Zen and the art of the Buffalo Bills

The following holiday post is branding and naming free. Every few years you get lucky.

As a former Upstate New Yorker and recovering Buffalo Bills fan, I still get an atavistic chill the moment the “snowball in hell” playoff scenarios are laid bare, signaling the arrival of the holidays.

Bills fans have a lot to think about right now, but anyone who can keep these thoughts in their heads is probably not a real Bills fan, scientifically speaking. It’s a bit of a Zen koan (don’t bother to look that up Bills fans, it just leads to more questions) in that passing the test eliminates you from real fandom. I’m especially filled with the spirit this year by columnist Chris Brown’s irony-free opening statement:

“By now virtually everyone knows what the Bills need this week concerning help for the playoffs.”

He then proceeds with the list of convolutions as if it were common knowledge (I’m convinced that it is) in Buffalo. From the Bill’s website:

I was under the assumption that if Denver and the Jets win this weekend that the Bills would be eliminated from playoff contention even if Buffalo beats Tennessee. However, that’s not necessarily true.

By now virtually everyone knows what the Bills need this week concerning help for the playoffs.

Bills beat Tennessee

Denver beats Cincinnati

Miami beats Jets

New England beats Jacksonville

Under this scenario the Bills would control their own destiny and basically concede one of the Wild Card spots to Denver who beat the Bills in a 9-7 tiebreaker.

Now if the worst happens and the Jets win this weekend along with Denver, Buffalo, with a win, still would not be out of the playoff race provided Kansas City wins.

If Kansas City wins Saturday night over Oakland (likely) they would keep the Bills alive even if Denver and the Jets win. The reason why is Kansas City would hold the tiebreaker edge on Denver (division record) should there be a three-way tie with Buffalo, Kansas City and Denver at the end of the season.

In that case the tie between the AFC West teams would be done first. Kansas City would eliminate Denver, leaving Buffalo and KC. Buffalo beats KC on conference record tiebreaker and could get the 6th and final playoff spot.

However, if there is a four way tie at 9-7 with KC, Denver, Bills and Jets, and the Jets 9th win came against Miami, the Bills would be out. Because again matching the division teams against one another first the Jets would eliminate Buffalo due to a better division record (4-2 to 3-3).

So if Denver and the Jets win this weekend along with the Bills, you’ve got to hope that Kansas City won on Saturday night.

Then the final week the best thing to hope for is for the Jets to win (vs. Oakland) and finish 10-6 and take the fifth playoff spot. Then have Denver lose (to SF) and KC win (over Jax) and with a Bills win they could take that last playoff spot on three-way tiebreaker.

If Kansas City loses Saturday night and the Jets and Denver win this weekend, Buffalo will be eliminated from playoff contention no matter what.

IT MIGHT BE BETTER IF BALTIMORE LOSES SUNDAY: A loss by Baltimore to Pittsburgh might ultimately better for the Bills too. If Baltimore loses Sunday and Indianapolis beats Houston (likely) and San Diego wins at Seattle (possible) then Baltimore has nothing to play for. They will be locked in as the third or fourth seed and will have to play one of the Wild Card teams.

I understand Baltimore could get a first round bye with a win and an Indy loss to Houston this weekend, but that seems more unlikely. No matter what Baltimore does, it’s not a huge deal, like that Miami-Jets game is Monday night.

And if you’re worried about Pittsburgh finishing 9-7 don’t be. The Steelers conference record at best can be 6-6 if they win out. Buffalo would beat them with a 7-5 conference record.

Though Upstaters are well practiced in the outlined logic stream, the ability to grasp it generally coincides with a spiritual readiness to leave the area. From everyone at Igor in San Francisco, have a good holiday.

Little Debbie Does NASCAR

This horrific bit of in-store advertising is brought to you by Little Debbie Racing:

one sweet ride

The ad, deemed by some moron as suitable for placement in supermarkets and drugstores, would have been declared too tasteless to exist even in the no holds barred world of Ricky Bobby.

Perhaps “tasteless” is Little Debbie’s new brand promise. Truth in advertising, savor it.

UPDATE 12.15.06: In response to the many questions we’ve gotten about this, the ad has NOT BEEN PHOTOSHOPPED! I took this photo as is at the Sausalito, CA, Long’s Drugstore on Donahue Street on December 13, 2006.

Steve Manning, Managing Director, Igor

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Eat More Polonium

naming consultants
News24 brings us further evidence that target audience members are not literal deconstructionists in practice, even though in theory (focus group testing) they always are.

We give you yet another powerful name that market research would have killed with “science”:

London – An eatery in Sheffield, central England, called the ‘Polonium Restaurant‘ is getting more business from local customers in the aftermath of the poisoning of a former Russian spy, The Sun tabloid reported on Tuesday.

The owner of the restaurant, Boguslaw Sidorowicz from Poland, told the newspaper that bookings had gone up since polonium-210 – the radioactive substance of which large quantities were found in Alexander Litvinenko’s urine after his death – hit the news.

Sidorowicz, 46, said he named the restaurant, which he has been running for about 18 months, after a band of which he was a member nearly 30 years ago.

“It was Marie Curie who discovered polonium and she was Polish,” he told the tabloid.

“In 1978, a friend of mine who was studying chemistry at Sheffield University suggested it as the name for the band. So that’s what we called our folk group, without realising just how poisonous a substance it was.”

“When I saw the restaurant’s name all over the papers – I thought someone had booked us an advert.”

“We’ve had an incredible 728 000 hits on the Polonium website, and have been inundated with calls from around the globe,” he said.

The Polonium Restaurant in Sheffield, England, has had slow business since it opened less than two-years ago. Then, British investigators found traces of polonium in former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. The news sent customers flocking to the restaurant.

Focus group testing of names is fine if your goal is to guarantee failure. Any naming company or branding consultant that would engage in focus group testing of names is either unsure of themselves or wants to abdicate responsibility for the final choice. Or they just want the extra money that testing brings with it.

Understanding why the name Polonium attracts diners rather than repels them is all the knowledge any company needs when naming anything. It’s not complicated, and it’s summed up nicely right here.

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