Presentation in Tokyo January 24
How to change the world: Sunlight, food, high expectations, and jazz

What's in a name?

Train You can learn a lot by looking around at the graphic design around you. As I road the subway yesterday in downtown Osaka, I came face to face with this Mcdonald's ad posted to the inside glass of the train (below). When you see this, what comes to mind? I sometimes jumble letters at first glance so what I "saw" in that first instant was not McWrap but "M-crap." The c-r-a-p stood out to me. Perhaps because the company—which has 10,000 stores in the USA and over 17,000 more in 171 countries—is often the object of culinary ridicule (not all of it fair), I found the product name and the text placement in this ad to be just tad ironic. I'm not the only one. Many visitors to Japan are now adding McWrap to other local product names that give them pause, such as Pocari Sweat (sports drink), Creap (non-dairy creamer), and Pecker Mechanical Pencils.


A tip for Mickey-D's — never but your "M-c" anywhere near an "r-a-p."


At a glance, this is how I first saw the sign. Perhaps this is due to the placement of the "c" above the "r"?

The product name in Japanese (the katakana below the English type) is pronounced "Makkurappu" which sort of sounds like "Mac Wrap" but it sounds something close to "Mai Crapu" as well to non-Japanese speakers (listen for yourself). And even if you pronounce it "McWrap" perfectly in English? Well, say that three times fast. The name is not really inappropriate, however, for Japan; it's easy to say. And Snack Wrap—the original name used in some English-speaking countries—couldn't be used as "Snack" doesn't work for several reasons for this product in Japan. The only problem I see is the placement of the "c" in proximity close to the "rap."  In the urban dictionary you can find two enteries for "McCrap." This is not a knock against Mcdonald's at all, but it seems that the firm would want to avoid making it easy for detractors to use this unfortunate Mc-monicker, even overseas.

Promo_2 As I investigated McWrap further in Japan I found that they got help from one of Japan's top hip-hop groups, Rip Slyme. So what happens when you put Rip Slyme and McWrap together? You get Wrap Slyme. I know what you're thinking—yum. If the association with "crap" didn't wet your appetite for the product, perhaps the connection with "slyme" will. (Who are Rip Slyme? Here's a sample video. Not for young kids...).


Clearly this campaign, product name, and graphical treatments are for the Japanese market only. And for this market—where the brand is still cool and very popular—it is just fine. But when we try to imagine this name and this design being used in an English speaking country where the brand often has to deal with jokes, we can see how this particular name and placement of the text—not to mention the Wrap Slyme promo—would not work well. There is nothing wrong with the name, or any of the promotion so long as it is contained in Japan. Still, it's a small reminder just how important naming is and how much little things like the placement of text in a simple design can matter.

History of Snack Wrap
Mcdonald's Japan website on McWrap
A video from Japan to the Max, a humorous video site run by an Australian graphic designer in Japan. In this video, he makes a Rammstein-style heavy rock song using the names of Japanese snack products as lyrics.
Info in Japanese about the promotion with Rip Slyme


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