February 04, 2015

From Itchycoo to Bonnaroo: The Art of Brand Distinction

by Stites & Harbison, PLLC

Last year, we wrote about Bonnaroo and the various trademark registrations obtained by the music and arts festival that takes place each June in Manchester, Tennessee. For the uninitiated, here is my take on Bonnaroo: Over the course of a sweltering weekend in June, nearly 100,000 music lovers converge on a field outside a small town about an hour from Nashville to camp out, listen to music, and generally just have a good time.

Melissa And Jason
Melissa and her husband Jason at Bonnaroo 2011

The Bonnaroo lineup is always a diverse one that attracts a unique audience. For example, one year a 79-year-old Loretta Lynnâwearing one of her signature floor-length long-sleeved, flowy sequined gownsâquieted the audience and brought tears to this Trademarkologist's eyes with her rendition of the gospel tune "Where No One Stands Alone." Mere hours later, Eminem took to the stage with his own genre of music amidst a raucous crowd. The 2015 lineup is as eclectic as ever, featuring classic rocker Billy Joel alongside EDM performer Deadmau5.

I could tell you some amazing stories from my experiences at Bonnaroo but, well, they just don't translate well in print, especially print published by my employer. So, instead, I would like to tell you about the back story of Bonnaroo. It all started with Itchycoo.

I first learned of Itchycoo a few years ago at Bonnaroo while I was waiting in the line to enter Centeroo, the main venue. A local man enlightened me about the precursor festival as he proudly showed off a tattoo depicting the Itchycoo logo, a brightly colored parrot.

(Image Courtesy of Wayback Machine)

He told me that Bonnaroo used to be called Itchycoo. I was intrigued, so I dug a little deeper. As it turns out, the Itchycoo-tattooed man was half right.

Itchycoo Park was a 1999 music festival that took place inâyou guessed itâManchester, Tennessee. By all accounts, it was an epic failure. The lineup was stellar, featuring acts such as Rick Springfield, The Outfield, Sammy Hagar, Iron Butterfly, and Styx. Nevertheless, Itchycoo was a spectacular disaster. Promoters had hoped to draw a crowd of 80,000 but, alas, a meager 19,000 tickets were sold. Itchycoo went broke even before the weekend concluded, prompting event staff to leave mid-shift because it was apparent their labor would go unpaid.

Two years later, when the promoters of a new music festival were investigating potential locations, the Itchycoo farm site caught their attention. It was an ideal location but, because Itchycoo had left a bad taste in the mouths of so many, the interest was initially met with significant resistance. The promoters thus learned the importance of brand distinction.

When selecting a brand, it is always a good idea to be distinctive. But brand distinction can be absolutely critical in such situations as this, where a known brand's poor reputation may be imputed on your brand because of similarities in offerings. In this case, because concert promoters desired to host a music festival on the same grounds where another music festival had recently imploded, it was of utmost importance that the brands be distinguished to overcome the stigma associated with Itchycoo.

Needless to say, the Bonnaroo brand distinction campaign was a successful one. So successful, in fact, that no one associates Itchycoo with Bonnaroo anymore. Well, no one but the Itchycoo-tattooed man. And, really, can you blame him? After all, if you have a brightly colored, eye-catching emblem from a failed music festival permanently etched on your arm for all the world to see, isn't your only real choice to try to convince others that it is a cool throwback tattoo?

Finally, check out this recap of Bonnaroo 2014. Fair warning: you're going to want to start planning your trip to The Farm June 11-14, 2015 after watching this.

The lawyers at Trademarkology provide trademark registration services backed by the experience and service of one of the nation's oldest law firms. Click here to contact us.