Here is the two-hundred-and-tenth edition of Tom Nob’s Thursday Notes. TN2 serves as a brief summary of what good humor we have found during the past week plus some suggestions for the upcoming weekend.
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“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” This quote is commonly attributed to John Wanamaker who many consider to be the father of modern advertising renowned as the creator of the money-back guarantee and the first retailer to place half-page and full-page newspaper ads. As an early innovator he quickly realized that it was very difficult to determine if an advertisement actually caused the customer to make a purchase. Conversely, it has been far easier to determine when the customer has decided to not purchase a product based on marketing gone bad.
The archives of the advertising age are replete with examples of promotional campaigns that only succeeded in repelling its target customer. The most common source of marketing misses tend to stem from the failure to appreciate cultural differences or simple errors in translation. The example typically cited as being the most egregious was Chevrolet’s attempt to market the Nova in Mexico where Nova translates as “doesn’t go.” However, the king of marketing miscues may have just been de-throned.
Recently the Canadian division of Vitaminwater, which is owned by Coca-Cola, devised a marketing campaign which paired English and French words under the cap as way of celebrating bilingualism in Canada. The company brought in native speakers of both languages to ensure that the words selected were appropriate but not necessarily how they might be paired. And, thus, the campaign went horribly wrong when a woman from Alberta opened her bottle of Vitaminwater, turned over the cap, and read “YOU RETARD”. It really didn’t matter that the second word translates as “late” in French; the damage was done. Parents, families and friends of individuals who excel in life in spite of mental and physical challenges take great offense to the word retard being used as a pejorative and social media has proven to be an effective venue for reclaiming the word from its heretofore role as a byword for, shall we say, underachievement. Vitamin soon found themselves apologizing, ending the campaign, pulling bottles off the shelves, and donating money to charities. The company learned the painful lesson that once the bottle is opened and “you late” is released it is already too late to undo the damage.