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Dictating the market

Sex sells, but you wouldn’t think the same holds for despotism. This, however does not stop some marketers from trying. Entrepreneurs everywhere are profiting from businesses and products named after blood-stained dictators.

Products invoking Hitler are popular in India, where businesses think the pull of his charisma outweighs the negative connotation of his crimes. A Mumbai restaurant was recently forced to rename its Hitler’s Cross pizza after outrage from Jewish groups. Similar pressure led to the cancellation of a popular TV show called “Hitler Didi”.

A clothes shop called Hitler, complete with swastika motif, also succumbed. Other Hitler brands registered in India, include Hitler Hair Beauty Saloon, Hitler Jeans, Kid Nation Hitler and Hitler’s Den, a pool hall in Nagpur. Changing its name would hurt business, says Baljeet Singh Osah, its owner.

Nina Beckhart, head of the Naming Group, a New York branding company, says iconoclastic images appeal to a niche clientele, but brands must earn the “licence to be boldly offensive”. Vini Nostalgici, an Italian drinks company, sells about 45,000 bottles of Adolf Hitler wine each year. Vintages named after Mussolini, Lenin and Stalin are also popular. The quality of the wine is irrelevant, says Fabio bogo, the company’s founder. Replace it with water and the bottles would still sell.

There were also no complaints after a beer called Mao Ze Drunk was introduced for a one-month promotion in Britain at the beginning of the year. Tessa Holden, of Holden’s Brewery, says sales were strong. Customers do not seem too phased by a restaurant chain in Dublin called Mao, an unfortunate association as millions of Chinese starved to death during the great Chinese famine, for which Mao Zedong was responsible.

These stunts are trickier with boring products. Tintas Robbialac, a Potuguese paint-maker, axed its Verelho Estaline (Red Stalin) line, following online protest in2010. “Lifestyle” products which purport to show solidarity with the downtrodden might do better, though. In Columbia, FARC terrorists, who demand land reform, sells packs of FARCAFÉ coffee alongside their more lucrative lines of illegal stimulants. Shortly after fighting between Israeli and Hamas forces last November, Stay Stylish, a cosmetics company in Gaza, announced brisk sales of its new M75 perfume, named after a locally named rocket fired at Israeli cites. Even in the confounding world of brand consultants, this is probably not what is meant by guerrila marketing.


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