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Brands and Plants: Which Can You Name? Which Can Your Kids Name?

This image from Occupy London has been floating around on facebook. I thought it was interesting, so I decided to print it off and bring it home and test it out with my family. We happened to have friends over, a dad and his two kids, so we were able to include them in the discussion as well.


This is what happened....

All the adults recognized all of the brands easily. We got three to four of the plants. Maple and oak were easy for everyone. We settled on beech for the bottom right after debating for a bit. While the picture isn't great, we figure the conifer in the top right is a pine (but could also be a spruce). We didn't get the middle bottom or middle top ones. After looking online, I now know that the middle top is probably an ash (but I don't think we have those around our area). We're still not sure about the middle bottom. It could be a bad illustration of an elm or a birch leaf or something else altogether. Given that this is a British picture and we are in North America, that could be our problem too.

Next we asked the kids, two boys and two girls, ages 4, 5, 6 and 7.

  • All of the kids got McDonald's and the maple leaf immediately (they are Canadian kids after all!).

  • Most of the kids also got the oak and one of them got the beech.

  • Beyond McDonald's they didn't do that well on the brands.

    • They all said "apple" for the Apple logo, but it does look like an apple, so I probed further to see if they knew what the Apple company makes. They thought about it for a while, discussed, and eventually came up with computers. Given the amount of time my kids spend with their dad's iphone in their hands, I was surprised that they didn't associate it with that.

    • They said "crocodile" for the Lacoste symbol, but when asked what the company makes, the only answer they could come up with was "reptiles".

    • They couldn't come up with the name of the Nike symbol, but they did associate it with clothing (one kid) or shoes (another kid).

    • They also didn't know the Volkswagen name and thought that the symbol was for a gas station. I was surprised my kids didn't get this one since we walked past a Volkswagen dealership almost daily when we lived in Berlin and they always noticed the cars.

    • They didn't recognize the facebook logo, remarking only that it was the letter F. That surprised me though, since my kids do know what facebook is and often ask me to put pictures on facebook to show their grandparents in Europe. I guess they just haven't been visually exposed to the logo that much though.

I thought it was an interesting exercise. I don't have any illusions about my kids being sheltered from brands, but I was surprised how few of these they knew. I do think there are other brands that are kid specific that they are much more familiar with at this point in time than some of the brands on this page.

If you try this exercise with your family, I'd be interested to hear what your results are like.
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Reader Comments (28)

My Canadian-born husband also guessed the Maple leaf. Yay!

October 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterG-Mommy

No lie – 6 yo got 3 of the leaves (maple, pine, oak) and none of the logos. M was just an M, ‘crocodile’ was just a crocodile, and the nike swoosh? A zooming racetrack.
3 yo did not get either the leaves or the logos correct, and when I asked about the maple leaf, she told me it was a ‘fall leaf.’ bonus points for creative and relevant thinking.

October 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkarengreeners

This is going to be the jumping off point for my next Media Literacy unit in my classroom of grade 2/3 students. I'm always reminding them to question what is around them: why are things displayed where they are, why is our playground laid out the way it is, why are some trees located in some areas of their neighbourhood but not others, what are advertisers trying to tell them (or not tell them)... this should be really interesting to see what the results are for this age group.

October 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

My hubby and I got all the logos, but only a couple leaves. Hubby says the picture of the leaves don't provide enough information, especially since he doesn't know what region they are from.

October 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

First of all, my answers: -- I got the brands, of course, and thought the leaves were: maple, honeylocust (or poison sumac!), spruce (or yew?) in the top row, and then oak, birch, beech in the bottom row. I also showed it to two ten year old boys and a four year old girl, who all live in New York City. The boys each identified all the logos except the crocodile and the nike. Neither one recognized the crocodile at all; both recognized the Nike but couldn't name it. My son thought the nike was the verizon logo :-), the other kid knew it was a brand of sneakers but not the name.

On the leaves, both boys got maple and oak; my kid also got the spruce. I talk about trees a lot, a lot, a lot, and we hike a lot during the summer in New England -- I would ahve thought he'd recognize more. They said the beech looks "just like a leaf like you would draw."

My daughter (age 4) got the Mac logo (helpfully pointing it out on the laptop I was using!) but nothing else, and only the maple leaf.

October 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMeredith

Bottom center leaf is probably alder. I usually can identify them by the jagged edge.

October 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

I don't think that logos and leafs are remotely equal in terms of memorability. Logos are designed to be iconic, leaves are essentially random, with a great assortment of shapes and sizes among hundreds of varieties with no incentive for the majority of people to identify them. Twice in my life I had to learn tree classification in science classes and I still can't remember much beyond the basic maple, oak and pine.

October 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCorinne

Good point. So, thinking about this and the fact that I live in the city, not the woods, I just printed out a bunch of non-brand things that my kids see in their "natural habitat," and asked them to identify them, to see whether they absorb that stuff as much as the brands. It was hard to come up with leaf-equivalents, and this was just a quick thing but I showed them (two 10 y.o. boys, one 4 y.o. girl): MTA subway map (my son and daughter got it), chrysler building (the two boys got it; my daughter guessed empire state building first, but got it on the 2nd try), interior of grand central station (my son didn't get it but the other two did), central park (both boys got it), row of brownstones (only my daughter knew the word "brownstones" which irks me because we live in freaking Greenwich Village; my son should know that word!), guggenheim museum (both boys got). My conclusion: they are absorbing *some* things besides advertising from their natural habitat. ;-)

October 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMeredith

This is very cool Annie, a good test for everyone. I've sent it to my very "green" brother in VT who does not own a TV and they do a lot of nature hikes etc. I'll report back how well his 5 and 9 yo do. :-)

October 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStorkStories

I got all the brands, hubby got all but the crocodile. DD is only two, so perhaps unsurprising that she got "leaf"

Leaf-wise, hubby and I had no trouble with the maple and oak leaves, but the rest had more than one possibility. Impossible to distinguish the evergreen based on that diagram, same with middle top. Given that it's London, England it's probably more likely hickory than white ash or sumac (my guess), but who knows. Same thing with the bottom right, which we figured was beech. But based on looking at North American options, there are a bunch of possibilities (see http://forestry.about.com/od/treeidentification/tp/tree_key_id_smoothed.htm). Guessed elm, but hubby thought maybe birch or beech for middle bottom. Illustrations really not sufficient, is what I'm saying.

While I don't quite know what the protestors point was, I'm left with: corporate logos are more distinguishable in black and white than tree leaves. I'm afraid I don't find that shocking, nor do I find it problematic. It would be more interesting a quiz if the natural part was absolutely unique. Like constellations, or animals.

October 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary @ Parenthood

...or vegetables perhaps. Some of Jamie Oliver's shows in the US have shown how many children cannot recognize many vegetables.

October 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

My 13 y.o. son got all of the brands and two of the leaves. BUT, my 3 y.o. son knew none of the brands and three of the plants (the tree leaves). I think my oldest will be going on all of our nature walks from now on!

October 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlicia C.

Very interesting! My son is too young to take the test and probably wouldn't recognize any of the logos or leaves, but I am embarassed that I knew all the logos and only a couple of leaves. I need to brush up on my leaves! I am always impressed when I read old books how aware people used to be (like in Victorian days) of the leaves and flowers around them. Science has progressed so much since then, but I think the knowledge of the natural world around us by the average person has decreased dramatically.

October 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCrunchy Con Mommy

Vegetables would be kind of awesome! Or fruit! Or even some kind of matching animal to food product... Endless possibilities

October 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary @ Parenthood

My barely-3 year old identified the "golden arches" as "fries."

Well, actually, as "fwies."
"No, no, no - not fwies. FWIES!"
"Oh, fries!"

She didn't get any of the others, although we have a maple tree that's dropping some beautiful leaves right now, and we've talked about them. In her defense, we live in the US!

October 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWhoza

This is interesting but as Corinne says not necessarily valid. Apart from leaves not being designed to be memorable, I didn't know any of them because they're not native to Australia.

My 5.5yo daughter saw a crocodile, the letter M, the letter F, an apple and a ball -- she didn't know what the Nike symbol was. She couldn't name any of the leaves, but she'd be able to name eucalyptus, bottle brush, banskia and kangaroo paw. We don't eat at McDonald's and she wouldn't have familiarity with any of the other brands apart from Facebook (she knows we put photos on there) and Apple (after questioning, she said "maybe phones? iPhones?). BUT she would recognise many, many brands that are marketed to kids.

October 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrivqa

Leaves are tough when you can't tell the size or how some of them come off of a branch.

October 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

I grew up in the woods. My dad has a degree in forestry and yet I can't name all the leaves. There are more identifying features to a tree than leaves though. Height and bark are equally helpful in naming them. I did get the maple, oak, what looks like birch, and what looks like fir. I got all the logos but the crocodile, other than I know it's a clothing brand.

November 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

my two year old said leaf, christmas tree, and big leaf. he said lizard for the lacoste symbol, car for the volkswagen(we just sold our volks last month lol) and oatmeal and papaccino for the "M" lol you can tell what we get if we ever go to mcdonalds(he meant capaccino lol)

November 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersteph

My 10 year old was able to name all the brands except Lacoste. He got the maple leaf, said "pine" for the conifer, and got the oak leaf.

I was able to name all the brands and had basically the same trouble with the leaves that many others did--the pictures are not all that great.

November 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

I knew all of the symbols except the alligator. My son is 14 and got the same results except he said the alligator was a symbol on clothes. Evidently not the most popular clothes in our little town. The leaf drawings weren't really easy but I decided on maple, staghorn sumac (since we have them in the yard although I'm sure lots of trees have similar leaves), fir/spruce (can't tell if it's flat), oak, birch and I wasn't sure about the last one. It's pretty non descript and could be a beech maybe. Not sure. My son got maple, suggested sumac, fir, oak and birch. Not bad.

November 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlicia

LOVE the vegetable idea! If I ever get back to teaching, and since I teach popular culture and politics courses, this kind of exercise will be ideal for demonstrating to college kids who are CONVINCED that they're above being influenced by advertising that they are in fact absorbing it. This is the first step to getting them to understand why skewed representations of race, class, gender, and sexuality in popular culture influence our politics, both personally and as communities. But yeah, vegetables make more sense for comparison (or maybe a combo of leaves and veggies).

November 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Then, too, there's the fact that these are cartoon renditions of living organisms. Since brands are "cartoons" to begin with, it's easier to recognize the cartoon rendering of a brand than the cartoon rendering of a leaf. I'd like to see the results if brand logos were compared to actual photos of the leaves. Also, we recognize leaves by more than just their shape. While the maple leaf has a very distinctive shape, that of the aspen could just as easily be taken for that of the cottonwood (visually), but the size, color, and odor of the leaves would distinguish them. Since we generally use multiple senses and multiple permutations within each sense to recognize leaves, but only our eyes to recognize brands, this isn't really a fair comparison. Just saying.

November 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKirstin@SquintMom

It is really no surprise that everyone, adults and children can name company logos over plant parts. We are constantly bombarded with advertising of things we do not need: cars, fast food meat, expensive cloths, toxic cleaning products ,etc. If there were commercials for trees like there was for cars, we would be talking about plants as if they were people and would probably respect the environment more: "OMG, check out the smooth bark and clean lines on that poplar tree, those trembling leaves...so hot. I wish I had one on my yard."

Here are a few fun tips that I learned in university about plant id that I wish I had known when I was kid. I would have drove my parents crazy with this jingle instead of Oh Christmas Tree.

Sharp, square spruces;
Flat, friendly firs;
and a pair is pine.

Spruce needles have pointed tips and you can feel the edges of the needle when rolled between your finger tips. (Plant id is not only about visuals!)
Firs have soft flat needles. And pines have two needles growing out together.

For poison ivy: "Leaf of three, let it be."

This acronym helps narrow down which species of trees you are looking at.

MAD: maples, ashes, and dogwoods.

These woody plants have twigs that are opposite of each other, as opposed to birches and elms that have twigs that alternate or look randomly placed. If you want to get really fancy: MADCAP, maples, ashes, dogwood, and the CAP stands for Caprifoliaceae, the honeysuckle family. Hey! If a four year old can name the genius and species of most dinosaurs, they can learn the same of plants and have fun with it. Try the MAD acronym with your family this winter when there are no leaves to rely on.

Sorry for the long post!

November 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

This reminds me of a homework assignment I was given around that age. Our teacher instructed us to go home and watch half an hour of TV (awesome), and write down every imperative sentence (a sentence that gives a direct command or demand) that we heard during that half hour. I realized that commercials are constantly telling us what to do. I must have had an awesome teacher, because thinking back, she was making a very good point, using the pretext of a grammar lesson. That exercise has always stuck with me.

November 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSam

Sam, I LOVE this idea! This actually would work at the college level, too. Thanks for sharing, and yes, what a GREAT teacher you had.

November 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

I love the idea of doing this with vegetables (which, to me at least, are more easily distinguished and recognizable). I took part in a work-sponsored webcast a few months back that had us identify brands and logos - it's remarkable how many you absorb without realizing, and I think it's a great lesson for kids in particular. My mom did a LOT of education around commercials when I was young. One thing we discussed was how they were trying to get you to buy something - was the reason "because eveyone else has it" or because "no one else has it?" It definitely sunk in, I was highly skeptical of marketing as a child and really didn't give a damn what the "in" brand was.

On a side note, I think the sign was wildly successful: it provokes thought on why brands are so easily recognizable and other items not and starts conversations!

November 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGinger Baker

I teach environmental studies at National University of Singapore. I have designed a quiz using the most iconic or commonly seen Singapore logos and animals.

In an upcoming class on nature-deficit disorder, i will start by giving my students 2,5 min per slide (each slide has 5 images) and ask them to ID each as specifically as possible (e.g., for an image of the McDonald's logo, 'restaurant' would be the least specific, followed by "fast-food restaurant", followed by 'McDonald's') and enter their answers on a google form created beforehand. Then, we will be able to code the answers (according to level of specificity), analyse the data together, and see where they do better.

September 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoanna

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