Chances are you won’t be wearing your “Black and Tan” Nike sneakers when you toast to St. Patrick’s Day this weekend.
Why? Because Nike has decided to change the unofficial name of its new shoe after an Irish kerfuffle erupted over the sneaker’s handle.
If the marketing folks at Nike had done a quick Google search on the term they would have found that Black and Tan does not just refer to a drink that combines a pale ale beer and a dark beer. It also applies to the Black and Tans, who were a British paramilitary force that smothered an Irish uprising in the 1920s.
“It would be the American equivalent of calling a sneaker 'the al-Qaeda,'” stated a story about the shoe controversy in the IrishCentral.com, one of the largest Irish-American news sites.
When asked about the goof up, Nike spokesman Brian Strong sent only this brief statement:
“This month Nike is scheduled to release a quick strike version of the Nike SB Dunk Low that has been unofficially named by some using a phrase that can be viewed as inappropriate and insensitive. We apologize. No offense was intended.”
Unfortunately, it’s not the first offensive or ill-advised product name, unofficial or otherwise, that’s gotten companies in hot water and it won’t be the last.
Who would have thought the Chevy Nova would have been a dud. It sounded great for some global customers, but in Spanish “nova” means “no go.”
Stupid name choices, however, can be in the eye of the beholder. When Apple introduced the iPad, many women, including yours truly, wrote about how such a name selection would never have happened if there were more women in the name-brainstorming meeting at the tech giant.
Turns out, the name choice didn’t keep the iPad from selling millions.
“The product names are very important and companies do spend significant effort in figuring this out,” said Prashant Malaviya, associate professor of marketing at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. “In marketing history, there are lots of examples of mistakes people made, most of them honest but some with a little tongue in cheek.”