July 07, 2007

Sticks & Stones

I see that Mentos are offering visitors to their site the services of Trevor, your own Mentos Intern who you can have carry out a range of tasks for you including: 'call you in sick to work, prank call your friends for you and tell you how wonderful you are'.

Now, I don't want to seem too po-faced but I can't help but see this tendancy for companies to jump on a more sophisticated version of the British public-school brandwagon (with its glorious 'fagging' tradition) as a bad thing for both customer and brand-owner. This is not too far away from the nasty strain of bullying that has crept into parts of the online space and I wonder whether it's because that particular playground is as poorly supervised and regulated as the traditional public-school quad?

Nor is it clear to me how this particular venture fits the Mentos brand positioning (although I appreciate that the business may be 'minting' it in terms of visitors, brand awareness and confectionary sales). Tango went a similar route with its 'happy slapping' a few years ago and suffered when the phenomenon made its way into the real world.

I don't like bullies and it seems to me that too many brands go for the cheap thrill of tormenting the smaller ones in a bid to win some easy popularity.

What do you think? Am I taking some harmless fun a little too seriously or will this "all end in tears?"

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