Sometimes, it seems like products and images are just rolled out without anyone asking a very important question – could this be misconstrued? Let me illustrate this with the beautiful Summer gift to the Internet that was the original Trump-Pence Logo.
Nothing I could say would be better than what the internet came up with the weekend this came out.
There are so many questions here: was this just a mistake? Did the American flag motif blind the designer to what the T was doing to the P? Did the designer do this on purpose as some kind of sabotage? Most importantly, how many people had to say yes for this to reach the public?
This is my biggest question here, because these logos aren’t just created in some guy’s basement. Obama’s original logo started with a team of six designers, and then once the core decisions were made the logo as it stood was given to the Obama campaign’s designers and web developers, who tweaked and then ultimately approved the design.
Marketing gaffes happen all the time, because we’re imperfect beings who routinely make mistakes. Some of these mistakes come from ignorance – anyone who has ever spent five minutes studying marketing and/or cultural differences has seen a list like this going through fuck-ups caused by culture clashes.
Gerber – food for babies, from babies. Yum!
Some of these shenanigans were caused by just being out of touch.
In 10 months, we will be far enough removed from the cultural context that I’ll have to add an explanation here.
What I really want to talk about here, however, are the times when a quick Q&A session with people unafraid to speak their minds will avert a disaster. Times when a simple “hey, does this name remind you of anything?” would have been the difference between being bland and looking like a dickhead. And these occurrences don’t just happen in the marketing sphere – they happen in your corporate office too. I’ve never been one to turn down a chance to take the piss out of my bosses, so I’m going to list out a few ridiculous things that get thrown around in my office for your entertainment.
Let’s first talk about change for the sake of change, a common source of frustration for us peons in the workplace who simply cannot fathom the complexities of management. The classic Management Shuffle – a variation of the Electric Slide – is a perfect example of change for change’s sake. Responsibilities are the same! Pay is the same! Titles are slightly different! Hooray, change!
Boogie woogie woogie
The aspect of change for change’s sake that I want to address here, however, is the Terminology Change. Do you feel that your workplace is stale? Are your employees not demonstrating the desired level of engagement and buy-in? What you need is a Terminology Change – the age-old manager’s tool to spice up office culture.
Because even marriages get stale
BUT, if you can see where I’m headed here, this terminology change is the perfect storm for ridiculous and/or inappropriate results. We had a terminology change about a year and a half ago. For some unknowable reason, management decided that employees weren’t getting excited enough about our “year-end bonus.” What could they do to get even more buy-in? Change the name, of course! Because a new, fancy buzzword is just what we need to forget about the 40% tax rate.
So what do you do as a boss who wants to both update the terminology and be transparent about the function of a bonus? You re-name the bonus based on what its purpose is, and then create a zippy initialism to match. In our case, management stopped talking about our “bonus” and started talking about our “short-term incentive.” With the zippy initialism of STI.
Now. Maybe, as a super-important manager, you don’t have the time or energy to educate yourself about the new and improved terms the kids are using these days. But it strikes me that it wouldn’t have taken an extensive investigation to discover that STI can also stand for sexually-transmitted infection. They must wonder why their audience tries to hold in giggles when they talk about “maximizing your STI” and “making sure you get your STI this year.”
Pictured: my boss
However, my all-time favorite example of preventable mishaps happened only about two months after I first started working here at Assholes, Inc. They were unveiling a new project that would drive data automation and streamline our workflow, and in front of the entire department they started talking about this new project: Project Manhattan.
Tangentially related side note: read ^ The Manhattan Projects ^. So freaking good.
How exactly did multiple groups of people in multiple business lines with multiple levels of seniority possibly miss the fact that Project Manhattan sounds an awful lot like The Manhattan Project? It is so clear, in fact, that no one attached to the project had even considered this angle (or felt comfortable enough sharing it) because after the first ill-fated presentations, the next time anyone mentioned the project it was suddenly referred to as Project Brooklyn with absolutely no acknowledgement of the previous name. Much like Melissa McCarthy’s “SNL” Sean Spicer impression, “Manhattan” became our word, that we were quoting from them but really we were the ones saying it, not them.
Pictured: my face 90% of the time
The best part? One of my coworkers (who has since left for better pastures, praise be) asked if there was a plan B “if Project Manhattan, for lack of a better word…detonates.” That was the first and last applause I have ever given in a meeting, and I regret none of it.
Pictured: my career
If there were a moral to this post, it would be this: the dumbest mistakes are the easiest to catch. Just run your next big idea by somebody who isn’t paid to suck your dick, and you’ll avoid most PR nightmares.