Simple marketing rule: Don’t include a feature in your product that directly contradicts the name of your product. Case in point: The Medal of Honor video game from EA games. In this first person shooter, players get to pretend they are soldiers. I assume it lets you pretend you are a US soldier since those are the only people who can actually win a Congressional Medal of Honor. The latest version of the game — coming out next month — includes a feature where you can play as a member of the Taliban … and thereby shoot US soldiers. Here’s the brand disconnect: Shooting US soldiers is definitely NOT going to let you get a Medal of Honor.
Surprisingly, many people and organizations are upset by this. A lot of those people are the families of soldiers who have been killed in the war. Who could have seen that coming? Also upset is the commander of the US Army and Air Force Exchange Service (that’s the group that runs the stores on military bases), who has decided that they won’t sell the game. That will hurt because, as Sgt. Big Brother CollateralDamage can attest, military folk LOVE games like this. It will also hurt because it will make Walmart and co. think twice about stocking the game. Congrats, guys, on a blunder that could have easily been avoided.
How little does EA get it? From the official EA response:
“The criticism of ‘Medal of Honor’ is disappointing because I can’t think of another interactive game that has gone to such lengths to convey respect for soldiers. From the very first day of development, the ‘Medal of Honor’ development team has been dedicated to creating an homage to the soldiers who fight the Taliban in Afghanistan. [EA feels] "a deep sympathy and respect for the soldiers and people with family members killed or wounded in Afghanistan. … We don’t see a distinction between a film like ‘Hurt Locker’ and a game like ‘Medal of Honor.’ We don’t agree that it’s OK to depict the war in films and books, but not in games. We don’t see a moral difference."
Hey dummy: You don’t make a game where people can play as the enemy in a war that is still going on. That’s the point. In the words of the comedians: Too soon. And by the way: You’re comparing yourself to Hurt Locker? You’ve got big brass balls there, my friend. Unfortunately, the balls are hollow.
This would have been a strong contender for the stupidest marketing move of the year if BP hadn’t already locked that up. Given that, EA definitely has a strong case for first runner-up.