The Most Hilarious Brand Names That Used to Exist in the Philippines
What’s in a brand name? A brand name defines and differentiates a product from its competitors in the eyes of the customer. So important are brand names that they can make or break a product—an urban legend has it that a car maker once named its new vehicle “Nova,” not knowing that “no va” meant “not going” in Spanish.
Would you go to a coffee house called “Cargo House” or “Pequod”? Those names by the way, were considered for your now favorite Starbucks. Then, there’s Lithiated Lemon, a lemon-lime drink introduced in 1929. When renamed 7-Up, sales increased six-fold. On the other hand, there are perfect brand names like “Jollibee,” “Hapee,” and “Mr. Clean” that evoke positive images of joy, clean living, and fun.
Before marketing experts offered their brand-naming services, many makers of products just coined their own brand names, resulting in amusing, unusual, and sometimes, weird-sounding names.
Brand Name For: Medicine Syrup for Rheumatism and Headaches
ANALGINA is the name of this cure-all also indicated for diarrhea, neuralgia, cramp, breastache, backache, indigestion, and cough. At first impression, it has a name seemingly coined from two delicate parts of the human female anatomy—well, at least that’s how it reads. But the first part of the brand name is derived from "analgesia,” which means “relief from pain.” With the suffix added however, ANALGINA, as a brand name, doesn’t evoke anything medicine-y; rather it sounds like a disease. In 1929, you could buy ANALGINA over-the-counter at Botica Insular along Quesada St. in Manila.
Brand Name For: Local Cigarettes
Why would someone name a cigarette brand after the Philippine Assembly (Asemblea Filipina) ? Well, Simeon Roque y Compania, maker of these “cigarillos” in Betis, Pampanga, did. To be fair, the inauguration of the Philippine Assembly in 1907 was a major event, as that gave a glimmer of hope to Filipinos for self-rule. To the local cigarette maker maybe, that historic milestone was worth celebrating with a puff of a “cigarillo” stick. The cigarette label of “Asemblea Filipina” cigarettes even contained a short poem in the vernacular, exhorting customers to purchases Philippine-made products, not imported ones—an exhortation to nationalism, at a time we needed it most.
Brand Name For: Pomade/ Pesticide
The atomic age began when the first nuclear bomb was detonated in 1945 that led to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which ended World War II. It also started our fascination with atomic designs and organic forms, inspired by atoms, missiles, and rockets, that found their way in product designs and even in brand names. Such is the case with two different products sold and manufactured locally in the '50s .The first is ATOMIC Solid Brilliantine, a men’s pomade brand available in glass jars. What could this pomade do? Did it split the atoms in your hair? Did it charge you with positivity? We may never know as this product had a short shelf life.
Another atomic brand was ATOMI-CHLOR, a liquid product formulated to rid pet dogs and your lawn of fleas, ticks, and insects. This Chlordane-based product came out in 1951. One is wont to wonder if ATOMI-CHLOR had radioactive properties that killed these pests. But we now know that Chlordane is a chemical compound classified as an organic pollutants hazardous to animals, and even human health. Oops.
Brand Name For: Local Cigarettes
Another strange name for a cigarette brand is “BAGONG LITAO” (Newly Appeared), locally made and rolled in Pampanga by a certain Martin Torres. Even the front panel illustration is rather odd: it shows three Filipina women in baro’t saya—and they are not even smoking. BAGONG LITAO was a reference to the new arrival of the produer be new. But didn't the name get obsolete in a year or so? Because it was no longer new? Hmmm, I need a smoke.
Brand Name For: Skin Ointment
Katialis is the most successful and most popular local skin ointment in history, with a formula developed by Dr. Lorenzo C. Reyes. Its name was derived from Kati+ Alis (Itch Away). The actual concoction was made by his chemist brother, Manuel, who mixed the ointment at the Locre Laboratorio in San Lazaro, Manila. After a decade, Manuel struck it on his own and developed his own product in that, like Katialis, promised to eradicate: “galis, buni, pigsa, tagihawa, butlig, anan, pekas alipunga at sugat na maliliit.” Manuel also named it like Katialis—combining Balat + Kinis to come up with the brand name BALATKINIS (Smooth Skin). Launched in 1947, BALATKINIS, the copycat product with a copycat name proved to be short-lived.
Brand Name For: Hair Tonic against baldness, thinning hair, and dandruff
BARRY’S TRICOPHEROUS was introduced in the late 1840s by "professor" and former New York wig-maker, Alexander C. Barry. The term “tricopherous” alone conjures many images a serious, incurable disease, perhaps, or the name of an extinct dinosaur. But despite its name, the product did surprisingly well. Barry exhorted his customers: “Stimulate the skin to healthful action with the Tricopherous, and the torpid vessels, recovering their activity, will annihilate the disease.” Apparently, that worked for many satisfied men. The product contains 97 percent alcohol, 1.5 percent castor oil, and 1 percent tincture of cantharides (Spanish fly), which supposedly help stimulate the scalp’s blood supply. BARRY’S TRICOPHEROUS is still being produced and sold today by Lanman & Kemp-Barclay & Co.
Brand Name For: Hair Pomade and Perfume Lotion
Nope, this cosmetic brand was not inspired by Stan Lee’s character, Black Panther, who ruled over the kingdom of Wakanda and who first appeared in comic books in 1966. The cosmetic products BLACK PANTHER Hair predate Stan’s superhero by a good decade, appearing first in the early 1950s. BLACK PANTHER was manufactured by Lander New York, and sold in the Philippines by Eter & Co., in Manila. “The slumbering fire of BLACK PANTHER…attacks a man’s heart…attack a woman’s heart…until they merge in a flame of ecstacy”—so goes a line from its print ad, worthy of an Oscar. T’Challa would have approved.
Brand Name For: Skin Ointment
GALISATUM Lunas Galis was a skin ointment developed by Dr. Carlos Jahrling of Botica Sta. Cruz in the 1930s. Dr. Jahrling was a German pharmacist from Offenbach who opened his own business in Manila.“Galis” was an all-encompassing local term for any skin conditions. “-Atum” was a suffix that was commonly used in pharmaceutical products like “mentholatum” and “petrolatum.” GALISATUM with Lunas Galis sounds more like an incantation or a Latin spell to improve skin condition, especially when you say it thrice. But it did relieve prickly heat, chafing, pimples, mange, eczema, dandruff, and maladies with mysterious names like Dhobie’s Itch (another term for Jock’s Itch) and Hong Kong Foot (a slang for athlete’s foot), as this ad from 1936 claims.
Brand Name For: Concentrated Hairdressing and Conditioner
Before gay language became more elaborate, it was okay to for Helene Curtis to dub its latest hair conditioner product. GAYTOP. Nothing wrong with that—in the late 1950s. Today, GAYTOP sounds so suggestive with its homo-erotic undertones; it seems to reveal one’s orientation and preferred sexual role—especially when talked about in a beauty parlor! Indeed, if this product were around today, it will be a “brand that dares not speak its name.”
Brand Name For: Face Powder and Pomade
There really is no reason why a cosmetic product guaranteed to make you “lovely to look at” be named JAGGING JAGGING. It is nonsensical, unfeminine, and the sound is far from mellifluous. But Chun Huat Pomade Factory, the manufacturer, did just that, making it hard to believe that Jagging Jagging was indeed, a “girls’ favorite”. Ad from 1934.
Brand Name For: Anti-diarrhea, Anti-dysentery
Another product coming from Dr. Jahrling’s Botica St. Cruz is KULSO-ALIS, a concoction with a brand name that comes from “Kulso” (diarrhea, loose bowel movement) and “Alis” (to be free from, begone). It was a common way to coin brand names for products this way, even if the Pilipino name may have been bewildering to a foreigner. Perhaps this anti-LBM medicine was really meant to target local market only. It is interesting that Kulso-Alis listed opium as one of its ingredients.
Brand Name For: Laundry soap
Philippine Manufacturing Company (PMC), founded in 1908, forayed into vegetable shortening production in 1917, and launched Purico to great success in 1919. It was made from palm oil, and sold in solid blocks, packed in cartons. When Procter & Gamble U.S.A. purchased PMC in 1935, its product portfolio expanded to include detergents. In 1951, the laundry soap LUTO came onto the market. It had a rather strange name—LUTO—or “cook.” It also came in white blocks, which reminded people of Purico. Actually LUTO was derived from the process of making soaps, in which coconut or palm oil with lye is cooked to form a detergent soap, that is then molded into bars. Thus, “Mag LUTO na tayo!” didn’t just mean, "let’s cook,” but also let’s do the laundry!” at least in the early '50s!
Brand Name For: Remedy for Anemia
This medicine intended for a serious disease had such a musical-sounding name, that it’s hard to believe it could bring relief to anemic women and mothers with disorders associated with pregnancy and their menses. Even the ingredients did not give a clue as why it was named MONG ALING. To make it more difficult to decipher, the word and numbers “Silang Lab. No. 8368,” were appended to the brand name. One can just imagine how someone would have written a jingle for MONG ALING. It will probably have been “Mong-aling-aling-ding-dong!”
Brand Name For: Deodorant
Brand names may sometimes sound alike, but these two midcentury anti-perspirant products had uncannily similarity and only a letter separated them: ODORODO and ODORONO.
The older one, ODORODO, was a palindrome—it read the same way when read backwards. Such literary devices were used to increase memorability of the brand name, but unfortunately Odorodo, even with its catchy name and unique Action-Proof formula, did not catch on. At least, the euphemistic “B.O.” (for body odor) as headlined in this 1956 ad, is still in our vocabulary today. Meanwhile, ODORONO was a cream deodorant that came out in 1961. That would have never happened in this day and age. With today’s stringent trademark rules, imitating the distinctive, perceptual features of a leader brand, such as its brand name is a violation.
Brand Name For: Eye Remedy Solution
Say that again? Say this brand name wrong, and it will sound like a slang for self-erotic gratification. Time was when medicine brands had Spanish names, a way of branding still in practice in the 1920s—when OJOKOL was formulated by Botica Boie. The eye solution was meant to give cool relief to sore, irritated eyes (OJO means “eye” in Spanish, pronounced as “oho”), and as for the suffix, it’s one of those add-ons used by chemicals like alcohol, glycol, ethanol. So next time you say OJOKOL, make sure you pronounced it the way Spaniards do—not with the hard “j” we are accustomed to.
Brand Name For: Pomade
Playboys and dandies would be tickled by this pomade brand called “PALIKERO,” that was produced in the mid 1930s. It even had the audacity to use on its paper label (unauthorized, for sure) the picture of a Hollywood icon who was known for his “palikero” roles on screen—Rudolph Valentino. Whether this pomade lived up to its name is a big question mark, as nobody seems to know this brand, or what happened to it.
Brand Name For: Skin Soap
The early toilet soap designed to beautify a woman’s complexion is a trademark of Lanman & Kemp-Barclay & Co., Inc. The company was founded in 1808 by Robert I. Murray and its business was conducted under the firm name Murray & Lanman in New York. The brand name—REUTER’S SOAP—has nothing to do with the world-famous news bureau. It was named after its creator, Dr. John Reuter. The classic bar soap was sold in the 1950s under its Spanish brand name, Jabon de Reuter, in the Philippines. The company still is in operation today with headquarters in Westwood, New Jersey, and continues to sell the soap.
Brand Name For: Medical Plaster
Now here’s another direct-to-the-point name for a pain-soothing medicated plaster—SAKITALIS (Aches away!). The wordsmith had an easy time with this brand name, and even though it sounded like the aforementioned “Katialis,” it is still distinct in its category. SAKITALIS, which contains belladonna, was “the most effective plaster pan reliever”—in distinctive pink color! It was available in the late 1950s at all drugstores, distributed by Colossal Drug Store. But the coming of made-in-Japan Salonpas, obliterated it, and by the 1970s, Salonpas became the dominant plaster brand, for its superior efficacy—not to mention its catchy, classy name that has become an everyday term for a pain relieving plaster for all body parts.
Brand Name For: Perfume and Lotion
Yes, Virginia, there is such a perfume brand called SILENT NIGHT, "a perfume masterpiece made by Countess Maritza of New York, U.S.A.” It was locally distributed in local stores in 1962. But wait, there’s also a SILENT NIGHT Lotion to complement it. Like a line from the carol, was it also tender and mild? With a name like that, how can you miss? As the ad suggests—“it’s best to give on Christmas!” One wonders if it is inappropriate to give SILENT NIGHT on other occasions, say, like birthdays and Valentine's.
Brand Name For: Mineral Water
It’s okay to drink the TANSAN! The crown cap revolutionized the glass bottling industry when it was invented in 1897 by William Painter. The first drink that featured the crimped tin cap was called TANSAN, a bottled mineral water marketed by Clifford Wilkinson in the early 1900s. The brand name TANSAN—believed to be of Japanese origin—has now come to mean crown caps in Filipino. The product first came out in straight-sided bottles, and then in small, bulb-shaped green bottles with the name in relief. In its 1920s ads, TANSAN was proclaimed as 100 percent pure, sourced from “natural waters free from all earthly deposits.” Being “radium-active,” TANSAN possesses many medicinal qualities, proven against stomach disorders.
Brand Name For: Tonic Wine
The brand name of this revitalizing drink popular in the 1950s seem anachronistic as it sound like the name of contemporary Hollywood action star, Vin Diesel. But it was produced long before the action star of XXX and The Fast and the Furious was born. VIN DÉSILES, a wine-based drink that claims to restore energy and appetite, and was distributed by Oceanic Commercial, Inc. in the Philippines. It may not have inspired the name of action star Vin Dieeel, but it sure is power-packed like him!