I’ve come to realize that when it comes to deciphering deodorant odors, I’m at a total loss.  Time and time again, I waltz into the pharmacy and find myself staring at the shelves of deodorants, wondering what in the world I’m about to purchase.  Yes, yes, I could be a heathen and sniff all the different brands, but in general, I’m not a huge fan of opening products I’m not buying.  Nor am I terribly enthused over the idea that the stick I rub in my armpit may have been previously grazed by an unknown quantity of curious noses.  What I’m trying to get at is that deodorant descriptors are frustratingly cryptic, and I’m having a difficult time envisioning just exactly what olfactory treat my nose is in for when it takes a whiff of “Arctic Chill” or “Fresh Blast.” Last time I checked, concepts didn’t have aromas.  And if they did, I’m not so sure I’d want them emanating from my armpits.  Who says I want my underarms to smell like a blast, let alone a “fresh blast?”  If anything, that kind of sounds like a fart.  No, I want my deodorants to follow the lead of my air-fresheners:  give me a concrete idea of what I’ll be smelling like to the general public.  Powder?  Lilacs?  Neutral odors?  It’s really very simple.

You see, I started to question deodorant descriptors when my old, trusted brand, Degree, decided to shake things up on the packaging front.  For years, Degree was a confusing, unisex brand.  Everyone I know who used it back in the day all did so quietly.  The reason?  There was always a sneaking suspicion that maybe Degree was intended for the opposite sex.  There were times when I silently feared I had been using a product that was better suited for the “Secret” set (ie. women), and I’m sure it was vice versa for women.  Still, I kept using the deodorant because a) it did the job, and b) I liked the odors.  There was never any confusion about what they smelled like.  The names were simple and descriptive, often employing vital words such as “powder,” “shower,” or “unscented.”

But then about two or three years ago, the Degree people decided to shake things up.  They dropped the unisex brand and replaced it with two complementary offerings:  Degree Men and Degree Women.  I didn’t necessarily have a problem with this, and if anything, it was probably a smart move, marketing-wise.  What I did object to was the instant overhaul the odor names got.  Suddenly, I found myself navigating through a new jungle of MANLY labels.  Plucking out my trusty deodorant now meant determining which abstract concept best connoted the scent of powder — not an easy task when faced with head-scratching names such as “Silver Ice,” “Cool Rush,” or “Extreme Blast” (not to be confused with Right Guard’s aforementioned “Fresh Blast” — seriously, what is up with the blasts?).  I remember having a brief moment of excitement when I thought I had come across the simply titled, “POWDER,” but it turns out I was mistaken.  It was instead the significantly more bombastic “POWER.”  Apparently, it’s the preferred odor for megalomaniacs and dictators the world over.  (“What IS that scent?”  ”Oh, you know, it’s just the smell of POWER.”) 

Even worse, I finally gave up on the hopes of finding a proper powder option and found a new favorite in the curiously named scent, “Ionic.”  Or maybe it was “Ionic Breeze.”  Even for manly deodorant concepts, “Ionic” is quite the oddball.  Granted, I’m all for chemistry-inspired names, and I can think of many suggestions off the top of my head (Quark-iness, Electron Boogaloo, The Neutron Dance, Proton Pizzazz, to name a few), but still, “Ionic” was just a bit too much.

Nevertheless, I grew to enjoy the beguiling scent that was Ionic, even if I couldn’t describe it or draw a link between name and odor.  It was clearly too confusing though, and I’ve recently discovered that I’ve been dealt another Degree blow:  no more Ionic.  That’s right, I’ve been once again placed in the unenviable position of having to navigate the world of deodorants for a proper odor.  Sadly, things haven’t become any easier in the years since Ionic and its siblings hit the store shelves.  Degree Men boasts a veritable smorgasbord of baffling titles, including the ones I’ve already mentioned as well as “Clean,” “Sport,” “Cool Comfort,” “Intense Sport,” and the strangely named “Clean Slate.”  

On the women’s side, however, the descriptor landscape is much more promising.  Sure, there are some comically abstract names such as “Light Breeze” and “Fresh Oxygen” (apparently “Gale Force Winds” never made it to market), but overall, Degree Women is waaaay more intuitive.  Odors include “Sheer Powder,” “Shower Clean,” and “Cool Cotton.”  Now that’s what I’m talking about.  You can tell immediately what those deodorants are supposed to smell like, unlike, say, Silver Ice.  I mean, seriously.  Silver Ice.
Of course, Degree isn’t the only brand with silly names, and I can’t act as if this is a new phenomenon.  It’s been going on for years.  But seriously, it’s getting ridiculous.  And no one is a more flagrant offender than Old Spice.  Just take a look at this ridiculous roster:

•  Arctic Force
•  Mountain Rush
•  Pacific Surge
•  Smooth Blast
•  After Hours
•  Aqua Reef (great, I really want my armpit to smell like A MORAY EEL)
•  Glacial Falls
•  Showtime

I’m shocked that they never entertained the names “Frigid Tundra” or “Mighty Topiary.”  Nevertheless, I’ve settled on “Sport” as my new odor, and so far, I think it’s pretty good.  I was highly amused by the little phrase that was etched into top of the solid.  It enthusiastically encouraged me to “Take The Risk!” which seemed like an odd sentiment coming from a deodorant bar.  I mean, what risk was I supposed to take?  Was there something inherently risky about using Degree?  Some health danger that I should be aware of?  Or was this a general commentary on my life?  And since when is my deodorant authorized to dole out such advise?

Ultimately, I decided the phrase was merely a random touch of branding, and I couldn’t help to think about the marketing sessions that went in to adding such a ridiculous thing.  I could go on, but this guy pretty much says it all (and so does this guy).  What are your favorite abstract brand names?