"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 14 February 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

OK Marketing



If an expert marketing staff was

all that was necessary to

successfully bring a product to

market, we'd all be eating

McRibs, watching Chevy Chase,

dressing Hasidic chic, and

listening to Hootie and the




Some of the most memorable

examples of products falling

victim to the big bozo filter of

the masses spurt forth from the

soft drink industry. For our

money, the swift

counter-offensive to "New

Formula Coke" stratagem was at

least as exhilarating a show of

force as any Desert Storm

shenanigans. And the only thing

clearer than Crystal Pepsi was

the fact that it would bomb.



Eighty percent of new products

fail - as is appropriate,

considering the general ineptitude

governing their conception and

marketing. But the fact that the

public routinely exercises its

discretion to be capricious

shoppers is encouraging - in the

master/slave game of

consumerism, we consumers are

the ones holding the whip,

whether we like it or not.


[OK Cans]

And so, even though it seems to

go against every vague principle

we hold dear, we can't help

feeling that OK Soda, the

once-contentious icon of

over-obvious youth marketing,

was an unfortunate victim of

friendly fire. Maybe we just got

trigger happy once we saw

through Subaru's shallow

attempts to associate a car with

"punk rock" (bullshit pandering

to demographics is insulting to

someone looking to spend an

amount equal to their college

tuition). In cases like that,

the pitch not only fails to

resonate, but actually

reverse-resonates - one imagines

very disappointing quarterly



[OK Product]

The tragedy of OK Soda, though,

wasn't that it didn't resonate,

but that it resonated too well.

It was too perfect.


[Be Nice!]

Obviously, the debate has long

since passed - even

alt.fan.ok-soda has long been

hijacked by wayward Usenetters

looking for a quiet watering

hole. But in the pages of

magazines and design annuals,

the sight of OK can designs,

promotional items, and

dispensing machines gets us

weeping torrents into our




The illustrators used, gleaned

from the Fantagraphics stable,

aren't so much exciting because

they're great comix artists, but

because they've masterfully

bypassed the whole pathetic

"art"-by-committee approach

prevalent throughout major

media. Through the contemptible

medium of comic books, they've

found a low-key outlet for personal

visual expression in pop culture

(albeit marginal pop culture).


[OK Cans]

Generally, it's more amusing than

annoying when Volkswagen

features Psychic TV in

their television commercials and

"grunge" becomes the dominant

leitmotif for Extreme

Championship Wrestling. It's

like Flintstones Vitamins - no

matter how much you dress them

up, they're just vitamins. But

quite apart from its value as

window dressing, OK Soda, like

any canned or bottled beverage,

was bound to have some kind of

graphic design (if only to

distinguish it from Royal

Crown). Why not decent art

instead of that ubiquitous

Dynamic Ribbon Device (tm)?


[OK Cans]

Unfortunately, they blew it. By

all reports, the drink's flavor

had all the appeal of backwash,

and even the kindest reviewer

could do no better than

"slightly spicy."


[Back Turned]

But, collectively, we blew it

too. Think about it. In the

brand-identity singles bar, it

makes little sense to blow off

the best-looking item around.

It's one thing to be insulted by

an inept come-on - the

advertising equivalent of a

gold-chained Lothario whose

spittle runs down your neck when

he tries to whisper in your ear.

It's another thing entirely to

spurn the advances of a suitor

whose impeccable style is marred

by something as trivial as



[OK Mobile]

Perhaps our nostalgia comes from

a source only a little deeper

than the stack of design rags by

our side. Perhaps we thirst for

OK (or at least the cans)

because when we steal a glance

in the pop-culture rearview

mirror, we see ourselves. In

retrospect, OK's enthusiastic

embrace of the marketing process

was only slightly tighter than

our own. From their warning to

1-800 callers that "your comments

may be used in advertising or

exploited in some other way we

haven't figured out yet," to the

obviously over-optimistic

assumption that "the audience is

in on the joke," OK's blatant

hucksterism was shameless.


[OK Case]

If we had been in the test-market

areas, OK would be alive today.

Bottles would stack up,

untrashed, unrecycled. Our desks

would be unreachable, landfills

would fully decompose, and street

people would be looking

elsewhere for redeemable

deposits, because we'd no sooner

trash a six-pack than an



[OK Vending]

So here's a thought: Why not send

us your empty bottles, your

promotional mobiles, your - dare

we dream it - OK vending

machines? To you, such items are

the rubble left from a marketing

bomb; to us, they have the cold

beauty of shadows left etched on

the pavement The Day After. In

exchange for any OK propaganda

we receive, we offer Suck

paraphernalia - the only items

whose future appears as murky as

OK's past.

courtesy of the Duke of URL