So That's the Fun Story Behind Those Products' Names

By Allport, Brandy Hilboldt | The Florida Times Union, March 7, 2005 | Go to article overview

So That's the Fun Story Behind Those Products' Names


Allport, Brandy Hilboldt, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Brandy Hilboldt Allport, Times-Union staff writer

In the introduction to From Altoids to Zima, author Evan Morris writes: "A time traveler from 1950 visiting, say, Disney World today might conclude that he had wandered into a convention of people supporting someone named Tommy Hilfiger for president." In other words, Americans' fascination with brand names is as evident as the logos on their shirts.

Trivia buffs, historians and connoisseurs of pop culture will love reading the stories behind the 125 brand names that Morris researched. The entries are in categories such as food and drink, clothing, technology, toys, cars and drugs and cosmetics.

First, a little background. During the 19th century, a product was usually named for its maker (Smith's Cough Syrup). Savvy distributors often included adjectives to attract buyers (Smith's Pure and Effective Cough Syrup). By the 20th century, product names served as shorthand forms of advertisements, often using an unusual spelling (Krispy Kreme).

As time went by, advertising companies faced a problem. There was a dearth of useful words that were not already part of a brand name protected by trademark laws. What to do? Invent words (Kodak). It doesn't mean anything and isn't short for anything. George Eastman simply decided the official label for his photographic roll of film was short, easy to say and carried no trademark infringement baggage. How could it? He made up the word.

Other fun facts:

There really was a Chef Boyardee. His name was Hector Boiardi, and when his product took off during the late 1920s, he adopted the phonetic spelling of his name. The photo on the label? …

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