Why Are Children’s Brand Names Misspelled?

I don’t ask this question flippantly or tongue-in-cheek. I seriously want to know. Why are so many of the brands I grew up with misspelled?

Kool-Aid, Trix, Rice Krispies, Froot Loops, Play-Doh — all sound normal, but none are spelled correctly. There’s Slip ‘N Slide, Trac Ball, Lite Brite, and Sno-Cone. Even the toy store, Toys “R” Us, is misspelled.

Okay, sure. Not every children’s brand is misspelled. Hot Wheels and My Little Pony didn’t try to break the English language. But when you start to list the brands you grew up with, you see a trend: proper spelling is optional.

Here is the surreal part. I never even noticed!

Froot Loops are delicious. The packaging is colorful and unique, and I know exactly where to buy them in the grocery store. But I never paid enough attention to realize how the name was spelled. Same with Play-Doh. I never realized it was “doh” like Homer Simpson, instead of “dough” like bread.

Until I started writing my next book, Brand New Name, it never even registered that my beloved childhood brands were taking so many liberties with spelling.

Is this a bad thing? Absolutely not.

These misspellings play to a child’s mind. Froot is the phonetic spelling of fruit, and it’s actually more logical. Half the time the English language doesn’t make sense. Why is fruit spelled with ui? How is frui- better than froo-?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, fruit is from the Latin fructus, which is “an enjoyment, delight, satisfaction; proceeds, produce, fruit, crops,” and from frug-, stem of frui “to use, enjoy.”

So we have Latin to thank for fruit, but Kellogg’s spelling of the name makes more sense to a six-year old.

The added advantage of phonetically spelling a brand name is ownership. For example, Kool-Aid undeniably owns its brand.

Edwin Perkins invented the brand in 1927. He began reselling concentrated drink-mix powder via mail order. He initially called the product Kool-Ade, modeling the name after lemonade. After some initial sales Perkins realized -ade had a medicinal tone, so he switched the name to Kool-Aid.

Simple decisions like this can transform a brand name from something mundane, to something unique. By simply adjusting the spelling, you can create a name specific to your product, service, or company.

I’ll be talking more about naming in the coming months, because I’ve written a book on it: Brand New Name: A Proven, Step-by-Step Process to Create an Unforgettable Brand Name. It will be released on October 8, 2019. I can’t tell you how excited I am to share the new book with you.

In the meantime, I have put together a partial sample chapter called The Anatomy of a Name. You can download it for free. It gives you some inspiration on how names are used and constructed.

I can’t wait to hear what you think of it.

The Anatomy of a Name