Having no inclination for product placement, I still have to tell you what came to my mind when I was shopping for shaving equipment recently. I saw Gillette‘s “HydraGel” (pictured left) innocently sitting on the shelf, and I was just about to pass it by – because I prefer cream over gel – when a seemingly strange question struck me:
Will using this chop off my head? Or will it make me grow two new heads when I cut myself?
Because as everyone outside of Procter & Gamble, the owners of the Gillette brand, knows, the Hydra was a beast in Greek mythology with nine heads that grew two new heads for each one that was cut off. It was one of the labours that Heracles had to face, and he only could overcome the Hydra by burning the stumps of the cut-off heads to prevent new ones from growing.
What does Gillette want to tell me with this? – Whatever was intended by choosing that name, it only tells me that the people who came up with it don’t have enough general knowledge, a fact which endears neither the product nor the company to me.
This little episode in the supermarket got me thinking about other examples of organisations using mythological or historical names for their products or services and thereby scoring an own goal:
- Volkswagen has a car named after Phaeton, who went – again in Greek mythology – on a joyride with the sun chariot and couldn’t control it, putting the earth in danger of being set on fire. Zeus has to kill Phaeton with a thunderbolt. – And this should convince us to buy a car?
- The US military participation in the enforcement of the no-fly zone over Libya has been code-named Operation “Odyssey Dawn”. Homer’s Odyssey describes the 10-year long, perilous wandering of Odysseus. Does the US Department of Defense suggest that it will take us equally long to disarm Gaddafi‘s forces? I hope not.
Can you think of any other examples? Please share them!
This is an old one, but it bears repeating. In the 1960s and 1970s, Chevrolet produced a car called the Nova. It sold so well in North America, they exported it to Central and South America. But they couldn’t sell the cars to save their souls, until a Spanish speaking employee pointed out that “No Va” in Spanish means “Doesn’t Go”. Chevy promptly changed the name, and sales skyrocketed. Sort of like the 1980s Pontiac Fiero. A cute little 2-seat mid-engined car, that developed a tendency to (you guessed it) start on fire! (I do honestly love GM vehicles, but sometimes, they just have no clue how to name cars.)
Thanks for the hilarious post! I personally like “Cerberus Capital Management.” It’s a private investment firm that invests in (and ideally turns around) companies which have been mismanaged–but someone deliberately named it after a hell dog which prevents dead spirits from escaping the underworld….
Another example is the Mitsubishi Pajero: Apparently “pajero” is the Spanish word for “wanker”.
I don’t think the US Department of Defence plans to spend 10 years in Libya, but the name “Odyssey Dawn” likely points to the beginning of the next decade long phase of their Geo Strategy.