A Rose by Any Other Name

A thirteen-year old boy is given the ultimate gift at his bar mitzvah. No. Not a check for a vast sum of money. No. Not the hottest new video game or electronic gadget. His uncle gave his nephew a complimentary visit to a whorehouse.

The lad’s heart was pounding with excitement as he followed the madam up the staircase. As she reached the top of the stairs, the madam looked back over her shoulder at the young boy, and remarked: “Sonny, enjoy the look. This is the best part.”


The makers of Heinz knew all about the thrill of anticipation. The company used Carly Simon’s song Anticipation in the late ’70s to associate the plop of the ketchup as the salutatory seduction to French fries.

Plop, plop; fizz fizz was another wildly successful advertising slogan from the same era.

Selecting the right letters and the right words can spell success or failure for many a business.

Cup cakes, Kit Kat chocolate bars, Captain Crunch and Coca-Cola carry a cheery, clickety-clackety, crispy, crunchy, crackle that we say we like. Their very names may go a long way to contributing to their popularity.

“H”  is a happy letter, though we have decided not to actually pronounce the letter “h” when it comes to the first letter in the word “honesty” because we have collectively agreed the concept of honesty is far too elusive.

“Happy” is a happy word. Happy Birthday is the most frequently used phrase in the English language, even more popular than the oft-repeated and totally meaningless “Have a nice day.”

Happy Meals are wildly popular and McDonald’s hopes to keep them so. During the first six months of 2010, McDonald’s spent $45.6 million to promote their happy meals to mostly happy little children, who are not required to eat their veggies or drink their milk or take their elbows off the table.

By definition: “Happiness is a mental state of well-being characterized by positive emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.”

The ultimate objective of advertisers is to simulate this emotion by connecting an emotion, consciously or subconsciously, with a specific product, a food or, with any luck a chef and a restaurant.

We must all pay a lot of attention to buzz words in order to get noticed. This means not mentioning unmentionable words like fat, or calories but instead emphasizing ecstasy — an audacious concept or a variation on a time-tested Norman Rockwell fantasy family meal.

Russ & Daughters, NYC

Russ & Daughters, NYC

Families are strangely popular when it comes to naming foods like potato chips, microwave meals and pizza parlors. Uncles and Aunts were once popular but have become less so in these politically-correct times. Sons are good.

The iconic Russ & Daughters in New York has remained the all-time go-to place for classic deli foods. In-laws are mentioned only in jest.

Yum is a good word. YUMMY! Is even better. In this context, I am not referring to the giant food company that owns and operates Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut and other insanely popular restaurants. Rather I’m thinking of YUMMY! as a specific reaction to being presented with one of Gotham Bar & Grill’s ethereal, architectural delights.

Yuck is the direct opposite of Yummy! It is a response to an appetizer described as “a gently liquefied tea soup, with tiny jasmine and eucalyptus flowers floating on it, like water lilies.” This sort of menu item produces a reaction similar to Anne Boleyn’s facial expression when King Henry VIII told her that her head will be chopped off…tomorrow.

The objective of branding is like yawning. Look at someone yawning and you want to yawn too. Look at the Gerber Baby and Smile. Give a restaurant a good name and folks will come running.

Phil Romano's Macaroni Grill

Phil Romano's Macaroni Grill

For a restaurant, everything begins with its name. To my mind, one of the cleverest’ is Phil Romano’s Macaroni Grill, described on its web site as “a casually elegant Italian restaurant serving handcrafted pastas, crave able entrees, and a diverse wine list.” Bingo! Every box is checked. And everyone loves both the words “macaroni” and “grill.”

Dunkin’ Donuts, even when incorrectly spelled reflects a worthy association with blue-collared everyone especially policemen and even those who don’t actually dunk their doughnuts in anything at all.

The Cellar in the Sky was an inspired name for an intimate restaurant that offered a wine and food pairing boutique Here it is described in the New York Times by the incomparable Ruth Reichl:

“There is never a wait. Your table belongs to you alone for the entire evening. The ambiance is lovely. Soft lights, dark wood, walls swathed in richly colored silk brocade. The tables are widely spaced, the sound level discrete. The service is so smooth and pleasant you have only to look up to bring a waiter instantly to your side. And the view from the top of New York’s tallest building is spectacular. To make matters even better, you need not waste time deciding what to eat. Everything has been taken care of, down to the wines you’ll be drinking with each of the six courses in your evening odyssey.”

This is penultimate pairing a restaurant name and its food and service philosophy.

A successful menu must include a few favorite foods that aim to bring guests back again and again. This naming/branding business involves a careful study of what makes folks truly happy. You may not be in a position to offer a single guest a pair of flannel pajamas, a comfy feet-up armchair and a movie, but there are plenty of other ways to persuade a receptive visitor to order exactly what the chef would like to cook.

When it comes to a corporate identity, what an inspiration it was to come up with the name Starbucks that can only anticipate will reap ever-bigger bucks. Or Celestial Seasonings: a pie-in-the sky dream of a Colorado hippie that generated ever-higher profits each time the company was bought and sold.

Jolly Green Giant continues to be a good association of ideas particularly at a time when being jolly is a distant emotion for too many in these painful economic times.

‘Green’ is the word hovering on every hidden persuader’s lips. We have been convinced it is imperative to “go green” in order to get in the pink.

Idly, we may wonder why the BlackBerry name was selected over StrawBerry or HuckleBerry when it came to naming a smart phone.