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A Halloween Special: Branding Horror Stories


Ah, Halloween. What a lovely time of year for ghosts and ghouls and children (indistinguishable at times) to roam free, scaring the living daylights out of neighbours, parents, innocent pedestrians, paranoid homeowners and diabetics, and generally making things go bump, crash, boom, bang, ouch in the night.

But I digress; while the capitalist art of trick and treating kicks into high gear on this most ghastly of days, let us turn our attentions instead to a different sort of horror… the kind that drives customers away, never to return. Well, possibly. Or at least until the next sale.

 

Magic Gone Terribly Wrong

In the wrong hands, magic can be a terrifying force. Now replace “magic” with “social media”, and you have pretty much the same thing, at least in the case of Paradigm Mall and its “magical” moments.

It all began with a customer commenting on the state of the lifts at the mall, to which she received the model reply of “We’re looking into it.” Enter He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (actually Freddie Toh, if you must, in fact, name), whose snarky reply “Again looking…” received a quick (but unfortunately, rather tragic) response “Yes, Freddie, Paradigm Mall does not know magic. Cannot snap fingers and make changes. You can? Then we want to hire you.” Oh, the horror. And that hardly begins to describe the atrocious back-and-forth (and ungodly GRAMMAR) that followed.

And so Paradigm Mall’s “magic” reputation was born, with the online community and even the conventional press picking up on the conversation, generally blowing things out of proportion. The social media team was slammed for their incredibly unprofessional behaviour (true), Freddie Toh was accused of being a skulking, s**t-stirring troll (also true), the mall management was berated for paying peanuts and letting “monkeys” take over their online presence (unconfirmed), the mall received offers from magicians for hire to provide their services to save the mall (funny, but true) and this was all actually a publicity stunt meant to take the mall viral (interesting, but probably false).

Paradigm Mall issued an apology several hours after the initial event and attempted to make amends by assuring fans that would be looking into improving their services in the future. All together now: “Again looking…”

 

Enough to Make Your Teeth Chatter

You’ve heard of genetically-modified Frankenfoods, but what happens when a brand decides to embark on a bizarre change of focus in the name of diversification? “We’ve created a monster” just about sums it up.

Take Colgate, probably the world’s most recognisable toothpaste, packed with fluoride and chloride and mint and all that tooth-and-gum-cleaning, halitosis-defeating, germ-massacring power. In Malaysia, it’s even become a generic term for toothpaste; “Can you get me a Colgate from the store?” “Who left the Colgate cap off again!” “Argh, who put Colgate on my sensitive bits!!!”

So you sort of wonder why on earth they would do something as ridiculous as putting their name on a range of food products. I mean, would you actually eat something called Colgate’s Kitchen Entrees (that is, if you actually ATE entrees)? Thought not. Well, maybe some children might be excited by it, but for the rest of us, indulging in food named after a hygiene product is just plain WRONG. Think about it; LISTERINE Soda? PANTENE 3-Minute Noodles? TOILET DUCK Duck Pies?

Suffice to say, the range didn’t take off (who on earth ever thought that it would?) and the move affected Colgate’s sales in the US. Now, time to wash out that horrid taste from your mouth with you-know-what.

 

A Sexually Transmitted Abomination of Science

“Did you watch Gonorrhea yesterday?” “Oh God, I can’t get enough of Chlamydia!” “Really? HPV: Bangkok is premiering today?”

OK, so STDs (that’s Sexually Transmitted Diseases to the virgins in the house) aren’t a laughing matter. But that’s what you get when you don’t do your research; in this case, a TV channel that’s the domain of Trekkies, Warsies, Whovians and other geek / nerd types being named after a slang word for syphilis.

Take a bow, SyFy (originally Sci Fi, a much more respectable and beloved name) for completely undermining the reputation of fanboys everywhere by missing such an obvious detail when you know that these are people who will watch an episode of Big Bang Theory 50 times to catch every single pop culture reference. Plus, have a round of applause for being doubly ironic, seeing as fanboys are often stereotyped as those who usually end up not getting any.

With those responsible claiming that “the thing that we got back from our 18-to-34 techno-savvy crowd, which is quite a lot of our audience, is actually this is how you’d text it… it made us feel much cooler, much more cutting-edge, much more hip” it’s no surprise that the new name and branding have been as universally panned as that awful Wonder Woman TV pilot, and alienated (heh) many fans. That’s what happens when you think you audience will swallow everything you throw at them, (genital) warts and all. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

So, got a branding horror story of your own to share? We’d like to hear from you. No, you don’t have to wait till next Halloween.

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