In the lead-up to Anzac Day, Woolworths launched the commemoration website “Fresh in Our Memories”, a play on the supermarket’s “fresh food people” slogan. People were encouraged to upload war-related photos and tributes to the site, which would automatically add the Woolworths logo and the Fresh in Our Memories catchphrase to them. Using the hashtag #FreshInOurMemories, Twitter users were quick to call out the supermarket for being disrespectful and insensitive. The then minister for veterans affairs, Michael Ronaldson, was among those who complained, and the site was taken down.
Read the full story here – there are more stories like this, all from Australia in this case.
There are some real idiots out there. Private Eye runs a regular column called ‘Desperate Marketing’ that highlights this sort of thing – famous person dies, or terrorist incident occurs, and out come the press releases selling everything from double glazing or, in the case of the Paris attacks, wine. It’s not a recent phenomenon, but social media makes it easier to do, and these things should always be slept on.
My favourite is still #Susanalbumparty.
A story from The Guardian on a bookstore in Japan that’s hit upon a novel approach to helping people choose what to read next.
“This bookstore that sells only one book could also be described as ‘a bookstore that organises an exhibition derived from a single book’. For instance, when selling a book on flowers, in the store could be exhibited a flower that actually appears in the book. Also, I ask the authors and editors to be at the bookstore for as much time as possible. This is an attempt to make the two-dimensional book into three-dimensional ambience and experience. I believe that the customers, or readers, should feel as though they are entering ‘inside a book’.”
This reminded me of ‘the one book booklist’ I introduced when I taught at the University of Brighton. Noting that students weren’t engaging with the provided booklist, and didn’t really seem to be reading at all, I discarded it and asked them all to read just one book: The Tipping Point.
After Christmas most came back not only having read it, but having lost their copy to their parents because they’d spent the holidays talking about it, and could I recommend something else for them to read, please?
By the end of the course, they’d read most of the stuff on the original list without even being given it.
Sometimes you have to tackle a problem from a slightly different angle.
David Mitchell (the funny one, not the novelist) writing for the Observer on the deluge of Star Wars merchandise, makes the point that not everything we make and sell needs to be ‘worthy’:
I don’t mean it as a criticism when I call this stuff crap. Our civilisation cannot be sustained solely from the buying and selling of sturdy items that people genuinely need. We all need people to purchase things they don’t need; to buy things that, while not necessary, are fun – like chocolate, toys, booze, DVDs – and then, to keep the economy growing, also to buy things that vaguely seem like they might be fun if you don’t think that hard about it, like Darth Vader showerheads and lightsaber chopsticks. The market for hilariously apt dust-gatherers is vast and growing – it makes up a significant proportion of the Christmas shopping spike and we probably can’t do without it.
It’s a fair point. Our GDP would plummet, several developing countries would go bankrupt, and there’d be a lot less fun if we weren’t busy making tomorrow’s landfill.
On a related note…
I was shopping for some friends’ kids the other day and found myself standing in the Star Wars section, feeling slightly jealous. Lightsabers, Millennium Falcons. 12 inch Stormtroopers and Darth Vaders. And all for pocket money prices. When I was a kid, you had to save up for months for some of that stuff. Kids today, eh?
I like this quote from Mitchell’s column – something of a warning to fans everywhere:
Anyone who enjoys their Star Wars Stormtrooper single duvet set is unlikely ever to need a Stormtrooper double duvet set
Still, I was alright. We couldn’t afford a Star Wars Stormtrooper single duvet set when I was a kid…