March 16th, 2012
06:51 PM GMT
London (CNN) – When asked by CNN for comment about the new Nike shoe nick-named the ‘Black and Tan’ one man in Newry, Northern Ireland asked, “How about if an Irish company came out with a shoe and called it 'The Taliban' how would the Americans feel?”
That might be a bit harsh. The Taliban are known the world over.
Yet, Nike has fallen into the trap many American companies face. What sounds normal to your American customers can offend elsewhere.
But look online and on YouTube and it's clear the shoe is being described as ‘black and tan’ as a wink to a drink of mixed Irish stout and pale ale, a drink known as ‘black and tan’ apparently. That’s new to me.
To be clear, the shoe is, well, black and tan, and has an Irish stout pint glass on the insole. It was being publicized ahead of St. Patrick’s Day.
With all that, you might think someone would have Googled the term, even if it’s not the official name of the shoe. Back in 2006 Ben & Jerry’s had a ‘black and tan’ flavored ice cream and got into hot water for the same reason, even though Ben & Jerry’s said it was also named for a mixed drink of stout and pale ale.
What seems to be lost on those using the term casually is that the ‘Black and Tans’ were a British paramilitary force that terrorized Ireland during the early 1920s. You simply would not order a ‘black and tan’ drink anywhere on the island.
I go back to the fact that Nike did not officially call these skate boarding shoes ‘black and tans’, it was just an obvious term given the colors of the shoe. Fair enough. But these days of social media and instant conversation, companies have to keep on top of these things 24/7 or pay the price in the media and online.
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