Criticism. Essay. Fiction. Science. Weather.
Repetition in advertising is a familiar stalwart. Indeed, advertising, branding, fame and celebrity are, essentially, all repetition. The idea that you reach more customers by advertising more, by repeating your name as often as possible, is one of those well documented ideas that never really needed much documentation. The effectiveness of advertising
may forever be in question, but the advantage of telling something to someone three times instead of once rarely comes under fire.
Repetition within one discreet piece of advertising is another, slightly different beast. Much as when it rears its head in creative writing, repetition is the handmaiden of emphasis and focus. There is little question as to what Hungry Hungry Hippos
will want to do when you take them out of the box. The pachyderms in question may be a little less exciting, the game a little less thrilling, if they were only Hungry Hippos
. Or Hungry Gray Hippos. Repetition makes one thing very, very clear.
Advertising is built around these little tropes and tricks, designed to get attention and imbed products and names in the memory of the potential consumer. Misspelling is popular as Nick at Nite and all manner of Lite foods can tell you. And, as with Hungry Hungry Hippos (and another childhood obsession of mine Harry and the Hendersons
) alliteration does some of the mnemonic heavy lifting for the grateful consumer.
Repetition has the added advantage of being transportable to the dominant, and visual, advertising medium of the day: the teevee. Those Doublemint ads with their plucky twins
delighting in orgies of rhapsodic, gum-chewing bliss were exemplars of visual repetition. Split screens (a la the recent "greater than" car ads), the numbing echoes of the jingle and the logo and the tagline and still more twins (Coors Lite had that beer anthem a few years back that had, as its coda, some sexed-up twins) all use repetition to imprint and sell.
But what of when celebrity, the human equivalent of branding, makes use of repetition? One way of measuring celebrity could be simply to gauge how often a person's name is repeated in a given circle. The President is discussed often in America and whoever holds the post is famous within the country. Roland Martin
is spoken of often, and with much respect, in the bass fishing community and his celebrity there is intact. And while celebrities, or those looking to become such, have often changed their names to something catchy and palatable (often leaving behind hard to swallow Eastern European albatrosses
) repetition remains an almost unused technique in celebrity branding.
But it is not without precedent. Lee Harvey Oswald does trip off the tongue and assassinating the President (or maybe not)
brings with it a certain notoriety. But what if you are out to kill a younger Kennedy, one not even nominated for President yet? How is one to command a place in the history books then? Sirhan Sirhan had the answer in one repeated name to counter Oswald's triumvirate.
Or consider Ford Madox Ford. Today he has a considerable body of work
with which to get readers all worked into a lather but as a young man he was an unknown who saw the writing on the wall in regards to his birth name. Ford Hermann Hueffer may be good for some things but it doesn't jump off the shelf at the reader the way Ford Madox Ford does; those two Fords separated by nothing more than a few sexy syllables, excited readers young and old, hale and infirm.
And Boutrous Boutrous-Ghali knew, perhaps, that Secretary General of the UN brings with it just half a soapbox, recognition in only those countries where people care or can afford to pay attention. His name might have been the biggest asset he had facing that sort of uphill climb. In grade school I could think of nothing better than an afternoon spent running around the playground quietly singing the Secretary's name over and over. How many kids are doing that with Kofi Annan? None too many, I don't think. Even more impressive, a name like Boutrous Boutrous-Ghali can land you in a sketch with some-one legitimately famous; someone like Ali G.
Something about all that repetition has allowed those three men to imbue their chosen (and repeated) name with their own brand identity. Sirhan Sirhan sounds sinister sinister. Ford Madox Ford drips with literary possibility. Boutrous Boutrous-Ghali is twice dipped in wisdom and international goodness. On top of being easy to remember, these names are allowed to steep in the meaning their owners have given them. People are as unlikely to name their child Sirhan as they are Panasonic. These words are taken, they are already full to bursting with connotation.
It seems that there's a market to be cracked wide open here. Singers have moved effortlessly to one name. Madonna. Britney. Easier to brand, yes. But who forgets a repeating name? There's branding potential aplenty here, also. Snoop Dogg tried to cash in early in his career but surely he was too ambitious with Snoop Doggy Dogg
. Others should not be deterred by his overreaching and subsequent retreat . The three pioneers discussed above show the easy life in store for those willing to string together a few sweet sounding syllables and cope with the rigors of house-hold name status.
Grasseau Grasseau strikes me as a great name for an aloof but captivating male lead in the style of Steve McQueen.
In a city without honor, there's dignity on both sides of the law. Julianne Moore. Grasseau Grasseau. The District.
Who could turn down a new Grasseau Grasseau picture? With a name like that, The District II
is already greenlighted. There is potential in this thing.
Perhaps I overestimate. Perhaps repetition, as base and silly as it is, is too complex for the average consumer of Cheerios and celebrity. Who am I, after all, to second guess Galileo? Under my rubric he had a great thing going with Galileo Galilee
, a nice repetitive name if ever there was one. He and history have decided, however, he is better off going the Usher route and uni-naming it. Perhaps I am pitching a fatally flawed tent. Perhaps, in the not too distant future, more familiar, simplistic rhetorical devices will solidify their place in the branding pantheon of tricks when a charismatic man with great hair and the simple name Sekretary
assumes leadership of the U.N., leaving repeating names to the assassins and novelists.