The CASPIAN Hall Of Shame!

A page devoted to marketing madness...
from the absurd to the demeaning and everything in between

Compiled and written by: John Vanderlippe    

To those companies that best avoided
adverse public reaction as they pulled the wool over our eyes we award...

The Enron

Our co-winners are Catalina Marketing Corporation and public relations group CGI Group of NY. These two companies teamed together in an effort to "minimize media coverage linking CMC with unethical obtrusive database marketing."

CGI proudly states on their page:

"Despite questions from the press regarding privacy issues, "not one resulting story mentioned the [privacy] issue."
We're attempting to get Kenneth Lay to deliver the award, but we're having a hard time tracking him down among all those corporations he set up. We're hoping our award winners can find him for us through the use of their extensive "ethical obtrusive databases".

Source: The Common Denominator

For the most bizarre use of sex in a marketing-related context we award...
The Freud

Our hands down (one foot on the floor) winner is Guerrilla Marketing Online for their article by Jay Conrad Levinson entitled "Guerrilla Marketing as Sex". This article teaches you that you don't just 'woo' your prospective clients, you have to "transform cold prospects into consenting partners":

"When the courtship begins, guerrillas pay very close attention and prove that they care."
     (And we thought they only cared about the size of your, um... wallet.)

"Next comes necking and petting, connecting even closer with prospects by becoming more intimate in marketing."
     (You have to kiss a lot of customers before you find your 'mark'...
      er, 'Prince'.)

"The step in marketing that most relates to foreplay is when marketers give to their partners the exact pleasure that they want... not only making them feel special but proving their devotion."
     (Oh Baby, that's it... right there... mail me that offer I can't refuse.)

"Guerrilla marketers and their prospects achieve consummation by closing the sale with mutual consent."
     ("yes... yes... Yes... YES... YES... YEEEESSSSS!!!!!
      I'LL BUY ONE!!!!!!!")

     (And I'll take whatever she's having.)

"During the afterglow, the connection is solidified. This is accomplished with assiduous follow-up -- proving in a way that the marketer still respects the prospect in the morning."
     (But only as long as you still have cash...
      If not, they divorce you and toss you to the curb.)
Source: Guerrilla Marketing Online

To the business with ideas that make advertisers salivate we award...
The Pavlov

The winner is Data Works Marketing, for their take on customer relations in an era of loyalty marketing:

"Historically, supermarkets have excelled at mastering product logistics. Detailed customer information moves the competition to a new level -- mastering customer behavior."

It's a dog-eat-dog world and I'm wearing barcoded underwear.

Most of the stores we go to seem to have a hard enough time mastering the logistics of keeping the shelves stocked. We think they should work on that before Human Behavior Modification 101.

Source: DataWorks Marketing

For the organization that made us an offer we couldn't refuse we award...
The Godfather

This one goes out to our buddies at the Direct Marketing Association for their 'help' in keeping our lives clutter-free. They offer a way for consumers to remove their names from various lists; however, it has a limited effect as only DMA members must follow it. But that doesn't stop the DMA from trying to rake in a few bucks...

"There is a $5 processing fee for registering with the TPS service online. [...] This is the fastest way to begin to see the impact of fewer unsolicited telemarketing calls as a result of the TPS program."
     (You don't 'have' to pay them anything...(Nor must you make any
      purchase in order to enter our sweepstakes *snicker snicker*))

"You may also register using our mail-in form which we will create for you using the information you provide below. There is no charge for registering by mail. However, registering by mail may delay inclusion in the TPS file."

One has to wonder if by 'delay' they are referring to the additional 3-4 days it takes to receive your application via postal mail, or some more abstruse time period; say, the collapse of the sun. By mentioning it so frequently, they seem to imply the latter, but knowing their high ethical standards, it is surely the former.

Our thanks go out to the DMA for 'protecting' us from the evils of excessive marketing.

Source: The Direct Marketing Association

To the university class masquerading as the CIA we award...
The Bond
James Bond.

This award goes out to Eastern Kentucky University class #304. These students "incorporate direct observation as a means of collecting primary data which they use to develop a profile of one customer." The project syllabus instructs students to:

"Observation: Choose some person (must be a stranger) shopping in the supermarket and observe that person from the time they enter the parking lot until they leave the store. Be sure the subject is not aware that you are observing him/her. Take a tablet and a pen or pencil along so that you can make a list of items purchased, etc."
I think a more fitting name for this class might be "Stalking 304". I can't help but wonder if a trench coat is typical shopping attire in Eastern Kentucky.

Source: South-Western College Publishing

To those 'wonderful' new products that
offer us nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, we award...

The Fugitive

For this award we have a rare three-way tie.

  • The first recipient is the Pump Radio Network now being assembled by Advanced Information Systems LLC, in Midland, Mich.

    "The company's patented battery-operated Fueling Talker attaches to gas station pump nozzles and airs four 20-second and two 10-second ads while the premium unleaded flows."

    I feel a little gaseous just thinking about it.

    Source: INC Magazine

  • Next to step up to the award podium is a British Company, NXT. Their flat cardboard speakers can be used in numerous ways, including this heartwarming idea:

    "Every cardboard-packed item in a supermarket could soon be blaring out reduced-price messages or playing advertising jingles."

    I sense a new blockbuster movie in the making, Nightmare on Aisle 12. If the shelf stocking crew has to listen to that all day then 'going stockboy' may be the catch phrase of the 21st Century.

    Source: New Scientist Magazine

  • Our final recipient (for now. We're afraid this is far from over.) is Hypercom for their ICE (Interactive Consumer Environment), a checkout-based, consumer-operated touchscreen. While primarily intended for payment processing, it didn't take long for marketers to come up with ideas to capitalize on the 'idle time' while waiting for approval:

    "The advertising message could say 'Apply for a frequent shopper card' or 'Seniors get a 10 percent discount on Thursday.' The period of time is short but the shopper is essentially held captive. It's something they're extremely likely to read. Retail advertising executives see tremendous value in implementing this."

    I can't help but wonder if the next 'improvement' will be a stockade connected to the machine to make sure you can't escape...

Source: National Retail Federation Stores Magazine

That's it for Round One, but stay tuned for more awards from our Hall of Shame -- because as sure as there is someone out there who wants to push their 'wonderful' product at you, someone else will have a bizarre idea of the best way to do it.

And if you happen across any nominees you think we might be interested in, please feel free to forward them to: