September 2008


Everything Midas CEO Touches Turns to Mufflers – The Onion Radio News

What makes a flavor capable of jumping food boundaries?

Tea Candy strikes me as a terrible idea emblematic of wider trends in American eating—that food-as-physical-product and food-as-flavor are two different things. Maybe this works in some cases, but most of the time I think we end up with food-like products entirely disconnected from their origins.

In short: Ew. Have an iced tea instead.

Literal slogans with double meanings make for memorable slogans. Because they’re that much more true!

See also the slogan for Weyerhaeuser (“The Future Is Growing”) or the number you call for UPS (1-800-PICK-UPS).

Are we more likely to imbue this sign with authority (even though it, as an advertisement, demands nothing of us) because it was printed to look like a government-produced traffic sign?

How and why do we imbue signs with authority?

The Connecticut State Lottery here exploiting the state’s geographic position between two powerhouse rival teams, the New York Yankees to the south and the Boston Red Sox to the north. The ad introduces the traditional public team-based sports activity, the we’re-gonna-win rivalry in baseball, and translates it into a private individual economic activity, buying a lottery ticket. Interesting: In every ad, the Yankees speak first and the Red Sox respond.

Connecticut is the only place this ad would work. In a world of increasing homogeneity, will we have to rely on borderlands and fringe areas to provide the new variety? (A look at Seatac, the city between Seattle and Tacoma, would tell us no.)

Breakfast a few days ago.

Crispy! Hot! Delicious! If you say it enough times, does it become true?

Also: America Runs On Dunkin’. A great slogan—it positions Dunkin’ Donuts in a supporting role. You’re running, we’re just helping out. At the same time, it makes clear the importance of Dunkin’ Donuts: Could you do this without us? (Interesting also that this slogan has acquired such cultural cachet that a modified version made it into a New York Times article as a way to described an intensely busy period at the office.)

Finally, the slogan is a lie. Dunkin’ is becoming a national chain, but its strength is in the Northeast. There are very few Dunkin’ locations west of the Mississippi. (But would “The Northeast Runs On Dunkin'” have the same ring to it?)

Five pounds of Marshmallow Fluff? I find this amusing.

Amusing first because marshmallows aren’t food to begin with; they’re a food-like product. On top of that, this isn’t even five pounds of marshmallows, it’s five pounds of marshmallow fluff, or just the sticky stuff that is “inside” the marshmallow. As with photocopies, ideas degrade as they are reproduced: the stuff inside that bucket is a far cry from the marsh mallow plant.

The attempt to preserve the same branding, even on this out-of-scale bucket, is funny too.

Also I find bulk quantities of food amusing. Do you really need five pounds of marshmallow fluff?

Difficult to see, but the seal on the cup says “artisan beverages.” How artisan can it be if it (a) comes from a machine and is (b) a product of Kraft Foods DBA General Foods International? Not very.

If you’re from the Northeastern United States or have spent time here noticing the bumper stickers—as I have—you’ve probably seen one boasting that “This Car Climbed MT. WASHINGTON.” This drive is billed as “a drive unlike any other“. Mt. Washington, in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains in the state of New Hampshire, experiences dangerously erratic weather, due to the convergence of several storm tracks. The eight-mile drive to the summit has numerous hairpin turns and no guard rails; the usual this-car-climbed bumper sticker is not an idle boast.

Which makes the above bumper sticker all the more interesting: Now, nearly 150 years after the mountain first opened to automobile traffic, it’s no longer enough to have guided your car up the mountain. You must have made it up under your own power—but still under wheel power. Why the attachment to wheels? Biking Mt. Washington seems to hold some special allure, distinct from hiking Mt. Washington, maybe because hiking mountains (even big ones) is something that it seems like anyone could do with the proper equipment; to bike up a mountain (especially a big one) you’ve got to have serious muscles.

Also interesting that this sticker is a bumper sticker, designed for the cyclist to display on his/her car. Even if you biked Mt. Washington, you still have to drive everywhere else.

(And: The Mt. Washington summit brand co-opted by other uses.)

(And: Red, white, and blue. Mt. Washington! The great outdoors! George Washington! America! Patriotism!)

…is not like the others. Annotation via signs, not pictograms. “Express Mail” is a brand, an option to be purchased. How would we show the difference between regular and express mail using pictograms? Note that despite their different uses, the three boxes have the same form-factor and color. Maybe express mail could be another color: White to signify luxury (better i.e. faster handling), red to signify speed. Annotation by color would have to avoid colors we already associate with postal systems i.e. a brown or yellow or purple-and-red letter box would leap the boundaries of brand and point towards UPS or DHL or FedEx.

(FedEx uses such an annotation-by-color system: FedEx Ground is purple and green, FedEx Express is purple and orange, FedEx Custom Critical is purple and teal. FedEx, the corporate entity, is purple and grey. Interestingly, FedEx has jumped the bounds of branding: It is no longer just a shipping company, it is also a logistics company—FedEx Trade Networks, FedEx Supply Chain Services—and an office services company—FedEx Office [formerly FedEx Kinko’s], FedEx Services.)

Also note: Despite being different portals to different speeds of transport, each box has been marked with same graffiti. A different kind of annotation: The marking of public street furniture to introduce a territory claim or suggest supremacy over the built environment.

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