“‘Amish’? I thought you said ‘Hamish’…”

In my previous post, I noted an example of a name that is so bad that it has a reverse psychology effect of leading people to think the product itself must be very good. My example was Hellman’s mayonnaise. Athol (our Naming Director) reviewed my piece, and got into the act with a couple of examples of his own.

One of these was Orville Redenbacher, of popcorn fame. The story here is almost too good to be true: the guy in the glasses and bow tie on the TV commercials was, in fact, one Orville Clarence Redenbacher, who a) was not an actor hired for the ads, b) was born with that name, and c) was actually an agricultural scientist who experimented with hybrids. This congruence of true facts and marketing appeal was so unlikely that many people believed he was a fictional character (often compared to the contemporary but made-up Bartles&Jaymes.) Check out his Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orville_Redenbacher .

Food and condiments namesAthol’s other example was Smucker’s, which made the reverse psychology idea explicit with their slogan “With a name like Smuckers, it has to be good”. My take on this one is maybe a little different…

The Smucker’s slogan could apply equally well, mutatis mutandis, to Hellman’s mayonnaise. But there’s another possible way to look at it: Smuckers is by no means an unusual name…among the Pennsylvania Dutch. And what is one of the best-known positive associations for these Amish and Mennonite communities? Hearty, not overly spicy, comfort food…often of the kind that is “put up” in glass jars…like jams and jellies. In other words, they have a sort of reverse of the Takvorian-Haig situation; for Smuckers, the history and ethnicity of the family name line up extremely well with use as a brand name.

Hence, the Smuckers slogan can be read two ways, depending on what comes after an added ‘because”: either “It has to be good because otherwise how could we stay in business with that odd name?” Or: “It has to be good because it is the kind of food done best by people with a good old Pennsylvania Dutch name like ‘Smucker’.”

For the record, the folks at Smuckers sort of want to have it both ways: from their FAQ page https://www.smuckers.com/frequently-asked-questions :

The slogan has been used by our company since the mid-1950s. Initially, it referred to the unusual family name (Smucker) with the connotation that since it was such an odd name, the company had better produce outstanding products. As the company’s reputation has grown and the name Smucker has become associated with high-quality products, the slogan meaning changed somewhat. According to customers, if you see the Smucker name on a product, you have assurance that the product will be good.”

Interestingly, the Smuckers web site, www.smuckers.com, is devoted to the products under the Smuckers brand. The parent corporation, while still dealing mostly with food items, is a lot larger and less folksy: see https://www.jmsmucker.com/ for more info, including a surprising number of other brands now owned by this outfit.

Let’s close by looking at some companies that haven’t yet reached the size of J.M. Smucker, one of which leverages the Amish heritage, and one of which really needs to borrow a version of the Smuckers slogan: how would you feel about pickles and relishes from an outfit called Jake & Amos? (I’ve tried their products, which I dearly love; everything from kraut to pickled eggs to chow-chow can be ordered from https://www.jakeandamos.com/ .) On the other hand, I have yet to have the pleasure of doing business with (so help me, this one is just as real as Orville Redenbacher) StoltzfoosGolf Carts: (https://www.stoltzfoosgolfcarts.com/ ).

And finally, for one of those moments of Jungian synchronicity: guess where J.M. Smucker was founded, and is headquartered to this day? Orrville, Ohio.

–Greg Marus


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Posted in Branding, Drinks, Food Names, International Naming, Rotten Names, Strange Names