What’s in a name?
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 can get awfully touchy about the name.
It’s been a sore subject since the mid 1990’s when they watched their once-proud brand become synonymous with a detestable digital menace, and were powerless to stop it. Over the years they’ve repeatedly singled out technology companies with ‘spam’ in their company names and sued them for trademark infringement. After a decade of legal debate, the judges of the Trademark Board ruled against Hormel, asserting that the brand wasn’t truly damaged because no one confuses the internet applications with a canned meat product.
In 2001 their worst fears were realized.
A Hormel spokesman explained the company’s struggle 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?’” Indeed, ‘spam’ has become ubiquitous throughout the world to describe the flood of unsolicited e-mail and in 2001 the term entered 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.”
But 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—so much so that it’s been suggested that the Federal Reserve Bank should track SPAM sales as an economic benchmark. We’ve turned to it again in the recent downturn. Hormel has seen steadily rising sales and profits for the past four years.
In 2012 SPAM makes peace with the internet.
Looking to grow its online presence, this year SPAM redesigned its website, added a YouTube channel, and stepped up its customer engagement through Twitter and Facebook. The brand also introduced its first-ever spokescharacter, Sir Can-A-Lot, a little tin can of a knight who’s on a crusade to rescue your meals by infusing them with some pink processed meat. This year, SPAM’s U.S. consumption reached an all-time high of more than 120 million cans.