Could This Be the Worst Direct Mail in the History of Direct Mail?

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Who hasn’t off-handedly asked someone to, “Hand me a Kleenex” only to find out it’s another brand of tissue after you sneeze right through it? Or have you gone to the store and bought the cheap Windex, thinking, “same diff” only to get it home and it smells like kerosene? These are called “proprietary eponyms” or a proper name that is so well known and overused, it has become the generic name for all items, and sometimes they make for some funny stories.

A stroke of genius by JCDecaux was to take these mishaps, run a direct mail campaign to some of their biggest brand customers and essentially tell them, “same diff.” One miniature billboard was mailed to NIKE to congratulate them on their “Stan Smith” shoe. Another mini went to Dior for Dior N o5 and one to Apple for the Apple Xperia…you get the idea.

Then, JCDecaux let them in on the joke.

As a major advertiser, there’s nothing as frustrating as being confused with your competitor, or becoming the proprietary eponym. And no one understands this frustration better than JCDecaux. Why? Because they experience it every day.

JCDecaux apologised for their intentional error in an accompanying letter:

“We are sorry we have intentionally mistaken you for a competitor. We just wanted to let you know how we feel every day. But we assure you that if you choose our networks for your next campaign, it would not be a mistake.”

Who hasn’t tried the competition only to fine it was a lesson in the value of brand loyalty? Sometimes it takes that lesson to look at the brand you know, and realize different isn’t always better.

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