2002/12/07
 
11:01

The Unappreciated Art of Oleo-Etymology

I bought some margarine recently. I've been buying the same brand for decades. But instead of grabbing the familiar tub, I noticed one called "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter". I'm sure you've heard of it.

Well, I'm a skeptical consumer. If something says it's "New!" I'll look at the fine print. New metric box! Now recyclable! 1% fewer calories! Give me a break.

Anyway, I hadn't slept properly, so when I thought to myself, "They can't say it if it isn't true!" my rational self was too stupefied to realize that they weren't actually asserting anything.

So I brought the tub home and dressed up some toast with "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter".

Turns out I can believe it.

Mind you, as spreadable goo goes, it's not bad. It costs less than my regular margarine, and to be honest, "I Can't Tell It's The Cheaper Brand!"

I have to tip my hat to the marketing genius who got the name approved. He must have spent weeks convincing the company to adopt a name that long.

I think he may have accomplished this feat by offering them several alternatives that were clearly worse. For example, "I Positively Can't Conceive – Even If I Was Drunk – That This Could Be Anything But Butter". Not available in individual-serving packets, for obvious reasons. The company would have to turn that one down, as they would with "I'll Eat A Worm If You Can Prove This Isn't Butter".

Incidentally, I never could find ICBINB when I lived in Québec. The dairy lobby there is powerful and were worried that somebody might believe that margarine is butter. Somehow they got the government to make it illegal to colour it yellow. Ontario had a similar law, but repealed it in 1994. (Yeah, like you're really gonna click on that link.)

ICBINB was probably banned in Québec, or some bureaucrat made them change the name to something else. If that was the case, the people at Lipton should have brought back the guy who invented the original name.

Maybe he would have proposed something French and trendy-sounding, like "Le Faux Beurre de Le Faubourg".

Oh, and I suppose that he would have also presented two clearly worse choices, such as "I Can't Believe It's An Edible Oil Product!"

Hmm, I need a final alternative. Okay, got one: "It's Frickin' Margarine, Stupid!"

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