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Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Wednesday 3/11/2004You don't want to be reminded of Wednesday -- gloom, anger, and much swearing is the order of the day, especially among those who stayed up until 3am in the morning and went to bed still thinking that there was a chance…So instead let's talk about Spam. Not the floods of emails offering fake Rolexes, pills and sultry Russian women -- what a lifestyle one could have were it all true -- but the real thing.

Wednesday 3/11/2004

You don't want to be reminded of Wednesday -- gloom, anger, and much swearing is the order of the day, especially among those who stayed up until 3am in the morning and went to bed still thinking that there was a chance…

So instead let's talk about Spam. Not the floods of emails offering fake Rolexes, pills and sultry Russian women -- what a lifestyle one could have were it all true -- but the real thing. Worryingly pink and with a texture unlike any other foodstuff, Spam -- that pressed brick of pork and ham -- has long enjoyed a special place in the lifestyles of the gastronomically unadventurous. It's a classic comfort food - easy to prepare and serve with lashings of nostalgia for childhood repasts. It makes me think of wilted lettuce, over-vinegared tomatoes and glutinous salad cream -- things that have made Caesar salads and mayonnaise seem rather exotic ever since.

Spam-makers Hormel are clearly conflicted about the IT meaning of the word. It's hardly flattering to be associated with endless offers of pornographic wristwatches: on the other hand the sheer ubiquitousness of the word has led to record sales in the UK and a growth rate of nearly ten percent a year while all other tinned meats are declining. So Hormel is indulging in some brand management. On the one hand, it's investing in a big TV advert to get the name across to youngsters who still don't know about the porky delights in that easy-open tin, and on the other it's taking the occasional legal pot-shot at people who use spam in business product names.

It's not going to work, any more than Hormel's wish that we say SPAM in upper-case letters when we want to talk about the pig-related substance and merely spam for the email. Although it may be a brand manager's heartache, words will do what they want to -- and this one's jumped the gap.

If Hormel could come to terms with it, it could have some fun. Perhaps it could produce Special Edition SPAM, which introduces elements of the fortune cookie: every slice you cut comes with a different promotional message. Alternatively, it could start directly marketing the product through a campaign of saturation emails, thus hopelessly confusing the issue and gaining some of the immoral low ground back for the product.

The masterstroke would be to get the endorsement of spammer Jeremy Jaynes -- now languishing for nine years for repeat spamming offences -- for the pink'n'meaty stuff itself. Imagine the tag-line: SPAM! It's in the can.

Bit more imagination, chaps, and we'll all be better off.