On Corporate Marketing Madness

The X-Men 3 game releases today. It's not directly based on the film; rather, it fills-in-the-blanks between X2: X-Men United and X-Men 3: The Last Stand, and features Wolverine, Iceman, and Nightcrawler as playable characters with Hugh Jackman, Alan Cumming, and Patrick Stewart lending their voices to the game.

Corporate sent stores a box of promo items, Axe shower gel samples, to give away to customers purchasing the game. From the attached marketing memo:

These samples should be given to any interested customer who makes a purchase in your store. Please begin distributing these shower gel samples on May 16th to coincide with the X-Men launch and continue to distribute until the entire quantity is diminished. The samples are available while supplies last.

Listed below are some suggestions on how to tastefully offer these samples to customers without being offensive:

  • “May I offer you a sample from Axe's new men's line?”
  • “Are you interested in a free sample?”
  • “Can I interest you in a free sample from the new Axe Unlimited men's line?”

The memo then goes on to list reasons why stores should be excited about distributing the Axe samples and what benefits participating in the promotion will mean to the company as a whole.

But wait! The memo says “tastefully offer” and “without being offensive.” Could there be a problem with the message the Axe shower gel sample bears? Let's look at the packaging of the Axe shower gel.

I wish I had a scanner. Words will have to suffice.

The shower gel comes in a clear package, not unlike the package baseball cards come in. One side shows the Axe shower gel package, Axe Snake Peel, while the other side bears an orange card with a message and the image of a scantily-clad female gypsy sword swallower. And the message the card bears–

Seduced by a Retired Sword Swallower?
[The gypsy sword swallower image is here]
Join The Order of the Serpentine
and scrub away the shame from your
questionable hook-up.

Hmm, not a message appropriate for all ages, true. I could easily imagine a ten year-old saying to his mother, “Mom, what's a 'questionable hook-up'.” Yes, that will go over quite well.

Let's open the package, shall we? Because the back side of the card stock bears a message, too.

By using this sample
you are granted temporary
membership into the Order of
The Serpentine. Debaucherous
behavior–like starting a
gentleman's club in your
living room–will result in
the loss of all rights and
priviledges therein.

Axe Snake Peel
Sanctioned Shower Scrub
The Order of The Serpentine

Hmm, the backside of the card, which can't be read through the packaging, isn't that bad.

But clearly Corporate marketing had a change of heart on distributing these promo items to customers–they sent out an e-mail directive that reads:

Due to the “edginess” of the advertisement included with these samples, stores should NOT distribute these to customers. Stores that have started giving out the Axe samples should return their remaining quanitites.

And an address is included with the e-mail for where the ship the case.

So, the company spends money on a promo item for a game, then spends the money to ship it to the store, then wants stores to spend money to ship it back because it's inappropriate, and no one thought to check to make sure the advertisement wasn't inappropriate in the first place? This is just throwing bad money after bad, no matter how you cut it.

The corporate mentality.

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