Generica: Where The Brand Is Bland and The Price Is Right

You can have madness in your life during the month of March, but you can’t have March Madness. It’s not yours. It’s the proud trademark of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Same goes for businesses. They can feel it. They can even think it. But they are prohibited to use it in a commercial way or profit from it.

I get it. The corporate partners of the NCAA that pay the big bucks to tie their brand with the NCAA men’s basketball tournament are the ones that get dibs on March Madness. That’s only fair.

It happens every year with The Super Bowl too. You may have a bowl, that is quite super, but you can’t have the Super Bowl. Instead you must use phrases like “The Big Game” or “Pigskin Showdown” in order to avoid those trademark violations.

But that’s what I love – the tap-dancing around the phrase without saying the actual “phrase that pays”. I love watching companies and businesses twist and contort themselves to come up with a string of similar words that say one thing, but with a wink and a nod, tip their hat to the real thing.

It takes me back to the mid-90’s when grocery stores began to carry a line of inferior (and cheaper) ‘store-brand’ products that were clearly knock-offs of their brand-name counterparts.

It seemed especially prevalent when it came to the soft drinks. You could have your Coke and your Pepsi, but for a better price (and a lesser experience), you could choose the store brand’s version of Coke and Pepsi.

WalMart and Sam’s Club carried the ‘Sam’s Choice’ brand – an homage to Sam Walton, the man we can credit or blame for founding the retail giant that it is today.

Harris Teeter countered with something bigger than a guy named Sam. They went with “President’s Choice”, or the initials “P.C.”, as it was displayed on the can. Seems like a fitting name for a drink that a politician would choose.

Cola was fair came. Just don’t say Coca before it. Or Pepsi. Anything else works.

The most amusing thing was seeing which clever name they chose for the other brand name soft drinks.

Instead of Dr. Pepper, President’s Choice went with Dr. Smooth. Sam’s Choice chose Dr. Thunder. I’m just reassured every drink had its doctorate. I only go for the educated drinks, Mr. Pibb!

If you lean towards the caffeine-free variety, you could have selected Twist-Up when strolling down a WalMart aisle. But President’s Choice had them beat. They offered Spritz Up – the apparent love child of Sprite and 7-Up.

So what if Mountain Dew and Mello Yello got together? You’d either have Mountain Yellow or Mello Dew. And those just doesn’t sound appealing. Thankfully Sam’s Choice went with Mountain Lightning and President’s Choice settled on Mountain Mania.

So, I’ve decided. In my next life, I’m going to pay homage to these cheesy, yet clever, generic product names. I’m going to create a game show, find a generic-looking game show host, and name the show “The Brand is Bland.”

I won’t be able to afford Vanna White, but I’m sure Hanna Black will be available. Contestants will compete to come up with the most creative and clever generic names for a series of powerhouse brand name products.

I can’t say the show will be great and I can’t say the show will be good. But I can say this – it will be tolerable.

About as tolerable as a package of Great Value’s “Chocolate Twist and Shout Sandwich Cookies”. And a glass of milk.

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