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Squid #477
(published March 11, 2010)
Ask the Giant Squid: The Parable of the Three Marketing Executives
Who is Poor Mojo's Giant Squid?
Dear Giant Squid,

I came across a man the other day who had a paper written by a lady who ate dog food for a week. Apparently to see what her dog was eating or if it was tasty. I'm thinking that if dog food tastes as good as it smells, then I might consider a change in diet. Mmmmm beggin bacon strips. Which brand of dog food would you consider crossing the line for?


Dearest Rizzo,

There is an apocryphal story told of marketers wandering the deserts of Africa. One was a man taller than any other. His head would poke above the treetops and monkeys wold hurl invectives and monkey by-products at his passing face. Another was an enormously fat man whose bulk was legendary but was still thinner than many of my fellow Americanoes. And the third man, dear Rizzo, was a man of depthless bravery. These three men had each tasted failure before.

The tall marketing executive succeeded for many years in America—Cleveland, I believe—before landing a lucrative contract to promote caramel-flavored canned corn syrup in the land of China. This tall executive took his product in among the ancient Chinese secrets and decided for matters of language translation to hire a local urchin—I imagine he was much like my own typist, Jarwaun (who took umbrage upon being called an "urchin" until I explained that sea urchins are the fierce, finger-snapping, modern-dancing boy gangs of the upper depths; it is no insult). This spiny translator took the name of the man's product, "Coca Cola," and translated the individual phonemes Co and Ca and Coh and La into his native Chinese tongue. While in English the name Coca-Cola derives from the two main ingredients in the ancient ancestor of today's liquid corn swill (said two ingredients being cocaine and koala testicles) the phonetic name in Chinese spelled out the phrase, "Bite the wax tadpole" (or in some regions "female horse stuffed with wax"). The Chinese market, being devoid of hipsters at the time, did not embrace this nomenclature, and so the launch "bombed." The man was exiled to the deserts of Africa, where he met marketing executive the second.

The obese-but-not-as-obese-as-ten-percent-of-Americans marketing executive was on the opposite campaign as the tall executive. His account was for the competitor corn sludge soft drink. His entire life had been spent chasing success only to find that success had moved on by the time he had arrived and left no forwarding address with the local postal service. The Pepsi corporation had chosen the meaningless, though psychologically impactful, phrase "Choice of a New Generation," and it was the fat-but-not-that-fat man's job to bring this phrase to the island of Japanippon. This man paid a small fortune, using his entire budget as well as the bonus he was to have received if the marketing strategy was a success—an enormous sum—to hire the greatest translator in all of Tokyo. This man, who went by the unlikely nomme de guerre of "Genki Futanari," was surely the greatest translator to ever speak the Nipponese tongue, but he was also a notorious prankster who took up translation as an occupation because it above all careers offered opportunities to, as he so eloquently put it, "fuck with the gaijin's head, yo." Genki Futanari took the contract and made every appearance of working diligently. He called the overweight-ish man at all hours asking questions of typesize and font, imploring him for as much background information as possible. In the end he provided them with a definition that appeared excellent (and do not doubt that the chubby-wubby-executubby took extra pains to be sure that there would be no phonetic blunders, having heard tales of the tall executives downfall). The executive had his friend's son who was taking Japanese at university look over the man's work. The undergraduate read it, consulted a dictionary or two, and pronounced it, "mostly pretty good I think." Assured, the man released the slogan in the Japanese market only to find that the nuance of the phrase was less "Choice of a New Generation" and more "We Will Bring Your Dead Ancestors Back to Life!" He was exiled to Africa where he met the tall marketing executive, and shortly after met the bravest marketer to ever walk the land.

The third man, the man who knew no fear at all, was responsible for naming the Chevrolet Nova for Latin-American markets. "No Va," of course, meaning "Doesn't go" in Spanish. He was brave but lazy, and possessed of a great and quixotic magnetism: Despite his blunder, Chevy's No Va sold well in Latin America. His story is unremarkable. He was also ultimately exiled to Africa (for, had not the No Va sold just a little too well?), where he found two squabbling marketing executives bickering about their newest account, for Admiral Gerber's Baby Food Product. Predictably, there were at odds over the best way to implement their campaign. The brave man approached, heard but two words of their argument, and proclaimed a solution with such confidence and sterling-teethed pride that the tall and sort-of-fat executives fell over themselves to be the first to agree with him.

The bold marketing executive decreed that "Simple is always classic," and "classic always sells!" He enjoined the men to "think outside of boxes," and to "move the needle!" He held seminars that the other two attended wherein they paid him big moneys for a copy of his newest chart-heavy book that flew in the face of common wisdom while simultaneously reinforcing common wisdom. He told inappropriate jokes about race and religion, while keeping his own race and religion a secret. He said with his new classic marketing plan that the men had to be "in the tank" for it to work. He said they needed to use a social medium to "leverage their brand identity and monetize their social media presence." After months of meetings and meetings about meetings and political infighting and test launches and zero case scenarios, the three marketing executives were ready with their account for Gerber's baby food.

They had returned to the simpler 1970s baby food jar appearance: Blue and white label, squat jar like an ashamed grenade, and a photo of a smiling baby on the tin. It should be noted that they chose to use a photo of a white, American baby in this product launch. Unfortunately, it is customary in Africa—where many languages intermingle and few rule enduringly—for the packaging of a product to have a picture of the contents. When the men covered their jars of greyish-yellow pureed vegetables with photographs of Caucasoid babies, the local people assumed they were selling pureed child. It was an innocent mistake, but hard to readily ameliorate, as the three marketing executives were immediately killed by an enraged throng, who salted their corpses so that nothing may there grow, and also to impart the very much admired "teriyaki savor" for which the Dark Continent is so well regarded.

I mention this because I myself went through a long period of eating great volumes of ALPO 2in1 Dog Food under the erroneous impression that it was made of quality golden retriever pups, as these were featured so prominently on the label. When I ultimately discovered that this "dog food" was largely composed of corn, beef tallow, and sub-standard junk terriers, I penned a strongly worded letter to the Nestlé Purina Petcare subsidiary of Nestlé's Coroporation and swore, with many and several gods as my witness, that I would NEVER eat dog's food again.

I Remain,
The Giant Squid
Editor-in-Chief of this Esteemed Journal,
Poor Mojo's Almanac(k)

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see other pieces by this author | Who is Poor Mojo's Giant Squid? Read his blog posts and enjoy his anthem (and the post-ironic mid-1990s Japanese cover of same)

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Ask the Giant Squid: On the Abuse of the Exclamation and its Mark

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