Tempting Turkey. Tasteful Tuna. Classy Chicken. Harmonious Ham. (Ah, the inspiration behind that last one, especially!) It was at a gas station somewhere along the I-5 in California’s Central Valley that I first encountered this, um, portfolio of sprightly named sandwiches. The names caught my attention so, I suppose, in a sense, they worked. But beyond their pure-and-simple stickiness they struck me as anti-names.
Normally, when we give something a name, we do so to start to build a perception of value around the thing it names. In this regard, I sometimes think of a name as something like a grain that grows into a pearl. The named asset becomes a character in the larger brand story.
Here, that operation doesn’t seem to be at work. Will these names ever elevate the sandwiches they identify above the status of a lovelorn long haul commodity? Not by more than the slimmest of margins. I can imagine these names coming into existence by default: We can’t simply label it “Tuna”!
Of course, if “First Street Cafe” meant anything at all to the end consumer, the appellation “tuna” or “turkey” might be enough. But it doesn’t. I guess you could say First Street Café is an anti-brand: It looks like a brand but it signifies no real consumer value (a fact driven home by the disarrayed way the sandwiches sit on the shelf).
Landshire, the company behind “First Street Cafe” might beg to differ. After all, the company, which manages an entire portfolio of sandwich offerings geared to the convenience store market, clearly distinguishes “First Street Cafe” from the other offerings in its portfolio. For all I know, I might be setting myself up for a premium convenience store sandwich experience when I purchase that First Street Cafe Harmonious Ham Sandwich. The fuel retailer might actually deserve my gratitude for not subjecting me to some other, lesser, offering. But these thoughts don’t cross my mind. Or, I suspect, yours, either.
Maybe anti-name and anti-brand aren’t quite right. There is a story to be told here, even if the consumer channels for telling it look a bit weak at first glance. Landshire, after all, stands for something. Its company site is quite clear about the quality and freshness standards it maintains. C’mon, Landshire, share that story. Lord knows, in the dark of night, with three hundred miles of highway ahead of us, a little surprise and delight might go a long way.
What about you? Know of any other anti-brands waiting to awaken from a story-free slumber?