SPAM vs. Spam

The marketers of Spam keep rowing bravely, boats against the current, toward a healthy brand image. But it’s a task that’s been more difficult in recent years because of Internet jargon.

The Hormel product, which got its name in the ’30s courtesy of a contest organized by J.C. Hormel himself, has been ambushed by Webspeak, with the word spam now used to mean the noxious mounds of junk e-mail that pile up in your inbox. Ticked off but really in no position to fight it, Spam has officially accepted the alternate use of the term, The Wall Street Journal reports.

A quick glance at—which sells some sweet merchandise, including Spam boxer shorts and a Spam “bean bag character”—reveals the decree: “We do not object to use of this slang term to describe UCE [unsolicited commercial e-mail], although we do object to the use of our product image in association with that term. Also, if the term is to be used, it should be used in all lower-case letters to distinguish it from our trademark SPAM, which should be used with all uppercase letters.” Style issues prohibit Shoptalk’s compliance with that request, but we otherwise applaud Spam’s grace under fire.

Officials at Spam agency BBDO, Minneapolis, did not return calls.