I was shocked to read this article (link below) on the BBC website recently..

Bristol distillery apologises over ‘Novichok’ vodka!

How far would your business go in the pursuit of sales? Is there such thing as bad publicity? There are some grey areas when it comes to taste and decency but a Bristol based distillery seemed to have stepped on a marketing landmine by launching a vodka named after the devastating nerve agent ‘Novichok’.

Marketing people are always looking for brilliant ways of describing their product’s credentials, the key feature of the Bristol Distillery vodka was its strength at 75% proof. I can think of all sorts of words to describe such a liquid without resorting to a comparison with an evil and illegal chemical weapon.

The timing is particularly poor as Novichok is blamed for the death on Sunday of Dawn Sturgess. She fell ill in Amesbury and died after being exposed to the military grade nerve agent. Her partner who was also contaminated with Novichok, remains critically ill in hospital.

Their symptoms were exactly as those displayed by Sergei and Yulia Scripal. The former Russian spay and his daughter were poisoned with Novichok in March in nearby town of Salisbury. Against all odds they survived after months in intensive care.

I notice that the distillery still has the product displayed on its website but it is showing as sold out. If that is due to it being withdrawn or genuinely sold out, only the distillery owners will know?

This marketing #FAIL reminds me of other faux pas. Who remembers the Nivea “White is Purity” campaign? I also remember reading about a FORD advert in India that featured three women bound and gagged in the boot of a car with Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi at the wheel. This was around the time of the horrible gang rapes that had occurred in the country.

What lessons can be learned? When does brand novelty become more important than decency? This is a time when I’m pleased I work in sales and not marketing. What do you think? Is better market research prior to any product launch required?

Thank you for reading!

Stuart Allen ~ MD of The Sales Performance Company Ltd

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