In 1969 George Baker was writing a song for his band, he was thinking about money.
So he wrote a track called Little Greenback (‘greenbacks’ being the slang term for dollars).
The main lyric went: “Looking back, on the track, for a little greenback.”
George’s real name was Hans Bouwens, he was Dutch, and when he was asked the name of the track, his accent sounded like “Little Green Bag” to American ears.
So that’s how the song was released, and it became a hit, largely because ‘Little Green Bag’ meant something completely different.
In late sixties America, ‘green’ was slang for marijuana, which made it more fashionable.
The incorrect mnemonic made the song more memorable.
The record was a big hit for the band, and later when Quentin Tarrantino used it for Reservoir Dogs, it was a hit all over again.
Another lucky accident was Marshall MacLuhan’s book: The Medium Is the Massage.
The title was supposed to be: The Medium Is the Message, but the typesetter made a mistake, he insisted on reprinting it but MacLuhen stopped him.
He said: “Leave it alone! it’s great, and right on target! Now there are four ways to read the last word of the title: Message, Mess-Age, Massage, and Mass-Age.”
The incorrect mnemonic made the title more memorable.
Most of you will remember a game called SuperMario, some of you may remember it came from an earlier game called Donkey Kong.
A huge ape stood at the top of a building throwing barrels down at a character called Mario, who had to dodge the barrels while trying to get to the ape.
The Japanese creators obviously based the game on the film King Kong.
Mark Smith, editor of Club Nintendo magazine, says the Japanese didn’t want to get sued by MCA, so they changed the name from King Kong to Monkey Kong.
But the Japanese translated one letter wrongly, so Monkey Kong was written as Donkey Kong.
The Americans knew the Japanese were strange, so they didn’t question it, they launched the game as Donkey Kong.
And so Donkey Kong became the massive worldwide hit that launched SuperMario, even though it had nothing to do with donkeys.
Strangely enough, the incorrect mnemonic made the title more memorable.
Harry Webb’s manager used an incorrect mnemonic to launch the singer’s career.
He changed his name to Cliff Richard, purposely not Cliff Richards.
So that, when he phoned to get a booking and someone asked the name, he would say “Cliff Richard”, then they’d say “Cliff Richards?” and he’d say “No, Cliff Richard, without the ‘s’” and they’d say “Oh, Cliff Richard without the ‘s’” which would give him double the chances to get the name repeated and remembered.
Which, when done correctly, is exactly the kind of thinking that works for us.
When Compare the Market launched into the price comparison market it was already too late, the market was owned by Go Compare, Confused.com, and Money Supermarket.
Worse still, Compare the Market had a generic name, they had no chance of penetration.
So they used an incorrect mnemonic instead.
They developed a website called Compare the Meerkat, and advertised that.
All their ads featured a Meerkat explaining that you shouldn’t be looking for a website to Compare the Meerkat, you should be looking for a website to Compare the Market.
The public loved it so much it was remembered over all the competition.
Now Compare the Market dominates all the price comparison websites.
Because something that’s incorrect often stands out more than something that’s correct.