Tavern on the Green a $1.3 Million Brand Name?

Reuters reported yesterday that investors have offered Tavern on the Green bankruptcy trustees $1.3 million to buy the shuttered restaurant’s name. The investors want to market food items such as salad dressing under the brand.

Tavern on the Green Brand Name Value

Though the food at Tavern on the Green was at best mediocre, the high menu prices, unique location and building, and romantic lore imbue the name with real value. During a dispute between the restaurant’s owners and the City of New York in 2009, the Tavern on the Green trademark was appraised at $19 million.  Should the investors’ $1.3 million offer be accepted, will they be getting a bargain?

Tavern on the Green closed three years ago, the building has been renovated, its famous Crystal Room demolished, and its contents auctioned off. Last year, the structure reopened as a visitor’s center. Tavern on the Green’s fame as a restaurant and the value of its name will dim with the years. The $19 million value of the Tavern on the Green name will shrink to zero if nothing is done.

Investing in building the brand around grocery items will not only keep the brand alive, it may make it more valuable. Lawry’s licensed condiments are a bigger money maker than the steak restaurant that spawned them. Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s frozen pizzas make more money than his restaurant Spago. Should the investors be successful, their $1.3 million bargain will exponentially surpass the 2009 $19 million appraisal of the name’s brand value.

Kraft Crack Up — Breaking Up the CPG Behemouth

Just 18 months after getting it all together, consumer packaged goods giant Kraft announced today that it is breaking up. It turns out that Kraft executives have discovered the grocery business has different needs that the snacks business. In a conference call with the Kraft CEO, one participant called the break up “rearranging the furniture.” Kraft CEO characterized one company as a “truly ubiquitous snacking powerhouse”  and the other as a “lean, mean center-of-the-store machine.”

One question remains: What will the new companies be called?Which one will keep the Kraft name? Lets hope the old General Foods name will not come back. Equally bad would be a hybrid such as Kraft-Cadbury. And, of course, calling both companies Kraft would repeat the mistakes made by Motorola and Marathon.

Let’s hope at least that the much maligned new Kraft logo is finally laid to rest.

New Kraft Logo Should Die

More  on corporate break ups and spin-off brand name challenges:
Breaking the Motorola Brand
Marathon Spin Off Runs Into Brand Confusion
Fortune Brands: Sum Not Greater Than Whole
Sara Lee Spins Off with Right Approach to Brand Names

Branded Top Level Domain Names: Help or Hindrance?

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has voted to allow an unlimited number of new Top Level Domains. That means companies won’t be limited to just .com, but can go for.mcdonalds and .starbucks. On the face of it, the decision looks good for brands. But think again. The result could just be more confusion and more expense.

You STILL need a dotcom. Old habits die hard. People are still going to look for the Starbucks Web site by typing in “www.starbucks.com.” If you can’t own your brand as a .com, you are always going to fight an uphill battle, whether you are stuck with “www.acme.net” or “www.homepage.acme.”

If you own .starbucks, what URL are you going to use for your home page?  www.starbucks.starbucks or  www.homepage.starbucks?

As ZDNet columnist Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols writes, the addition of more top level domains mostly benefits domain name registrars. You have to pay to register your dotcom, and possibly your dotnet. Now you’ll have to pay even more to register your dotbrandname.  He says “For them, this will prove a license to print money. For businesses, who must protect their trademarks it will be a pain-in-the rump and some additional expense. I can already see people getting ready to grab the TLD “.cola” and waiting to charge Coke and Pepsi or the “privilege” of registering “coke.cola” and “pepsi.cola.”

This all assumes that you are able to show a “legitimate claim” to ICANN. Presumably, brand holders can protect their brands. But consider the brand “Delta.” Who gets .delta? The airline, the power tool company, the faucet company or the dental company or one of the thousands of “delta” trademark owners? And then you’ve got the problem of .beer or .insurance or any other “generic” top level domain claims. How do you decide between McDonalds and Burger King for ownership of .hamburger?

Consumr: A Yelp For Consumer Goods—No Help

Advertising Age reports the launch today of Consumr, a new social media ratings site. It’s meant to be Yelp-meets-Foursquare to rate consumer packaged goods like Cheerios and Tide. This is a service without a need.

Consumr is working with publisher Rodale to import Yelp-style product reviews for some 50,000 products you can find on grocery store, drug store, and mass merchandiser shelves. Also, like Foursquare, consumers can “check in” with brands they like and earn badges, called “flair.” With enough “flair,” participants can earn the distinction, for example, of being named a “flavor fiend,” exclusive for connoisseurs of Chobani yogurt. Wow! We’ve written about pointless social media activity before (i.e. people taking the time out of their busy lives to “like” Ziploc bag on Facebook), but building a business around pointless social media activity seems a bit much.

Sites like Yelp work because the businesses, services, and products they review are relative high stakes. Here are the five key high stakes consumer motivations that make review sites like Yelp work:

1)      Expense:  You might look at car reviews because buying a car is a high stakes financial investment.

2)      Longevity: Using the car example again, you are buying a product with a long life—the high stakes are you’ll own it and use the product for years and will have to live with the decision, good or bad.

3)      Time Consuming: You might turn to Yelp to find a plumber, because of the high stakes involved in taking the time and effort to search for a reputable service provider.

4)      Pain: Again, using the plumber example, making the wrong choice could wreak havoc in your home and to your bank account. The high stakes of choosing the wrong dentist or leg wax service could also be extremely painful.

5)      Information Scarcity: Choosing a restaurant in a new town is a gamble without services like Yelp. The high stakes are if you choose the wrong place to eat, your evening is ruined.

The problem with a consumer goods rating site like Consumr, is that these high stakes motivations are totally missing. Buy the wrong yogurt and you waste a few dollars. It takes little effort to return to the store and buy another brand. A yogurt mistake just doesn’t have major implications. Furthermore, most people already know what yogurt they like. They don’t need to invest time in doing research. And how many people in our over-scheduled world are going to carve out time to earn “flair” so they can be known as a yogurt connoisseur  on some random Web site?  Those people are probably already too busy friending Ziploc bags on Facebook.

This Little Piggy Taught Me a Thing or Two About Store Brand Beer

Last week, I had the pleasure of talking to Christopher Ibsen, Chief Marketing Officer of the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain. I was on the receiving end of his charming rebuttal of my comment about Pig Swig (Piggly Wiggly’s private label beer) being one of the growing ranks cheap beers fighting to be the lowest price brew.
Pig Swig Beer
Though the Pig Swig line is value priced, price is not core to the brand’s positioning. Indeed, Piggly Wiggly is continuing a long-held strategy of finding local products that can stand shoulder to shoulder with national brands. In working with a highly regarded South Carolina craft brewery (Thomas Creek Brewery), Ibsen says they are offering consumers a high quality alternative to the mass brands like Budweiser. While not for the connoisseur, Pig Swig isn’t targeting college students looking for cheap suds either. Reader comments in the newspaper of record for South Carolina complain the price is too expensive!

I also took a swipe at the name Pig Swig, too. But Ibsen says the funny name fits. Piggly Wiggly is a silly name to begin with, so the company takes a light-hearted approach to their brands. Indeed, the beer category is filled with funny names like Buttface Amber Ale and Arrogant Bastard. Pig Swing is right at home. And the Piggly Wiggly brand is an icon in its market. Ibsen says the company does a brisk business selling “I’m Big on the Pig” t-shirts. While he would not release specific sales figures on Pig Swig, the retailer is equally pleased with sales results, which are “far more than expected.”

Okay, I’ll eat crow if I can wash it down with some Pig Swig.

Follow Piggly Wiggly on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pigglywigglycarolinaco

Disney Trademarks SEAL Team 6, But Not DEVGRU or Delta Force

Are the SEALs the best? They sure have the best brand–especially after the bin Laden raid.

Disney is just the latest company to try to trademark a SEAL brand, reserving “SEAL Team 6,” for entertainment uses, toys (including snow globes!) and clothing.

SEAL Team 6 Logo

The other Tier One counter-terrorism unit, Delta Force, has not attained the same power as a brand. While there are some 30+ trademarks for Delta Foce, they are for things like vacuum cleaners, flash lights, waste effluent filters, and even a floor polish.

SEAL Team 6 is technically no longer in existence. The unit was renamed DEVGRU in 1987. It doesn’t quite have the same swagger; there are no trademarks of that name. And word has it that the unit has been renamed again–and the new name is classified. Makes it extra difficult to trademark it that way.


UPDATE:  The U.S. Navy has wasted no time in countering the Disney applications with competing claims. Disney quickly backed down–probably a safer course of action than trying to take on the SEALs.  More: The Mouse Surrenders

Merriam Associates in Success Magazine: Investing in Your Brand

Success Magazine Quotes Merriam Associates on Investing in BrandThe March 2011 issue of Success magazine features the article “Spend Your Way to Prosperity,” with recommendations for the best initial investments entrepreneurs should make. The article (you can preview here) includes a quote from Merriam Associates on spending money upfront to protect your brand with a trademark and by owning your brand in the digital realm. The book Merriam’s Guide to Naming advises owning as many variations of your brand’s URL as you can afford to buy, along with reserving variations on your brand name on Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In. The March issue of Success is on newsstands now.

Beer is Brand Driven–Can Generics Brew Up Sales?

Cheap Beer For College StudentsAnyone watching a minute or two of the Super Bowl knows how important brands are in the beer category. Yet some retailers are trying the generic angle again.

In the 1970’s retailers tried plain white cans emblazoned with the word “BEER”. Thirty years later, they are taking a slightly more sophisticated approach. Last year, 7-Eleven  launched “Game Day” beer. Early this year, Supervalu and Walgreens each launched brands of their own.  The Walgreens naming approach doesn’t hold much promise: a beer named Big Flats does not hold much appeal. Flat beer, even cheap flat beer at $2.99 a six pack seems like a tough sell.

How big is the bargain beer market segment? Tapped out college students may be the main target. I remember Blatz, the beer brand that sounds like a burp. Another friend remembers the “Schmidt-heads,” frat boys on an eternal quest for the cheapest six pack. Can a brand be built on customers such as these? I predict these latest store brand beers to fall flat.

UPDATE:  Piggly Wiggly has just announced their own line of cheap beer: Pig Swig. Really? Who thinks this could possibly work?  By the way, Pig Swig is already trademarked for veterinary usage as a “one-day piperazine water wormer treatment for the removal of large roundworms and nodular worms from swine”–works on chickens and turkeys, too!

Sarah Palin a Registered Trademark?

Sarah Palin TrademarkWe’ve covered political brands and the subject of brands who are people or with value closely tied to a real person, but today, the web site Mediaite has broken the story of the trademarking of the name Sarah Palin. Pretty soon, that “R” next to her name won’t mean “Republican,” but “Registered Trademark.”

It’s not unusual for to trademark a name. Jennifer Lopez has done it, as has Paul Newman, Michael Jackson, and Martha Stewart–even Ronald Reagan. Still, trademarked names of politicians is rare. Barack Obama hasn’t done it yet. Neither has Nancy Pelosi.

That said, I suspect Sarah is in early on a new trend. Every brand should take every step to “own” their name. For people, owning your own trademark is an inexpensive way to protect your persona, whether you are a celebrity selling salad dressing or a politician turned opinion leader.  If you don’t trademark your name, someone else will.

What is interesting about the Sarah Palin trademark application is what it reveals about Palin’s future plans. The left seems fixated on Palin’s political future, but it seems Palin is more focused on “information about political elections” and “providing a website featuring information about political issues”-in other words, a pundit brand, and the other for “educational and entertainment services … providing motivational speaking services in the field of politics, culture, business and values”–could more reality television be in Sarah’s future?

More on brands and real people:
Steve Jobs and Apple’s Future Brand Value
Michael Vick’s Potential as a Brand: Lessons from Martha Stewart and Tiger Woods
When a Brand is a Person

AEG, Farmers Insurance Buys Corporate Naming Rights for Non-Existent Stadium

Farmers Field Naming Rights Los AngelesSports Business Daily reports that Los Angeles has got a corporate name for a stadium that hasn’t been built (it doesn’t even have permits or an architect) and has no NFL team. AEG, owner of Farmers Insurance, just paid $600 million for a 30 year lease on naming this non-existent thing.  Farmers Field is being called the largest naming-rights contract ever.

Farmers Chief Marketing Officer Kevin Kelso thinks the deal will be a big win:  “This is going to put Farmers up as a brand and get exposure at a really high level, and that’s very attractive to us. … Having our name associated with this will give us a TiVo-proof exposure opportunity.”

Given how tough it has been to get a team in Los Angeles, Farmers might have been better off nabbing the rights to Cowboy Stadium in time for the 2011 Super Bowl. That stadium still has no naming rights owner. The last time the Super Bowl was played in a stadium without a corporate name was in 2008 at the Louisiana Superdome–and those rights are also still available.