Saturday, February 14, 2009

Why don't Presidents sell?

To mark Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday, let's take stock of how often we see his name honored as a commercial brand.

It's not as common as you'd think. Discount the Lincoln brands named geographically, like Lincoln Industries, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Subtract brands named for their proprietors, like Lincoln Electric , started by John C. Lincoln in 1895.

Most direct connection could be the Lincoln Financial Group in Fort Wayne, Indiana, whose founders "adopted [Abraham Lincoln's name] to represent the ideals the new company was founded upon. Robert Todd Lincoln, the President's only surviving son, gave the founders permission to use his father's name and likeness in July 1905, solidifying the name for the new company."

The best known Lincoln brand, no doubt--but what could be more at odds with the man's famously simple tastes?

Most appropriate: the Lincoln Logs of our childhoods.
Note: Founding father Benjamin Franklin gets pretty good use as a brand. From The Franklin Mint to Benjamin Franklin, the Punctual Plumbers, to Franklin Templeton Investments.

But for presidents it seems only appropriate that other rules apply. We pretty much agree that Lincoln is a town or a tunnel, not a carwash; Washington is a capital, not a cereal. We don't have all that many presidents and--Presidents' Day Sales notwithstanding--we save the power of their names for where we need it, on the larger stuff.

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