There are many consumer products whose names include numbers. A theory exists among advertising professionals that numbers make brand names catchier. But what do they mean?
Just the other night I was wondering what faults must have existed with WD-39 that WD-40 corrected. I was not using WD-40 at the time – I’m not sure there is any WD-40 in my apartment – but I was thinking about it. So in the spirit of public service I did some research and found out about early versions of well-known products.
WD-1 through 39 – WD-1 was created to clean rust and other unattractive material from metal. Initially it was thought that abrasion was the best method for doing that. Gasoline was combined with small particles of granite, and the user held a flame under the can until the gasoline exploded, sending the granite pieces out of the can with tremendous force. Unfortunately, each can was only sufficient for one application. Additionally, numerous fatalities occurred even as rust disappeared.
Propellants were thereafter employed in place of the gasoline. That system also worked to remove rust but the force with which the mineral material spewed from the can was such that workers’ faces often ended up bloody. This was widely considered to be an undesirable side effect. Over the years, as chemical lubricants came into wide distribution, the use of combustibles was discontinued entirely, leading us to WD-40, the product we all know today.
Products 1 through 18 – Kellogg’s developed over the decades a broad range of breakfast cereals with catchy names. Froot Loops, Cocoa Krispies, Apple Jacks, Frosted Mini-Wheats, Special K – they all found a place in the hearts and breakfast bowls of America’s kiddies and figure-conscious mommies.
In January 1966, after the Spartans of Michigan State University suffered a two-point loss to UCLA in the Rose Bowl, they nevertheless garnered a share of the national championship for the 1965 season. In honor of Spartans coach Duffy Daugherty, a native of Battle Creek, Mich. (the home of Kellogg’s) and a graduate of Battle Creek Central High School (Class of 1940), a group of Michigan State alums in the Kellogg’s headquarters proposed to honor the pride of nearby East Lansing with a special cereal.
“Spartacrunch” was the tentative brand name assigned to “Special Spartan Product 1,” but before the proposal reached the office of Junius Kellogg for final approval it paused on the desk of George Kuvanden, Kellogg’s Department Manager for Athletics. As a young man Mr. Kuvanden had suited up for two seasons as third-string center for the Wolverines of the University of Michigan, and he resented the attention being lavished upon a university whose football team had in fact lost the Big Game. He scribbled a note in the margin of the written proposal for “Product 1”: “Too green. Make more blue.”
The team that had generated the Spartacrunch concept appealed to the head of the New Products Division, who, at the time, was a man named Bill Sinton. Mr. Sinton happened to be a graduate of Michigan State’s School of Breakfast Science. He quickly overruled George Kuvanden, stamping “OK” on the Spartacrunch proposal.
Spartacrunch, born of good intentions and Michigander pride, suffered from the intense rivalry that existed – and still does – among graduates of the state’s two largest universities. Insistence on keeping Spartacrunch green was dropped, and the creators expected that compromise to guarantee their new product’s quick passage upward through Kellogg’s chain of command. Things, though, would not be so simple.
A succession of management changes within the company sent Spartacrunch from division to division. Wolverines nixed ideas sent to them by Spartans and Spartans pushed back. But no one anticipated – who could anticipate? – the death of Junius Kellogg and his replacement as president by E. William Hansen.
Mr. Hansen, known to his friends as Bob, had a record of long and faithful service to Kellogg’s. Above all, however, he was faithful to his own alma mater, the University of Missouri, where he had studied crop rotation. Bob Hansen had been in attendance in Faurot Field in October of 1937 when the Spartans defeated the Tigers in a 2-0 rout. Bob never shook off the pain.
When the file for what at this point had become “Special Spartan Product 18” appeared within the gaze and in the hands of Mr. E. William Hansen, his response came quickly and firmly. He lifted a pen from his desk, pressed it against the paper, and drew a firm, straight line through the heading. “Product 19,” he scratched in the margin, and the end of Spartacrunch came accompanied by a wistful smile of satisfaction.
This event occurred in 1977 and Kellogg’s Product 19 hit the shelves of American supermarkets within a few weeks.
Preparations A through G – The quest for relief of rectal torment snaked through the pharmaceutical industry for decades. The chemists at Pfizer thought the key would be in the ease of application, such as with a medicated cotton pad, and they formulated a preparation intended to induce numbness in the same manner that effective cough suppressants did. It developed through testing, however, that alcohol was a far less efficacious numbing agent when applied topically to the human rectum than when swallowed in solution with fruit-flavored syrups.
Alcohol was replaced in Pfizer’s preparation, in succession, by grapefruit juice, oil of clove, apple cider vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and genuine agave tequila without success. Hopes were likewise dashed when menthol was added.
Finally it was determined that highly acidic or astringent liquids of any type should not be applied to the human rectum, and research, once refocused, found its way to the cool, soothing gel of the aloe plant.
Preparation H has brought relief to countless individuals experiencing rectal distress.
V1 through V7 – Tomato juice had been a popular drink for many years when the folks at American Pulp & Juice Company (Elkhart, Ind.) formulated what they intended to be a revolutionary new thirst quencher. V-7, as they called it, would blend tomato juice with the juice or pulp of carrots, celery, eggplant, garlic, onions and avocado. Focus groups showed there to be a less-than-universal appeal for the new beverage.
Extensive testing followed with the addition of the juice or pulp of Brussels sprouts, broccoli, apples, bananas and shiitake mushrooms, and finally the holy grail of wholesomeness was identified.
Turnips! It was turnip juice that was the missing from V-7, and the new liquid won raves in taste tests from coast to coast. V-8 was born and has satisfied the thirst and nutritional needs of Americans for a very long time.
Stories coming soon: K1R spot remover, Eight Lives cat food, Ketel Zero vodka and 1999 Flushes bathroom cleanser.