martes, 22 de mayo de 2007

SEO Copywriting Blog - Marketing Disasters

Unlucky/Untimely Disasters

1. Sars Drink (Unfortunate Turned Fortunate)

Believe it or not, sales of the soft drink Sars have increased since the publicity over the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus hit the headlines, The East & Bays Courier news paper reported Wednesday. The caramel-flavored drink, produced by Australian company Golden Circle, has the same name as the acronym for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. New Zealand manager of Golden Circle, Brian Winter, said sales of the drink labeled Sars had increased over the last month. The report said that dairy owners have also noticed an increase in sales of the drink. Panmure Mini Mart owner Bashar Ahmed sold out of the drink a couple of days ago and said there has been an increase in sales over the last few months. The Westminster Dairy in St Heliers has also noticed the drink's popularity. "People laugh at it. Many people point it out. Jokingly they ask: 'Is this a medicine for SARS or protection against SARS?'," one dairy owner said. Mr. Winter said that the company was not thinking about changing the name of the drink and was unlikely to do so if current sales trends continue. -source

2. Ayds Diet Candy

-"Ayds helps you lose weight" or "Why take diet pills when you can enjoy Ayds?" or even "Thank Goodness For Ayds."

Ayds was an appetite-suppressant candy which enjoyed strong sales in the 1970s and early 1980s. It was available in chocolate, chocolate mint, butterscotch or caramel flavors, and later a peanut butter flavor was introduced. The original packaging used the phrase "Ayds Reducing Plan vitamin and mineral Candy"; a later version used the phrase "appetite suppressant candy." The active ingredient in the candy as reported by the New York Times was phenylpropanolamine, presumably to reduce the sense of taste to reduce eating However, public awareness of the disease AIDS beginning around mid-1981 caused problems for the brand due to the similarity of names. Initially sales were not affected, but by 1988 the chairman of Dep Corporation announced that the company was seeking a new name because sales had dropped as much as 50 percent due to publicity about the disease. The product's name was changed to Diet Ayds (Aydslim in Britain), but eventually it was withdrawn from the market. -Wikipedia

This is an interesting contrast to the SARS example. The SARS drink was lucky in that it was not negatively affected by its association with a deadly disease. Ayds Diet Candy, however, was not so lucky. Perhaps it was their unfortunate ill-fitting taglines that helped do them in.

Accidental/Unintentional Disasters

1. has launched a new campaign centering on its "Algorithm." They are promoting it as the best in the industry. Most in the industry (as well as most web users) would agree this claim is completely unfounded and blatantly wrong. Google is commonly-held as the search engine with the most relevant results and thus with the most advanced algorithm. Making matters even worse, has been using cryptic (and easily misinterpreted) billboards with the phrasing "The Algorithm Killed Jeeves." When I first saw this billboard, I immediately thought it might have been an ad from Google, promoting its algorithm's superiority over, whose market share has been steadily declining. It was very surprising when I found out this was actually an ad for, claiming search superiority.

It would be interesting to do a comparison on how many incremental searches the "Algorithm" billboard campaign drove to Google, Yahoo and Ask. I think most people saw the signs, were confused, and went home to do a search on Google. (this is what I did) By driving incremental searches on Google, did Ask help Google push up their unique reach and market share for April? Of course, I'm ignoring the longer term branding value of a campaign like this but the short-term effects are interesting.

2. GE Miners Campaign

GE's "Model Miners" commercial was launched amid a good deal of controversy. One comment in the New York Times pointed out that the video's message crossed sex with a pro-labor miners’ song that is distinctly Marxist: "You load 16 tons and whaddya get? / Another day older and deeper in debt. / Saint Peter doncha call me 'cause I can’t go / I owe my soul to the company store." And a critic in the online magazine Slate noted that coal miners still die of black lung disease, making it hard to consider coal "beautiful," as the ad's narrator says. GE’s intent was to present the company "in a clever, often humorous way," I'd say they missed the mark with this one.

The song's chorus came from a letter Merle received from his brother lamenting the death of World War II journalist Ernie Pyle, killed while covering combat in the Pacific in 1945. John Travis wrote, "It's like working in the coal mines. You load sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt." Merle also recalled a remark his father would make to neighbors when asked how he was doing: "I can't afford to die. I owe my soul to the company store. " This referred to coal-company owned stores where miners bought food and supplies with money advanced by the company, called "scrip." Later released on Capitol's 1947 LP "Folk Songs From The Hills," the song almost immediately began to generate controversy, causing Travis himself, problems, in the anti-communist, Cold War hysteria of the late forties. Some in government saw songs dealing with workers' woes, and folk music "activists" as potentially subversive.

Bad Translation Disasters

1. Pocari Sweat

The reference to the bodily fluid resulting from perspiration in the name of the beverage tends to have a certain off-putting or humorous connotation for native English speakers. However, the name was chosen by the manufacturers originally for the purpose of marketing the product as a sports drink in Japan, where people generally do not mentally translate names appearing in English and are therefore not bothered by the connotation. It was largely derived from the notion of what it is intended to supply to the drinker: all of the nutrients and electrolytes lost when sweating. (The first part of the name, Pocari, means "like a cloud floating in the sky" or "a situation in which a cloud is floating in the sky" in Japanese, and has a connotation of lightness, buoyancy, and ease.) "Sweat" was apparently intended to suggest diligence and its fruits - the idea intending to connote to the user that Pocari Sweat works to make one feel fresh and relaxed. However, some Japanese apparently drop "sweat" from the name in common usage. -Wikipedia

2. Osram Lights

A lighting system company from Munich, Osram's name translates poorly into Polish. "Srac" is the infinitive form of the Polish verb "to sh*t." "Osram" is future tense, perfective, first person singular: "I will sh*t on you completely."

Just the thing you want to see in the lamp over your dinner table...

3. Electrolux

While a company may be able to escape messing up a literal translation, it must always contend with slang. Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux met this slang issue when it ran these ads in the United States:

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