All Turned Around

Have you seen the Toyota commercial in which the letters of the word Camry are rearranged to spell “my car”? The Camry trademark was first registered in 1983, way back when Terms of Endearment won Best Picture and M*A*S*H went off the air. Which suggests one of two things: Either the folks at Toyota can still learn something new every day, or they have been sitting on this secret-in-the-sobriquet since Sally Ride soared into space.

I decided they must’ve known about this brand dimension all along, and it got me thinking about what other hidden messages might be out there. It wasn’t long before I deciphered another branagram (as I’ve come to call them) and can’t wait to see the Ford spot urging young men to buy a Mustang and show some “guts, man.”

Like X-ray brand vision, I am suddenly seeing through the facade, as I imagine a commercial for Buick’s Regal in which budget-minded folks want to live “large.” Smiling smugly at a Chevy Suburban, I surmise that the phrase “urban bus” probably once appeared in the creative brief. Feeling superior, I look at a never-been-off-road, 6-mile-per-gallon SUV and bask in the sudden realization that Denali drivers are in “denial.”

It seems so obvious now, as I flow a not- yet-released rap jingle for Dodge: “If your style is tied to your ride, Intrepid gives you ‘tin pride.’ ” I contemplate the electronic gadgets in my dashboard and imagine how forward-thinking General Motors will appear in an infomercial repositioning Chevrolet as the vehicle for the “tech lover.” Using my newfound powers behind the wheel of an Acura, I realize that an investment in an Integra is as solid as “granite.”

It’s amazing how ubiquitous branagrams have become. If you want to make a statement, Pontiac is the “caption.” Diamante drivers seem “animated” to me now. I suspect every Silhouette driver is headed for a “hotel suite.” I am confident every Monte Carlo has a “clean motor.” It would not surprise me to find a PT Cruiser full of “scripture.” Or to hear that owning a Laredo is an “ordeal.”

The doomed DeLorean was the “oleander” of the automotive world, poisoning dealers and drivers alike. If you drive an Audi, will you get pulled over for “a DUI”?

As my research continues, I realize that branagrams are not limited to car names. Young people buy Kool cigarettes to get the right “look.” Their parents wear Polo shirts by the “pool” for the same reason. Walt Disney tells “windy tales” on video and DVD, just as surely as Exxon merged with Mobil to get out of “limbo.” Any minute now, Allstate could abandon that “good hands” hokum and begin branding around a “tallest A” theme, before Firestone gets all the headlines with the grand opening of another “fine store.”

Target commands customers to “get art” for their barren walls. Perhaps Prudential pensioners will “daunt peril” with their pieces of the rock in a coming outdoor campaign, while Morgan Stanley analysts “moan strangely” as they evaluate the current worth of companies around the globe.

As branagrams catch on across other categories, I look for Winston to open the “Sin Town” theme park, Cendant to tell investors its acquisition streak “can’t end” and Diageo to brew more “ego aid.”

In focus groups, people will say they bought Adidas sportswear because of what the “ad said” and Pepsi because it provides some relief for their parched “pipes.” United Parcel Service will make the power of brown its “super clean directive.” And American Express will roll out the “maniac expresser” card.

Branagrams may well be the modern Rosetta Stone for deciphering hidden messages, but it will probably take more than fetching gymnastic linguistics to convince people that Microsoft really “is comfort.”