Did someone say, “Bikinis with push-up tops for 8-year-olds?”

Abercrombie & Fitch is selling the ‘Ashley push-up triangle’ top  which features thick padding in the cup to give the illusion of a larger chest size. What’s news about that? It’s for girls 8 to 14.

Yes, for a mere $24.50 you too can pimp out your not-yet-tween girl and remind her that its all about the cup size.

Ambercrombie bikini

It’s good to see that old A&F (where my grandfather once went to kit-up for safaris) is keeping true to its newer brand promise of making money off the sexual exploitation of children. (If they’re going to do that shouldn’t they be a division of American Apparel? Here are the details on the latest in a long line of sex harassment suits against CEO Dov Charney.)

A few other things A&F has done to live up to its brand promise:

  • Ads that feature shop assistants in lieu of models, often posing semi-nude.
  • An ‘Impact Team’ to ensure all employees comply with its ‘look policy’.
  • Paid $2.2 million to settle a suit over allegations it forced its employees to buy and wear its clothes while on the job.
  • Paid $50 million to settle a discrimination lawsuit brought by pretty much every non-Caucasian who made the mistake of getting a job with A&F.
  • Paid $13K to an employee forced to work out of site of the public because she had a prosthetic arm

Dove ad makes a big before-and-after mistake

 

dove

Image via Sociological Images

Now clearly all the women in this ad from Oprah’s magazine are supposed to be showing off the wonderful “after” effect of using Dove soap. It’s just that the women (who are shaped like actual women – bravo, as usual, to Dove) are arranged by their skin’s melatonin content and therefore seems to say that the woman on the left … Well, you can see it for yourself obviously.

As the great blog Sociological Images notes:

I continue to be puzzled that multinational corporations with resources for large-scale marketing campaigns so often stumble in awkward ways when trying to include a range of racial/ethnic groups in their materials. This seems to occur by not sufficiently taking into account existing or historical cultural representations that may provide a background for the interpretation of images or phrases in the advertising. In this case, the arrangement of the models combined with the text above and below them unfortunately intersects with a cultural history in which White skin was seen as inherently “more beautiful” than non-White skin (not to mention thinner bodies as more beautiful than larger ones).

BTW, have I mentioned what a great blog Sociological Images is, lately? Have I urged you to read it daily, as I do? What’s that? I haven’t? Well, shame on me.

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."

Disney puts straw in exactly the wrong place on this Princess™® sippy cup

princess-pecker

I’d ask “What were they thinking?”,  but I’m pretty sure thinking wasn’t involved in the process. Or, as Mrs. CollateralDamage put it over at her widely read blog BrokeHoedown

I do not even know how to caption this. I found it difficult enough to just write the alt text for the image.

Wow.

Vogue’s hot, new fashion trend: Sexually exploiting children for fun and profit

Here’s what Xeni Jardin said at BoingBoing and I can’t do better (click here if you want to see one of the pictures.):

The December issue of French Vogue, edited by Tom Ford, features an extensive spread of child models presented more or less like whores. The girl above is 6. Lemme spell that for you: s-i-x! I’m a big Tom Ford fan. Or, well, was. Artistic freedom and everything, and no, this shouldn’t be made illegal—but I believe this is Totally Not Cool.

Apparently French Vogue is where they run all the most appalling stuff. They managed to hit #5 on 2009’s list of Top 10 Marketing Blunders with a salute to black-face featuring a photo spread of the very Caucasian Lara Stone painted head-to-toe in dark make-up. Keep up the good work gang! It’s going to take a lot of work to keep them out of 2011’s Top 10.

American Girl’s Hawaiian doll is a Caucasian

Hawaiian my assWhen last we checked in with American Girl™®© they were selling a doll which they described as homeless for a mere $95. But that’s so 2009. They are kicking off this year with their 2011 Girl Of The Year®, Kanani Akina™ who “loves welcoming visitors to her Hawaiian home.” No big deal if it weren’t for the fact that Kanani has dark blonde hair, brown eyes and a skin color that suggests a health-minded approach to tanning. In other words, she doesn’t look in the least bit like actual native Hawaiians who usually have black hair, black eyes and a darker skin color. It is especially odd that American Girl™®© decided to call American Surfer Girl Hawaiian at a time when The World’s Most Famous Hawaiian (and Leader of The Free World™®©) is known for his surfeit of melanin.

lilo2In Hawaiian Kanani means"the beautiful one." Apparently the beautiful one in Hawaii is Haole. While her last name, Akina, may sound Hawaiian it is actually Japanese (another group known primarily for black hair and eyes and a distinctly non-Caucasian skin tone). So American Girl™®© just decided to appropriate some ethnic sounding names, put a flower in the doll’s hair and call it Hawaiian. Aznuts, as the Hawaiians say. Hell, even Disney – which has a very long history of messing up on ethnic issues — was able to do this right.

wolf13This doll was brought to my attention by my wife, Jennifer — aka “Mrs. CollateralDamage” aka “Broke Hoedown” aka “One of Those Darn Cats” – who has spent quite a bit of time in Hawaii and so was totally flabbergasted when she came across it that her eyes did that Tex Avery thing. For that, at least, I can say, “Well done, American Girl™®©!”

BTW, Soong-Chan Rah has a wonderful tale of a parent and child dealing with American Girl’s issues around ethnicity. Highly recommended.

What if Teva made stiletto pumps? Now remove the part about “What if.”

tevastiletto-490x490When I came across this my jaw dropped so far and so fast it made me wish my office had carpeting. Mad, mad props to TheGloss.com for finding this and for writing “they come in two colors – “Natural” and “Worlds Unite” (black and white, natch). Is it a good idea or bad idea to wear them with socks? And why do they cost $330?”

The perfect thing to wear to a post-apocalypse formal affair. Like when the world has run out of oil and and the bad guys careen around the highways anyway with guns and high fashion models and the only person you can rely on is that nameless stranger who will someday grow up to be an anti-Semitic psychopath.

Court slaps Hello Kitty for stealing bunny

miffy-copied1Sanrio has lost a cut of the oh-so-lucrative Benelux market (that’s Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, FYI). A Dutch court has ruled that

a minimalist rabbit character dreamed up by Sanrio Co., the Tokyo-based parent company of the Hello Kitty empire, infringes on the rights of her arch-nemesis, Miffy.

Do you love the idea that Kitty has an arch-nemesis as much as I do? A peremptory inspection of the characters appears to support the court’s decision. Given how generic they both look it’s hard for me to believe anyone deserves a copyright here. I mean how many ways are there to draw a cartoon bunny anyway?

life in hell

Oh, shut up Groening.

Why I’m over “Breast Cancer Awareness” marketing

tng-badge10 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."

pink-your-drink1-250x255 My current favorite bizarro pink item is the Chambord special breast cancer edition liquor bottles. They were brought to my attention via this wonderful blog post at Change.Org by Brie Cadman entitled “Pink Ribbon Hypocrisy: Boozing It Up For Breast Cancer.” Ms. Cadman is understandably irate over companies that contribute to the causes of breast cancer then trying to earn good will via the Big Pink:

The biggest offenders are fast food and alcohol companies. According to the National Cancer Institute, both obesity and alcohol are associated with an increased breast cancer risk. Yet that hasn’t stopped these companies from claiming their goods help support or even prevent the disease. First off is KFC, the company that seems to know no bounds when it comes to using women to sell their products. The last time we checked in with the fried-chicken-slinging folks, they were using college women’s bums to promote their own buns. But they’re also capitalizing on breast cancer by selling pink buckets and donating $0.50 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

While I don’t agree with all Ms. Cadman’s arguments, I think they are part of a much needed dash of reality. Consumers need to be a lot more diligent about what a company means when it says it is “supporting” a charity.

Some parts of this all this pinkosity I enjoy: Like the sight of professional baseball players having to make the Freudian subtext obvious by playing with pink bats. I just wonder how much good this actually does. I would be more impressed if more emphasis was put on helping an actual person cope with cancer treatment. Bring them a meal, if they want one. Hang out after the chemo when they have no energy and feel like crap and don’t want to be alone and are afraid they’re of being a burden to family and friends. Take them to a movie. Be available for middle of the night phone calls. Run errands, etc., etc., etc. Let’s move “cancer awareness” from the generic, wholesale level to a more personal, retail experience. It’s easy to support “people” with cancer, it is much harder to support an actual person.

And remember, Star Fleet cares about people with breast cancer.

Or, to quote DeathStarPR: “Earth, we can help you #beatcancer. Side effects may include loss of: sunsets, life on Earth, Earth itself. Because we care.#deathstarcares

Chevy harkens back to a time when women were things

Chevy stupidity

Chevy used the above last month as a billboard to celebrate last month’s Woodward Dream Cruise classic-car event. But if you missed it you can get your own copy at the company’s online store.

Ah, yes. The good old days. Back before the voting rights act and when you could still legally pay women less for doing the same work. Also, there were more Polack jokes. It’s been so long since I heard one of those. And carmakers didn’t have to add all those pesky (and expensive!) car safety features like … seat belts.

Can I get my money back from GM? And I don’t mean the bailout “repayment” they made by borrowing money from the US government to payback the US government.

Via AdFreak

Farewell – hopefully – to American Apparel

americanapparelAmerican Apparel’s brand promise was a unique mix of “clothes made in the USA” and porn. The company alleged it manufactured things in a responsible way. (Mass layoffs earlier this year of the illegal workers who made their product in the USA did away with that one.) AmAp’s approach to marketing is best described as an NC17 version of “nothing comes between me and my Calvin’s.”

For most businesses this would have just been another horrid example of sex sells. For AmAp it seems to have been a reflection of CEO Dov Charney’s “issues.” Charney, who took most of the pictures of company employees used in the ads, was the defendant in so many sex-harassment law suits that you couldn’t keep track of them.The wonderful practices didn’t stop there – no surprise. AmAp was also accused of firing employees who weren’t attractive enough and, Gawker reported that,

Charney "made store managers across the country take group photos of their employees so that he could personally judge people based on looks. He is tightening the AA ‘aesthetic,’ and anyone that he deems not good-looking enough to work there, is encouraged to be fired."

Happily Charney’s management style seems to have come back and bitten him in the ass. Today the Times reported that the company’s woes continued as it raised "substantial" doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern and warned it could breach a loan covenant, sending its shares down 22 percent to a lifetime low. This follows a Federal inquiry into AmAp finances which was spurred when the company’s auditor quit after warning of problems with the company’s financial reporting and the reliability of the company’s financial statement for ‘09.

BTW, Charney is the company’s largest shareholder. Huzzah. Justice, oddly enough, is served.

Vaseline launches skin-whitening Facebook app for India

whitey I really couldn’t top that headline. I’m not sure what’s more appalling the fact that Vaseline is doing this or the fact that they’re responding to an actual demand in the market place.

Skincare group Vaseline has introduced a skin-lightening application for Facebook in India, enabling users to make their faces whiter in their profile pictures. The download is designed to promote Vaseline’s range of skin-lightening creams for men, a huge and fast-growing market driven by fashion and a cultural preference for fairer skin.

So let me see if I got this right: Indian men want to look like Michael Jackson? Creeeeeepy.

Do they sell Barbie in India? They must. I wonder which skin color of Barbie sells more? Like I have to ask.

A character based on a pastry is killing Hello Kitty

anpanmanI just don’t want to live in a world without a nation as weird as Japan – and thankfully I don’t have to. Where else but Japan would you encounter Anpanman, which the NYT says is “a character that is based on a Japanese jam-filled pastry and is produced by Nippon Television”? (Dear NYT: An Anpan is filled with bean paste, not jam.) Further, where else would Jelly Donut Man be the best-selling character image in a nation obsessed with the images of cute cartoon characters?

According to the Tokyo-based research firm Character Databank (!!!!), Anpanman’s image is outselling the perennial powerhouse Pokémon and the rapidly fading Hello Kitty. This is quite a blow for Sanrio’s Kitty, who invented the category of cute characters created solely to sell product. Kitty is also facing challenge from two newcomers the panda Tarepanda, and Rilakkuma (“Relaxing bear.”FYI,  Rilakkuma has a sidekick Korilakkuma whose name translates into, and I’m not making this up, “co-relaxing bear.”) — which has charged up the Character Databank charts and ranks fifth in the latest survey.

As an aside (isn’t this whole blog an aside?) it is interesting to note Hello Kitty lost her long-held spot as Japan’s top-grossing character in 2002 and has never recovered. That is the same year that Mrs. CollateralDamage made her pilgrimage to Sanrio Purio Land, the HK theme park near Tokyo. Coincidence? I report. You decide.

 

10 Worst Marketing Blunders of 2009

1) NBC GOES ALL LENO ALL THE TIME

Edsel … New Coke … Lenovision.

NBC has joined the immortals of marketing stupidity. This year the molting peacock network and president Jeff “Have They Fired Me Yet?” Zucker decided to turn five of the primest pieces of prime-time real estate — the hour between 10 and 11 PM from Monday through Friday — into the Jay Leno hour.

The result? A 28% drop in viewership (through mid-November). This has not only killed network revenues but done in affiliates who have no lead-in for their late news casts.

Despite this, Jeff “10% Of Americans Are Unemployed and I’m Not?” Zucker recently said that all is going according to plan. “Right now, in terms of its performance on the television network, at NBC, in terms of ratings it’s doing exactly what we thought it would do.” Comcast recently bought NBC in what must have been an attempt to copy the government’s cash for clunkers program. Comcast shareholders can now only hope they are being lied to. The worst case scenario is that Mr. Z believes what he is saying.

On the plus side:

  1. It is now possible to buy every ad slot during the Leno show for less than the cost of a house in Detroit.
  2. The federal witness protection program is using guest slots to hide people.

2) TIGER, TIGER BURNING BRIGHT

(Originally #9 — Who knew?)

Because I have a really limited imagination I thought the big celeb marketing mishap story of the year would be Michael Vick’s failed attempt to become a spokesperson for PETA. Then along came Tiger who prefers women with bad nose jobs to the Swedish bikini model he is actually married to. The story broke on Nov. 27th, when Mrs. Woods apparently decided to prove her own golfing expertise. This was unfortunate for Accenture which two days earlier had kicked off its annual Tiger campaign. A print ad which ran in the Nov. 30th Wall Street Journal featured Tiger Woods walking in the rough under the headline: “The road to high performance isn’t always paved.” And watch out for the trees and fire hydrants. Accenture has since declawed its Tiger connection.

UPDATE: File this under “Pull the other one, it’s made of wood.”

“We decided several months ago to discontinue Gatorade Tiger Focus, along with some other products to make room for our planned series of innovative products in 2010,” Gatorade spokeswoman Jennifer Schmit said in an e-mailed statement.

3) BANKERS CUT BONUSES, INCREASE SALARY & BLAME JESUS

First the banking industry made a big show of cutting the obscene bonuses it was paying itself for going on the dole. Meanwhile they hoped no one would notice the allegedly eliminated bonuses were now being paid as plain old salary.

But wait … that’s not all!

Apparently still feeling that their efforts to destroys the economy were still underappreciated, bankers started claiming Jesus wanted them to do it.

“The injunc­tion of Jesus to love others as our­selves is an endorse­ment of self-​interest,” Goldman’s [inter­na­tional adviser Brian] Grif­fiths said Oct. 20, his voice echo­ing around the gold-​mosaic walls of St. Paul’s Cathe­dral, whose 365-feet-high dome towers over the City, London’s finan­cial dis­trict. “We have to tol­er­ate the inequal­ity as a way to achiev­ing greater pros­per­ity and oppor­tu­nity for all.”

How much LSD do you have to take to interpret Scripture this way? However much it is, it is certainly being passed out at all the best financial institutions. Two weeks later, Barclays CEO John Varley spoke at the venerable St. Martin-in-the-Fields and tried to wrap the Bible around his bonus.

“There is no conflict between doing business in an ethical and responsible way and making money. We make our biggest contribution to society by being good at what we do. Profit is not satanic.”

I guess it all depends on who gets to determine how we define ethical and responsible. Perhaps Varley could have gotten away with this specious argument had he not added this gloss to the text after the service: “Is Christianity and banking compatible? Yes. And is Christianity and fair reward compatible? Yes.” (Not a good sign when a banker can’t even get his verb and subject numbers to add up.) Hey John, can we parse the word “fair” for a moment?

I believe the renowned 20th century theologian Ray Price put it best when he asked, “Would Jesus wear a Rolex on His television show?”

4: GM EXPLAINS AWAY ITS “LITTLE PROBLEM”

In the face of the greatest single corporate collapse in the history of the world, GM rolled out an ad that inadvertently explains the company’s failure.

It is a veritable symphony of weasel words.

Let’s be completely honest, no company wants to go through this.

By the end of that first sentence it is clear this ad has no intention whatsoever of living up to that initial clause. You can tell because the final pronoun is never made specific. That “this” covers billions of sins. It implies we all know what has happened without saying what that was. It is everything to everyone and thus means nothing. Is “this” an utter failure of leadership? Or is it an inability to have even the vaguest understanding of the needs of the marketplace? Sadly, I suspect “this” is “an economic calamity no one could have foreseen” – the preferred phrase of everyone from Alan Greenspan to, well, the Detroit-based car makers. There is no taking responsibility anywhere in this ad just as there has been no taking responsibility at GM for decades. (Read more here)

5) VOGUE: BLACKFACE IS THE NEW BLACK

Vogue The October issue of French Vogue had a photo spread of the very Caucasian Lara Stone painted head to toe in dark make-up. Vogue went with the old “I’m sorry if you found my words insulting” defense and told the Daily Mail “it was unaware it had caused offence, but said it could not give any further comment.” (Worth noting: Italian Vogue’s issue for the same month was filled with actual Black women.) In a keeping up with the KKK move inflight magazine EasyJet ran a photo spread featuring brooding generic models dressed in black POSING IN FRONT OF BERLIN’S HOLOCAUST MONUMENT.

Fortunately for me marketers just can’t seem to figure out that Nazi = Bad. This years examples:

LATE BREAKING STUPIDITY UPDATE: NYT runs gift guide with special section devoted to:

“Somali fashion, do-it-yourself henna kits, children’s books that draw inspiration from the lives of Barack Obama and Sonia Sotomayor: it’s not hard to find gifts created for and by people of color this holiday season.” (emphasis added)

Why it’s almost like they’re real people!

6) CHOCOLATES SHAPED LIKE PRESIDENT OBAMA & MORE

CandyExpress said its commemorative Barack Obama heads would only be available for a limited time, unfortunately it wasn’t limited enough. Off the top of my head I would say there are three things Mr. Obama should not be used to advertise: Chocolate, fried chicken (a German company did it), watermelon (that’s a yet). However, the Russians came up with a bunch of things I’d never thought of. They used our President to advertise a tanning salon, a dental clinic and pre-packaged ice cream with the slogan “Everyone’s talking about it: dark inside white!” The bars have a chocolate-flavored center embedded in a layer of vanilla.

Obama Daughters DollsHowever these are just idiocy, the sheer stupidity award goes to Beanie Baby maker Ty. First they decided to sell two new dolls named Sweet Sasha and Marvelous Malia. Then they tried to deny they were named after America’s First Kids.

“[We] chose the dolls’ names because “they are beautiful names,” not because of any resemblance to President Obama’s daughters, said spokeswoman Tania Lundeen. “There’s nothing on the dolls that refers to the Obama girls,” Lundeen said. “It would not be fair to say they are exact replications of these girls. They are not.”

Sorry dear, but in order to get away with a lie like that you have to be a bank.

7) STUPIDITY? THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT

The word of the year really should have been app. The ubiquitous iPhone has spawned an industry of companies trying to market their wares by providing allegedly useful and/or humorous apps. To paraphrase Pogo, this confronted Pepsi with an insurmountable opportunity. The company released an app called Before You Score for its Mountain Dew AMP brand. The app gives you 24 different types of women (sorority girl, etc.) and offers “appropriate” pick-up lines for each type and other similar information.

Not to be outdone, LawFirms.com, a legal referral site, decided to get attention with a campaign featuring the (fictitious) app iCoyote. It “packs all of the features of a real immigrant smuggler into the iPhone. Using GPS, navigate through the patrol packed desert without worrying about that pesky Border Patrol.”

The app included a variety of features such as:

  • iWife. It “will take care of finding marriage prospects for you. Aggregating and analyzing data from a variety of online sources [to] match you up with only the most promising US Citizen candidates.”
  • iLawyer. “Homeland Security is Cracking down. Not to worry. With iLawyer, you can find an attorney to convince the immigration court to grant Asylum Protection. A Green Card is a finger swipe away.”
  • Weather Monitors. “The desert can get hot, and trying to cross it when it’s 120 degrees is not fun. Get up-to-date weather forecasts to pick the right time and ensure your trip to the US is comfortable and fun-packed.”
  • City Statistics. “San Antonio? Albuquerque? Tucson? San Diego? Not sure which is best? Get unemployment statistics, current average wages, cost of living expenses and more. Get the job you want, at the right wage, tax free!”

8 AMERICAN GIRL SELLS “HOMELESS GIRL” DOLL

Your child can learn that the homeless are just like real people once you spend $95 to buy her a “less fortunate” playmate for her other American Girl doll(s). The latest addition to the American Girl line of how-do-you-justify-it-ly expensive dolls is Gwen Thompson. Ms. Thompson

wheelchair and her mother Janine fell on hard times when her father lost his job; they later lost the house as they were unable to keep up payments. Soon after, Gwen’s father left them and they became homeless the fall before the start of the book’s events. Initially, Gwen’s mother has them live in their car until the winter comes; she then takes them to Sunrise House, a place for homeless women and children. Sunrise House helps them get on their feet and eventually get a new apartment.

And should you also want to teach the kid that the disabled are people too, American Girl also sells a wheelchair for $30.

9) KFC UNDERESTIMATES OPRAH’S POPULARITY

Why would you pay to have Oprah endorse your product if you didn’t know what the result be? In May the chain formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken paid Ms. Winfrey to discuss its new grilled chicken on her show. (This is part of an ongoing effort to rebrand KFC as someplace that serves something besides FC. By the time it’s over KFC will be Rhode Island Clam Shack. But I digress.) In addition to giving product to her audience — and how pissed were they? Other folks got a new car and they get a food experiment – viewers could go to a website and download a coupon for up to four free two-piece chicken meals with two sides and a biscuit. If there’s one thing the US loves more than Oprah, it’s Oprah and free food.

You’ll never guess what happened. OK, so maybe you will.

Several bajillion people downloaded the coupon and sprinted to the nearest KFC. Well, the food disappeared faster than a dollar bill on the floor of the Senate. As a result somefranchisees started refusing to accept the coupon, some told people the promotion was over for the day, some quickly pointed to the “while supplies last” clause, the more creative said that coupons with barcode numbers ending in “1234” are not valid. Look closely at the barcode below to see what that meant.

All this brought new meaning to the chain’s horrible new tagline: “Unthink What You Thought About KFC.”

Another chain, El Pollo Loco, moved smart and fast and sent out a twitter saying they’d accept the coupons on Mother’s Day. Soon Oprah was having to apologize for the stupidity and KFC issued rain checks to the disgruntled.

All of which goes to prove that whatever you have to pay Oprah, the ROI is REAL!

10) (tie) BLACKWATER, NIGERIA & SWINE INDUSTRY LAUNCH REBRANDING EFFORTS

  • In an attempt to change all the nasty connotations that go along with being mercenaries, Blackwater Worldwide changed its name to 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.

That exciting place seems to include a lot of lawsuits.

“At international airports, in trains, in shopping malls, and almost everywhere, every Nigerian is a marked person,” Dora Akunyili, information minister and self-styled chief image maker said at the launch of the re-branding campaign this week. “We are pulled aside for questioning. We are seen as potential drug pushers or fraudsters. We are unfortunately denied the benefit of the doubt.”

  • Swine flu is no laughing matter. Especially if you’re the American Pork Association. They went into overdrive screaming about how it was hurting their sales and enlisted Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin who constantly referred to the “so-called swine flu.” Unfortunately humor trumps branding every time. Thus we got headlines like:

“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.

CIO writer and friend Al Sacco came up with this: Swine flu isn’t a scary enough name. It needs a slogan, too: “Pork Plague, the (Other) White Death,” for example.

DISHONORABLE MENTIONS

AMAZON DELISTS GAY AND LESBIAN BOOKS

The online retailer blamed an “employee in France” for a “software glitch” which oddly delisted gay and lesbian themed books from its search listings. (Example: Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain vanished, but not her book The Shipping News in which all the sex is hetero.)

Amazon managers found that an employee who happened to work in France had filled out a field incorrectly and more than 50,000 items got flipped over to be flagged as “adult,” the source said.

CRAIGSLIST CEO SAYS SITE HAS NO SEX RELATED ADS

“I would not describe any section of our site as ’sex related,’ ” [Craigslist CEO Jim] Buckmaster wrote in response to a series of e-mailed questions from the Globe. He acknowledged that Craigslist offers an “erotic services” section that should not include more than “legitimate escort services, sensual massage, exotic dancers, etc.,” but said that offers to exchange sexual favors for money are “strictly prohibited” and removed from the site.

SPECIAL PENGUIN OF IRONY CITATION:

THE WISCONSIN TOURISM FOUNDATION
had to change its name to the Tourism Federation of Wisconsin

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BONUS: A few other totally wrong products from the year