Friday, October 10


Speaking of addicts, here something from the plaridel papers mailing list, about some guy protesting the use of "addict" as a brand in the mobile communications industry. It got almost nasty comments. Kasi naman eh. Ano ba, dude, is it all literal with you? Pati ba naman taglines at brand names di n'yo pinatawad. So what's next, stone Smart for false advertising?


By Dennis L. Berino

"What's in a name? A rose called by any other name will smell as sweet." So goes a line from the great playright William Shakespeare. In this day and age however of branding, a product name sends a powerful image as to what a particular product or service is supposed to convey to the consuming public.

Many highly competitive and progressive companies now undergo specialized procedures to determine the best brand name they will give their product - from executive opinion to sales force composite to focused group discussions, just to name some. The objective is not only to create brand awareness and recall but also to position the product in such a way that they will be preferred by the consuming public because of the strong positive image and utility they will get in using the brand.

Now we start wondering how a leading cell phone company ended up calling its latest offering as ADDICT MOBILE? You get a Webster dictionary and you will get a definition of the word addict as "one who is devoted or surrenders oneself to something habitually or
obsessively." That is the literal definition of the word and in that sense, you can really get addicted to a lot of things, like to chocolate, television, texting or to web surfing. They even made a Hollywood movie with the title "Addicted to Love."

But you and I know that in the context of contemporary use, the word addict is usually and generally associated with the illicit use of drugs or narcotics. And there lies the rub in using that term in branding their new service as ADDICT MOBILE.

The leading cell phone company of course, heavily advertised their ADDICT MOBILE offering in print and television to create awareness and eventually patronage from the consuming public. Advertising is a powerful tool in providing information to the consumers. What kind of information do you get with a by-line like "Get hooked" or "Gratified" which their recent ads banner and use?

The branding and advertising slant of ADDICT MOBILE is specifically of the psychological appeal type which generally aims to persuade by appealing primarily to human emotional needs and not to reason. And it raises certain moral implications in its choice of the word addict considering the word's context as earlier mentioned and the prevailing drug menace our society is experiencing right now.

In fact, the national government has put the national police and all other government regulatory bodies concerned with controlling and eradicating the illegal use and handling of narcotics, to high gear to try to stamp out and eliminate this great threat and menace to our society's well-being, especially of the youth. The youth has been the primary target market of drug pushers and it is not coincidental that the youth is also the heaviest users of mobile facilities and services.

And so there is really something not quite kosher for this cell phone company to capitalize on the contextual slant of the word addict to position and push its new mobile service to the consuming public, especially the youth which is their primary target market.

Some quarters actually objected already to this company's use of the word addict but the outcry against it did not reach a critical mass to force the hand of the mobile company to consider pulling out its new service. In fact, as of this writing, they continually show in print and on television their advertisements whose dark orientation is normally associated to the melancholia and depression that many drug addicts are prone to.

Its such a shame that such a leading cell phone company capitalizes on this grave threat to our social well-being and national security to push their new service to the consumers. It smacks of insensitivity and poor taste on their part to continue foisting their Addict Mobile service given the heightened sense of urgency right now to control and eliminate drug addiction in our environment.

What message do they send? Its cool to be an addict in relation to using your mobile phone but they cannot escape the direct attachment of that coolness to drug dependency to which, to the point of belaboring it, the term addict has been contextually attached to.

Several months back, a leading burger company pulled out its television advertisement when there was a public outcry to the wrong values it was sending to a child who was receiving some sort of a bribe from his father. Now, that is a responsive company conscious of its social responsibility role.

The drug menace is an even bigger problem which should not be trivialized because we want to appear cool and we want to capitalize on it to push a product or service. If the AdBoard or PANA or any concerned government agency cannot do anything about this situation because the company concerned might cite its freedom of expression or some other justification, then I believe we as concerned consumers can make a stand and advocate for this company to pull out its campaign in the interest of societal well-being. Boycotting this Addict Mobile service is also another option to persuade them to pull out their morally questionable service.

With due apologies to Shakespeare but a name, in this instance the branding of Addict Mobile, serves only the commercial and financial interest of the cell phone company without taking into account the issue of the common good. The name then here takes on a critical
issue which needs to be addressed. I'm sure the company can come up with a more neutral and morally acceptable brand name than what it is using right now.

The author teaches Management Science and Business Ethics in the Graduate School of Business of De La Salle University Professional School, Inc. He is assistant vice president of the Sales Operations Group of Insular Life Assurance Co.

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