Chickenfoot is a new rock band that will release its debut, self-titled album in Europe on June 5, 2009, and in North America on June 9, 2009. The band is comprised of guitar legend Joe Satriani, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer Chad Smith, former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony and frontman Sammy Hagar, the original “Red Rocker” and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee for his tenure as frontman with Van Halen. The fact that such well-known musicians have teamed up is a story in and of itself, but the name Chickenfoot, which is probably viewed as rather peculiar, shows the band has some real business acumen. On top of that, the design of the album package includes patented technology so that when heated up by the simple touch of a hand, the album package will change opacity, revealing hidden images on the cover and hidden song titles on the back cover.
Lets begin our discussion with the use of patented technology to create a unique presentation of the album. In order to present an album with a certain wow-factor that would get people talking about the band aside from their music, the band turned to Meat and Potatoes, Inc., a packaging design company, for assistance.
“How was I going to design an album package for rock legends who have seen it all before?” said Todd Gallopo, president of Meat and Potatoes and designer of the Chickenfoot packaging. “The band and I agreed that the design had to be bold, iconic, and layered with texture like the music they recorded. It had to have a visual ‘aaahhh-ha!’ factor that pulled it all together. To achieve this, I knew I had to experiment with some kind of special packaging treatment. When I explored the possibilities of thermochromic ink, all the pieces fell into place. The band had their bold album cover, I had my ‘aaahhh-ha!’ moment, and the consumer will get to experience a different album package every time they pick it up.”
This patented special effect ink, developed by Chromatic Technologies Inc., works by mastering the movement of a proton on the molecular level–essentially turning color “on” and “off.” You can also find the unique ink on the “Cold-Activated” Coors Light beer cans turning the signature mountain range blue when the can cools to the perfect temperature. Although the patented technology is described as being “new” in the press release that recently described the use of the technology on the Chickenfoot album, the core underlying patent, US Patent No. 5,591,255, was issued in 1997, although CTI claims to have up to 20 additional patent applications pending around the world. For a demo of how the album cover responds to touch to reveal hidden images see Chickenfoot Announce Debut Album Release.
But what is with the name — Chickenfoot? The band website says:
The news that they’ve pooled their inordinate talents to one collective whole quickly spread across the Internet last year (and perhaps that crazy name helped just a little).
I suspect that the name had everything to do with marketing, knowing that people would be intrigued by the name and want to learn more; as if combining the talents of rock legends wasn’t enough. With such an interested and rememberable name, the marketing, advertising and trademark options seem endless. One of the common mistakes made by so many businesses is to select a name that is descriptive of what the business will do. Descriptive names are not capable of being protected unless and until the name takes on what the law calls “secondary meaning,” which is the legal way of saying that consumers associate the name with a specific company to the exclusion of others. Lawyers are always trying to talk clients into selecting names that are either arbitrary, fanciful or suggestive, and marketing folks are always trying to talk clients into selecting names that are generic or descriptive. It would seem like the lawyers won out while advising Chickenfoot.
Fanciful trademarks consist of “coined” words or terms that have been created and do not have a dictionary meaning. Arbitrary trademarks are common words or terms, but have nothing to do with the goods or services with which they are associated. Suggestive trademarks, which are strong but not as strong as either arbitrary or fanciful trademarks, are familiar words or phrases that “suggest” what their product or service really consists of. Another way to conceptualize suggestive trademarks is by realizing that a suggestive trademark is one that will conjure up an image of the good or service after some contemplation. So if you think about it for a while you will understand the connection between the suggestive trademark and the goods or services, but it is not overtly apparent on the face of things.
The reason lawyers plead for names that have little or nothing to do with the business is because those are the names that are entitled to the highest legal protection. Chickenfoot is likely an arbitrary trademark because it does seem to have a meaning, but has nothing to do with rock legends, music, albums or the business of the personalities. As such, Chickenfoot is going to lead to strong legal rights, making it easier for the band to prevent others from encroaching upon their rights. The fact that it is also an intriguing name that invites questions and engages people is all the better, and perhaps the best type of trademark.
The reason that marketing folks always tend to want trademarks that are generic or descriptive (which legally they cannot obtain) is because when you pick a trademark that is arbitrary, fanciful or even suggestive a lot more effort, which translates into time and money, may be required in order to get consumers to associate the name with what is being offered. In this case, effective use of the Internet, press releases and buzz being created by fans and the media should make it far more easy to get away with using a name like Chickenfoot, and even enhance interest.
In an otherwise well oiled and carefully thought out marketing plan that leverages intellectual property in unique and interesting ways, my only advice to the band would be to consider creating an album of photographs that fans can use on their websites. I was searching for a good shot of the band to use with this article, and the ones that pictured the entire band were all copyrighted, with a stamp clearly saying that all rights are reserved. I certainly understand the desire to control image, but if you really want to go viral you need to let your fans do some of the heavy lifting for you. Politicians know this and are very good at leveraging followers. For those seeking major offices they typically have photos, banners and badges that are specifically appropriate for use by bloggers and on fan sites. This allows the politician to keep control of how things are used and portrayed, but gives followers an opportunity to spread the word.
On a personal note, I am looking forward to the release of the album. Good luck Chickenfoot!