Written by Noemi Pollack on January 31, 2010.
What a week! Apple finally raised the curtain on its greatly anticipated new tablet, the iPad, sending the Internet aglow for 24 hours, only to have some public nonsense erupt about the use of the word “pad,” which could easily have been but a nonsensical blip, had it not made the front page of The New York Times on January 29; President Obama delivered a much anticipated State of the Union, which instantly flared national emotions, from pride to fury; an American icon turned up as Italian; a German car company unleashed a storm through its Green Police ad campaign; and finally, Toyota delivered an expensive “Mea Culpa.”
1 Blip: Could anyone ever have thought that the name of the new Apple tablet, iPad, would evoke awkward associations with feminine hygiene products? According to Michael Cronan, a naming consultant in Berkeley, Calif., whose company has helped come up with brand names like TiVo and Kindle, “many naming experiments show that women tend to reflexively relate words like “pad” and “flow” to bodily concerns.”
C’mon. Apple’s marketing team must be incredulous. Happily their response was no comment.
2 Blunders: McItaly and Green Police. An American export icon turns Italian, and a German company brings up reminders of the Third Reich. Unreal. Along with apple pie, the golden arches of McDonalds are recognized internationally as very American indeed. And, along comes McItaly, so named because it apparently will use only Italian ingredients. When McDonalds showed up in Moscow in the early ’90, the company also used only Russian ingredients but it did not become McRussia. Speaking of diluting what a brand stands for…. According to The Guardian‘s Word of Mouth foodblog, Matthew Fort, the burgers are a “monstrous act of national betrayal.” Couldn’t agree more.
Audi’s misstep in picking an environmentally friendly name for their Super Bowl social media campaign, as in “Green Police,” without first checking it out, was a huge marketing blunder. Readily available research would have revealed that the name was used in Nazi Germany to refer to the German Order Police. Whether or not consumers will know their history enough to connect the dots, does not justify such oversight. An apology is in order. And also maybe a new marketing team that gets that research can forestall damage to a company’s image.
1 Headache: the $550 million operating cost headache for Toyota, as it recalled 5.6 million vehicles in the United States alone, swallowed production shutdowns and searched for fixes to have the problem go away, sooner than later. However, much like the Johnson & Johnson Tylenol recall of the ‘80s, which left the company unscathed because of its strong and open responses, Toyota is doing what is right in an effort to keep the public trust. Its president has issued a Mea Culpa apology and company communiqués continue to update the public.
And finally the one word that is rarely heard, if at all, in political speeches — Decency. President Obama used this word in his State of the Union address, citing the, “fundamental decency that has always been at the core of the American people, that lives on.” A word to be remembered…
Thank God it’s almost — Monday.