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Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I started reading Dan Neil in the LA Times after he won a Pulitzer in 2004. He won the prize for his automobile reviews, which piqued my interest, since car coverage is mostly devoid of actual information (beyond horsepower stats, anyway) and tends to lean heavily on cliches. It turns out that while the actual automotive content of Neil's reviews is a huge improvement over that stuff, what really sets his columns apart is that they're not really about the cars. Which makes sense, since cars themselves are usually not just about the engineering, but about identity, aspiration, culture, etc.

In that vein, I loved the column he has out now about the Ed Hardy brand. The ostensible subject of the column is the new Ed Hardy wine -- if you're not familiar with the brand, see their website for an indication of what an odd pairing it is. But the column is mostly about the vapidness of the brand and "branding" in general.

I love the line about the guy behind Ed Hardy trying to build an "off-the-rack psyche" to sell to his customers. This gets at the key issue: Brands are mostly benign when they convey useful information to the consumer (e.g. "Sony VCRs last longer than no-name ones"). They are often obnoxious when they turn things the other way and seek to convey information about the consumer to others ("This person with an Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt is cool"). And they are downright insidious when they aim to save you the hard work and sell you an identity, sometimes subtly playing upon your insecurities to convince you that their identity is better than any you might be able to build on your own.

By the way, I have you tried Ed Hardy Structured Water? It's so much better than the normal water I've been drinking my whole life.


Anonymous said...

Re: Ed Hardy Structured Water

It appears one has his/her choice of ridiculousness:
1. How much like a poorly designed myspace page their website looks
2. The quality of their copy (Paraphrase of one enlightened sentence: "If it weren't for water, we couldn't have agriculture, and without agriculture, civilizations wouldn't exist." Uh. Okay.)
3. The 20-second video of Snoop drinking water
4. How completely washed up Snoop looks (What happened to the dangerous, edgy Snoop from 1994? Wow.)
5. Good Jesus, a clothing company coming out with water? Re-cock-ulous.
6. And then using a hand-held camera to record a washed-up rap star being asked to drink from their bottle of water in the middle of the street in the middle of the day, the skit is apparently unrehearsed, and Snoop is obviously indifferent to the Ed Hardy brand? Re-re-re-cock-ulous.


PS. I don't care if this is supposed to be some sort of branding 'lo-fi' thing. It's absurd and poorly done. (Aside, of course, from the unmistakable popularity of Ed Hardy products. Which one can't deny.)

PPS. I just don't know. I'm getting old.

lj said...

This reminds me of something DM pointed out to us (actually available in his local grocery store): http://www.blingh2o.com/

teague said...

Wow, that's messed up. I mean, could you get any more absurd? There's a lot of ridiculous branding out there, but these bottled waters really lay it bare, because it's the ultimate blank slate. It's frickin' H20, that's it. It's all water, just the brand is different.

(Though I do find it amusing that Bling H20 hails from Tennessee. Shouldn't it come from France, or a from burbling spring that happens to be in the middle of a Wolfgang Puck restaurant?)