The Friday Report: Some product names are a mouthful
January 31, 2013
Why do we face such a staggering array of choices in simple, everyday products? What are they smoking when they pick names to describe them?
Old Spice crossed a line when they named an underarm deodorant Denali. I can’t tell if they’re saying you’ll smell like 6 million acres of wilderness dotted with moose poop or a GMC pickup truck. Either way it’s weird but pales compared to that moment when your teenager comes out of the bathroom in a cloud of Axe’s new Lynx Fever Samba body spray described by Senior Skin Category Manager, Julie McCleave:
“Lynx Fever is a feel-good launch for guys who are looking for a bit of Latin Flavor in their lives by transforming ordinary young men into hot Latinos!”
Now, is it just me, or is this setting expectations of a spray can too high?
Of course, here in Colorado, we know what they’re smoking, but that’s still no justification for the poetic license a company like Wrigley’s takes in describing a simple product like gum. Gum has been around for centuries but it didn’t look like Wrigley’s lineup today and wasn’t sweet. Back in the 1800s, when it came to gum most any pine tree would do, but there were several national brands of spruce gum which were little more than unsweetened tree sap.
Boiled with water, the sap separates from the bugs and other impurities as it cools. Then it was broken or molded into smaller shapes, tasting remarkably like a pine bough. Sweetening was introduced about 1850 when sugar and flavorings were folded into paraffin wax.
The Mayans chewed gum. The latex sap of the Sapodilla tree is called chicle, which went on to become the favorite of gum-chewers everywhere. The Mexican general who won the battle of the Alamo hired American inventor, Thomas Adams, to turn chicle into rubber. He couldn’t do it, but Adams did go on later to make a fortune in chewing gum. Chicle was smoother, softer and held flavors longer than paraffin or tree sap. By 1900, gums we would recognize today were being sold across America, mainly in mint flavors for the breath-freshening effect.
Gum manufacturers have developed flavors recognizable in name only. The Extra Dessert Delights Division of Wrigley asks us, who would want a root beer float when they can have a delicious stick of gum that tastes just like the real thing? This is assuming that the real thing is made from chemicals entirely unknown in the natural universe. Among these flavors are: Lemon Square, Apple Pie, Orange Creme Pop, Rainbow Sherbet, Mint Chocolate Chip and Root Beer Float. A quick Google of bacon-flavored gum lists dozens of options.
You’ve at least got to give these gums credit for being grounded to real terms that actually exist. Others aren’t so reality-tethered. Trident gum has a flavor called Vitality that comes in sub-flavors of Zen and Balance. Last I looked, vitality was defined as the force that distinguishes the living from the non-living. So, if you offer a stick of Vitality to your girlfriend and she declines, you’re probably dealing with the non-living and you should start sharpening a wooden stake.
By the way, back to the Alamo. That Mexican general got the last laugh. By 1968, an oil-based synthetic rubber replaced Chicle as a gum base because it was cheaper. Glee gum is the last and only U.S. company still making its gum out of chicle.