I received this email from Saks Fifth Avenue last week:
What caught my attention was the email’s subject line, repeated in the text I’ve circled in the ad’s upper right-hand corner: “Shop Burberry outerwear for unmatched style.” (See the full-frame ad here.)
“Unmatched” was almost certainly chosen to parallel “unblemished” and “unquestioned” (which are also strange, but for different reasons). The problem with “unmatched,” though, is that it can mean either of two things: “matchless” (peerless, beyond compare) or “mismatched” (clashing, not matching). And because the latter meaning is the one that first occurred to me, I was surprised not to see a jumble of colors and patterns in the coats.
As I’ve previously written, ambiguity isn’t necessarily a bad thing in commercial language. But it succeeds only when all of the possible meanings support a positive message, as in the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s ad line, “Making Cancer History.”
About those other uns in the Saks ad:
Unblemished? At these prices – the red coat is $1,250, the khaki one $1,995 – I should certainly hope so. “Unblemished” is a word a grocer might use to describe perfect fruit; it’s odd and out of place in fashion copy unless you’re writing for a second-hand store.
“Unquestioned”? Well, that depends. I question whether the Cropped Shearling/Leather Jacket ($2,295) might make me look like a baked potato. And across the pond, there have been questions about Burberry’s reputation, which has only recently recovered from its “chav” (lower-class) associations.