June 29, 2003

The Brand Extension Blight

One of the many blights on classic American culture that the cult of "brand extension" hath wrought.

A friend that edits a magazine writes, to his personal email list of cranks, loonies, and general malcontents:

To all: For an upcoming article celebrating curmudgeons, we're planning a list of "50 things that aren't as good as they used to be" and we invite your contributions. Thanks a bunch. Creativity counts. Crankiness too. Here are two, to give you an idea: Not as good as they used to be: TV News Anchors -- Buncha movie star pretty boys. Chet Huntley had a dog face, but you could trust him. Traveling Carnivals: They've shut down the freak shows and moved them to FOX.
My just-off-the-top-of-my-head response reads as follows.

OREOS -- This was, without a doubt, America's greatest store bought cookie ever. And it dominated the market. But was that good enough for the sleazoid 90s "marketing" department? No. They wanted more and even more. As a result they have 'New-Coked' this cookie into oblivion with endless variations on the theme. The heresy began with "Double Stuffed" Oreos. This simple-minded d-oh moment came when somebody thought, hey, let's double the stuffing! It did not matter to them that the perfect proportion of white cream stuffing had already been achieved. Nope, this is the DoublePattyWhopper school of marketing drool: 'If one is good, two is twice as good.' Actually, if one is good, two in the same bun or cookie wafers is a bloody mess. And in addition, in order to get the double stuffing working correctly, they've upped the glue in the stuffing. No double stuffed Oreo comes apart neatly and cleanly. It always shatters. The pleasure of the original Oreo was that you could take it apart and have a chocolate wafer option. A bittersweet chocolate wafer option. Now even the wafer's been made sweeter.

MUSIC IN RESTAURANTS, BARS AND EVERYPLACE ELSE: God forbid we actually have to talk to each other in any of the places that we congregate. And, with the now universal notion that if the music is bad you make it louder, all conversations are conducted at a shout. And having Coldplay's latest hit follow you into the john is the final insult.

TWO BY FOURS: The basic structural unit of building. This along with candy bars has been getting progressively smaller as it becomes more expensive. Collapsing modern homes' problems can be traced to this basic unit. Take a tape measure with you the next time you go to a lumber yard and see that this item has been steadily whittled down. How low can it go before it becomes a default one by two?

THE DAILY NEW YORK TIMES: No, no because they make things up, but because of the section creep. This thing used to be two sections. You could have all the news that fits in your head in a brief commute. Now it arrives in sections both multiple, and assuming that you are unemployed in order to have the time to read it.

AUTOMOBILE CONTROLS: Once upon a time, three speeds forward, one reverse, steering wheel, brake pedal, accelerator. Nice and simple and made the car go where and when you wanted it to go. Not so anymore as the feature creep of computer programs invades the automobiles of America. This reached its apotheosis last year when BMW launched the 7-series with controls so

complicated that it took the average driver over two hours of training to even begin to understand how to get the car to move forward. The much touted iDrive system came with over 700 functions with eight main point and click menus plus submenus. It failed to come with a dedicated factory computer nerd to help the hapless driver. What you get when you combine German Engineering with Windows 2.0 is a car that will have you over the edge of the road when you try and tune your radio.

FLYING: Everybody's favorite. On my first flight to Europe, everyone dressed for success. Now everyone dresses for Gold's Gym. And I'm sure the next step in TOTAL SECURITY will be to require everyone who is not of Arab descent to arrive with a note from their doctor attesting that they had a high colonic an hour before the airport to make the body cavity searches a bit more pleasant for the staff. Then there's the added coach thrill of a blood clot developing in the legs that stops your heart at 50,000 feet. Plus... no peanuts! After all, think of the allergic children!

PARIS: Let's put the politics aside for a moment. First, they *cleaned* it. Scrubbed all the buildings. Then they scraped Les Halles off the map and replaced it with a half-buried mall. No more onion soup at 4 AM. Then they renovated all the really cheap hotels on the Left Bank. And, the final insult, the Pompedieu Center -- looked cheap and broken the day it opened and time has not been kind.

ACTION MOVIES: If I want to see endless morphing and slo-mo disasters stacked up one on top of the other I'll just tune into the Weather Channel and/or the Speed Channel, thank you. Arnold vs. Keanu? KO in one nanosecond.

RAP MUSIC would be included in things that are not as good as they used to be if it had been any good to start with.

TEENAGE CLOTHING TRENDS: I've seen it go from Ivy League to Hippie to Yuppie to the current wave of what can only be described as the Ghetto Gangster mophing to Balkan Refugee look. And it's now been in a look-loop for over a decade. I really think these cutting edge kids have to move on.

NATIONAL POLITICAL CONVENTIONS: Nominations used to be decided in smoke-filled rooms on the fifth ballot. Now they're decided in Iowa? Even the Networks have given up on these charades.

MEN'S NEW HAIRSTYLES: I must have missed the moment when the hairdressers of America decided that men's hair had to be cut with machetes in order to give it that permanent bed-head look.

GLOBAL ENEMIES: "Hey, come out, stand up, get some uniforms, jets, tanks and fight like a Russkie, please."

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Posted by Vanderleun at June 29, 2003 8:03 PM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.


I'm arriving four years late via the Belmont Club. I think it will be worthwhile to spend some time here.



Posted by: richard Benfield at June 23, 2007 4:14 PM
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