Just Febulous

By Maria Cypher

October 29, 2007

Under the header of product names I’ve never understood is Febreze. It’s a bit risky putting this kind of opinion out there, since P&G has done so well with its line of fabric and air fresheners. (And in fact, I almost like the idea of a grocery-aisle name that isn’t really word play, that isn’t totally logical…)

But really, why FEBreze instead of FABreze? The product’s connection to fabric is so obvious that not going with the Fab- prefix is a little like Windex being named Wandex.

What are the possible merits of Feb? Maybe the folks at P&G were trying to evoke a February breeze? Sure, there’s a shared “b” in Feb Breeze, but it’s such a chilly month. Maybreze is a nicer image.

Then there’s febrile and febricity — having a fever — but I’m pretty sure they weren’t going for that, either.

Febreze actually sort of takes me to pharmaceutical naming, where you might alter a vowel to avoid overpromising. (For example, Rogaine, the hair-growth treatment, is marketed as Regaine outside the U.S.) In this case, fab- might be construed as fabulous, and frowned upon by the FDA. If we were talking about an ingestible drug. Which we’re not.

So maybe it all comes down to trademark, and the need to avoid the product name Fab (the laundry detergent). That makes sense, except we namers usually try to avoid TM conflicts in a less indirect, obtuse, confusing, mystifying way.

I’m just sayin’.

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