William Shatner Wants To Punch My Friend

An email hit my box this weekend that was written by someone so livid that steam was still visible. My correspondent had received a salvage email from priceline.  You know what a salvage email is.   “We know you haven’t been a customer, but let us entice you…”  The company personalized the graphic and showed a picture of William Shatner with his right fist drawn back in a punching stance. This is that picture. William Shatner in priceline ad The copy was punched-up too with a specific call-to-action.  It’s been a while since you booked a trip on priceline. Claim your $50 Bonus Cash coupon below and I’ll remove you from my “people I’m going to judo-chop for paying full price” list. My correspondent didn’t care to be threatened despite any campaigns priceline is running.

I talked with some people who thought my email complainer was being sensitive.  But this is just bad marketing all around.  A nice aside came from my 22 year old son who is majoring in sociology at George Mason University.  “If the ad were for wrestling or MMA, then they might pretend to be violent,” he said.  But even he agreed that pretending to be violent would be along the lines of threatening to make you watch the show, not specifying how the fighter would beat you up to do so.  And he understood that without context, the ad could be offensive.

Priceline missed here because their copy was too descriptive and their ad was too assumptive.   And because like my kid said, “There was no context” and no permission to add the former customer to the context.  Priceline thought my friend was following their series of Shatner broadcast ads.   They guessed horribly wrong, and they’ve lost a customer for life. Meanwhile, it’s been years since I studied martial arts, and I never studied judo, but I always thought that hand strikes such as a “judo chop” were not part of the technique.  So besides being threatening, the copy is lazy and substitutes “judo” for “karate” because I guess all those things kind of look alike.

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10 comments

  • drmomentum

    drmomentum

    Reply

    Your observation about the judo chop is accurate; references to a “judo chop” are meant to be humorous, because it's a made-up technique that implies the person using it is not really a threat.

    I think the person who sent this to you was not being sensitive, but hypersensitive. It's a joke, and I think this is essentially a lesson in how jokes can backfire on you in marketing. Not everyone gets the joke. Sometimes that's part of the point. Humor is, almost necessarily, exclusive. But is it wise to possibly exclude part of your market?

  • George Bounacos

    George Bounacos

    Reply

    I'm glad to know my years of watching bad martial arts movie with worse dubbing paid off!

    But Doc, I think you hit the nail on the head with or without judo chop when you said that “not everyone gets the joke”. It wasn't edgy that backfired. It was dumb that backfired. From a marketing ivory tower I can praise a company for taking a chance and missing. But the whole email was actually poorly done from top to bottom.

    I think the friend was more annoyed that the company was now sending image rich emails with bad messaging. From when I ran retention campaigns I can attest that humor is almost never the way to get someone back. Even the price assumption is in a strange spot. I want to acknowledge why that a customer left and either their circumstances changed or we've done something wrong. Then I offer them their choice of whatever that helps me confirm what the customer self-selects.

    It's just a bad piece. Someone ought to judo chop them.

  • George Bounacos

    George Bounacos

    Reply

    I'm a test message from George

  • drmomentum

    drmomentum

    Reply

    I agree that asking them back is an odd time to use humor in that way.

    Probably better would have been something like “aren't there some prices you'd like me to judo-chop?” It might still have been slightly funny, but not offensive.

    Considering it, I think I overstated your friend's sensitivity. I just don't tend to care about these things as much; for someone who does care, I can see having a stronger reaction.

  • George Bounacos

    George Bounacos

    Reply

    I'm another test message from George

  • George Bounacos

    George Bounacos

    Reply

    I agree. I think we all have a strong reaction to something, and since the piece didn't require the language, it wasn't a smart risk for the payoff. Using the Big Deal guy with the tats and hat would've gotten the same message. It's all about “'what's in it for the customer”. If Shatner says, I'll have Big Deal here judo chop them, then it's just plain dumb, but it's not “Buy from us and I'll take you off my beatdown list”

  • JP Burke

    JP Burke

    Reply

    Your observation about the judo chop is accurate; references to a “judo chop” are meant to be humorous, because it's a made-up technique that implies the person using it is not really a threat.

    I think the person who sent this to you was not being sensitive, but hypersensitive. It's a joke, and I think this is essentially a lesson in how jokes can backfire on you in marketing. Not everyone gets the joke. Sometimes that's part of the point. Humor is, almost necessarily, exclusive. But is it wise to possibly exclude part of your market?

  • George Bounacos

    George Bounacos

    Reply

    I'm glad to know my years of watching bad martial arts movie with worse dubbing paid off!

    But Doc, I think you hit the nail on the head with or without judo chop when you said that “not everyone gets the joke”. It wasn't edgy that backfired. It was dumb that backfired. From a marketing ivory tower I can praise a company for taking a chance and missing. But the whole email was actually poorly done from top to bottom.

    I think the friend was more annoyed that the company was now sending image rich emails with bad messaging. From when I ran retention campaigns I can attest that humor is almost never the way to get someone back. Even the price assumption is in a strange spot. I want to acknowledge why that a customer left and either their circumstances changed or we've done something wrong. Then I offer them their choice of whatever that helps me confirm what the customer self-selects.

    It's just a bad piece. Someone ought to judo chop them.

  • JP Burke

    JP Burke

    Reply

    I agree that asking them back is an odd time to use humor in that way.

    Probably better would have been something like “aren't there some prices you'd like me to judo-chop?” It might still have been slightly funny, but not offensive.

    Considering it, I think I overstated your friend's sensitivity. I just don't tend to care about these things as much; for someone who does care, I can see having a stronger reaction.

  • George Bounacos

    George Bounacos

    Reply

    I agree. I think we all have a strong reaction to something, and since the piece didn't require the language, it wasn't a smart risk for the payoff. Using the Big Deal guy with the tats and hat would've gotten the same message. It's all about “'what's in it for the customer”. If Shatner says, I'll have Big Deal here judo chop them, then it's just plain dumb, but it's not “Buy from us and I'll take you off my beatdown list”

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