5 January 2010

Sushi Fail: Ad Placement Gone Wrong

by Freddy J. Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango LLC & Japanese Food Lover

So you manage a small chain of sushi restaurants, and business is not exactly stellar, so you decide to run one of those coupons that winds up in people’s mailboxes en route to the recycling bin. And that’s when this happens…

Sushi Mac coupon

click to enlarge

When I first saw the coupon, I noticed the right part first (red type catches the eye much better than reverse type on a blue background). Then I noticed the people, since the eye tends to gravitate to human faces, and I thought, “Oh, look, white sushi chefs in L.A. That’s different.” Then I noticed the logo for “Worst Cooks in America.” Then I knew, “This must be blogged.”

The contest is run not by Sushi Mac but by Valpak Direct Marketing Systems, Inc., the company that puts together these coupon packs that wind up in people’s mailboxes en route to the recycling bin. Usually, there’s only one business advertised per coupon — I’ve never seen two. So I wonder what Valpak told the folks at Sushi Mac… “Hey, we’ll give you a discount if you let us run a contest for the Food Network on your coupon.” I can only guess that they did not tell them that “Worst Cooks in America” would be located just inches away from “Unique Dining Experience!”

My appetite for sushi was quite diminished. The offers on the reverse side — which included “All Sushi $3.00 (Tax Included!) Per Order” — did not provide any culinary reassurance, since most consumers associate low prices with low quality. Not exactly what I want with raw fish.

In addition to poor ad placement and questionable pricing strategy, having a sushi chain sound like an Apple computer doesn’t help much, either: “Get the New Sushi Mac — Raw Power for Those on a Roll! Now Comes with iTunas.”

Recycling bin here it comes.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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