Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Mobil Guy

Mark Greif, an editor at n+1, published an essay that I greatly enjoyed on the back page of last Sunday's New York Times Book Review. It concerns the art of marketing, as filtered through Greif's teenage reading of The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard, which is now out in a 50th anniversary edition.

A taste of the essay:
Packard had lived on the cusp of two eras, and what fascinated me as a teenage reader was how close in time he had been to the invention of brands that seemed as solid and permanent to me as trees and stones. Marlboro, the essence of macho, had first been a women’s cigarette, "lipstick red and ivory tipped." Advertisers managed to push it into a male market while holding on to its previous customers through ad campaigns of "rugged, virile-looking men" (like the famous cowboy) whom, studies proved, women liked too. Packard traced how products like gasoline and detergent, so standardized and reliable in the 1950s, needed to develop "personalities" to survive. I, for one, knew I was a Mobil guy long before I ever got my learner’s permit, though I had no idea why.


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