Brand names that need to go.

November 29, 2006

While on vacation in Colorado celebrating the thanksgiving holiday with family I came across what could be the craziest brand name I have seen in a long time. I could not believe my eyes as we drove by a gas station called Kum & Go. Yes, that is right. I took a photo to prove it. Please feel free to insert your own bad joke here. I immediately thought of a joke regarding a nickname for a cute college boy back in the day. Perhaps the station could name its mini-mart Booty Call? Wouldn’t that be cute?


Now I get the obvious respectable reason for the name, but understanding the connotations consumers would jump to should also be considered. I don’t think I am the only one with a dirty mind and active imagination. Gas stations all sell the same gas so the only difference is the location, the color and the brand name. Without a product to differentiate itself, a gas station needs to consider color and name very carefully.

BP is not a powerful name. BP are meaningless initials since most people in the U.S. don’t know that they stands for British Petroleum. But BP is a powerful brand because of its green color. BP makes fantastic use of a strong singular color that is the opposite of the competition. Actually it would be even stronger if they eliminated the yellow from the logo.

Most gas stations use a combination of red and blue. Red and blue are appealing and eye catching colors but a singular unique color is much more powerful in building your brand in the mind.

Look at Coca-Cola and the color red. Coca-cola’s singular use of red has made an indeleable mark in the mind of consumers worldwide, so much so that the company’s nickname is Big Red.Pepsi_old

Pepsi on the other hand for many years used a beautiful combination of blue, white and red for its logo, but as a result it did not create a very visible brand in the market or in the mind.


Today, Pepsi has wised up and gone blue. Pepsi-Cola now owns blue and has created much more visibility for its brand. Finally consumers are able to distinguish Pepsi signs, machines and packages in the marketplace.

Name and color are two extremely important marketing decisions which should not be taken lightly or humorously.

Two honorable mentions for crazy and unappetizing branding moves:

1. Hormel Natural Choice deli products. That’s right the makers of SPAM, the king of artificial and fabricated meat products is now serving up all natural meats and refrigerated entrees. No matter how good the stuff is it will never get away from that tin can stink.

2. Special K protein water. “Kellogg has megabrand ambitions for Special K”, declared a recent AdAge article. There is always a point when a brand extension reaches insanity. And this one is special indeed. I can see eating a Special K cereal bar (a category name which was wisely chosen to give cereal brands a fighting chance.) But water and cereal simply don’t mix.