Maple Moose and the Arcane Art of Naming

Chefs, they say, hate to cook in their free time. You do something all day and night for other people, the last thing you want to do is that same thing for yourself. Which is why the new wisdom says: Don’t choose your passion as your day job. Because you’ll just end up spoiling it.

It could be why I don’t often get involved in other people’s ad campaigns. I’ve ruined myself forever against the simple modern joy of being unwittingly drawn into a well-crafted idea. I’m just too self-aware. I’m too busy thinking and judging to simply jump in and blindly take part. That is, until my wife came home from the grocery store the other day with a bag of Lay’s™Maple Moose potato chips.

Lay’s is holding a contest to find a new Canadian potato chip flavour. They culled 630,000 (!) entries down to four: the aforementioned Maple Moose, Creamy Garlic Ceasar, Grilled Cheese & Ketchup and Perogy Platter. Now, despite Maple Moose tasting of neither Maple nor Moose, there was no way I wasn’t trying all the others.

Which is weird. Because the idea is not new, but it was clearly working on the ‘consumer’ (in this case, an apt word) part of my brain, and before long I had several half-eaten bags stuffed into various kitchen cupboards. My verdict on the flavours? They were all remarkably un-remarkable. So safe and generic were they in fact that I could barely tell them apart. It was at that point that my advertising brain switched back on. Fun while it lasted.

With no clear difference between the chip flavours (to my tastebuds at least), how does one go about predicting a winner? By the names of these burgeoning would-be brands themselves of course, in which case there can be only one. Hint: It has antlers.

As a copywriter I might be biased, but anyone who’s browsed the paint swatch aisle knows that it’s all in the name. Folks are more likely to select “Oyster Bay” (not to be confused with the wine) over “Light Grey.” Similarly, my hunch is that people will be drawn to Maple Moose because it has personality and makes you think or feel something (in this case, a double dose of national pride) while the others are merely descriptive. To whit, a quick Google News search yields the following number of results; Creamy Garlic Ceasar: 27, Grilled Cheese & Ketchup: 8 and Perogy Platter: 54. Maple Moose: 2,910. No surprise there as Maple Moose gives journos a lot more to work with than mere ingredients.

What can be learned from this? Many times I’ve seen ideas live or die based on the name itself. A great idea can die on a furrowed brow with a lacklustre name. Conversely, I’ve seen weak ideas with a punchy, funny or evocative name sold right in. People are drawn to ideas that tell a story. That all starts with the cover of the book, and coming up with a clever and effective one is an art unto itself.

Stay tuned til November when the contest winner is announced and we’ll see if the power of the name holds true in this case. In the meantime, I’ll stick to good old ketchup.

 

 

 

 

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