Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why do ad campaigns use patriotism and colonial references to promote their products? Why is Quaker Oats called Quaker Oats? Instantly the sight of a white-haired, friendly patriot with a Tri cornered hat comes to mind. This recognition drives many marketing schemes. From Mount Rushmore in a Clarisil Clear Eyes commercial to Yankee Doodle playing in the background of an Orbitz Travel Agency Ad, patriotic recognition has become a reliable technique in the marketing world.

The beer company Budweiser is a pioneer of this tactic. In 2011 an American flag embroidered can was sold by the company to much fanfare. In a particularly greasy ad aired in 2002, the famous Budweiser Clydesdales trotted all the way to New York to look solemnly upon where the Twin Towers had fallen one year before, with a subdued trumpet playing an American war time tune in the background. The ad ended with a black screen filled up by a thin red strip with white lettering: "Budweiser." It seemed as if Budweiser had trivialized this difficult american event in order to sell beer, but Budweiser claimed the ad was meant to pay tribute. Two separate Anheuser-Busch and Budweiser commercials airing in 2008 and 2010 showed American troops returning home from the war to a hero's welcome. The text "Thank you." shows up on the screen, but the viewer is ultimately left with the text of the beer company's name. What exactly do beer and war have to do with one another?

M&M's recently released a red white and blue series of the chocolate candy with an American flag featured on the front. Ford "Drove America" and General Motors "Kept America Rolling" in the wake of 9/11. This is not a new phenomenon though. Marlboro used military generals as the people supporting their brand of cigarette on the front of their box during World War II. This has inspired ads such as Chrysler's "Halftime in America" where Clint Eastwood says in a grisly voice: "This country can't be knocked out in one punch, we get right back up again."

I, like all americans, am a consumer. I did not notice this technique for advertising until recently, and it is in fact a well known device used by advertising companies. Part of me wishes to decry the tactic for its opportunism and exploitation of american values we hold dear, simply for profit. But marketing is a corrupt game. Subtle tricks average consumers don't pick up on lead them to pick up the product. Patriotism is just another way of targeting a consumer. More specifically, patriotic commercials target a certain demographic, namely, people who consider themselves patriots or heavily support the troops. Lost in the irony is the fact that these people should be the most outraged by such a ploy.

Yet, what's more american than Clint Eastwood?



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