@zeyneparsel and Stephanie S. both sent in a link to a new craze in China: peach panties. I totally made the craze part up — I have no idea about that – but the peach panties are real and there is a patent pending.
I thought they were a great excuse to make a new Pinterest board featuring examples of marketing that uses sex to sell decidely unsexy — or truly sex-irrelevant — things. It’s called Sexy What!? and I describe it as follows:
This board is a collection of totally random stuff being made weirdly and unnecessarily sexual by marketers who — I’m gonna say it — have run out of ideas.
My favorites are the ads for organ donation, hearing aids, CPR, and sea monkeys. Enjoy!
The term “Cajun” refers to a group of people who settled in Southern Louisiana after being exiled from Acadia (now Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island) in the mid 1700s. For a very long time, being Cajun meant living, humbly, off the land and bayou (small-scale agriculture, hunting, fishing, and trapping). Unique cuisine and music developed among these communities.
In Blue Collar Bayou, Jaques Henry and Carl Bankston III explain that today more than 70% live in urban areas and most work in blue collar jobs in service industries, factories, or the oil industry. “Like other working-class and middle-class Americans,’ they write, “the Southwestern Louisianan of today is much more likely to buy dinner at the Super Kmart than to trap it in the bayou” (p. 188).
But they don’t argue that young Cajuns who live urban lifestyles and work in factories are no longer authentically Cajun. Instead, they suggest that the whole notion of ethnic authenticity is dependent on economic change.
When our economy was a production economy (that is, who you are is what you make), it made sense that Cajun-ness was linked to how one made a living. But, today, in a consumption economy (when our identities are tied up with what we buy), it makes sense that Cajun-ness involves consumption of products like food and music.
Of course, commodifying Cajun-ness (making it something that you can buy) means that, now, anyone can purchase and consume it. Henry and Bankston see this more as a paradox than a problem, arguing that the objectification and marketing of “Cajun” certainly makes it sellable to non-Cajuns, but does not take away from its meaningfulness to Cajuns themselves. Tourism, they argue, “encourages Cajuns to act out their culture both for commercial gain and cultural preservation” (p. 187).
Ten women marched in defiance of the stigma against women smoking cigarettes as part of the New York Easter Day Parade in 1929. The interesting thing was, however, it was all a sham. The tobacco industry had set the whole thing up with the help of public relations mastermind, Edward Bernays. American Tobacco Company President George Hill knew cigarette sales would skyrocket if more U.S. women smoked, a behavior reserved for men in the 1920s that had closed off the female market.
Within one year of Bernay’s stint, women were smoking.
Today, similarly, Japanese fast-food has found a way to bypass the cultural stigmas that impede their profits. One food chain noticed many women would not buy their biggest-sized burgers. The culprit was ochobo, a Japanese custom that prevents women from opening their mouth widely in public. Small mouths are considered beautiful and opening them widely is considered “ugly” and “rude.” The restaurant concluded that it would get into the business of “freeing women from the spell of ‘ochobo.’”
The burger chain invented a wrapper that would allow women to open their mouths larger, but not be seen: theliberation wrapper. It is a profitable tactic touted as a cultural solution.
You can watch them introduce the wrapper in this short video:
The liberation wrapper was welcomed in Japanese media and social networks, spreading its popularity. Similarly, Bernay’s public relation’s stint in 1929 garnered much of its success from the media hype that ensued then.
The approach has produced results. Sales of the Japanese chain’s biggest burgers jumped 213% after the wrappers were made because they allowed the burgers to become “socially available” to women.
Of course, the irony is that the burger chain’s “solution” isn’t actually liberating women. By hiding the deviation behind a paper mask, it is actually reinforcing Ochobo. After all, the social reality remains — it is not acceptable for Japanese women to display an open mouth in public.
Michael Lozano is a graduate of CSULB’s Sociology Honors program and frequent contributor to NewAmericaMedia.org and VoiceWaves.org, a hyper-local news site based in Long Beach, CA.
Activist Carol Adams has famously argued that the common phenomenon of sexualizing meat productsis designed to make us feel better about eating animals. One of the ways it does this is by making it funny. She explains:
Uneasiness becomes sexual energy… and everybody knows what to do about sexual energy. You can laugh at it, you can talk about it, it reduces whoever is presented to an object. And so it makes it okay again.
Sexualizing meat also turns the object of consumption, the animal, into a willing participant. Sex takes two and, even when one partner is objectified, there is a desire. If not “want,” it’s a “want to be wanted.”
If the meat wants you to want it, then you don’t have to feel bad about eating it. As I’ve written before, “this works best alongside feminization, as it is women who are typically presented as objects of a lustful male gaze.”
This ad, in which roosters flock to Carl’s Jr to ogle and lust over chicken “breasts,” is a disturbing example.
Since their invention in 1913, and since this Kelvinator ad first ran in 1955, refrigerators became bigger, better, and went from a luxury to a necessity. It’s nearly impossible to imagine life today without having somewhere to store your vegetables and a place to keep your leftovers: in the one hundred years it’s been around, the fridge altered our grocery shopping habits and our attitudes towards food.
Appliance companies and advertisers worked hard to transform refrigerators from “a brand new concept in luxurious living” to an everyday household object. They succeeded in the 1960s, after years of fine-tuning its features to appeal to the middle-class housewife, writes historian Shelley Nickles. Besides ensuring the fridges were spacious, easy to clean, and had adjustable shelving, designers even took care of minutiae such as including warmer compartments – so that the butter kept in them would be easier to spread. Having attracted the housewives’ attention and become affordable with ideas such as government-sponsored fridges floating around, the appliances made their way into middle-class homes.
Buying too many perishable items suddenly became a minor concern. Buy one, get one free! Get more value for your money – purchase a bigger container! As the number of fridge compartments increased, so did the number of refrigeration-dependent foods and “supersize” deals offered in stores (or the other way around). Ultimately, grocery shoppers – mainly women – returned home with more food than they otherwise would have. Fridges enabled families to stock up, and the major weekend grocery haul was born. Now we have this:
But while having a fridge to store all the groceries made it possible to save more on “deals” at the supermarket, it also enabled us to waste more later on. That is because the fridge operates much like a time machine, but not without its limits. Sociologists Elizabeth Shove and Dale Southerton describe freezers as appliances that allow us to manage time: in addition to no longer having to shop multiple times per week, we can now prepare our meals in advance. The same holds for refrigerators.
Food has its own rhythm, however, and a fridge can only delay the inevitable for so long. Leftovers simultaneously get pushed down in the hierarchy of what we’d like to eat, and pushed back on refrigerator shelf, only to be forgotten and perhaps rediscovered when it’s already too late. An exotic fruit rots in the produce compartment after its exciting novelty wore off, and we were no longer sure what to do with it. And so they all end up in the trash. Domestic food waste only represents part of all the food thrown away in the U.S. today – about a third of all that is produced – but the way fridges altered out food purchasing and consumption habits is partly to blame.
Non-white people are increasingly being featured in advertisements and a principled interest in “diversity” is not the only, or likely even the main motivation.
In this series, I share some ideas about why and how people of color are included in advertising aimed primarily at whites. This post is about the inclusion of people of color in ads to invoke the idea of “color,” “flavor,” or “personality.”
Consider, this ad for Absolute Vodka Peach (“Find Your Flavor”) includes two white and two brown people, plus a set of silhouettes.
Holly F. and Lafin T.J. sent in three Life cereal box covers. Notice that “regular” Life has white people on the cover, while cinnamon and maple and brown sugar flavors have people of color on their covers:
In this pro-diversity ad, spice is literally used to represent diversity (via MultiCultClassics). (Just a bit misguided too: Just a teaspoon or less of color, please.)
This ad for Samba Colore by Swatch also uses a model of color:
“Welcome to the Color Factory.” These two ads for a color photo printer and a color printer cartridge both use models of color alongside white models in order to express how “colorful” their product is.
Bri sent in these four images (three from Gap and one from United Colors of Benneton). Each Gap ad is advertising a different product, with an emphasis on how many colors they come in (bottom right corner). They all, also, feature models of color. Here’s just one of them:
And, of course, the United Colors of Benneton is famous for its use of models of color in its ads, blending quite purposefully the idea of clothing colors and skin colors:
Finally Joshua B. sent in this photo of two french fry holders, one with a black and one with a white woman, reading “never a dull moment, only tasty,” and “Is it wrong to think Arby’s all the time.” The black woman, then, is presented alongside the ideas of excitement and flavor:
They’re celery vases and they’re exactly what they sound like: vases for celery. In the late 1800s, people used these vases to ostentatiously present celery to their guests. Celery, you see, was a status food: a rare delicacy that only wealthy families could afford and, therefore, a way to demonstrate your importance to guests.
As celery began to decline in importance — cheaper varieties became available and its role for the elite declined — celery vases were replaced by celery dishes. “Less conspicuous on the dining table,” writes decorative arts consultant Walter Richie, “the celery dish reflected the diminishing importance of celery.”