What’s in a name?

At the beginning of the summer I spent a few weeks in Rome with 20 other students. On the first day there we saw an advertisement on the side of a city bus for MAGNUM GOLD?! ice cream. The ad was a picture of the ice cream bar, flanked by Benicio del Toro and Caroline de Souza Correa, and all it read was “Magnum Gold?!”

I’m not sure if it was the presence of the two attractive actors or the combination of a question mark and an exclamation point, but this ad started a frenzy that would last for the next five weeks. Each of us had a list of things we wanted to accomplish while in Italy, and “Eating a Magnum Gold?!” was instantly added to all of them.

You would have thought that we were searching for the Holy Grail. Every time we would walk past a storefront with a cooler, we would take a quick inventory of the Magnum selection.  Every time a bus would pass, all of us would turn to see if it was lucky enough to be a “Magnum Gold?!” bus. How to properly pronounce the “?!” combination was the topic of many dinner conversations. And after we found and tried the rare desserts, we were inspired to uncover and taste all the different flavors.

And all because of an advertisement we saw on the side of a dirty Roman bus on our first day in Italy.

In the era of social media, cell phones, and pretty much everything technological, I thought it was really interesting that a group of 20 eighteen- to twenty-one-year-olds reacted so strongly to an ad on the side of a bus. It may have had to do with the fact that we were in a foreign country with limited access to internet and phones. It may have just been the delusions from jet lag. Or, it could be that “traditional” advertising isn’t necessarily as ineffective as we thought.

The only thing in this ad other than the product, and product name, is two celebrities. Was it the celebrity endorsements that created such a response? Well, considering none of us had even heard of Caroline de Souza Correa (we had to Google her to find out she was an actress), probably not. Sure, Benicio del Toro is kind of a badass, but is he cool enough to our generation to have such an appeal? In an article for Ireland’s Business and Leadership magazine, Colette Coughlan, senior brand manager for Magnum, stated, “We have teamed up with an A-list star and a world renowned film director [Bryan Singer] to create a first class campaign.” A-list actor? I’m not questioning Benicio’s acting abilities; I’m just saying that the people on my trip were no older than 10 during his heyday. So this reaction was definitely not warranted based solely on the power of the celebrity.

Which only leaves the product and its name. In my opinion, the reason that this ad created so much excitement was because of the name of the product: Magnum Gold?! There is something about that combination of punctuation and the fact that it sounds like the name of a condom which is so fascinating. Would we have bought as many Magnum Gold?!s if it was named something else? I highly doubt it. The name provided just enough intrigue as it passed us on the bus that we wanted to figure out what it was, and the fact that it was on the bus was the perfect way to catch us off guard and introduce us to the new flavor. I honestly think that the name was everything.

For a bunch of students from the “iGeneration” to react so strongly to an ad on the side of the bus is intriguing. All I know for certain is that the ad worked. Over the course of five weeks, collectively my group probably bought more than 150 Magnums. Perhaps the influx of technology and the movement towards social media aren’t as dominating as we thought, at least in Europe, anyway.

— Karie Hayden, intern


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