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Omicron Rock: When Your Brand Name Gets Co-Opted By A Virus

January 18, 2022

Cartoon of COVID virus variant Omicron cell as a heavy metal rock guitarist

Back in December, a Wall Street Journal headline caught my eye:

“Omicron— the Metal Band— Makes The Best Of Its Name”

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highSome excerpts:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Meet Omicron. Not the coronavirus variant but the Belgian death metal band, who say that the only thing contagious about them is their music.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

The World Health Organization decided to name the new virus strain after the same letter of the Greek alphabet they chose for their band name.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

At first the band appeared apologetic.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

“We want to express our support for all the victims, the people working in the medical sector, and all the sacrifices everyone makes to battle this virus,” the band wrote on its Facebook page.

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highThat might not have been quite metal enough, however. A beat later they struck a more defiant note:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

“For the record, our band name is based on the Omicron galaxy system and not on the current Omicron Covid strain.”

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highSome larger enterprises have been caught out by the pandemic, at least at first. Sales of Corona beer were predicted to fall when the corona virus struck, but by the end of 2020… sales had held up.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Delta Airlines had a scare when it wound up sharing its name with a virus strain. Named after a crop-dusting operation in the Mississippi Delta, the airline didn’t see a significant fall in bookings compared with its competitors…blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Omicron Repro, a small-town print shop in Canterbury, England, sees it as a chance to bag some free advertising— or at least an opportunity to get customers to remember how to spell its name.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Owner Mark Fawcett-Jones ordered a pair of bright yellow hazmat suits off Amazon to wear at the store and make the
most of the situation. “It’s just a bit tongue-in-cheek, really,” said Mr. Fawcett-Jones. “But it’s easier to read our email address on the phone now. People know how to spell it. We
had all sorts of trouble before.”
blank vertical space, 32 pixels highOwner Mark Fawcett-Jones and and director Dave Loveridge wearing hazmat suits and pointing to their store sign, Omicron Repro, Print Specialists in Canterbury, England

Omicron, the band, is working on a new concept album about
an alien invasion. If all goes well, they expect to have nine or so songs in the can soon, enough for a 50-minute live set— assuming Omicron, the virus, will let them play.
blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highA death metal band sharing a name with a virus… one has to appreciate the irony there.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

I love Omicron Repro’s response: wearing hazmat suits in their store. I think the humor strikes just the right note.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Sometimes you just have to bow to the absurd and have fun with it. People will like you better for it. They may even learn to spell your name correctly!!blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

A few closing thoughts:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

1. If they name a virus after your brand (or if Fate puts you
in a similar awkward position), embrace the situation.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Acknowledge it. Doing so gives you some control. Much better for you to make light of the situation than for others, including competitors, to make jokes at your expense.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

2. Don’t sell yourself out as part of any damage control.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

A death metal band jeopardizes its standing with fans when it mouths polite phrases (“We want to express our support for all the victims…”). There’s a credibility issue there (as ludicrous as that may sound).blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

3. “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” is attributed to P.T. Barnum. Probably not true if you’re on the 6 o’clock news as a convicted ax murderer, but true in general, I think.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

A better way to phrase it might be: “All publicity is good if
it is intelligent.”
It’s how you choose to handle any unexpected publicity.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

4. There’s a lot to be said for taking a humorous approach. Humor projects confidence, and confidence wins people over.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

So have fun with the situation. When life hands you lemons, make a yellow hazmat suit.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

*       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       * blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, branding, social media, and content marketing. My images are different, like your brand needs to be.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Questions? Send me an email.blank vertical space, 40 pixels highRecommendation testimonial for Mark Armstrong Illustration from Beth Taylor, senior editor, Thomson Reuters

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2022 1:04 PM

    My sister’s name is Karen, she owns a real estate agency. Now that’s a fun challenge to make a positive. Glad to be back here checking in on your always entertaining, always informative posts.

    Like

    • January 24, 2022 9:49 AM

      Karen… ha!! How the heck does a simple name become notorious?? And if you’re a guy named Branson, well, there you go!!

      Hi, Alison! Great to see you, and thanks so much for stopping by. It helped me discover your revamped blog– hooray! Great to know you’re out there being a good influence, and thanks for that lovely comment!! 😊

      Like

  2. January 26, 2022 7:52 PM

    I can’t imagine the frustration to be associated with a pandemic. A local historic synonym!

    Like

    • January 28, 2022 4:04 PM

      Well, I was thinking of adding a fictitious partner and changing the name of my firm to Armstrong and Omicron, but after reading your comment, I’ve decided against it… 😅

      Always great to see you here, Jean– keep smiling and steer clear of viruses!! 🚴‍♀️💨

      Like

      • January 28, 2022 5:58 PM

        😀 Hard to believe, Mark: we are living historic times right now. It’s hard to believe because it doesn’t feel “victorious” nor revoluntionary. But we are challenged in ways, never predicted and sadly, for some lost.

        Like

        • January 30, 2022 11:01 AM

          You and I are up to the challenge, Jean, and we shall step forth boldly to take our place in history!! That’s the plan, anyway. 😊

          Liked by 1 person

        • January 30, 2022 2:59 PM

          Methinks stepping forth right now, is staying healthy, not mistakenly into the pothole of misinformation. I have 4 siblings who each work in health care facilities in Metro Toronto. So there is acute awareness for observing the protocol well!

          Like

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