Gwnewch y pethau bychain

Truth in Advertising, I guess

In the fridge at work today, I noticed a container of margarine left over from our recent summer office party. It was a Kroger store brand called, I kid you not, “Butter It’s Not!”

Wow. That’s a really bold stand for a product to make. “What’s in this container? Heaven only knows, but it’s not butter. Could be absolutely anything, but butter? Not a chance.”

This causes me to wonder two things: what names did the marketing geniuses behind this product *reject* before settling on “Butter It’s Not”. And who on earth is inspired to buy it based on that name. “Honey, go to the store and get some milk and cheese. But don’t get any butter!” “Ok, sweetie. Back in a bit.” ::trundles off to store:: “Oh good, here’s the no butter. I was wondering what aisle it would be on!”

Once upon a time, my friend Jim had a giant bottle of generic acetaminophen (paracetamol), which was labelled in giant block letters: NON-ASPIRIN TABLETS. I said, “Jim, you do realize that you have no idea what’s in this bottle, right? It could be anything. It could be arsenic. The only thing they’re willing to assure you is that it isn’t aspirin.”

It really does make you want to be a fly on the wall during the brainstorming sessions in the marketing department.

[Further amusement: I decided to go find a photo of this product to add to this post. A Google search turned up a perfect image, so I clicked through to it and, since it was on Flickr, checked the usage license. I was terribly amused that I had managed, in a google search of a random store-brand product, managed to select a photo taken by erinwrites. It’s a small, small world. Thanks to Erin for permission to use the photo. *grin*]


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  1. *giggles* I was about to say, “Why was Rand at your office?”

    • Yeah, the fact that I was going ‘that’s not , that’s Rand’ within a few seconds of seeing the picture says scary things about my ability to recognize faces.

  2. It’s probably designed to compete with that “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!” spread. (Which I’m rather fond of.)

    • I’m sure it is. But at least ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’ suggests a certain butterness to the product. This is something you might *mistake* for butter. It is akin to butter without being butter.

      “Butter It’s Not!” offers no such assurances. “What’s this?” “Dunno. It’s not butter.” “But what IS it?” “Might be cheese. Might be a container of live scorpions. All I know is it isn’t butter. Try some?”

      I’m wondering if there’s a bread product called “Sure Ain’t Toast” one could spread it on, along with some “Certainly Isn’t Fruit” brand jam.

    • Much to the delight of some and the disgust of others, my brother and I once improvised a commercial for I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter … with Marlon Brando as the spokesperson.

    • Or, as it is known in my household, “I can’t believe that people can’t believe it’s not butter”.

  3. Lifes like that sometimes. Reminds me of looking for pictures of SanrioWorld in Japan for a class project for Bunny and finding the best ones were from a stream posted by , who I have shared many a beer with in the last 20 years.

  4. Sounds like the old joke over here, referring to Anadin (a paracetamol tablet brand): their slogan was “NOTHING acts faster than Anadin!”

    To which the usual response is “OK, I’ll take nothing, then…”

  5. My strong suspicion is that they were trying to communicate, “this is the generic/house brand version of the specific type of spread which, in its brand-name form, is called ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’. We can’t call it anything too close to that, or they’ll sue us, but we want people to know that it’s not just a bread spread, it’s that particular flavor of bread spread, and will taste like that when you open the can; therefore, we’re using a name that’s a joke off the original, to remind buyers of it.”

  6. I remember when Stork started, it sold itself on commercials proclaiming that people couldn’t tell the difference between it and butter. I don’t know what taste-dead morons they found to say that, but it was eventually taken off on fraud grounds. So then they started a campaign that “We bet you can tell the defference — but you’ll prefer Stork!” OK, no one I knew did prefer it, but it was at least more honest. And they were indeed selling themselves on “it’s not butter”.

    Personally, I’ll stay with butter. I /can/ tell the difference with almost all of the alternatives (not always taste, but in the way it spreads and in cooking), and I prefer the real thing…

  7. To quote Mr. Carlin: “Could be meat. Could be cake. Usually at a time like this I’ll bluff.”

  8. LOL

    We actually have purchased and used this product. It’s not bad, but we did have a similar conversation about the name when brought it home.

  9. I’m really hearing it with a Yiddish/Jewish or maybe New York inflection too :).

  10. Yeah, negation in natural language does tend to be used with connotations that formal logic lacks. “It’s not X” as a response to “What’s that?” carries a pretty strong pragmatic connotation of “It has most or all of the features which I would have previously said uniquely identify it as X, but I’m in possession of some information which convinces me that it is some member of the set of not-X things which I don’t yet have a name for”. It indicates a breakdown in vocabulary needing to be negotiated.

    But then I used to belong to a research group which fell with delight on a book explaining dozens of different ways to formalize negation, so there you are. It’s an interesting subject to me.

  11. “almost, but not entirely, unlike….”

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