Saturday, March 17, 2007

Misspelling for Profit

I’m not a fan of brand names like this...

...that intentionally misspell words. The stickler in me automatically thinks less of a brand that uses this tactic. But judging by the number of brands that do it, the benefits must outweigh the costs.

For example, if we do an English-only Google search for that classic of commercial misspelling, “kwik,” we get 1,330,000 pages. Gracing the top ten are:

Kwik-Fit“experts in tyres, exhausts, brakes and MoT testing”
KwikGoalportable, quick-to-assemble soccer goals
KWIK·SEW“has over 850 fashion patterns for the entire family”
Kwik Tripconvenience store chain
Kwik-Site“makers of scope mounts for your rifle or shotgun, using a superior grade of aluminum  alloy”
Kwik Kopy“offers franchise opportunity in business office services stores”
Kwikski and snowboard accessories
Ac-U-Kwik“your global resource for aviation information”
Kwik Lok“is to the plastic bag what the screw top cap is to bottled beverages”
Kwik Kerb“continuous concrete curbing and landscape edging”

Maybe it’s just me, but “Kwik Kerb” does not come across as the optimal choice for my continuous concrete curbing and landscape edging needs.

That said, if a product is good enough, I can be won back over.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

A Reminder from Buffalo, NY, Circa 1886

Join us as we dial the clock back 120 years to Buffalo, New York, where we behold the Internet revolution of that time: the advent of electricity networks and their first killer application, commercial electric lighting:

[A] front page ad in the November 27, 1886, Buffalo Commercial Advertiser proclaimed that Adam, Meldrum & Anderson (despite month-long problems and delays) was now showcasing its incomparable selection of black cashmeres, carpets, draperies, bed and horse blankets, cloaks and shawls, dolls, and so forth with 498 Stanley lights run by the Westinghouse system. “There is no odor, no heat, no matches, no danger. We were the first business house in the city to adopt the plan of lighting our stores by incandescence.... The appearance is brilliant in the extreme. The light is steady and colorless. Shades can be perfectly matched. Come and see the grandest invention of the nineteenth century. Two evenings later, on a Monday, the mammoth store was open—not to retail any of its lovely lace handkerchiefs, gloves, silk umbrellas, finest black silks, or eiderdown quilts, but purely to show off the Westinghouse lights. ”No goods were sold,“ reported the Commercial Advertiser, ”and the store was so thronged with visitors it was difficult to get about.“

This excerpt is from Jill Jonnes’ Empires of Light (2003, Random House), which chronicles the technical and business race to electrify the United States. Featured are the intertwining stories of Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and George Westinghouse.

These men understood that light bulbs were just one of many possible nodes on an electricity distribution network, but nobody from their time could foresee today, when electricity ”applications“ are so ubiquitous that we rarely think about the electricity part (although ”we“ does not include 1.6 billion people that do not have electricity as of 2006).

The scene from Buffalo 1886 is a vivid reminder of how much can change—and will change—often unevenly and sometimes unimaginably.