The Survival of Spam

By Phineas Upham

How would you like to have the same name as junk mail? It wouldn’t be fun. In fact, you would probably be the butt of many jokes. That’s what happened to Spam, the lunchmeat made by Hormel. Although the product was invented way before the internet came along, Spam had a bit of an identity crisis when the junk mail that flooded inboxes and chat rooms was coined Spam.

In an article published in Bloomberg Businessweek, Karl Taro Greenfeld writes about Hormel’s major marketing struggle during that time: what do you do when your brand name takes on a negative meaning? “How Spam Survived ‘Spam,’” goes into the company’s journey, which first began by fighting back as much as it could. Hormel tried to assert its trademark rights against companies Spam Arrest, Spam Buster, and Spam Cube. It even sued Jim Henson Productions for naming one of its characters “Spa’am.” In the end, however, the company bounced back by celebrating Spam.

Greenfeld writes, “It’s hard to imagine a brand surviving that kind of association, and yet a strange thing happened: Spam has not only survived, it’s thrived.”

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Phineas Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Phineas Upham website or LinkedIn page.

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