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Jewish World Review April 27, 2001 / 5 Iyar, 5761

Greg Crosby

Greg Crosby
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Consumer Reports

Name brands -- COMPANIES long ago realized the importance of establishing name brand products with consumers. People are creatures of habit and once they like something, trust it, and believe it stands for high quality, they want to buy it again and again. Some brands become so popular that people will only think of that particular brand when buying an item. Like facial tissues. The first thing most people think of is Kleenex. Nobody says, “I’ve got to get over to the store and pick up a box of facial tissues.” No, they say, “I gotta get some Kleenex.”

Oatmeal is another one. The brand that pops into most people’s minds is Quaker Oats. If you want oatmeal, the first thing you look for on the supermarket shelf is that round-faced Quaker smiling at you on the cylindrical package, right? Quaker Oats makes sense to us now, we’ve heard it all our lives. Quaker Oats. But think about it. In the beginning, how does a company come to name a grain after a religious order?

According to a book called “Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader,” (a wonderful source of trivia information in spite of its name) it all started back in 1891 when seven oatmeal millers combined to create the American Cereal Company. One of those seven was Quaker Mill of Ravenna, Ohio, which had trademarked the image of the Quaker man some 14 years earlier. In 1901 the American Cereal Company officially changed its name to Quaker Oats and retained the Quaker man as its logo.

Evidently, the real Quakers were not too thrilled about this at the time, and tried to get Congress to prohibit manufacturers from using religious names on products. But they couldn’t do it. And that’s why we have Quaker Oats, children.

So why didn’t the other cereal and grain manufactures jump on the religious brand wagon? Hey, it worked for Quaker Oats so why not Amish Alfalfa? Or how about a nice heaping bowl of Missionary Mush? Or Buddhist Bran? We do have Jewish Rye, but only in bread. Got Milk? Then how about some Shiite Sugar Pops? There’s always good ol’ Catholic Corn Flakes. And Baptist Barley. What could be better on a cold winter’s morning than a steaming bowl full of Muslim Malt O Meal. Confucius says have some Confucius Soy. Don’t forget your Hindu Honey O’s. And Mormon Mini Wheats.

Name brands are extremely important to the auto industry. Car companies love to name their cars after animals and birds. Horses are a big thing for Ford. Think Mustang, Bronco, and Pinto. Funny, though, they’ve avoided mare. Too girl sounding, I guess. It might be a good selling hook to old women -- “Buy the Ford Mare. It’s nice and comfortable. It won’t go too fast and it comes in only one color, gray.” Another horse name you won’t find Ford using any time soon is gelding. “Yes sir, the new, 2002 Ford Gelding.” Actually it might work as a family station wagon.

Certain cat names work well for cars like Cougar and Bobcat. I guess it’s because they sound fast. But how come they don’t use lion or tiger? Did they ever use Panther? The Pontiac Black Panther. Now, that’s a mean machine. Falcon, Eagle, Impala, Ram -- these are fast or strong sounding names. But Gorilla is strong. Why not the 2002 Chevy Gorilla? Not likely.

Car manufactures also like to name cars after certain places. Dakota, Monte Carlo, Malibu, Park Avenue, Tahoe, Yukon -- all kind of sexy, exciting places. You’ll never see a car named the Buick Burbankian, or Ford Fresno. And don’t hold your breath for the Chrysler Bronx.

Numbers are a big deal with certain “hot” cars. The Lexus 4000, the Audi 500, BMW 325, Mercedes 500. Notice it’s never a LOW number. It’s never the BMW 6 or the Lexus 11. Also certain letters are very important to go with the numbers. Good letters are X,L,J,Z,I,S and E. Nowhere will you find a car named the 4QA or the 5PU or the 1BM. These are not good number/letter combinations.

One final thought ... how come American Indians get bent out of shape over a baseball team called the Atlanta Braves, but they don’t have any problem with a vehicle named Jeep Cherokee? Just wondering....

JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. You may contact him by clicking here.

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© 2001 Greg Crosby