SPAM: a gelatinous block of porky luncheon meat.
Spam: a steady e-mail assault of erectile dysfunction ads, entreaties from Nigerian princes, and replica watch offers.
It’s hard to imagine a brand surviving this kind of association, but Hormel SPAM is doing just fine, thank you very much, not just surviving but thriving.
Hormel used to be awfully touchy on the subject.
In the mid 1990’s they watched their once-proud brand become synonymous with a detestable digital menace. They cried foul, suing a chunk of Silicone Valley for trademark infringement. A Hormel spokesman explained the company’s position with a statement on their website: “We are trying to avoid the day when the consuming public asks, ‘why would Hormel Foods name its product after junk e-mail?’
In 2001 their worst fears were realized.
That’s the year that ‘spam’ made it into the Oxford English Dictionary— not as a luncheon meat but as “The practice of sending irrelevant, inappropriate, or unsolicited postings or e-mails over the Internet, esp. indiscriminately and in very large numbers.“ Still, after years of legal debate, the judges of the Trademark Board came down on the side of the tech companies. They ruled that the brand wasn’t truly damaged because no one confuses the internet application with a canned meat product.
For all of Hormel’s anguish, SPAM remains unmarred by the negative association.
Born in the Great Depression, SPAM is an emblematic food in America’s hard-times pantry. It’s so closely linked with vagaries of the economy that it’s been suggested that the Federal Reserve Bank should track SPAM sales as an economic benchmark. After a sluggish stretch, SPAM roared back during our current downturn and has been posting record sales and profits for the last five years.
SPAM has finally made peace with the internet.
Last year the brand introduced Sir Can-A-Lot, an animated spokescharacter with his own YouTube channel. He’s a little tin can of a knight who’s on a crusade to rescue your meals by infusing them with some pink processed meat. SPAM also has a presence on all the usual social media sites, and more than 3,000 ill-advised recipes on its redesigned website.