What Is In A Name?


There is a store here in Texas called Specs that was recommended to me as a good place to find higher end liquor and groceries. So being a lad with a curious nature I figured it was worth paying a visit.

I spent some time wandering up and down the aisles and came across a number of different items that caught my eye. Had I thought about it more carefully I would have made a point to have snapped a few more photos than the one above, but alas I got distracted and didn’t think to shoot any more.

No matter, the photo above works just fine.

I like Scotch and while I wouldn’t claim to be an expert I have had the occasion to try more than a few brands, but I can’t remember ever seeing this particular brand.  Maybe I was unfamiliar because it is new or maybe not.

Ultimately I snapped the photo because I thought it was an odd sort of name for a Scotch and wondered how the name impacted the brand and consumer impressions.

Monkey Shoulder History

I conducted a brief search and came across this:

The name ‘Monkey Shoulder’ comes from an injury that the malt men used to suffer – in years gone by – and the story is told on the back-label of every bottle. The challenge for Mystery was to develop the launch collaterol in a way that balances the irreverence of the name with the heritage and quality of the product. The danger was that by creating an unusual name that attracts the target audience, it could risk being perceived as a novelty item

Stories like this this attract and intrigue me.

Remember I am a guy who is curious by nature and I am also someone who loves history and will read dictionaries/encyclopedias for fun. I am not sure how many others do that.

There have to be a bunch, but we’ll save that discussion for a different day.

Instead let’s go back to the name and a couple of quick thoughts/comments.

We live during a time when it seems that Hollywood is more interested in remaking movies than coming up with new ideas. Part of me feels like the business world is filled with similar ideas and that many are more interested in taking a conservative approach than to adapt a position in which they stand out.

As a writer/marketer who likes to turn things upside down I appreciate their willingness to take a chance and do something different.

Does It Work?

It is after midnight on Saturday night and I am not in the mood to conduct heavy research so I am going to respond to the question based upon a sample of one.


It didn’t work. I didn’t buy it. I didn’t even take the bottle off of the shelf to look at it.

I glanced at it and decided to snap a shot of it.

Once I researched the name and learned about the history I saw the connection and figured that maybe I might try it one day, but that is not a sale. You can’t pay bills off of a maybe.

So the question I ask is whether the name helped or hurt it. This is/was as unscientific a survey as you can have so bear that in mind. But it does raise the question of whether it is sometimes smarter not to be irreverent or to do so in a different way than they did with the old Monkey Shoulder.

What do you think?

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  1. Kaarina Dillabough April 14, 2013 at 6:14 am

    As they say in advertising/marketing…if you have to explain it, it didn’t work. Cheers! Kaarina P.S. I think it’s hilarious that monkey shoulder is stacked beside what looks like pig butt.

  2. Julie Barrett April 14, 2013 at 4:29 am

    My husband is a scotch drinker so I turned the screen to him and he wasn’t interested, either.

    The psychology of marketing is one long studied I suppose. All I know is it has to grab me in just the right way. If I’m looking for a liquor I might have a different outlook that if I’m looking for pantyhose. Ooops, they don’t make pantyhose anymore – and it was a strange day when I walked into Bloomingdales and the entire department had simply disappeared while I was off having babies. So sometimes the name doesn’t even matter 🙂

    • Josh April 14, 2013 at 7:52 pm

      They don’t make pantyhose anymore? Hell, I had no clue. Good thing I am not interested in robbing banks.

      I do find some of the psychology behind it all to be interesting and not just because of a professional interest either.

      Names, packaging, logos– there is a lot involved here.

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