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Friday, January 28, 2005

Not-so-great Moments in Branding 

Otis Spunkmeyer. Can you tell that's a made-up, awful company name? Of course you can.

Branding is a recurring theme in William Gibson's Pattern Recognition, which includes the theory that the Tommy Hilfiger brand, because of its incredibly derivative and obviously calculated style, is the most soulless brand ever (this is important, because the main character is allergic to bad branding).

That's how I felt when I encountered Mr. Spunkmeyer in a Zeller's diner. They had a coffee-and-cookie deal. I had a double-chocolate cookie, and it tasted pretty good.

The cookie was a genuine Otis Spunkmeyer's Traditional Recipe cookie (you think that last link was superfluous, right? OS has five separate lines of cookies. Heaven help you if you get yourself in such a situation as to be served an Otis Spunkmeyer Value Zone cookie). The product wasn't the problem, meeting, as it did, all my cookie needs. I'd buy the cookie again. I'll never buy into the brand, which has some sort of ludicrous gay-nineties (1890s) overtones going on, but which I only decipher as some sort of misbegotten attempt to hit the mental branding space between Famous Amos and Orville Redenbacher, with maybe a little Little Debbie thrown in.

It felt deeply fake, because it was! (Your attention is directed to the "Company Facts" sidebar.) This is what happens when you let 12-year-olds name your cookie store. It's not surprising, at least retrospectively, to find out the company started with that name in 1977, as it sounds like a vaguely homey, old-timey name from whatever messy nostalgia originated in the 70s. I have a guess that the logo (company name in a jolly, serif display font that looks like it was stolen from Strawberry Shortcake) has not changed since.

Kids! Don't let this, or other bad branding (Genexxa!)

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