05/03/2009 09:46 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Barrage of Convenience: A "Punk Marketing" Allegory

People don't think before they name products. Monikers are too cute. Why did Chase calling its youth credit card "Plus One," for instance? Why does every single mobile phone have to have a silly techno-brilliant name attached to it--go look. Why is there such a need to be so "on"--I mean, do you think Radio Shack spent this much time on its name? Check the online pubs this week for the latest cool name for a service, be it Tradrr or Thoof!! (it's true) or Topix or Tampax...okay, not that.

Why make people think so much? To confuse the consumer and get them running to the next product?

The modern movie is a perfect marketing allegory. I am sure you wondered what Fox was thinking when it named the latest movie miracle "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," as if to shout this is a franchise and we want you to love every single one of them or else you will lose all your teeth, friends, and hair.

I think people in service businesses can particularly learn from Hollywood's stupidity as we spend so much time naming things and picking URLs and trying to be more adorable than the competition.

For the last couple of years, I've read top movie executives complain that numbers are down on screens, and in LA marketers seem panicked. Hollywood should be raking 'em in. It seems as though we'd rather stay home and make our own kettle corn and watch Kate Hudson On Demand (or her screen-date, Matthew McBrightSmile). But we sure need to be around others during our Great Escape From Reality. Yet we are told, in the hype bestowed by the H Gang, that there a teensy window between movie release and home video...and so most of us think why rise up and run to the cinema?

Bottom line: it's hard to go to the multiplex and pick a flick if the titles sound the same.They're boring, they're forgettable ("The Haunting In Connecticut"?) and they make us think we've already rented that one. It's a rarity of a title that leave an impression. I was always told that originality makes the buyer want some! How many times have you been sucked in by quirkiness? Movies from Hollywood are our greatest export so you'd think being 100% unique instead of rehashing something "that sounds like 'X (Men)'" would be the way to make it in movies.

How many of these need to have "Dance" in the name? How many use titles of a movie from yesterday but not be a remake? How many must be called "Don't Go in the House or He Knows You're Not Alone?" How many "Last Summer"s? How many of "The Guardian" do we need, for heaven's sake?

And while I'm here: Just how many are going to use a cell phone as the main plot device?

They're all easy-to-forget screen toppers or sounds-cute names like "Date Movie" and "Epic Movie" (and TV titles are pedantic: Life? Damages? Vanished? Kidnapped? Conviction? Richard?) that can't leave an impression. If companies underestimate customers in an Era of Hype they will be left alone in the dark.

Okay it's cliché but I feel an urge to say that movies are no longer quality efforts, except in cases like "Frozen River" (how did that get made!), and it's become the tale of the large corporation masquerading as an artist who needs to rake it in before the crowds realize it's poop. A year ago a CNBC analyst spent an entire hour explaining that Pixar-Disney's "Cars" had to make $70 million in its first weekend, or it's a bust. Then find out it made $62.8. Disney was freaked?

"Cars" was a marketer's dry dream about toy cars at NASCAR fighting for a win. It has Americana pouring from pores even if the final product was stale and underwritten. According to, there were 47 other movies with "cars" in the titles in the last few years. Even with State Farm and the late Chrysler in on its sponsorship act, you were hard-pressed to hear folks run around shouting "Oh yeah baby, 'Cars' is the movie I got to see--I mean, the new one about cars, right?" Makes you long for "Forrest Gump," which though sappy and manipulative had a title you couldn't forget, one where you said to anyone within hear shot: "What's that one about?"

As opposed to an awfully-titled one that will be advertised on our foreheads in about a week, the new Pixar creation "Up," another title surely designed to get us....well you got it..."Up," off our asses, into the theater.

Consumers want to be goosed, to walk up to the multiplex window and go, "Wow, 'What the Bleep Do We Know' is one heck of a title (rent it; it's mind-blowing)."

The laziness of La-La-Land is an example we should take to heart.
Remember, the film industry is a place that recycles best. For those trying to gain attention: go with the most original and even nuttiest title! Don't choose something because you think it will make buyers feel, "Yeah I think I know that one."

Let them find the product themselves. That's the name of the success game.
I'm Twittering at @laermer. Follow for more like this.

The book I cowrote with Mark Simmons, Punk Marketing, is out in paperback in a few minutes: www.tinyurl/preorderpunk.