Branding 101: Understand Your Message

“Bluetiful” is the newest addition to the 24-count Crayola crayon box. The color was inspired by YInMn Blue, the blue pigment discovered accidentally in 2009 by chemist Mas Subramanian and his team at Oregon State University. Bluetiful replaces the yellowish color, Dandelion. (What was wrong with Dandelion?)

Was “bluetiful” an error in branding? Critics say the name will teach children a non-word, and incorrect spelling. No doubt it will. But according to Crayola’s CEO, “[b]luetiful was the clear winner,” out of the other possible names, Blue Moon Bliss, Dreams Come Blue, Reach for the Stars, and Star Spangled Blue.

Disconnects in language, culture, and customer attitudes have resulted in some pretty memorable and clear branding misses.

For instance, when KFC opened in China, “finger lickin’ good” translated into “eat your fingers off.” And when Proctor & Gamble began selling Pampers diapers in Japan it used an image of a stork delivering a baby on the packaging. After some research, the company found that customers were concerned about the image because stories of storks delivering babies to parents are completely absent in Japanese folklore and culture. The image made no sense.

But it’s not only foreign translations and interpretations you should be concerned about, it is also important to make sure your brand name does not have other meanings that conflict with your intended message. For example, the meal replacement drink made of soy, “Soylent” launched despite, and probably with knowledge of, the 1973 science-fiction film “Soylent Green.” In the movie, a country faced with overpopulation and lack of food turned to a popular drink for nourishment, “Soylent Green.” Soylent Green was made from the flesh of deceased human beings. Not that appetizing.

Companies should carefully research a brand’s connotations in both the United States and any other parts of the world where the product will be sold. “Bluetiful” is fun for parents, and it probably won’t destroy any child’s educational opportunities, but it could confuse a few children. We’ll leave it to you to decide whether this was a branding error.

If you need help selecting or advertising a brand name, Goodell DeVries can help. Contact Jim Astrachan at 410-783-3550 ( or Kaitlin Corey at 410-783-3526 (