Celebrating the Most Unfortunate Product Name Selection in History.

Ayds help you lose weight…
Bet she kept this clip off of her reel: Ayds diet candy commercial

What do you do when the name of your number one product, under which you’ve been selling your goods for decades, becomes a homonym for a deadly scourge?

That’s the foul question the makers of Ayds, an appetite suppressant, found themselves having to address 20 years ago. By that point, it had become clear that acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS, was not going to be a flash in the pan—a temporary blip that the company could just ride out—but would be, in fact, the disease of the century, if not the millennium.

“I swear by Ayds!”Ayds enjoyed a long and respectable run, having been manufactured since the late 1930s. It was prominently endorsed in the postwar era by celebrities like actors Zsa Zsa Gabor, Yvonne deCarlo, right, Hedy Lamar, and ice skater Sonja Henie.

AIDS started to creep into public awareness around the middle of 1981. Yet, in that pre-web, pre-blogosphere age, as late as 1983, according to TIME, retailers could still say with a straight face that

the disease is not hurting the product. Says Elliot Dworkin, vice president of Revco D.S. Inc., which operates 1,661 drugstores in 28 states: “Ayds sales have never been better.”

Eeww.

Plus, to make matters even worse, not only did the candy’s and the disease’s names sound identical, but the tag lines Ayds had traditionally used in their commercials…

“Ayds helps you lose weight”

“Why take diet pills when you can enjoy Ayds?”

“Ayds helped me get back into a size 6″

“Ayds helps control your appetite”

YUM!!…seemed to make cruel mockery of the horrifying wasting associated with having HIV. Try watching this surreal, 1981 commercial, released right about the time AIDS was creeping into public consciousness, or this one, without grimacing.

Ultimately, as is clear to all in hindsight, it was a fight Dep Corporation, the product’s manufacturer, could not win. In early 1988, they began to seek a new name for their candy. Diet Ayds was tried for a while, but the damage had been done. Apparently, the product was discontinued shortly afterwards, and, by the end of the decade, Ayds was gone.

Today, it remains little more than the ultimate biz school study on how to handle corporate branding under torturous, highly unstable conditions.

That is, until people start suddenly dropping dead in massive numbers from Intestinal Poisoning Organ Disease.

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2 comments ↓

#1 Joseph Bell on 07.03.08 at 3:09 pm

I was gratified to see this piece. Back in the eighties, I wondered if I were the only person who saw the unfortunate situation that the manufacturer was in. I still wonder why they didn’t try to rescue the product with an entirely new name.

#2 Betty F Shearer on 11.21.08 at 9:34 pm

where can I buy Ayds?
Years ago I did use Ayds.I would like to see it came with
rhe name Back again| I bet a lot of older people would like it back

Thank you.

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