Now, I realize this is simply a brand name, probably inspired by the “pure” part of the slogan…but I can’t help but be reminded of the brief fad for clear products in the early 1990s. Remember Crystal Pepsi? Of course you don’t.

Saturday Night Live summed up just how unappetizing this fad really was in two words: Crystal Gravy.

Thankfully, Crystal Hot Sauce is not clear (as you can see!), and actually tasted pretty good.

DC Comics recently canceled its Minx line of graphic novels aimed at teen girls, leading to much discussion amongst comics bloggers. I don’t want to talk about why the line folded, but why the line existed in the first place. Why did DC create an entirely new brand in order to go after this audience?

A big advantage to creating a new label: no preconceptions. Prospective readers won’t look at the cover, see a DC logo, and wonder where the super-heroes show up and rip off people’s arms. And they won’t see a Vertigo logo and assume that it’s a “mature readers” book. On the downside, a new label has to build its credibility from the ground up, instead of starting with name recognition.

This got me thinking: an established brand associated with customers of one gender creates a new brand in order to target the other half of the population. Where else have I seen this?

I own a jacket labeled Claiborne, which is of course made by the Liz Claiborne company.

Mervyns sells (or used to) H&H Men clothing, which was clearly a variation on their Hillard and Hanson brand.

All the examples I could think of (other than Minx itself) were companies that had traditionally been aimed at women, but were adding lines aimed at men. It made me wonder: is it the names? Do men feel odd buying a product named “Liz,” while women are used to buying brands named after both men and women? (Sara Lee notwithstanding.) Maybe it’s the stigma of a man participating in something perceived as feminine? Sort of like the assumption in children’s TV that boys will only watch shows about boys, while girls will watch shows about girls or boys (so they make shows about boys instead of girls, figuring they’ll get a bigger audience).

Then Katie pointed out LEGO Belville, the line aimed at girls which entirely misses the point of LEGO by making as much of each set prefab as possible. And pink. On the plus side, unlike Claiborne, Belville doesn’t try to hide the fact that it’s a LEGO product.

That makes it more like Men’s Vogue, a copy of which is sitting in the lunch room at work. In this case they’d have to call it something different (unlike a clothing line) because it’s not just a brand, but the title of the magazine.

I still think the craziest example of this has to be Men’s Pocky. It’s a cookie. One which I’d hardly consider a “girlie” cookie, but maybe it’s more associated with girls in Japan. I still can’t figure out whether it’s a case of cultural translation or deliberate absurdity.

It’s always strange when you throw out wacky ideas, then see them turn into reality. About four years ago, a bunch of us were sitting around talking, and someone uttered the remark, “Diet Spite.” From there we filled an entire page with culinary brand names made from abstract concepts, not unlike the Wheat-Free Chaos we found a month ago.

One exchange went like this:

Kelson: “Diet Red.”
Daniel: “Sure, that’s red.”

So it was a surprise to find this can at Trader Joe’s:

Can of Hansen's Diet Red

Truth is stranger than fiction. It just takes time to catch up.

At the market today, we discovered that you can buy a bag of Chaos. Not only that, but you can buy a bag of wheat-free Chaos.

Bag of Chaos

In actuality it’s a brand of chips from the makers of Pirate’s Booty, but the name reminded us both of a time we and a bunch of friends started coming up with lists of product names based on abstract concepts. It started with a pun, “Diet Spite,” and eventually filled an entire sheet of paper. I think Jason ended up with the sheet, and may even have HTMLized it, but from there it fades into legend.

A few months ago I discovered that medications containing pseudoephedrine were labeled “restricted quantity items” at the local Sav-On because it can be used to make meth. Today I found that the shelf space that used to hold both brand-name Sudafed and the store brand now holds cards which direct you to the pharmacy. The boxes aren’t actually in the pharmacy in this store, they’re in a case up front, but the cards are pre-printed, and they say to go to the pharmacy.

Meanwhile, Sudafed has come out with a new formulation that isn’t based on pseudoephedrine. Yes, I know. I mentioned it to Katie and she asked whether they called it “…” We started trying to come up with names like “Sudasudafed” or “Quasifed” or “Notfed.”

They’ve got too much invested in the name, of course, so it’s the less-creative “Sudafed PE.” The store brands have caught up already, but it’s new enough that I could not find any reference to it on Pfizer’s website [ July 12, 2005]. A quick trip to Google turned up the Sudafed FAQ [ Dec. 10, 2005], though, which is currently all about the new medication.