Is this the worst ad placement ever?

hanger

Probably not, but it’s still impressive.

It’s a winner!

penguin-seal

A pictorial guide to why I’m over “Breast Cancer Awareness” marketing

 

A pink oil delivery truck? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? I was driving around Boston the other day and I saw one. Then I Googled it to get a picture and found out it was one of TWO local oil companies doing this. Then my friend Karen sent me a link to the pink recycling can. So I thought I’d put together a pictorial guide to some of the odder pink breast cancer items I could find. VOILA!

Ask yourself a question: Do you know anyone who isn’t aware of breast cancer?

pinktruckoil truck

65a9bb1fb5fff587430e4f747efdf8c820071018_kitkat_2ff_475005_xlmedicom-bearbrick-breast-cancer-awarenessMicrosoft-Wireless-Mobile-Mouse-4000-Pink-500x300mikes-hard-pink-lemonadepinkpistolsidePink Cart - cut(1)pic103536Breast-Cancer-Awareness-Pump-sm

From my original post on the topic:

Back in the day – in this case the early ‘90s – I had many friends with HIV and/or AIDS. One of whom, a true gentleman named John Kelley, wore on his jacket a Star Trek badge (right) and a red ribbon which many people were wearing then to show they knew AIDS existed. When asked about this heraldry he would respond, “Because Star Fleet cares about AIDS.” (RIP, dear John.) Which is pretty much where I’m at with all the pink that washes over marketing each October.

Let me make one thing very clear: Like everyone else, I know many people who have had breast (and other types of) cancer. One of those is Mother CollateralDamage. So it will not surprise you to learn that I, like everyone else, don’t like cancer. Now plenty of companies have done a lot to help fund research into preventing breast cancer and to them I say, “You may stop reading now.” The other day the family was driving by the HQ of New Balance sneakers and we noticed a large pink ribbon affixed to the building. Mrs. CollateralDamage: “They’ve earned it.”

But the problem is that many companies are now just slapping pink on the product or advertising and claiming they support “Breast Cancer Awareness.” As a commenter on a wonderful NYT column about Pink Ribbon Fatigue put it, “Buying stuff with pink ribbons will send some money to research and/or outreach, but it hard to tell how much that Yoplait helps. Posting ‘awareness’ status updates on facebook does absolutely nothing – I have yet to meet a person that wasn’t aware of breast cancer’s existence."

Restaurant chain learns mass-murder doesn’t make for funny advertising

drink the kool aidFor some reason The Hacienda restaurant chain thought an ironic reference to Jonestown was the basis for an ad. Billboards in South Bend, Ind., read “We’re like a cult with better Kool-Aid’ and ‘To die for.” (Did someone tell them South Bend is a hot-bed of irony? They were misinformed.)

The ads were up for two weeks before the company finally got the message this wasn’t such a good idea.

“Our role is not to be controversial or even edgy. We want to be noticed – and there’s a difference,”said Jeff Leslie, vice president of sales and marketing at Hacienda, which also owns the La Senorita restaurant chain in Michigan.

Kudos to Mr. Leslie for not taking the easy way out and throwing his agency under the bus.

The article contains a great look at how this cluster frack came about:

Every year, Leslie said company leaders look at their restaurants, the economy, their customers, and the competition to determine an idea or theme to use for advertising.

This year, Hacienda decided to use “You belong.” You have a place at home, a place at work, and a place to dine, gather and celebrate at Hacienda. As they brainstormed about how people belong to clubs and teams, they discussed how an entity can develop a cult following of like-minded people.

Some people may dress alike or eat the same food or visit the same restaurant or drink the same drink – like margaritas, Leslie said.

“You start playing with headlines,” he said, “and that’s how we ended up with the outdoor board. But we are not getting the reaction we expected. It went the wrong direction, hit a nerve, and we have come to realize we should not have done this billboard. We lose the core message.”

Remember: Anyone can make a mistake but to really screw up you need a committee.

Medal of Honor video game shoots itself in the foot

medal of homer 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.

Mexican hotels want to inoculate with flu-free guarantee

The outbreak of Swine or Hiney flu has run through Mexico’s tourism industry faster than a case of Montezuma’s revenge. In an attempt to counter this hotels on the Caribbean coast are now offering free vacations for three years to any tourist who catches swine flu while there.

"The ‘flu-free guarantee’ assures three years of free holidays to travelers who present flu symptoms eight days after returning from their trip," said Fernando Garcia, director of one of the participating hotel groups.

Sadly no such offer is being made to hotel workers.

Aporkalypse Now: Rebranding swine flu is like putting lipstick on a well, you know

What with the World Health Org declaring Defcon infinity I suspect yesterday was the last day which anyone will find swine flu funny for a while. That said, here’s a round up of humorous headlines

The nomenclature is clearly posing a big problem – although not as big as the actual illness.

"We will call it Mexico flu. We won’t call it swine flu," Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman, a black-garbed Orthodox Jew, told a news conference Monday, assuring the Israeli public that authorities were prepared to handle any cases.

Attempts to rebrand the disease are failing in great number. As old buddy/NY Daily News reporter Helen Kennedy noted:

Washington officials launched a comically doomed effort to call it "H1N1," while the European Union tried to rename it the "novel flu."

And the NYT reports:

Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, convened a hearing on Tuesday on a subject he described as “the so-called swine flu,” even as a campaign was mounted by farm groups to rename the virus “North American influenza.”

There are concerns pork sales will fall off a cliff faster than Matthew 8:28-34* as long as people continue to erroneously think you can get punk’d by pork. If they can’t rebrand the illness I expect marketers to start changing the name of their products: Four-legged chicken. Tuna of the farm. Mini-beef.

Another branding issue: swine flu – like global warming before it – just doesn’t sound scary. Al Sacco tweeted: “Swine flu isn’t a scary enough name. It needs a slogan, too: "Pork Plague, the (Other) White Death," for example.”

BTW, free instant diagnosis is available at DoIhavePigFlu.com.

 

*“and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water

Arms dealer’s ad for India is a Bollywood music video

The Israeli firm Rafael was trying to win an arms contract in India.  So the company made a Bollywood music video promoting its military hardware. How bad is it? To quote the London Times: You truly have no idea how bad, or hilarious, this could be until you see it.

Sample lyric:

We’ve been together oh so long
Trusting friends and partners
What more can I pledge
To make the future strong?

My favorite element – there are sooooo many to choose from – is the missiles covered in flowers. No, wait, it’s the women (who appear to be from the Levant and not the Indian sub-continent) dancing around the phallic missiles covered in flowers. No, wait, it’s the paintings in the background which are certainly in the style of Hindu religious paintings.

Is this the Plan 9 from Outer Space of marketing? Or Howard the Duck (the movie)?

Blackwater security kills brand name

blackwaterbearBlackwater Worldwide — the “security” firm known for its employees shooting at least a dozen Iraqi civilians — is trying to rebrand away its notoriety. It will henceforth be known as Xe. That’s pronounced zee, as in “zee idiots in marketing thought of it.”

Blackwater president Gary Jackson said in a memo to employees the new name reflects the change in company focus away from the business of providing private security. “The volume of changes over the past half-year have taken the company to an exciting place and we are now ready for two of the final, and most obvious changes,” Jackson said in the note.

One of those changes probably has something to do with getting out from under those damn subpoenas. Hopefully rebranding means there will be a sale at the Blackwater USA Pro-Shop (not making it up). Although at $10 each it’s hard to get a better deal than these adorable teddy bears. Just the thing for your favorite toddler!

Job site trumpets finding work in Afghanistan

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when the following showed up in some spam from TheLadders.com

Hired! Interview Prep Leads to Work in Afghanistan

Construction foreman lands job in Afghanistan due to experience in Iraq and TheLadders interview prep service.

When you’re looking for work in a war zone, it helps to do some research to prepare you for what to expect. Peter Vasquez did his research, and it led him to a new work front in Afghanistan. …

“A new work front?”

Best/saddest quote: ““My wife at first wasn’t too keen on my going overseas again. But she sees now that times are hard, and I can get better-paying work in Afghanistan.”

Yep, I’m definitely going with that website for all of my job search needs! Woo hoo! Put me on the next plane to Chechnya baby! Gaza or bust!

Worst product ever? “A doll modeled after slain toddler”

A Jacksonville promotions company quickly halted sales of a doll modeled after slain toddler Caylee Anthony after a barrage of criticism. Showbiz Promotions had planned to sell its blonde Caylee Sunshine doll for $29.99.

Not even February and competition for biggest marketing blunder of 2009 is already over.

Christmas greetings from the Imperial War Museum

My favorite museum in London comes up with my favorite piece of holiday marketing material.

imperialwar-001

Had a lot of fun in London over the past week. Didn’t get to the Museum of Brands, though. Next time. Stayed in a flat 150 feet  from the Israeli Embassy so got to see the very peaceful demonstrations up close and was impressed by both the protestors and the London PD crowd control/riot squad. Biggest danger was risk of tripping  on a policeman. Hope to get back to London but still prefer Paris!

The Mrs. has a very good post on the real issues raised by visiting the War Museum and seeing the protests — go read it.

Is that your cologne or a burning dead animal?

flame-1Burger King continues to come up with successful ways to get free press: This time it’s a men’s body spray called “Flame” which the company claims has “the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat.”

Burger King is marketing the product through a Web site featuring a photo of its King character reclining fireside and naked but for an animal fur strategically placed to not offend.

Burt Reynolds must be rolling in his grave.

What?

Are you sure?

Wow.

I thought the guy in the commercials was CGI.

Top 10 Marketing Blunders of 2008

Yeah, there’s a lot more than 10 here. What can I say? It was a very good year for very bad things.

(PS: If you liked this would you mind going here and voting for it on Digg?)

GRAND PRIZE FOR SUSTAINED ORGANIZATIONAL EFFORT

(tie)

The John McCain Presidential Campaign

  • “Our economy, I think, is still — the fundamentals of our economy are strong.”
  • Has no idea how many houses he (or his wife) owns.
  • Picks Sara Palin, the Broad to Nowhere who couldn’t find Russia or Africa on a map.
  • Campaign adviser and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina says Palin couldn’t run a major corporation.
  • Campaign adviser and former senator Phil Gramm says Americans are whiners about economic problems.
  • “Shutting down” his campaign to fix the bailout.
  • “Lipstick on a pig”
  • Egregious attack on Dungeons & Dragons that clearly cost him the election. (OK, maybe not so much the last one).

GM

Runners Up

  1. Ford features “Space Oddity” — a song about astronaut suicide — in new car campaign.
  2. Framingham State College  uses the word blah 137 times in a 312-word fundraising letter.
  3. Disney (multiple entries): Bans kids from DisneyWorld restaurant; Changes “It’s A Small World” to “A Salute to All Nations, But Mostly America; and Sells “High School Musical” panties for tween girls with the phrase “Dive In” on them.
  4. Woolworths (UK) launches Lolita brand of beds for young girl
  5. JetBlue lives up to Southwest’s parody ad by charging for pillows.
  6. Russia uses smiling kids in tourism ad for war zone
  7. Residents of Lesbos sue those other lesbians over brand name
  8. Motrin gets headache from viral moms video
  9. Butcher’s ads feature “Meat Products, Fresh Service” on naked woman
  10. Hershey asks if you’ve found Mr. Goodbar

Special Jury Awards

Co-Branding That Shouldn’t Have Been

The Alpha & Omega of Over-reaching

Product Failure

The Penguins Of Irony “Oh NO You Din’t” Awards

Previous years’ lists

Penguin seal

E-mail services will tell people about their STD or your death

Can’t bear to break the bad news to your last partner that you’ve given him/her/them a gift that keeps on giving?

A public health Web site called Inspot.org has put the trend of e-cards, e-mail, and e-vites to a unique purpose: the e-postcard that notifies you that a past sexual partner came down with a sexually transmitted disease or infection.

Instead of an e-card, is this called a VD-card? And yes, if you get one it is definitely too late to install virus protections.

Using what may be the ultimate drop down menu, the sender can choose from a list of sexually transmitted diseases and whether to disclose his or her name. Inspot.org will automatically send a list of local health resources to the recipient.  If you don’t remember the person’s name, what are the chances you got their email address?

And just in case that STD turns out to be terminal, another service lets you notify all your online-only acquaintances of your demise. A web site with the great name of SlightlyMorbid “lets customers create and maintain a secure list of important online friends who need to be notified in case of a crisis, or even death.”

At the most basic level, this service is designed to give people a place to consolidate their personal online contacts. Enter email addresses, handles or names if you wish, update them as needed. Once your account is set up, the site will generate a certificate with simple instructions for a trusted third party. Put the certificate with your important papers, or give it to whoever is designated to handle your affairs in an emergency. If there is an emergency, your trusted person can use those instructions to send a notification message, or trigger messages you’ve written yourself.

The one-time fee for the service ranges from $10 to $50. Premium members get to write “custom ‘last words’ messages … private email messages to each friend that you compose and store on the system in advance.” And, speaking of slightly morbid, the site offers a 20% discount for members of the military.

If you can’t think of what to give that special someone, gift memberships are offered.

CoffinTalk: Where the funeral trade hangs out online

You knew it was out there, right?

Coffin Talk bills itself as a message board for funeral directors, mortuary science students, and those with a morbid curiosity. It is sponsored by PushinDaisies.com, “a mortuary novelty shop.”

I love places like this.

BTW, have you read The Undertaking: Life Studies from The Dismal Trade by Thomas Lynch? Amazing. Simply amazing. A great book.

Happy almost Halloween!