Was there ever a more honest marketing pitch than this one from the Satanic organization known as the National Rifle Association? Its tagline is a pithy summation of the insipid message and crude but obviously effective method of the vast majority of modern “country” music and associated commodities, not the least of which are guns.
The United States is all aflutter over the moral status of respect for its national flag and its peculiar, all-but-compulsory nationalist rituals. As usual, those offended by the disrespect are utterly ignorant about the actual genesis of what they defend. Turns out that not only was the author of The Pledge a socialist, but also “hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country.”
But wait. It gets even worse for the putative upholders of tradition and original values. It also turns out that the “Pledge of Allegiance” came into the world in 1892 (not 1776), a year squarely within and contributory to the Nadir of American Race Relations, as a marketing scheme to sell flags and magazine subscriptions.
This is not all. Here is the original instruction on how to signal one’s endorsement of and/or compliance with The Pledge’s sentiment:
At a signal from the Principal the pupils, in ordered ranks, hands to the side, face the Flag. Another signal is given; every pupil gives the flag the military salute — right hand lifted, palm downward, to a line with the forehead and close to it. Standing thus, all repeat together, slowly, “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” At the words, “to my Flag,” the right hand is extended gracefully, palm upward, toward the Flag, and remains in this gesture till the end of the affirmation; whereupon all hands immediately drop to the side.
That gesture was known as the Bellamy Salute and was the official Pledge accompaniment until 1942, when, against the DAR‘s attempts to keep it even after a two decades of European fascism, Congress shame-facedly buried it (but not The Pledge itself).
Santayana nailed it: Those who cannot remember history are condemned to repeat it.
Ad Age today has a thought piece by one “Tim Leake, senior VP-chief marketing officer at advertising agency RPA.” Mr. Leake says using natural disasters as marketing opportunities is “the icky thing to do.” Of course, he also answers a clear “no” to the the question “Should we just stay away?”
So, here’s what you do to make sure that devastation and sorrow make a contribution to your brand’s further implantation into targeted minds:
How should we say it?
Sometimes, to stop acting like a brand and start acting human, it helps to purposely do things that the brand wouldn’t normally do. A high-end production is likely to feel like an ad. A CEO speaking to her webcam is likely to feel more genuine. Or, if the brand’s Twitter stream is normally filled with product-centric messages, maybe share a screen-shot of a note from the people behind the brand. This will help put some distance between how you “normally act” and the gravity of the current situation.
Play humble and concerned, in other words.
Lovely stuff, Mr. Leake.
Great news! For the low, low price of only $128, you could purchase this desperately needed corporate product. Yes, these are — in the phrasing of the corporate maker — “anti-ball crushing” pants! At last!
This begs the question of which is more telling and hilarious: 1) the claim that pants, in themselves, have ever harmed or even mildly disturbed anybody’s testes, or 2) the product’s pre-literate promise to crush anti-ball.
Either way, such is the stuff of late corporate capitalism. As burnt forest falls from the sky, the only problems getting solved are the shareholders’ pending quarterly claims.
Not, of course, that the corporate marketers will ever admit this. Consider this shameless lie from Lululemon, the wondrous seller of ABC Pants:
Why We Made This
You’ve got room to move in these quick-drying, four-way stretch pants.
If you believe that, I can also get you a great deal on a bridge in Brooklyn. LULU “made this” because, like all big businesses, it desperately needs to find new ways to commodify human perceptions and activities — i.e., to create phony needs.
Anthony Bourdain is certainly somebody who would understand the immortal words of Bill Hicks.
Indeed, here’s what Mr. Bourdain said when General Motors/Cadillac slipped a product placement into one of his TV shows back in 2012.
But Bourdain’s principles end after a certain price arises, it seems. According to Advertising Age:
But this year another luxury auto brand, Land Rover, convinced Bourdain to give it prime product placement as part of its exclusive launch sponsorship of a digital extension of CNN’s “Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown” TV show. It represents the chef-turned TV star’s first brand integration deal with CNN.
Having a price point, alas, is no shield. So, an uncoveted Golden Hicksie hereby goes to Anthony Bourdain, the newest shill for this lovely little planet-killing phenomenon:
Ad Age: Some of the booming SUV market is driven by people who drive them in the city. Some might call them off-road posers. Do you target people who are actually taking the vehicles into rugged territory?
Kim McCullough, VP-marketing for Jaguar Land Rover North America: We often use the analogy with high-end watches that are safe for 40 fathoms deep. Now, no one is going to go scuba diving that deep, but they want to know that they have something that is engineered to that level, so that is part of the appeal. In the Northeast when you have inclement weather, when you have a lot of rain or flooding, being able to know that, ‘Hey I can get out of this situation because I do have a capable product’ is absolutely part of the appeal.
Stephen Hawking undoubtedly knows better:
If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.
So, what in the universe is he doing here?:
Not only is this an ad for the machine that is, barring sharp and unlikely new forms of popular education and intervention, virtually certain to finish completing “the second option,” but it is for an “SUV” version of said machine.
Meanwhile, the ad itself is a rather pristine exhibition of the profound adolescence of the contemporary overclass mind:
“Have you ever noticed how some people in life seem to get away with everything?”
“We live our lives from an elevated perspective. We keep our head [is this a British sic, or a grammatical match with the time-honored royal we?*] in the clouds.”
*Either way, it’s funny.