by Art Chantry :
PART 1 -
“LET’S MODERNIZE THE SUCKER!!!”
that’s a gold-standard battle cry inside marketing cirles. the easiest way to make your mark on a new client is to simply change their ‘look’ – not even by much. when a product gets stale and familiar on the shelf, if you just add “new & improved” to the label or box, it will increase sales by 5% minimum. that’s enough to convince a new client that they made a good choice and it nails down the account with your advertising company. it’s one of those old tired gimmicks that (whenever i see it – NEW!), i know it’s a new-hire agency trying to solidify their fledgling realtionship with a new profitable account. this ain’t rocket science. monkey see/monkey do.
the history of marketing – from it’s very ‘invention’ back at the turn of the 20th century – has been about selling the unsellable – taking something nobody buys or wants or needs and trying to ‘trick’ them into buying it. now, that’s not to say it’s not a good product. but when it’s ignored and forgotten or otherwise unknown, just getting folks to consider it at all is worth it’s weight in gold. advertising and marketing (aka – “branding”) is all about getting people to just notice you. there are as many ways to do that as there are people on this planet. “new” will grab just enough people to increse sales just a tiny little bit. and that’s enough to increase profits on a stalled product and make you look like a genius.
some businesses have become savvy enough to build-in obsolescence directly into their product. most famously, the auto industry builds products that are intentionally designed to wear out and be expensive to repair. this is very unlike the earliest automobiles, where you could literally use bailing wire and shinola to fix a broken machine and thus make it actually last for the rest of your life. no, now they want you to buy a new car every couple of years – we actually ‘throw away’ things like cars as if they are old applecores or something.
one of the ‘industries’ that is clever enough to keep up with their market is the funny little niche of “board” games. exceedingly popular games like monopoly and clue actually get “re-vamped” every decade or so, to make the packaging appealing to the changes in the popular culture. take for instance, this successful and extremely long-lived game called “battleship” by milton bradley (for ages 8 to 80!). this image is the illustration on the cover of battleship game from 1967 (i can’t scan the whole cover, so that trademark ‘bar’ along the left edge with the corproate info in it is chopped off. sorry).
it’s sorta strange to closely examine this nowadays from our distance of some 45 years. this image seems so weird and surreal and out-of sync with our thoughts and lives now. to begin with, this is a WAR game. in 1967, that was a very unpleasant marketing pitch (the vietnam war was starting to rapidly eat our young men at this point). so, the idea of militarizing a family board game is a non-starter right from the gitgo. also, to make it appeal a little better, they concentrated on ‘family’. in ‘most’ american families, the board game is an after-dinner evening entertainment (as opposed to the just staring to completely dominate television). so, junior and pop sit down for a quick bonding experience in their paneled ‘play room’ and junior gets to outwit the old fuddy-duddy who is scratching his head in confusion. meanwhile, mom and sis are doing the dishes and looking pretty (but a little stupid) in the next room. there’s lots of linoleum and sweater vests and good clean all-amercian (war indoctrination) fun.
a cover concept like this would be so obsolete within the very year that sales would begin to slow, even collapse. try to sell this in 1968 during the Tet offensive or during the riots in the streets or while our favorite public people are being assassinated and the youth is warring with cops on the floor at the democratic national convention or while
all watched our children come home in body bags day after day after day…. NO WAY, DUDE. the psychology of this image was becomming a big negative real fast. the SOCIOLOGY of this image was virtually arcane. the world was changing so rapidly that this was becoming a parody of itself.
the next image (in part two of this essay) i’ll show you is the re-designed updated cultural changes…