ReeseSticks, two-stick pack (Hershey Foods Corporation)

ReeseSticks, the latest offering from the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup crew, with its familiar combination of chocolate and peanut butter, seems like a logical enough addition to the Reese's empire. But take a close look at that product name -- it's not called Reese's Sticks, as you might expect, but ReeseSticks, with the apostrophe and "s" having been lopped off of the Reese's brand name.

This distinction may seem minor, but it's also unprecedented in the Reese's product line, which dates back to 1928 and now includes Reese's Pieces, Reese's Crunchy Cookie Cups, Reese's Peanut Butter Puffs Cereal, Reese's Peanut Butter Baking Chips, and Reese's Peanut Butter. Even the ReeseSticks press kit seems to prefer the apostrophe-inclusive construction -- a bold graphic on the kit's front cover announces, "Reese's Introduces the Crisp You Can't Resist!"

The development of the ReeseSticks moniker isn't hard to figure out -- the marketing team probably wanted to avoid having too many "s" sounds packed together in the middle of the product name. But is "Reese's Sticks" really so much harder to say than "ReeseSticks," especially when we've all been acculturated for decades to say "Reese's" instead of "Reese"? As the press kit points out, "Reese's is the largest and most successful brand of Hershey Chocolate North America," so why would the firm tinker with the very core of its identity, even slightly, unless it was absolutely necessary?

I put that question to Reese's spokesperson Lisa McNelis, who seemed a bit confused about the new product's nomenclature herself. "It's still our strong Reese's brand name," she happily, if erroneously, maintained. "We wouldn't want to do anything to tamper with that." When alerted to the fact that that's precisely what they're doing, she said Reese's is just giving the people what they want. "We typically do a lot of consumer testing when we're getting ready to introduce a new product," she explained, "so this name is probably the one that struck a chord with consumers during that time."

This habit of blaming everything on focus groups may be a convenient way for McNelis to dodge a question (last year she tried to tell me that "extensive consumer testing" was the reason a new candy was 10% smaller than the rest of the Reese's candy line), but my own research hasn't found such unwavering public support for the ReeseSticks name. While virtually everyone to whom I've shown the product has been happy to hear that there's a new Reese's item on the market, literally *nobody* has gotten the name right, not even when staring at the package. The typical comment: "Hey, whatcha got there? Oh, Reese's Sticks..."

Even McNelis appears to realize that ReeseSticks isn't yet on the tip of the public tongue -- "I've noticed that a lot of people have mispronounced the name as Reese's," she acknowledged at one point. But maybe the new name just needs a bit of time to catch on -- this is, after all, the same company that somehow managed to successfully launch a candy bar called Reese's NutRageous a few years back. (Hershey Foods Corporation, Hershey, PA 17033)