Gladys Santiago

What’s in a Name? Flip Video

Posted in Marketing by Gladys Santiago on November 22, 2008

I posted the following comment on Rob Walker’s Murketing blog. 

In reference to Flip Video, I’m surprised there hasn’t been any discussion over its name. “Flip” is a derogatory term for Filipinos and I know the product’s name is in reference to how the USB device flips out, but I’m just a little surprised that there has never been any uproar over its name. Don’t get me wrong, I love the name and the camera, but I just wonder if at any point during the development process, if anyone stopped to think that it might be offensive. The name could have really backfired (think Chevy Nova).

I would like to add that what interests me most about Flip Video’s name is the lack of a backlash that could have potentially turned very ugly for Pure Digital Technologies, the company that owns Flip products.  Given all the means of broadcasting discontent on a multitude of social media outlets, I’m surprised that no one expressed any outrage or criticism.  Johnson & Johnson recently pulled a Motrin ad after one mother complained about it on Twitter.  The ad, seen here, is not overtly offensive, but it struck a nerve with several mothers leading to the pharmaceutical giant to issue apology after apology.

The ad was on the Motrin website for 45 days before receiving a storm of negative attention. Flip Video, in comparison, has been on the market since May 2007, but, as far as I know, not one discussion over its potentially controversial name has emerged. In a response to my comment, Rob Walker stated that he hadn’t come across anything about Flip’s name in regard to race and he even wrote an article about the digital camera in his Consumed column for New York Times Magazine.

I’m sure when Pure Digital Technologies was bringing Flip Video to market, it copytested Flip ads through the roof, yet the name still managed to slip by.  As I noted in my comment, I’m well aware that the name describes the built-in USB arm and is not meant to be offensive in anyway.  The term “flip” is not disparaging to a minor sub-culture, but rather, it is a hateful, derogatory word geared towards an entire race of people.  So, how is it possible that nobody has yet to express their concern?  I’m curious to know whether people have reached out directly to Pure Digital Technologies over this issue and if so, what their response was.