Halloween Tricks and Treats

October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!


In honor of Halloween, I thought I would follow up last week’s post on great restaurant branding with some of the scariest restaurant branding ideas I’ve recently come across.

1. The worst restaurant name.

Humuhumunukunukuapua’s, located at the Grand Wailea Resort in Maui, Hawaii.


This terribly long and totally unpronounceable name is the worst I’ve ever seen. The restaurant has a nice view, good food and benefites from being in a popular hotel, but what a missed branding opportunity. Never underestimate the power of a good name.

My husband and I referred to it as the huma-huma restaurant. I was too embarrassed to call for reservations or tell anyone where we ate because I had no idea how to pronounce it. Not a good idea for generating word of mouth.

The name means Hawaiian Triggerfish. Triggerfish would have been a whole lot better.

2. The worst line-extension restaurant.

It is a mistake is thinking that a popular brand in one category will translate into another.

Tommy Bahama, the hot men’s resort ware brand has gone bananas. I saw a Tommy Bahama restaurant in Maui. And see advertisements from Tommy Bahama Rum almost daily in the New York Times.

What are they thinking? Obviously they must be drinking too much of the rum. Just because a brand is successful doesn’t give you carte blanc to take it anywhere.


It is one thing for a famous restaurant to sell t-shirts, it is quite another for a famous shirt maker to sell cheeseburgers.

3. The worst menu addition.

When you build a powerful brand by focusing on a core attribute it is best to stick to that attribute. It is unwise to introduce menu items that are the opposite of your position.

Subway owns fresh and healthy sandwiches in the mind. Jared’s weight loss and the new fresh fit menu reinforce that position in the mind.


So what do they do next? They recently introduced personal deep-dish pizzas! How unhealthy could you get? No much in my opinion. Let’s hope Jared doesn’t go on a pizza diet.

4. The worst company naming strategy.

Luckily this one is just a ghost story. Using current marketing thinking at most companies today, you can see how Darden, founder of The Red Lobster chain, could have named their other restaurants:

Italian Lobster, Steak & Lobster, Bahama Lobster, Lobster Grill and Healthy Lobster.

Instead Darden went with Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Capital Grille and Seasons 52 to give each its own brand identity. Good move.

Think the fake names were funny? Well think again, it is a strategy countless companies continue to use. Because most companies prefer to launch line extensions than new brands.


It is exactly what Toys R Us did. They launched Kids R Us and Babies R Us. A strategy that has left the company in trouble. Even though the Babies R Us concept has taken off, it has succeeded in spite of its lousy line extension name because it was first in a new category. And its success has come at the price of Kids R Us being shut down and Toys R Us losing its toy leadership position to Wal-Mart.

5. The worst steal.

Everybody has watched with envy the success Starbucks has had in coffee. Starbucks has single handedly elevated the lowly .50 cup of joe to a $3 experience and obsession.

Instead of launching their own brands early on before Starbucks was firmly established, they waited and now everybody is jumping on the upscale coffee bandwagon.


McDonald’s is serving “premium” coffee along with lattes and espressos. Wendy’s is launching a Javaccino’s menu in an effort to become a beverage destination. On the Javaccino’s menu: Rainforest select sustainable coffee, iced pomegranate green tea and confused turtle Frosty-chinos.

6. The worst Halloween candy idea.


Snickers Marathon energy bars. Sounds like a great idea, take the best-selling candy bar and make it into an energy bar. Because really, what is an energy bar anyway, but lousy tasting candy bar.

The Snickers brand is known for great taste so they will rule the energy bar market. Right?

Wrong. These treats are unlikely to trick any kids or adults. There is nothing wrong with the bars, but there is everything wrong with the brand. Or should I say brands. Snickers Marathon bars come in many different varieties including: energy, nutrition, multi-grain, low-carb and protein. Just to totally confuse you.

Snickers is a candy bar, they would have been better off telling people to just enjoy a Snickers. One bar only has 273 calories and almost 5 grams of protein, not much difference from the Marathon bar. Selling energy bars undermines the candy. It tells people the candy is bad, when in fact they are not much different.

* Snickers: 273 calories, 14 g fat, 33 g carb, 5 g protein.
* Snickers Marathon: 210 calories, 8 g fat, 26 g carb, 14 g protein.

Snickers satisfies because it tastes great. Snickers Marathon is a poor tasting substitute. Remember you taste in your mind not your mouth. A Snickers energy bar is never going to taste good up there. Want energy? Grab a PowerBar.

Halloween warning:

On Halloween, kids play dress-up, act silly and scare people by catching them off-guard.

None of these are strategies you should use for marketing. Dressing up as something you aren’t, acting silly and scaring people are all bad branding ideas.

So Marketers, leave Halloween to the kids and keep your brand true, authentic and focused. No tricks allowed.