The other day I was examining my historical collection — well, I was actually digging through the kitchen for a clean mug, but it amounts to the same thing.
I’ve worked in a number of jobs over the years that brought me in contact with people representing organizations that wanted to do business with mine. Many of them came bearing gifts, in the manner of pens, mousepads, and coffee mugs, among other freebies. The pens and mousepads gave out or were lost soon after I got them, mostly. Every now and then I’ll run across a dried-up ball point pen with the name of a vendor on it, but that’s becoming more and more rare.
But mugs are different. They are breakable, but most seem to survive for years. I must have a dozen or more — so many, in fact, that there’s not enough room in the kitchen. Boxes in my attic hold the rest.
Funny thing, though. The mugs in my collection represent companies that either no longer exist or are a poor shadow of what they once were. Remember Memorex (“is it live, or is it Memorex?”) Back in the 1980s, when I first got into the information technology field, they were a big provider of data tapes for mainframe computers. My office was near the data center in the company where I worked, and so when a salesperson dropped by I ended up with a mug emblazoned with their logo. The mug is still as good as ever, but where is Memorex today?
There’s a bunch of others in my collection. Some you’ve probably heard of (and wondered what happened to them) — BellSouth, for instance. Others you probably never heard of. Medaphis, for example. Not only did they give me a mug, but they gave me a job as well. The mug is all that’s left of that experience. Or Information Technology Associates, another company I worked for before it went belly up. They gave out glass beer mugs instead of pottery coffee mugs. Glass was more expensive, so they thought it would create a better impression with potential clients. When they changed the name to Global Information Technology Associates, which they thought would create a better impression with potential clients, they gave out all the old logo stuff. I got three or four of the mugs — one survives, although GITA does not.
As I ticked down the list, I realized, I have never been given a mug bearing the logo of IBM, or Apple, or Google, or even Yahoo. I’m sure they gave them out, but somehow they managed to avoid giving one to me.
There may be an important lesson for business marketing in there somewhere. If you want to succeed in business, don’t give me a mug with your company’s name on it. It’s a proven path to destruction.