Dear CMO:

You may take a controversial stand some time at some point in your career. Disintermediate a long established channel by going direct, for example. Launch a product in a format or style long dominated by a chief competitor. Maybe launch an edgy ad campaign that the CEO’s mother doesn’t like. At all.

All of these are fine. Sometimes careers and lives are defined by interesting choices based on equal parts of hard facts and pure intuition. The problem arises when we find ourselves attached to the patently ridiculous. Not ridiculous as in controversial or risky. Ridiculous as in one of those things that everyone in the bar shouts in unison when you walk in the door, for example. Would a case study be helpful here?

What would you pay not to be Sheryl Crow right now?

Would you like to be known as a crusader for preventing disease in Africa or for reducing global warming by limiting one’s use of toilet paper to a single sheet? Her blog suggests it was all a joke, but the explanation is a bit light. First, the rest of the entry is downright sanctimonious, and second, regardless of the spin she’s trying to impart on the ball that’s already left her hands, it’s all just too late. Everyone from Dennis Miller to Drudge to the guy down the hall in accounting will tell you the story at this point. People who have developed serious brands can’t quickly become comedians, can they? Just ask Gavin Newsom.

Still, you don’t have to theorize about bathroom hygiene to find yourself high and dry. How about singing the company song to U2’s “One”? (I have to admit, the guy would have crushed most of the American Idol contestants, but jeez, his choice of material…). What was Raphael Palmeiro thinking when he acknowledged his poor batting average in the bedroom? As it turns out, Viagra was about the tamest thing he was taking, of course, which only made the situation worse. What ever happened to athletes who just sponsored brands like Gatorade?

We’re programmed to avoid shame at all cost. Never, ever put yourself in a position to do something that will make you or your brand the object of ridicule for the rest of your respective professional lives. I think I’d prefer to avoid the chicken suit at the sales meeting, the lambada at the Christmas party, karaoke anywhere for any reason, and any social event that includes NFL players and strippers after about 2:00AM.