File this in PR goofs.
Two companies—Tchibo, a coffee maker, and Esso, a gas company—ran a joint ad campaign in Germany with the slogan: “Jedem den Seinen.”
Translation: “To each his own,” a term coined by Roman statesman and philosopher Cato, according to Spiegel Online.
However, a nearly identical phrase, “Jedem Das Seine,” appeared at the entrance to the Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald. The Nazis meant it to read, “To each what he deserves,” Spiegel said.
Again, this ad campaign ran in Germany. The slogan appeared on signs advertising Tchibo coffee at Esso gas stations. Last week, the signs were removed.
Reuters reported that Salomon Korn, the vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper that the campaign reflected either “unsurpassed tastelessness” or “total historical ignorance.”
Both Tchibo and Esso said they failed to make the connection before the ad ran. Tchibo apologized; Esso blamed their ad firm.
You could chalk this up to an unfortunate—not careless—goof if this recent incident weren’t the fifth time a company has made the mistake of using the slogan, “To each his own,” in Germany.
• In 1998, the American Jewish Committee slammed Nokia for advertizing with the phrase; Nokia quickly switched the slogan with Shakespeare’s “As You Like it”;
• That same year, German food retailer Rewe released a brochure that read “Barbecuing: To Each His Own.” Rewe apologized;
• In 1999, Burger King advertised with “To each his own” in the German city of Erfurt until people protested;
• In 2001, Munich-based Merkur-Bank used the term in an ad campaign for bank accounts.
Learning from other companies' mistakes is so overrated.