Thursday, May 24, 2007

Why you can't google for a Mcjob

The idea of all publicity being good publicity, and providing a critical mass of people were aware of your brand you are alright, has gone. Google are trying to block the introduction of the verb 'to google' into the Oxford English Dictionary; the immediate reasons are unclear, however, as words become common parlance it is easy to see how it can take on a derogatory aspect. The famous case is that of McDonalds, as momentum gets behind their campaign for the removal of Mcjobs from the dictionary. As they try to sell exciting career prospects, the OED describes "An unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector"; McDonalds has a range of supporters including MPs lobbying for the rewrite.

This could be a test case for copyright of a brand name, and something that is definitely in McDonalds favour. Urban Dictionary has a range of terms starting with 'Mc', many of which refer to the brand. The fact that anyone can post a definition, however, such as that for Mcretard or embellishments on the Mcjob theme, poses a huge problem. While the OED may buckle under pressure, the various user generated definitions will flourish and the term will maintain its currency among the masses.

Given that this is largely a pointless act, why are there supporters from across business and politics. Branding and the use of brand logos is a big issue for many. Using a logo can denote being sanctioned by the brand; equally any derogatory reference that includes the brands logo can create a generally negative perception of the brand. Politicians are possibly thinking that if McDonalds can win there can be restrictions on who does what with key brand referents. So would this be the death of negative advertisements referring to the Liebour Party, also could it force satire publishing websites such as Deadbrain to reconsider how realistic their spoofs appear (see below); furthermore could it prevent spoof stories from naming real politicians? Probably not but one can believe that restriction would be seen as a good thing among the higher echelons.

But the problem is that these brands cannot prevent the ideas gaining currency and phrases falling into common use. Whether the OED lists a word or not, I will still hear students saying they will google something, or that they need a Mcjob to tide them over, etc, until a new phrase comes into use. Politicians should perhaps think themselves lucky that to do a Mandelson (get caught acting improperly twice, but getting away with it) was never popularised; and just consider what the verbs to Prescott or Blunkett could be used for. They are forgetting the power of anonymised, user generated content that can go global at the click of a button, hence while officially things can be prevented, unofficially they cannot.


Heather Yaxley said...

More command and control thinking in terms of brand policing here.

What I hate even more though are those who seek to copyright words or phrases that already exist. I went to an event where a "creative agency" claimed to own the word talkability as they'd registered it. Please....

BTW - the Director of Communications at GM in UK is Joe Jacuzzi - I just love the fact that there is a real person (his father) behind the bubbly baths. Unlike Ronald McDonald of course.

Curtis said...

Isnt Ronald McDonald the definition of McRetard?

Darren G. Lilleker said...

I suppose I can a least understand why McD want to protect themselves from such negative associations (such as Curtis' comment); but if you were a brand that became synonymous with your product (Google and 'to google') why are the board rooms not echoing to the sound of Halleluyah? Whatever, thought, the war is futile. Most dont search for the right term in dictionaries unless writing an academic essay, they just use the phrase. Wonder why 'to yahoo' never took off?