Barlow's Beef: Not just any terrorist moisturiser


What's your favourite brand of chocolate? I'm guessing Cadbury's will be high on the list. Chocolate lovers have been devouring Cadbury's for generations. The name alone is sufficient to make most people salivate. It has connotations of Christmas, birthdays and all things nice.
How it will fair now the Cadbury brand has been bought by Kraft, a company whose only contribution to gastronomic excellence was to laminate cheese, worries me somewhat.

You will no doubt remember the ludicrous attempt by senior management to abandon the globally recognised Royal Mail brand in favour of Consignia, a name with less public recognition than the Lib Dems.

In 1997 the buffoons running British Airways, in a headlong rush to embrace Tony Blair's Cool Britannia, replaced their world renown Union flag logo with what can only be described as global graffiti.

Richard Branson could scarcely believe his luck and quickly adopted a version of the Union logo for his Virgin fleet increasing his market share accordingly.

Large companies pay huge sums for brand names that engender positive consumer response e.g. Pampers baby products, Sunsilk shampoo, Crag Hopper outdoor clothing etc.

So what response does the word ISIS elicit from you? I doubt it's the warm glow of bon homie and goodwill to all. No (sane) company would adopt it as a toiletry brand. Wrong.

Imagine my astonishment when I found the above products on sale in one of our most venerable stores today. Surely some kind of stunt I reasoned but apparently not. From all the thousands of options available to its management team Marks and Spencer chose a name synonymous with global mayhem.

Look, I'm no marketing guru but come Christmas I doubt shoppers will forgo Jo Malone and Vera Wang in favour of a terrorist derivative. They will have no desire to create mass panic through the joy of giving.

Even a seasoned M&S shopper like Mrs B would think twice about opening a gift marked ISIS. So what's the deal? Surely a retailer of such repute must know the connotation? Well, more than connotation they've actually adopted the exact name by which this bloodthirsty band of fanatics is globally known.

It's impossible to read a journal or watch a news programme on TV without seeing images of desperate refugees fleeing from the brutality of ISIS. Apart from Orla Guerin I can't see many ladies rushing to embrace that.

This is not just any blunder... this is a monumental M&S blunder.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of

Barlows Beef, Vic Barlow


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Steph Walsh
Tuesday 27th October 2015 at 11:59 am
Has it ever occurred to you that Marks, of anyone else for all that matters, may be identifying the term ISIS with the Egyptian goddess of nature and life, which is where the name (as Ἶσις IPA) was first recorded, millennia ago? Should we allow linguistic appropriation by a group or sect while ignoring thousands of years of wonderful tradition that has nothing to do with the current reading of the word 'ISIS'?

Perhaps it'd be a good idea to educate children, and adults alike, a little bit more, with real books, not the internet. I've known of Isis since I was 6 and saw a wonderful exhibition in Milan in the late 1990s (ISIS : Myth, Mystery, Magic) which I will never forget. And just so you know, I am not a retired Egyptologist who went to school 'when things were taught properly', I am actually in my thirties. Education is available people!
Pete Taylor
Tuesday 27th October 2015 at 12:59 pm
Not an Oxford man then Vic? ;-)
Jon Williams
Tuesday 27th October 2015 at 2:55 pm
The sooner this one is wiped off the face of the earth the better !
Vic Barlow
Tuesday 27th October 2015 at 10:15 pm
Steph, has it ever occurred to you that The word “swastika” is derived from the Sanskrit “su” meaning “well” and “asti” meaning “being' but I'm guessing it's not used too often on toiletries.

Perhaps it'd be a good idea to educate children, and adults alike, a little bit more,
Steph Walsh
Tuesday 27th October 2015 at 10:33 pm
Vic, please, we all know that before the Nazis appropriated the swastika it was not the symbol it is today. But it is precisely the allowing of that appropriation that has destroyed its origin and meaning. ISIS is an acronym and, as a matter of fact in more recent times, has been reduced to IS only.

Isis herself existed as a myth long before IS; there are people named Isis, just as there are Moses. I live in Chelsea and around these parts there is a well-established optician whose sign outside reads 'isis'. Should they change their name in haste? Would you if it were your name? Should the Oxford Uni mag change its name? Most importantly, at which point did this site turn into The Daily Mail?
Michael Orange
Thursday 29th October 2015 at 12:41 pm
I am sure that we are aware of the name originating from the Egyptian goddess and the naming of the Thames through Oxford (as in a similar way the Cam through Cambridge is known as the Granta), but I believe that Vic's point is that now is not the best of times to be using it to promote a product. Times will change and at some point in the hopefully near future it will be appropriate to use it in this way, but I question the judgement of anyone employed in public relations to be doing it at this time.
Giles Geddes
Friday 30th October 2015 at 10:22 am
Just a small point but M&S have marketed the ISIS brand for at least 17 years or so. The name was adopted by them long before the infamy of the Jihadists that share the name and indeed 9/11.

The question is therefore should they have retained and continued to market the brand?

Commercially only M&S will know the answer but morally you would have to say that not allowing terrorism to influence the use of a proper noun is the right thing to do?
Vic Barlow
Friday 30th October 2015 at 5:07 pm
I'm not sure terrorists pay that much attention to proper nouns.

Hey, I could be wrong, there may be a Jihadist wailing in some dark cave bereft at his unintentional misappropriation of an acronym.

I, however, remain wary.

What next the wholesale destruction of gerunds?