A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

Isn’t that amazing!

Marshall McLuhan (August, 1973, age 62).  My contribution is an h!

Just got off the phone with Cousin Ron – Dr. Ron Hall, now – who you will remember is a biochemist at McMaster.  Idea Consultants is back in action.  These long hot sweaty dog days of summer have been a positive inspiration to us both.  Ron has done the leg work.  They say genius is 99 per cent perspiration.  So perspiration is a good thing.  The problem is it stinks.  Ron came up with the science part of the solution.  Don’t mask the smell with perfume or deodorant.  Keep the good part of the sweat -those amazingly communicative pheromones.  Get rid of the stinky part.  Ron wanted to call his bio-chemical product “protex.”  As in “pro-tection” and  “tex-tile” – protect the fabric.  But I added, if I must say – and I will – what Corinne told me was “the distilled essence of genius.” I convinced him to add one little letter to the name which will spell all the difference in the world: the letter “h.”  We will call it “Prohtex.”  Get it? “Proh-ibit” and “tex-tile” – as in prohibit [the bad sweat on] the fabric.  Well perhaps not everyone will get it.  But when they do we’ll be rolling in it.  Or rather they will.  Must run I feel another idea coming on.  This could be the big one.

Me (January 2010, age 57):  Maybe it wasn’t such a great idea

I don’t know exactly what happened when Marshall McLuhan and his nephew pitched one of the big companies like Johnson & Johnson.  But I’m sure the brand guys dined out regularly on the story.  It is a wonder that the writers on “Madmen” don’t go more to the life of McLuhan for inspiration.  As you might expect nobody in the business world wanted to buy this idea.  Perhaps business people today might be more interested, providing that is that the product does not prove to have unwanted and fundamentally deal-breaking side-effects, for example the attractions of the sexual attention of people you don’t want to be sexually attentive.  (Tomorrow I’ll take a look at more of McLuhan’s amazing business ideas that business kept on turning down.)

Was the name the problem?  Or was it the product?  Say that it worked, would you use a product that kept the good sweat –sent the chemical messages of attraction – and got rid of the bad – the stinky part?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

W. Terrence GordonMarshall McLuhan: Escape into Understanding, 1997, pp. 268-269.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, January 28th, 2010
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Business, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

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