INDUSTRY INSIDER

We Are American, No Sex Please

The global population is divided into two major groups: open minds in closed societies and closed minds in open societies. Therefore, the marketing and naming of products must address the issues of sexual connotation with extraordinary depth, care and caution.

Suddenly, French Connection of UK went soft and packed up their most cherished and notorious brand — FCUK — and folded the campaign. Mothers all over the world are happy as they seriously objected to the brand and particularly FCUK’s “Him” and “Her” colognes and perfumes.

Just about every country had its share of some controversy on this strange, kinky brand name. French Connection thought this name made them the most recognizable brand in the world. They were jumping for joy as some studies showed the recognition equal to other multibillion dollar value monikers.

In reality, the issues of popularity were blurred with notoriety. Silly, profane and dumb names based on sexual connotations die out when the media stops the coverage after a quick shock wave.

In England and the EU, sex and the naked body both offer a far more desired component in advertising than the products themselves and what they have to offer. “It’s better than sex,” a line used by Jaguar and by hundreds of others. Non-sensual, crude and raw nudity, like a curse of the old Victorian era, continuously haunts the young creative minds in the UK and the EU.

American Sensitivity

The sheer pressure of this issue might be the reason that forces some to throw away the storyboards and run naked in public events. Streaking is perhaps like the Archimedean euphoria of the “Eureka” moment. England is still the most creative and most powerful when it comes to advertising ideas, and all along it has led the way. Along with the best and well-dressed TV episodes, they have also dabbled with “The Naked News,” “The Naked Cooking Show,” the half naked this or the full naked that. Just keep it up.

On this side of Marlboro land, Americans are just coy about nudity. A naked body is nothing to make a fuss over. No serious American company would dream of showing a half naked person, even jokingly, or use it in any way in their corporate commercial or plug a strong sexual innuendo.

It has nothing to do with sexual appetites, rather, it’s a cultural issue.

For example, for my writings, by now my hand would have been chopped off if I were to venture this debate in any of the Middle Eastern dictatorships. However, sex is always extremely cultural, from free and open blessing to chastity and burkhas. Depending on your upbringing, and where you stand, it is a total cultural shock and, at times, a ticking bomb ready to turn into public riots. Don’t even try.

Branding and sex do not mix on the global marketing scene. Sir Richard Branson and his extraordinary life tied to the single shock value word, “Virgin,” is an unusual story. However, in England, it’s cute to say “Would you fancy a Virgin,” while in USA, Virgin cola just didn’t make it, and folded after a big fanfare.

However, here in the USA the same open society went berserk on a typical Sunday afternoon when, just for a few seconds, the swift hand of Justin Timberlake addressed the armor, and Janet Jackson was strategically exposed, bringing the morality squads to action, threatening the nation down to its knees.

New Era

There was a tremble on the Richter scale of morality. Fines were in in the millions. Delay buttons were everywhere, maybe in every public phone booth.

Howard Stern, the radio talk show host, refused the objections by the regulators and decided to go to satellite, subscription based radio, so he could be candid — just enough to open his mouth more freely. NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr., after using the F-word at a race victory speech, was almost stripped of his title.

It seems we have now entered a new era. Yes, we are American, no sex here, please. Seriously, these are little accidents and not a revolution as there are far too many brilliant ideas to get quick attention, and all it requires is the right expertise.

Global marketing and global branding teaches us two simple things. One is that corporate image and name identities are developed for a very complex world. The other is that the global population is divided into two major groups: open minds in closed societies and closed minds in open societies.

Therefore the marketing and naming of products must address these issues of sexual connotation with extraordinary depth, care and caution.

New Standard

Today we might take the open links of the Internet as a symbol of freedom, yet the rest of the globe hates the contents, withdraws and shuts out all new ideas.

Also, now the newly acclaimed morality standard of America must fully realign itself with the messages and their deliveries to the right mindsets, while clearly explaining the limits and the level of tolerance, otherwise a lot of advertising and branding messages will all have to be completely scrapped.

So audit and evaluate the overall naming structures and marketing messages for your local and global name identities. Make sure your branding messages are projecting open mindedness.


Naseem Javed, author Naming for Power and alsoDomain Wars, is recognized as a world authority on global nameidentities and domain issues. Javed founded ABC Namebank, aconsultancy he established a quarter century ago, and conducts executiveworkshops on image and name identity issues. Contact him at njabc@njabc.com.


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