Feb 05

What you don’t know can hurt you, your career and your organization’s image

The marketing geniuses at Woolworths (now a UK company with no stores in the US) must150014678lolitaposters
have skipped their English Literature class en masse while growing up. How else to explain their total ignorance of the blockbuster book and movies, ‘Lolita’?

Woolworths just had to recall an entire line of girls’ bedding named after the ubiquitous and promiscuous 12-year-old heroine of the Nabokov novel, Lolita.

Parents were justifiably outraged at the mere thought of purchasing bedroom furniture that celebrated the antics and acrobatics of the pre-teen tart. And Woolworths’ defense? They’d never heard of the character, the book or the movie.

One would have to lead a fairly sheltered life to have missed the any of the movies, starting with the "original" featuring a comely Sue Lyon as Lolita, a sinister James Mason as her paramour Humbert Humbert and a pathetic Shelly Winters in an Oscar-nominated performance as Lolita’s mother. But, then again, the mass ignorance at Woolworths could merely be indicative of a prevalent and disturbing trend among marketers of a certain age (read: youngish): if an event happened before they ‘came of age,’ it simply didn’t exist.

The losers? The young girls, their parents. Woolworths’ image and reputation, and all of us. Which is why I urge young people to read, read and read some more. The more you know, the smarter you’ll be. The smarter you are, the less likely you’ll be to make foolish mistakes that can derail a career and sideswipe a corporate image.