) for your children’s baskets, you can hippity hop here and there. Your very own virtual hunt.

To see how these treats are filled, finished and packaged once the eggshells are sorted and cleaned, YouTube delights.  The original contents of the natural vessels go to commercial kitchens, with nary a yolk or white wasted. About 2.5 million “containers” are sourced from all over Finland. Only the best of a certain size adhere to the 54 gram weight restriction. About 2 million eggs are sold annually — impressive, considering the majority of sales occur at home, a nation of a little over five million. There is nominal distribution to Scandinavia, Russia, Germany and Canada. But, the “bunny” (as in burning, haha) question is why these are not more widely distributed. Why do Canadians have the closest luck?

Decorating ideas abound at Fazer.fi on how to trick out the plain shells. After all, it is a blank canvas. But why not make them in assorted colors from the get-go? I’m “dying” to know what sustains the supposed Henry Ford-esque “any color so long as it’s white” tradition. Has the family-run business forgotten that Karl Fazer, the founder, had an appreciation for design and packaging, which he picked up while on professional stints in Berlin and Paris? He was also known to be a visionary marketer, placing advertisements on Helsinki’s streetcars as early as the end of the 19th century.

Naming new products was a celebrated family affair, with Karl and his wife, Berta, letting their four children in on the creativity. It was the patriarch’s time in France that likely influenced the ovoid’s name: mignon means cute, adorable and lovely in French. Each is pretty much that…in a nutshell.

Extra, eggstra! You can read more about these solid chocolate ambassadors if you’re proficient in Finnish. There are no teasers about Mignons on the English site, I suppose, because they’re not sold here. Bock, bock, bock, bock, bock! Who needs chickens when you’ve got Fazer.

Subway's subpar name.

Subway’s subpar name.

This name is awful. Are pizzas anything but flat? The real problem here is in the pronunciation miscue.

Pizza, /peats ah/, with the “zz” sounding like “ts” (as in beats, cheats and Pete’s) distinguishes itself from Pisa, as in the leaning tower kind. The “s” of Pisa is a “z” sound (as in zap, zoom, zip, Zeppelin and Zorro). Yet, Subway has introduced this flatbread/pizza hybrid using the non-pizza pronunciation: -tizza as in “tease ah,” vs. “teats ah,” per the pizza pronunciation route. Customers, relying on the word “pizza” to phonetically guide them, intuitively know something is off, even before the name is out of their mouths. Going for it yields real embarrassment, before and after.

If Subway could only come up with portmanteaus, surely there were legally available options better than this. I wonder what was explored around the descriptors (“cheesy & delicious meets crispy & square” being among “edgy,” “original” and many others). They could have likely reduced the four box top adjectives to two and used some combo of the remaining in the name. Or gone with an un-fused style.

Flatizza, trying too hard to be what it’s not, is outright flat. The name is too close for comfort and so far from good. Let’s hope it wasn’t professionally sourced. If it looks like the bad end of a contest and sounds like the bad end of a contest…it probably is.

To all considering a creative exercise, name fresh!

Marshmallow madness.

Marshmallow madness.

Argentina has its alfajores. Canadians, Australians and Brits ask for Wagon Wheels. In Japan, you eat Angel Pies. And in the southern US, it’s Moon Pies or bust.

Chocopies, however, give them all a run for their money. South Korea’s Lotte brand (among other national confectioners, such as Orion) chocolate-enrobed marshmallow sandwiches are craved by North Koreans. In fact, for those north of the border lucky enough to work at the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the DMZ, bonuses are paid in part with Chocopies (hard cash being prohibited). What’s s’more, they’re the subject of speculation and sold on the black market.

Alas, times must be tougher since the most recent escalation and ease of tensions in early-mid 2013. Before the 6.5-month long closure of the manufacturing site (where educated, skilled and Korean-fluent North Koreans work for South Korean companies, earning the motherland much-needed hard currency), workers earned up to 20 Chocopies a day in addition to their regular compensation. Yet, once the park rebooted in August, they were cut to a maximum of two per day. Said one vocal local, “Nobody better lay an eye on my Chocopie!”

Sourced: South Korea.

Fiber calling!

Fiber calling!

I bought this box for the retro graphics, not having any idea what benefits psyllium husk offered. And what was the significance of the telephone, other than the side panel calls the product the “telephone brand?” Does “Sidhpur” mean phone? And why is the phone a two-handed relic? It probably dates to the factory’s founding, but, Lord have mercy.  Love the smokestacks, though…belting out the stuff, huffing and puffing the way the wind blows.

About psyllium seed husk. It’s a dietary supplement to maintain or improve one’s gastrointestinal tract. India’s and Pakistan’s answer to Metamucil or Serutan (now dead but an interesting name that spawned “backward” jokes and other similarly-spelled brands), you might say. (Metamucil supposedly contains psyllium husk as its main ingredient.) The milled form here can be mixed with a glass of water, syrup, milk, fruit juice, salted curd or lassi. I didn’t try it, so I’m not sure of the taste, if any. Gluten-free baked goods containing the husks benefit from the latter acting as a binding agent, making bread, cookies and cakes less c–r-u-m–b-l-y.

Don’t overdo it, however. Steady exposure to the dust can cause allergic reactions. Consuming too much of the fiber can actually obstruct the GI tract, if you believe the FDA. And, if you don’t mix the husks with enough liquid (1-3 teaspoons per glass), there’s even a choking hazard, especially by people with esophageal narrowing or abnormalities or those who have difficulty swallowing. Which is when and why you’ll need the phone!

Sourced: India via Thailand.

Conversion Conference Tagline (Duplication)Salary.com taglineSinger Tagline (Duplication)

Within branding, little is more annoying than seeing a company blow a great messaging opportunity: a name or part thereof that repeats itself in the tagline. And a few more:

Ally Bank            Everyone needs an ally.
CenturyLink        Your link to what’s next.
Vahan                 Alwand Vahan

Such lack of creativity doesn’t speak well for the discipline or the “disciplineer.” Rather than slapping a flat, thoughtless tagline under the name, leave it out.

A tagline is not the place to “tell them what you’re going to tell them” and then “tell them,” because you’ve then run out of time and space to “tell them what you just told them.” Doubling up on the name in the slogan is disrespectful to the audience…and just as you were getting their attention! In fact, not being able to come up with a short, original phrase that complements and/or reinforces the name is a common brand wasteland. Most “straplines” (as they are called in the UK) are largely visually experienced, so it is all the more surprising to see how many resources go towards a name and logo, leaving the tagline to be the afterthought and looking it all the way.

A good tagline furthers brand messaging and and strengthens positioning. As a name usually only conveys two or three traits, the tagline is the chance to say something strategic about the brand that did not make it into its hardest-working asset. Great taglines — you’ll recall “Just do it.” and “We bring good things to life.” — are born from compatibility with the naming structure and style, the sharing of additional meaning, a passion revealed and a personality defined. They transcend their typical real estate, emerging literally and figuratively out from underneath the respective name to achieve stand-alone stature and staying power in their viral journeys.

Before we leave, let’s get to some general fixes. One option is to simply remove the word or wordmark from the tagline when the two appear together, as with Singer. This may require a little tweaking of the initial phrase. Nothing fancy. Salary.com could swap out “salary” for “figure” or “number.” Either is much more interesting and adds depth. With the Conversion Conference, it may take several words or a phrase to stand in for the repeat offender. Nothing major; a quick read of the session topic blurbs and the logo give me several ideas already. Lastly, Vahan should start over. Without visual cues, some previous knowledge of the brand or seeing the domain, vahanjewelry.com (at the bottom of a recent ad showing retailers that carry the line), I have no idea what the company stands for or sells.

Given the difficulty in securing a legally-viable name and domain, the tagline can and often is a name’s best friend. If you’re strapped for creativity and time, Devign can find you both. Strapping results and in spades.

Kids, let's not get all excited at once now.

Kids, let’s not get all excited at once now.

Real chemistry. Fearless physics lessons. Science fairs and first place prizes. After-school projects. Curiosity. Biology experiments. Hot lab partners. Instructors that inspire us to wonder. Accidental explosions. (Make sure you’ve got on those safety goggles!)

Skimping on science is akin to apathy and signals a lack of engagement with our physical world. Science shapes us. It is everywhere. We should let it in more.

Bumper stickers. The analog, nano pre-tweet. Humorous, sobering, pithy calls-to-action. And we’re here to stay. Thank you, cars, planes, trains and unmotorized transportation, for lending some of your mobile real estate to the causes we ply.

An un-medicated high.

An un-medicated high.

Needing to quench my thirst, I bought this Indian carbonated water for the illustration and tagline combo as well. I was already in the Himalayas, heading to Bhutan or on my way back. So, there!

Next logo change, I’d move “Lehar” to the bottom or back and let the mountains and “Evervess” take the spotlight. The maker’s prominent display (on its bottles and snack packages) is akin to “The Coca-Cola Company” splashed center stage on every beverage it sells, regardless of whether Coke, Sprite or Dasani is inside.

“Evervess” is powerful. It’s evocative, fun to say and onomatopoeic. Starting off strong with the stressed initial “E,“ the name then softens out…much like any gaseous beverage action. What’s more, it’s suggestively descriptive: the drink is super-fizzy, as another fan attests. — ¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡!¡! — I love the visual and verbal references to both “effervescent” and Mt. Everest. Bubble on!

Backstory: Lehar is a brand of soft drinks and salties owned by PepsiCo. From 1988, when the company entered the subcontinent’s market, until the ban on using foreign brand names was lifted in 1991, PepsiCo was forced to use an Indian name, even on its flagship drink. Pepsi Era? Not allowed. Lehar Pepsi (lehar = wave)? Approved. PepsiCo marketed its products under this former Indian joint venture label until it bought out its partners in 1994.

Sourced: Thailand/Bhutan.

Please, porridge hot!

Please, porridge hot!

Great Scott! What spelling have we here? This hot dish also goes by porrige and parritch. According to the product’s website, “porage” comes from an old Scottish word, poray, and the French potage, for soup. Trademarked in 1914, the phrase “Porage Oats” was meant to distinguish it from rivals’ more descriptive “oat flakes.”

Symbolizing vigor, health and cultural pride, the kilted shotput thrower has been pulling his weight by pushing things further since 1924. The original champion of breakfasts.

After being the subject of two mid-20th century acquisitions, the 1880-established A&R Scott Company was bought in 1982 by one of its main competitors, Quaker Oats, Ltd. As heritage would have it, the mill at Cupar that the original manufacturer purchased in1947 has become Quaker’s sole supplier of rolled oats for all of the EMEA markets. A feat of stamina and distance, indeed.

Bonus: What does “doing porridge” mean? And no Googling.

Sourced: The Caribbean.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 127 other followers

%d bloggers like this: