Naming rights raise a lot of money. Think of professional sports stadiums like Chicago’s own US Cellular Field (does US Cellular still exist??) The amazing thing to me is that when Comiskey Park changed names to “The Cell,” local media played right along and gave away free advertising by parroting the name in their daily sports roundups. Somehow the stadium knew that this coordination/holdup problem would be solved in their favor.
We should seize on this. But not by selling positive associations to corporations that want to promote their brand. Instead lets brand badly-behaving corporations with negative associations.
The Exxon Valdez oil spill is a name that stuck. Every single time public media refer to that event they remind us of the association between Exxon and the mess they made. No doubt we will continue to refer to the current disaster as the BP Gulf spill or something like that. That is good.
But why stop there? (Positive) advertisers have learned that you can slip in the name of a brand before, after, and in-between just about any scripted words and call it an ad. The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The Bud Lite halftime show. The X brought to you by Y. These are positive associations.
Think of all the negative events and experiences that are just waiting to be put to use as retribution by negative association. “And today I am here to announce that the BP National Debt will soon reach 15 trillon Dollars.” Or “The BP recession is entering its fifth consecutive quarter with no end in sight.”
Why are we wasting hurricane names on poor innocents like Katrina and Andrew? I say for the 2010 hurricane season we ditch the alphabetical order and line em up in order of egregiousness. “Hurricane Blackwater devastates the Florida Coast. Tropical Storm Halliburton kills hundreds in Central America.”
The nice thing about negative naming is that supply is virtually unlimited. Cities don’t go selling the names of every street in town because selling the marginal street requires lowering the price. But you can put the name of every former VP at Enron and Arthur Andersen on their own parking meter and the last one makes you want to spit just as much as the first. Hey, what about parking tickets? This parking ticket is brought to you by Washington Mutual.
Suddenly the inefficiency of city bureaucracy is a valuable social asset. Welcome to the British Petroleum DMV, please take your place in line number 8. And some otherwise low-status professions will now be able to leverage that position to provide an important public service. “There’s some stubborn tartar on that molar, Ms. Clark, I’m going to have to use the Toyota Prius heavy-duty scaler. You might feel some scraping. Rinse please.”
“Good Afternoon, Pleasant Meadow Morturary, will you be interested in Goldman Sachs cremation services today?” Or “Mr. Smith we are calling to confirm your appointment for a British Petroleum colonoscopy on Monday. Please be on time and don’t eat anything 24 hours prior.”
Just as positive name-association is a lucrative business, these ne’er-do-wells would of course pay big money to have their names removed from the negative icons and that’s all for the better. If the courts can place a cap on their legal liability this gives us a simple way to make up the difference.
And I am ready to do my part. As much as I like one-word titles Sandeep and I are going to add a subtitle to our new paper. Its going to be called “Torture: Sponsored by BP.”