What’s In A Name

Marketing is important if you want to sell something, but I have always been amazed at the different names that chemical companies have come up with for pesticides.  Way back when, in the early 1900s and late 1800s insecticides were given soft, gentile names.  Paris Green, London Purple, Bordeaux mix – really beautiful names that hint of worldly knowledge (for the most part they just indicate where the product was originally produced).  In the mid-1900s names were more matter of fact: DDT, 2,4 D, 2,4,5 T — These names were indicative of the chemistry of the product being sold.  Then professional marketers got a hold of pesticides and the fun started.  If you’ve never farmed then you may never have seen some of these names, but to a farmer who uses commercial pesticides many of these names will sound familiar.  My favorite name for a pesticide is Scythe.  I don’t know why, it just strikes me as amusing that a chemical is being compared to a hand tool.  Maybe Shovel, Rake, or Tweezers is next.

Here are a few names for various insecticides which include the same active ingredient, cypermethrin – a relatively dangerous insecticide —  along with some of the emotions which you may feel while considering what insecticide to buy – in other words, feelings that marketers may use to drive you to select one product rather than another:

If you feel like attacking the insects: Ammo

If you’re feeling like the insects are closing in on you:  Barricade

If you’re feeling like insects are closing in on you AND you’re a Civil War buff: Stockade

If you’re feeling like bailing out of the farming business altogether: Ripcord

If you want a pesticide that sounds safer than it is: Super

If you feel tough because you just watched the governor of California in an ‘80s sci fi flick:  Cymperator

If you’re feeling mad as hell at those nasty insects: Demon

Okay –  all of these products aren’t used for the same things, but dang….how many names can you have for one active ingredient?

7 thoughts on “What’s In A Name”

  1. Love it! It’s the same emotional appeal marketers use for useless garden products like “compost tea” and “Epsom salts” – so nurturing and refreshing. Do you think consumers would be as eager to buy “compost leachate” and “magnesium sulfate”?

  2. My take, lisab, is if the ingredients in food require a dictionary to decipher them, you shouldn’t be eating it in the first place!
    I was waiting in line at the chemist the other day and there was a display of pain medication, three types, all manufactured by the same company. The packaging of all three products was almost exactly alike. One had blue packaging, the second was coloured red and the final one was coloured yellow. They were separately labelled ‘back pain’, ‘headache’ and ‘muscle pain’. Upon closer inspection, all products contained exactly the same active ingredient in exactly the same concentration. I couldn’t believe it! And to think that pharmaceutical companies probably paid a marketing company millions to come up with it!
    That being said, it’s a brilliant idea, albeit being tantamount to subterfuge.

  3. Great post, Jeff. I’ve often had the same thought about the folks that come up with names for herbicides: Call out the Arsenal so can Rout, Stomp, and Oust weeds!

  4. Hey Jimbo, I agree with you and don’t eat or buy what I don’t understand. It is difficult not to be swayed by a package or a name, ( like a good book cover or title) we need to take responsibility for for knowing what is actually in it.

  5. Funny, when I think Scythe, I think of the weapon/tool carried by the Death character so common on the comics page – not a innovative, modern, or efficient tool in today’s agriculture, never mind the image of sweeping destruction it calls to mind. Wonder who came up with that ?

    @ Ray – if you know the newspaper cartoon “Pearls before Swine”, you should take a gander at the cartoonist’s blog, particularly the post in which he wonders why we need to associate angel-babies with what goes on in our bathrooms.

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