Just when I think I’ve seen every possible kind of bad verbal branding, from awful taglines to bizarre product and company naming, something comes along that manages to shock me.
This time the honor goes to Philadelphia Cream Cheese, whose latest tagline creation is (get ready for it) Pheel the Moment. The commercial features a young, implausibly attractive and happy couple sharing a sumptuous breakfast in bed. It’s a predictable pastiche of warm, fuzzy moments to the tune of what I gather is Philly’s theme song, “Spread a little love today.” (Which would have made a much better tagline, come to think of it.)
Now before you write me off as a whiner, let me say that I could have handled the tagline “Feel the Moment.” Sure, it would have been stupid, schmaltzy and grandiose. (Like cream cheese is really gonna help me feel the moment.) A typical commercial, in other words. But “Pheel the Moment”? Really? That’s beyond cheesy.
Yes, there’s phish and phat and all of that, but those “f”-turned-“ph” words have new meanings that go with their new spellings, and serve some linguistic purpose. The only purpose Philly’s ploy serves is to demonstrate the lengths they’ll go to try to promote their brand name.
It gets worse. According to one cooking blog I found, a recent Philly print ad is headlined “Pheel triumphant.” (Could this possibly be true?) And lest you think this is a recent aberration, a little brain burp on the part of Philly’s fevered marketers, I discovered a 2009 Philly commercial that ends with the line “Spread warm pheelings.” Compared to that, “Pheel the moment” is practically poetry.
Sorry, Philly, we’re taking away some of your consonants until you learn how to use them.
While we’re on the subject of “f” words, did you catch the recent kerfuffle over Unilever’s German advertising campaign for their low-calorie food line Du Darfst? Unilever’s promoting Du Darfst foods (which you can allegedly eat without feeling like you’re on a diet) using the tagline “Fuck the Diet.” (The tagline was toned down on Facebook to “F*** the Diet.”)
Frankly, compared to Philly’s bastardization of the word “feel,” I don’t find Unilever’s use of the mother of all “f” words very shocking. (Although certain German consumers disagree.)
Of course in America, censors aside, creating a tagline like “Fuck the Diet” wouldn’t have been a smart play. The f-word is still too charged here to be used in marketing, either in print or graphically (and I mean that in the design sense) without calling more attention to itself than the overall message it’s being used to convey.
But I understand that in Germany the term is used more widely in the mainstream media and doesn’t have quite the baggage that it does here. If so, this edgy yet conversational tagline targeted to a teens-to-twenties crowd fed up with the rules and restrictions of dieting makes sense. F**ck the Diet. Hell, yeah.
At least it rings true, which is more than you can say of Philly’s tagline “Pheel the moment.” That’s just phu*ked up.
Grade for Philly: P-H-A-I-L
Grade for Unilever: A-