In case you’re interested – or bored – here’s a list of marketing-related things I took offense at this year.
Bad logos. About one in every 50 logos is good; the rest are weak, overwrought, done in Powerpoint, overly complicated, too cutesy, weird, or in some other way lousy. Some of the worst happen when the designer runs type vertically or in a circle – that’s not how people read, at least willingly. Find the very best of bad logos online at yourlogomakesmebarf.com.
Quote mark and apostrophe abuse. I saw a sign in a bakery window recently that read, "Todays special: Kaiser roll’s and potato buns." I guess in the absence of knowing the possessive rule, you just throw a few out there and hope for the best. As for quotes, you see a lot of taglines put amidst quotes, giving them a sort of "We don’t really mean it" feel. Check out unnecessaryquotes.com and apostropheabuse.com for lots of confounding examples.
Funeral home advertising. Anyone who’s forced to read my blog posts knows that I really have a thing about funeral home advertising. There are even subcategories to my general distaste for it. They are:
• "Five generations of family serving families."
• "Our family, serving your family."
• "Dedicated to caring for your family with care and compassion."
• "A family tradition of trust."
The common thread here is not "family," it’s "We need professional marketing help." Someone in the funeral home industry ought to pay for some professional research to understand what its customers really care about, because I’d bet "I really want my undertaker to be part of a whole family of undertakers" won’t come up.
"Being ever worthy of your confidence is our sincerest desire. More importantly, it is our most sacred promise." Marriage is a sacred promise – is funereal confidence really in the same ballpark?
"We believe that serving begins with caring, and that caring is an attitude of the heart. We strive to express this attitude in our lives, in our business, and with our friends." I just fell asleep a little reading that.
"You’ll find majestic statues, tranquil trees, bushes brushed by gentle breezes and a wide array of multicolored flowers decorating the landscape." Blech.
"Where your wishes have governed for four generations." No they haven’t.
Fear of contractions, etc. Funeral home wording is old and awkward. You can get across the seriousness of a subject without resorting to Dickensian language like, "Is it not your desire to conduct a ceremony that is respectful of the eternal wishes expressed by your loved one?"
Ookie images. Oak trees and acorns, wispy clouds, leaf-strewn paths to nowhere, wings, pink roses and pastel horizons all say death. It would be refreshing to see something – anything – else.
Weird offers. One website encourages me to "Receive obituary updates via e-mail to be notified immediately of our upcoming services." Why would anyone do that? Someone likely to want to know the breaking news on death is probably old – what are the chances she uses email? And if she’s not old, what could possibly motivate her to want that waiting for her every morning?
Political Advertising. As a marketing firm, we can’t take a picture of a strawberry smoothie without making sure the photo accurately represents the actual product; we can’t mess with the color, texture or general impression in a way that could be perceived as misleading the audience as to its strawberry-ishness. So why can politicians and would-be politicians willy-nilly take such gross liberties with facts?
Billboards. You can read stuff that says billboards work and you can read other stuff that says they don’t. In either case, it's a completely uninvited medium and detracts from our already-limited enjoyment of the landscape. The most offensive are the new LED signs.
"Best of" Awards. If I were a garage door retailer, I could go out and buy 3,500 local newspapers, fill out 3,500 "Best Of" forms with my company’s name, turn them in and clinch the #1 position. That's buying the award and readers should be told that's how it's done in these parts.
I’d love to hear what marketing-related things irritate other people. I’ll collect all the results and update you in a week. Keep it clean, people.