Naming Disasters

By Mark Skoultchi

January 13, 2005

The recent news that Toyota is dropping the “Tsunami” brand from its Canadian markets (“Toyota drops Tsunami name”) adds further fuel to the fire of the debate on whether companies can or should use names that recall tragic events. The Chevy Avalanche may sound cool (excuse the pun) while the marketing team is sitting around the brainstorming table, but what happens if a massive snowfall triggers a deadly real-life avalanche that blankets the news for weeks on end? To be sure, the car brand will receive a big boost in awareness ratings — but I’m not sure this falls into the category of “any publicity is good publicity”.

One can make the same argument about the new Crossfire. Given what’s happening in Iraq, I have a hard time seperating the images of bloodshed that I normally associate with the word from the edgy but comfortable image Chrysler would prefer I associate with the brand.

Toyota gets both a pat on the back and a slap on the wrist. Shame on them for choosing a name that so directly associates with death and distruction. Kudos for having the sense to take it off the market in this time of tragedy. I suppose we have to wait for some popular ski town to be burried before Chevy will see the light.

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