Skip to main content

I think we'd prefer companies with a sense of humour

One of the UK's favourite advertising campaigns is that used by Marmite. For those not from the UK, Marmite is one of the most ingenious products ever. Beer production leaves behind a brown sludge of yeast remains and other good stuff. Most would throw this away, or at best use it as fertiliser. But someone had the idea of turning it into a spread to be put on toast and the like. This is Marmite or in Australia, (though they would claim their version is much better) its competitor Vegemite.

Marmite is one of those things you love or hate (I'm in the hate camp), so much so that it has become something of an adjective - if you describe something as marmite, it's something that polarizes opinion. Now the clever thing about the ad campaign is that Marmite's makers picked up on this and run ads in which some people find their product absolutely disgusting. This gained them a lot of admiration because it seems to show a genuine sense of humour. They can laugh at the adverse reaction to their own product. This ability to share a joke about your product is considered a good thing, at least in the UK.

In other companies, however, this ability is profoundly absent. Many, particularly dare I say US companies, are entirely po-faced about their product. I have never seen a better example than Apple's reaction to the iPood. Apparently an Australian company makes rather dinky (and stylish) little shovels for disposing of your, ahem, bodily waste while camping. They came up with the very witty name iPood for this product. But low and behold, the Apple lawyers dumped a ton of bricks on them from a great height (as it were). And now the Perth company Sea to Summit are renaming their product the Pocket Trowel.

Thanks, Apple, for taking a wonderful joke and turning it sour. I suppose the only consolation is that Sea to Summit will have got a lot of publicity out of this. We now all know where to turn when we need to shovel... IT company press releases.

Thanks to the Register for alerting me to this story


  1. I love Marmite. It is a relic of Empire. It was vital when doing fieldwork in Kenya because you could leave it hanging around in the tropical heat and nothing would eat it - not even decay bacteria or fungi - so it never went 'off'. - and it was an excellent source of salt and vitamin B. I think that Englishmen (or white Kenyans, the scions of Empire) are the only forms of life capable of eating it.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope