A blog to complement the Web site of the Public Relations Association of Mississippi-Central Chapter Web site at www.pramcentral.org.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

From Altoids to Zima : The Surprising Stories Behind 125 Famous Brand Names

Link - Once upon a time, naming a product was as simple as taking the name of its maker and adding a short descriptive tag line, like in the case of Smith’s Pure and Effective Cough Syrup. But this practice changed during the 1800s, says Morris (The Word Detective), when marketers started to take into account the high illiteracy rate among consumers. Hence, logos were born. Nowadays, companies spend exorbitant amounts hiring consultants to create new words for their products. In this slim but fascinating book, Morris reveals the history behind some of the most recognizable product names. Many still bear the name of their maker, such as Chef Boyardee, who was an actual person named Hector Boiardi. Others, like WD-40, refer to the product’s development process: the creators of WD-40 were looking for a "water displacement" substance to repel moisture, and after forty attempts, the product was perfected. Still other product names have nothing to do with their creators or their purpose. Starbucks, for instance, stems from "the coffee-loving first mate in Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby-Dick," and Google is an adaptation of "googol," a word made up by a mathematician’s nine-year-old nephew to represent a "very, very large number, ten raised to the hundredth power." The book contains a wealth of product information, but it is Morris’s jaunty prose and humorous sidebars—on topics ranging from unfortunately named companies like Poolife to the association of product names and urban legends (i.e., Pop Rocks killed Mickey)—that make this a delightful read. (Excerpt from Publisher's Weekly, posted on Amazon.com)

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