There's a lot of talk about palindromes today, with it being 11.11.11.
Although it gets tiresome after a while*, there is something peculiarly satisfying about a good palindrome. ‘Madam, I'm Adam’ may have been the first words ever spoken. ‘Dogma: I am god.’ may have been the second. ‘A man, a plan, a canal: Panama!’ is probably the best.
I was wondering how many brands have tapped into the power of the palindrome. From what I can tell, there are only a handful, and more by accident than design. Oxo. Axa. Elle. Civic. Aviva. TNT. M&M. Other brand names lend themselves to palindromic play without being palindromes themselves – ‘A Toyota’s a Toyota’.
However, there is one brand name that really stands out, and that’s Rotavator. It was an engineer called Arthur Clifford Howard (pictured above) who trademarked the name in 1922. Since then, it has become the generic term for the product, although it’s often spelt (less satisfyingly) as ‘Rotovator’.
But what a great brand name. A contraction of 'rotating' and 'cultivator', the word revolves perfectly on itself, just like the mechanism it describes. It was a new coinage in its time and therefore completely ownable, and yet you understand what it does just from the sound it makes.
If anyone ever asks me for my favourite brand name, I now have an answer. A retrospective D&AD Pencil for Arthur Clifford Howard is surely in order.
* I'm thinking of you, ‘Sit on a potato pan, Otis’.