Lingerie and Labeling on the intranet.

LaceOnce upon a time (it must have been around 2002) we reserved some space on our intranet home page for new products. Being in an international consumer goods company, we thought it would be good if local marketeers could share their new products or promotions with the rest of the world. At that time, the company was very decentralized, and many wheels were being reinvented. We hoped the little “box” (the words “widget” or “web part” still had to be invented  🙂 )  would make it easier to share ideas.

We called the box “New Products”.

Once someone had requested and received contribute rights, they could upload pictures and enter text. These were visible to all employees, and all new products were being shown in rotation. (the concept of “carousel” had not yet been invented 🙂 )

It was quite popular because people were proud of their innovations. Employees in other countries would sometimes ask if and how they could buy the product, or if they could use the promotion mechanism for their own purpose. So we considered this functionality a moderate success.

That does not mean all went smoothly.

The company also had a textiles division, and a brand specializing in pantyhose and ladies’ lingerie. The products were great – beautiful designs, innovative materials and latest technologies. The brand marketeers were very proud of their products and showed every new product in the New Products “box”. They displayed their products on beautiful models who wore not much else…
Not everyone appreciated that amount of exposed skin, and we (as the owners of the functionality) received many complaints.
We therefore asked the brands to dress the models in a long-sleeved blouse, unbuttoned, to cover some of the skin. The brands agreed, but did not understand that some people were uncomfortable with their pictures, just as the other party did not understand why you would want to post that kind of pictures on the homepage of the intranet.

Pads vs Pods
Another interesting discussion was the one following the display of our latest varieties of coffee and tea pads on the New Products box.  The European marketing teams were proud of their very successful new products, but other countries objected to the use of the word “Pads” on the product pack, because that was associated with feminine hygiene products. In those countries, the common word was “Pods’.
Of course the European brands did not change the name of their succesful range, but it was an interesting reminder of the different meanings of a brand name in different cultures.
Some time later, a computer company launched a tablet computer that used the “wrong” word and nobody complained about that. 🙂

A strategic decision
But then company management had a session about the future direction of the company. As a result, we were asked to change the name from “New Products” into “Growth Drivers”.
While we understood the concept, we were not happy with this, because we were afraid that many employees would not understand the purpose of this box anymore. After all, we were a multinational manufacturing company, and a large part of our employee base, including local marketing, was not exactly fluent in English.

We tried to discourage management but alas, “Growth Drivers” it had to be.


From that moment, the use of the web part  (by then we had moved to SharePoint) declined. Even while the only change was the name, employees did not recognize it anymore, especially our non-US population. They asked where the New Products functionality had gone and were annoyed when they discovered that a perfectly good name had been changed into something “fuzzy” that needed “translation”.

What have we learned?
Keep your intranet labels simple and intuitive, especially when you are in a multinational company where not everyone may be fluent in English.

You may also like:

Mind your language. A guest post on Wedge’s Kilobox Communiqué.
How NOT to implement a Discussion Forum.
What does your content smell like?

Lace Image courtesy of andyk at
The Banana-Caramel pie is my own creation. Recipe available on request!

3 thoughts on “Lingerie and Labeling on the intranet.

  1. JonWalmsley (@UXJon) October 24, 2013 / 6:27 pm

    Reminds me of all the times I’ve tried (usually in vein) to stop clients naming a website section ‘Innovate Solutions’.

    • Ellen van Aken October 27, 2013 / 1:26 pm

      I can imagine you trying that. It sounds too complicated as well as just incorrect :-). Thanks for sharing!

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