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How M&Ms Sank His Sales Presentation

October 14, 2015

It was going great. The WordPerfect Sales rep went into his practiced sales pitch. He emphasized WordPerfect’s clean interface. He touched on the literally hundreds of printers supported. He stressed the widespread marketshare that WordPerfect’s word processor enjoyed. And he finished up talking about the world-class customer support. And it was at this point that he pulled out the finisher to literally “sweeten” the deal. 

As he started to toss out the M&M candies the room seemed to turn cold. An executive caught a package that while not aimed at his head was dangerously close to arriving there and laid it on the conference table in front of him. 

We appreciate your time. I think we need to discuss it as a team and we’ll get back to you.

Ever have one of those meetings? 

During our recent ribbon cutting ceremony in Louisville, KY for our new 700 person call center, our team went all out on the festivities. The food was a full 4 course meal from a popular steakhouse, served cafeteria style. Both the mayor Louisville and the governor of Kentucky were planning to show up. We had scarves and binders for the attendees in both red and blue. And we almost had an M&M moment. 

Turns out the governor was a huge University of Kentucky fan. The Wildcats colors were blue and white. The mayor, not surprisingly was a big fan of Louisville Cardinals. Colors? Red and white. The schools, located just 80 miles apart, are big rivals. The mayor and the governor got to rib each other a little about the two schools while wearing their colors. 

I was part of the technical team, not the marketing team, but we talked about how awkward it might have been if we had only brought one color of scarf. The funny thing was the guy who ordered the scarves and binders wasn’t even aware of the impact it would have at the press conference and ribbon cutting. If anything, living in Utah, he was picking colors for the two big rivals in the Beehive state: BYU (Blue) and University of Utah (Red.) It was just a happy accident that the colors matched up.

And that’s the point. If you are going to do any sort of marketing, you should know your audience. Chevy must have thought “Nova” was a great name for a car, and it was very popular in the United States. (Most famously featured as Eddie Murphy’s ride in Beverly Hills Cop. 

Imagine their surprise when it did not sell as well in Mexico or other Spanish speaking countries. Not surpising when you consider that while in English, nova describes an exploding star, in Spanish it literally means “doesn’t run.” Who wants to buy a car named that? 

When WordPerfect released version 6.0, they wanted to create a single logo that would be recognizable and used throughout the entire world. It featured the name WordPerfect above the text “SIX.0”. 

Here’s a copy of a German book  featuring the logo. 
Copies of this logo are difficult to find. The company discontinued the campaign and quickly changed out all the logos. WordPerfect, a very conservative company, based in Utah, was horrified to learn, after the marketing campaign had kicked off, that in Sweden “SIX.0” literally spells “SEX.0.” Not really the image they were trying to project. 

When you are doing marketing, know your audience. 

And that WordPerfect sales rep at the beginning of this post? His problem? While he was handing out M&Ms, manufactured by the Mars candy company, unfortunately he was making his presentation to the Nestle candy company. 

Know your audience.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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