In a recent post about the confusion between your and you're, Grammar Girl pointed to a new ad campaign from Seagate, the world's largest manufacturer of computer disk drives ($9.2 billion in revenues in fiscal 2006). The campaign promotes a new external hard drive called FreeAgent, whose tagline is:
That's right: Your (possessive), not You're (contraction of you are).
Grammar Girl was flummoxed, but only briefly:
I've worked in marketing before and I know how many people have to sign off on something like this. So I figured the marketers must be trying to do something funky such as make the word on a noun. As in, Here, I have this on thingy for you. Wow, thanks! I've always wanted an on.
Wanting to be sure, she contacted Seagate, which sent "someone named Forrest Malloy" to respond thus:
"Your On" is spelled this way to indicate that Seagate is your (possessive) access to being "on." In essence, Seagate = On.
This version ties the connection more closely to Seagate (as your access to being 'on') as opposed to the more traditional spelling of "You're On," which places the emphasis more closely on the consumer and away from Seagate itself.
Impressive tap-dancing, Mr. Molloy! Too bad you neglected to check your company's own press release, which reads:
And now, wherever you are, whenever you need it, Seagate Technology (NYSE: STX) makes sure “Your On.”
Which certainly sounds, in context, very much like a misspelling of "You're."
Mark Hachman, blogging about this on Gearlog in April, wrote: "I don't know what the heck this phrase means, but it makes my head hurt."
Which prompted commenter "David" to post on May 1:
As an employee I can tell you that this was caught internally before we went to press. But it was too far gone to stop. When faced with a blunder like this, the only thing to do is pretend it is [a] play on words and hope that you can get away with it.
Oh, really? I'll bet if the mistake had been numerical--in the gizmo's price or capacity--Seagate would have burned rubber to make the fix. But language ... who cares?
(Full disclosure: I have done naming work for Seagate, but not on the FreeAgent project.)
(The "Your On" tagline reminded me of a news-forum post that's been circulating on the internets: "Speak English, Your in America Now." And no, it isn't satire. Read what Linguistic Mystic has to say.)
Ummm...excuse me... but didn't Seagate consider the other aspect of Your On? Like testing the sound of the name when said in public? Your On ...may easily be confused with Your In, which in fact, "sounds" like "urine."
Just thought I'd bring it up.
Posted by: Rusty LaGrange | July 26, 2007 at 08:19 AM
Rusty: Yes, that association occurred to me too!
Posted by: Nancy Friedman | July 26, 2007 at 08:25 AM
There was a piece in Harper's several years back that printed a series of letters between a former English teacher and the Coca-Cola company about a grammatical error in a Dasani ad. An excerpt from those is here (all I can find):
It was futile, of course ...
Posted by: mike | July 26, 2007 at 11:12 AM
Speaking as somebody who has worked in some pretty high-powered marketing departments, including one at a ~$1B public company, I can say two things with virtual certainty:
1) Most career marketers, up to and including directors and vice presidents, are more than a couple notches down the intellectual totem pole (if you catch my drift) and couldn't string together a cogent sentence if their lives depended on it.
It would not surprise me in the slightest to discover that one or more entire "branches" of the corporate hierarchy at Seagate's marketing department could be traversed upward to a major decisionmaker without at any level encountering someone who is above an 8th grade writing level.
2) Forrest's reply is completely inane and just screams "C.Y.A." (I mean, honestly, are we supposed to believe that Seagate is trying to sell external hard drives with a tagline that requires a literary critic's assistance to parse out?)
Posted by: Max | August 03, 2007 at 01:53 PM