Saturday, November 15, 2014

Brand X

In olden days, some products used advertisements comparing the product they extolled with some dummy competitor, often labeled Brand X.  Why this little delicacy was used, I do not know.  Could it be a fear of lawsuits, a fear that the competition would gain by being mentioned albeit in an ad for a competing product, or simply to reduce the likelihood of the competitors retaliating with more forceful counter ads?  Anyway, there's a number of not-so-good products out there that could serve as easy ones to be compared to.

In search of these, I went to some of the discount stores selling merchandise typically for prices around a dollar.  Alas, I found a lot of discount brands with suspect names: No-Poot gas pills, Sorta Clean detergent, Dog Breath mouthwash, Bump Along tires, Large Owl bras, Kitty Begone cat litter, and so on.  But no Brand X.  There were a few products labeled "Generic," but apparently Brand X was not used as a product name any longer.

In my opinion, ad men are missing a bet here.  Why not propose Brand X as a serious product name?  And use Brand Y as a name for a supplemental product.  (I feel a little Cartesian this morning).

As a matter of fact, we could have politicians run under names like Joseph X or Mitch Y or so forth.  Would this perk interest?  Apparently, the recent Fall, 2014 election was characterized by widespread lack of voter interest, especially with some groups.

Would this work?  Here's a possible reason why it might.  In 1884, John Singer Sargent labeled his most famous or notorious painting, Portrait of Madame X, a daring portrait of Virginie Amélie  Avegno Gautreau.  This was the sensation of the Salon in Paris for that year.

Sargent's other works are often beautiful, like his Portrait of Theodore Roosevelt, and his Nude Egyptian Girl, but Madame X is by far the most easily recognizable.

Portrait of Theodore Roosevelt

Nude Egyptian Girl

The last one is noteworthy itself because of its use of a radically long portrait (73" X 23") format; departing from the usual 8:5 ratio of the Golden Section.  

Sargent did numerous other works, including other portraits, landscapes, and even a wartime fainting of gassed soldiers; but not with as much recognition as Portrait of Madame X.  Would it have carried as much impact if it had been entitled Portrait of Virginie Striking an Attitude?  Something to wonder about.

So, bold ad people, consider the use of that little ole X when advertising products, politicians, or even authors!  X may indeed mark the spot with interest and intrigue.  In a world where the consumer is bombarded by numerous advertising claims, they might retreat to this unknown yet trustworthy entity.


TexWisGirl said...

they'd quickly move it to 'xxx' just for sensationalism.

Linda Kay said...

I remember these ads, for sure. Brand X was always nondescript, no color or recognizable label. Ad folks have us looking for products we recognize, so that we will turn up our nose at anything that appears to be a bit more generic. I like the idea of Politician X, with no picture to taint the voter. Not sure anyone would turn out.

Mike said...

The use of the letter Y could be confused with the YMCA. Like in the saying, 'I like to eat at the Y.'

Cloudia said...

Such a pleasure to enjoy the fancies of an educated, idiosyncratic mind!

ALOHA from Honolulu
=^..^= . <3 . >< } } (°>

Bilbo said...

Anyone have a phone number for Madame X? And although it's not an "X" or "Y," I have sampled (and enjoyed) a brand of table wine that comes in bottles with a plain, brown wrapper and labeled as "Cheap Red Wine" and "Cheap White Wine."

beach lad said...

in lots of aussie advertising of merchandise, Brand X is usually framed as 'inferior'.....generic stuff is usually framed as 'equal' without the price tag and fancy packaging.

(and i'm sure some of my co-workers use dog breath mouthwash)