My Darling, Is That Manure Stick You Have on?
Some 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 marketing bonehead?
Obviously the reader doesn't know me.
Do I look like a marketing bonehead to you?
No ... well, maybe.
I confess. Occasionally I delve into marketing. And yes, I occasioanlly have to 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.
Has High IQ
Now I consider myself quite the 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 commercials:
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,
"Suffer from Diarrhea."
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.
"Nothing 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 doesn't it?
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.)
For you 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 U.S., which includes a picture of a cuddly, cute baby.
Oops. 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. Apparently, in Africa, there was no taste (that was in bad taste wasn't it?) or market for babies in a jar.
Even if they were cute as can be.
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 Manure Stick.
About Steve Kayser: Steve is currently Cincom's Expert Access Editor and PR Manager. In his spare time, Steve models kilts for Un-Vanity, Non-GQ and 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 email@example.com