November 21, 2002
My Darling, Is That Manure Stick You Have On?
Darling, Is That Manure Stick You Have on?
world-class marketing screw-ups
by Steve Kayser, Cincom's
Expert Access Editor and PR Manager
Is there any more expensive
way to throw away money with such arrogant disregard for common sense? Or, to do
it with such condescending, confounding, disparate, and creative personalities?
Is there any more effective
way to get people to scratch their heads with befuddled looks and say,
"What marketing bonehead thought up that commercial?"
But, Steve, aren't you a
Obviously the reader doesn't know me.
Do I look like a marketing bonehead to you?
No ... well, maybe.
I confess. I'm in marketing
too. And yes, I lump myself in with the knuckleheads referenced above.
But, recently I watched
several commercials that absolutely floored me. Totally nonsensical, beyond even
my warped sense of artistic marketing deficiencies.
Now I consider myself quite
intellectual. My IQ is (let's play hi-low, I have to show some discretion
here so as not to embarrass fellow readers) between 50 and 75 (lower during work
hours - higher during NCAA March Madness). But when watching the aforementioned
I didn't get the message. I wasn't even sure it was in a language
known to man.
I couldn't say what product was being sold, if any.
I couldn't decipher why, if I figured out number two, I would want
to buy it anyway. No benefit, no
Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
And finally, I couldn't figure out how anyone besides a
lamebrained, half-witted, discombobulated imbecile with no fiscal responsibility
to his employees, shareholders, investors or owners, would okay the budget to
produce the commercial, let alone air it. (Though secretly I yearned to meet
him. I have a cool marketing campaign designed to rollout a hypothetical,
superluminal donkey-shaped quantum particle-powered car for the NASCAR circuit.)
Some World-Class Marketing Screw-Ups (or
... how to end your marketing career quickly without really trying)
Now, every business
discipline has its fair share of screw-ups. But, when marketing folks screw up,
it's typically on a grand scale. Spectacular ... and funny (unless you're the
one paying for it).
For example, a beer company
wondered why sales were close to non-existent in a European country they were
trying to penetrate. They had a slogan that was remarkably similar to, if not
identical, to "Turn It Loose."
Well, when translated into the native language, it came out as,
You think that might have
been the problem?
How about this one (one of
my favorites)? The Scandinavian manufacturer, Electrolux, rolled out an American
campaign that, when translated, caused a few titters.
Sucks Like an Electrolux."
Nice rhyme and it grabs you,
doesn't it? I mean for a tagline ... it's a killer.
And who wouldn't appreciate
the bad taste (or more aptly ... smell) of this campaign from a multinational
hair-product company. The product was called "Mist
Stick." Has a certain elegance, certain chic, certain ambiance
Sales in a foreign country
were slightly hindered by the translation of
"Mist Stick" into:
Surprisingly, not many
people plopped down their hard-earned money for it. (However, the marketing
director was rumored to have been repeatedly assaulted with a manure stick as he
was run out of town.)
romantics out there, can you imagine
the wooing possibilities?
Obviously, these marketing
mistakes centered on cross-cultural, vernacular, and incorrect translations. So
the obvious fix would to be more visual ... don't you think?
That's it. Show. Don't tell.
Less is more!
An American baby food
company tried that in Africa. They used the same packaging as used in the
which includes a picture of a cuddly, cute baby.
Once again, the first indicator of a problem was ... no sales.
African companies put
pictures of what's inside the jars (contents) on the outside of the jars.
there was no taste (that was in bad taste wasn't it?) or market for babies in a
Even if they were cute as
So, when you think things
are going bad, your sales and marketing campaigns are floundering, and you feel
stupid, perk up!
You could be marketing
Steve is currently Cincom's Expert Access
Editor and PR Manager. In his spare time, Steve models kilts for
The Manly Kilt Wearing Man's monthly
magazines. Steve also headlines fundraising events for his run at an Olympic
Gold Medal in the kilt-wearing mechanical bull riding competition to be held in
Cincinnati, Ohio in 2050. For more info, you can contact Steve at