Top 5 Greatest Minnesota Marks – One Trademark Attorney’s Opinion
By: JOHN C. PICKERILL
Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, and nearly as many classic trademarks. We are the home to such great international food giants as Pillsbury and General Mills. We are the birthplace of frozen pizza and the source of one of the greatest canned spiced ham products on the planet. The Twin Cities also boast one of the most creative advertising communities in the country. As a result, Minnesota is a hub for great trademarks.
After careful consideration, here is my list of the five greatest Minnesota trademarks, based on nothing more than personal preference and a genuine appreciation for good branding.
Who would want to buy tape and self-adhesive hooks from a company called Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing®? 3M® makes my list of favorite marks because of the simplicity of its genius. In one short step, the adoption of the 3M® logo transformed this company in consumer minds from a boring mining company to an innovator of some of the coolest, useful products on the planet - everything from compact discs to Post-It® notes. Would Post-It® notes have been a worldwide phenomena if they were brought to you by Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing® instead of 3M®? Would Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing® even fit on the back of the package for the really small notes? Luckily, we don’t have to find out. On a personal note, my father-in-law is a retired 3M engineer, and every year he gives us a big box of random 3M® products for Christmas. It’s a great gift of great branded products.
In my opinion, Minnesota has the best collection of sports team names in the country, despite the obvious downgrade from the North Stars® to the Wild®. The franchises did a great job of choosing cool names with relevant geographic significance. (Miami also does a pretty good job, too, but it still feels wrong to have a hockey team down there.) Choosing one of the local teams to place on this list was tough, but I had to give the nod to the Vikings®. The name and logo create a great mental image of fierce warriors plundering towns, a perfect mascot for a football team. Plus, the Scandinavian influences and the Viking lore in this area make it a great choice, and that horn is a nice touch on game days.
The Timberwolves® would have had a chance if they kept their old puppy dog logo (at right). I’m not a big fan of the current vampire wolf. Also, as the only team to actually come through with a few championships, the Twins® would have been a shoo-in if they had Siamese twins for a mascot or something else that makes more sense than that bear. It would be hard to resist having Siamese twins shooting t-shirts into the crowd instead of TC. However, I still think the Vikings® are a no-brainer here.
At number 3 is the Caribou Coffee® logo. This is just a great logo. It makes me want to drink coffee, and I don’t even like coffee. (I’m a Mountain Dew® man.) The concept of the northwoods feel, great coffee, and this logo is a business and marketing masterpiece.
In your face, Starbucks®! Next to Caribou®, Starbucks® has the charm and appeal of a doctor’s office. No Minnesotan with any local pride or an eye for good brands should ever step foot inside a Starbucks®. I’m sure there’s some coffee-snob stuff I don’t understand that makes a certain type of consumer favor Starbucks®, but I can’t fathom how anyone can resist the lure of this great Minnesota mark.
Who doesn’t love the Pillsbury Doughboy®? That girlish giggle, non-threatening androgynous good looks, and those kick-ass orange cinnamon rolls. Remember the dancing baby that took the internet by storm a few years ago? That was such a rip-off of the Pillsbury Doughboy® - and a direct reflection of the Doughboy’s universal charm and popularity. Well-done Doughboy! Enjoy #2 on this list. A well-timed bribe of crescent rolls could land you at #1 next year.
Number 1 is easy. The AFKAP symbol might be the greatest mark of all time, anywhere. I have always been a big Prince fan, but my admiration for him grew considerably after studying trademark law. I have to admit that the whole Artist Formerly Known As thing initially led me to believe the little man finally cracked - a prima donna artist who completely lost touch with reality. Once I realized Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol and allowed the world to believe he was a freak show, just to create trademark problems for his record label over the use of the mark “Prince,” I decided never to question the wisdom of the Purple One again. His genius as a musician is only surpassed by his genius as a trademark trouble-maker. Prince for President! Or at least for Trademark Commissioner.
There’s my list. It was actually a tough call. How do you leave SPAM®, the Target® logo, the Jolly Green Giant®, and Medtronic’s rising man logo on the cutting room floor? I suppose I could have gone for a top ten list, but that would have taken twice as long. That’s the curse of living in Minnesota. Too many great brands, too little time.
Feel free to email me and let me know what I got wrong or what I got right. If we get any good comments, we’ll publish them. Until then, go get some Caribou® coffee and buy Prince’s new cd.