Why Do We Create Bad Content?

On December 1st I happily pressed play on my Pandora holiday station.  Unfortunately, in between my favorite seasonal hits (mostly featuring the Glee cast) I had to wait through 30 seconds of one of the worst ads ever.  It’s for The Cheesecake Factory, and it’s a jingle to the tune of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

I tried and tried to find an audio clip of this horrifying ad, so you, dear reader, would have to experience my pain, but could not.  So you’ll have to sing it to yourself.  The ad goes like this:

We wish you a merry cheesecake

we wish you a merry cheesecake

we wish you a merry cheesecake

and a complimentary slice for you.

I’ve never before wanted to vomit after hearing about cheesecake.

Why doesn’t this ad work?  It’s uncreative.  It uses a holiday song, which has been re-appropriated thousands of times, and re-appropriates it again.  It shoves ten syllables into a final line that is intended for six syllables.

The Cheesecake Factory isn’t the only perpetrator of badly written content.   My parents’ house in Richmond, Virginia is surrounded by a smattering of uncreative content, particularly in the form of poorly chosen business names.  For example, the closest florist is named Flowerama.  The naming convention of adding “rama” to the end of a word should be reserved for roller skating rinks.   Just down the block from Flowerama is Chicken Mania, a Peruvian chicken, fast-casual restaurant that apparently doesn’t mind alluding to meat-borne diseases (does Mad Cow ring a bell)?  And finally there is Lettuce Knit, a knitting store which, despite what its name implies, is not also a salad bar.  (Lettuce Knit has sadly gone out of business.  I can’t say I’m surprised.)

Brands do this every day, and I just don’t understand.  The internet and social media provide an infinite amount of resources and opportunities for creative research, brainstorming, and even direct customer feedback, so there is no excuse.  Why didn’t an honest friend or family member  politely tell the owners of Lettuce Knit that their name was a recipe (pun intended, and relevant, unlike the name of the store) for disaster?

Perhaps businesses, both large and small, assume that because consumers are so inundated with messaging–on their cell phones, in the margins of their Facebook pages–that promotional content just doesn’t matter anymore.  Their potential customers are going to judge them based on Yelp and other social media reviews, not the name of their business.  Any content, good or bad, results in exposure, and they think that’s all they need.

But this assumption is wrong.  It’s true–consumers are bombarded with ads, but they are also bombarded with choices.  It’s the content created by brands that set them apart as a likable or unlikable business.  And, as we learned from Facebook, it’s all about what you like.