Marketing Ggeniuses | Our Town | Chicago Reader

Marketing Ggeniuses 

If you want to get someone's attention, just spell a word wrong.

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

All over Wrigleyville vendors are selling T-shirts that read "Chicago Cubs," "Wrigley Field," "2003 Central Division Champions," and "Sox Suck." But none of them is getting as much for a shirt as Blue Marlin, a San Francisco clothing manufacturer that's honoring one of Chicago's best-known neighborhoods with a T-shirt that says "Wrigglyville." They're selling it for $27 at department stores all over the country.

Angel Rodriguez, who was setting up a T-shirt stand on Sheffield before a Cubs-Cardinals game, stopped work for a few minutes to examine the Wrigglyville T-shirt and register his bewilderment and envy.

"I wouldn't sell it," said Rodriguez, whose "Wrigley Field" shirts go for $15 apiece. "That's a misprint. You'd have customers complaining. How much is it? Twenty-seven dollars plus tax? Damn, I need to raise the price."

Across the street Wrigleyville Sports sells $10 shirts featuring the store's name.

"If we sold that, every drunk would be in here saying, 'That's spelled wrong,'" said manager Tim Boucher when he saw the Wrigglyville shirt.

These guys need a lesson in marketing. One of the world's most valuable stamps is the Inverted Jenny, a misprint that shows an airplane flying upside down. Perhaps the greatest moment in sports publicity occurred in 1958, when the promoter of Yonkers Raceway, a harness track outside New York City, ordered painters to make the sign read "RACEWYA." He figured that would attract press photographers. It did.

Blue Marlin, a multimillion-dollar enterprise with clients on all coasts, knows how to profit from a printing error. Lately the company has been making a lot of "vintage American sportswear"--brand-new T-shirts with cracked and faded logos, like the ratty gym clothes we threw out after 120 washings not realizing they'd be fashionable someday. They designed a few New York shirts--"Jones Beach: Long Island Park and Beaches 1980," "1974 Williamsburg 5K, Bkln NYC"--then decided to tackle the Cubs' turf.

But when the designers laid out the logo on their computer, says Katie Kinsella, a Blue Marlin spokeswoman, the spell-check program changed "Wrigley" to "Wriggly." The mistake was reproduced on a sample produced for the MAGIC Show, a clothing expo in Las Vegas.

"They said, 'Let's fix it later,'" says Kinsella. "They took it to the MAGIC Show, and everyone loved it. Everyone thought it was kind of quirky. It was kind of like a great accident. All the buyers said, 'Keep it.' They thought it would be a conversation piece."

Mark Shale, a tony clothing store with three locations in the Chicago area, buys a lot of shirts from Blue Marlin. But they were leery of "Wrigglyville."

"I was a little hesitant because it was misspelled," says buyer Pat Robbins, who put in a smaller-than-normal order of 150 shirts. "We put it in our catalog before the first batch came in, and the call center was getting calls asking why it was misspelled."

But the shirts sold out "almost immediately," Robbins says. The next time, he ordered 300.

"My guess is that half the people don't notice there is an alternative spelling, and half the people think it's funny," says Mark Shale copresident Scott Baskin.

They don't think it's funny in Wrigleyville.

"It looks like they're just trying to catch somebody by surprise, a tourist, an out-of-towner," said Mark Wegren, who was waiting outside the Wrigley Field visitors' entrance with a baseball scrapbook, hoping to catch some Cardinals for autographs. "I don't think a local would buy it. It would look like you just got it off the street."

No, it wouldn't. The shirts you get off the street spell it "Wrigley."

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Andrea Beno.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Ted McClelland

  • The Dirty Ducks

    The Anaheim Ducks -- a team named after a Disney movie -- are the bad-news bullies of this year's Stanley Cup playoffs, which begins Monday at 8 PM.
    • May 25, 2007
  • Handicapping the Derby

    Handicapping the Derby

    This year's Kentucky Derby has the weakest field in years, but there are still five horses worth gambling your money on.
    • May 3, 2007
  • Requiem for a Nun

    Mary Schoenfeldt, ex-nun turned handicapper, picked ten Derby winners. We won't have her help anymore.
    • Apr 20, 2007
  • More »

Tabbed Event Search

Popular Stories