Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I Say Whip it, Miracle Whip it Good

As the Tower of Power once opined, 'Hipness is what it is/and sometimes hipness is what it ain't.' Well, one brand has made itself over a bid to be hip: Miracle Whip.

Miracle Whip has decided it's not enough to be distinguished from mayo - which you'll know from watching Undercover Brother is the condiment of choice for white people - no, siree. It wants to distinguish itself from... um, itself. So long to bygone odes to its tangy zip as performed by beefy burgers. Take a hike, ads that attempted to brand it as the choice ingredient for the erotic dreams of dumpy middle-aged foodies everywhere. Oh no. Miracle Whip has decided to reach out to the target group that everyone and their dog covets: the kids. And it thinks it has found a hip way to do it: a new commercial, all flashy and cutting edge, just like the kids like it.

Called Anthem , the Miracle Whip ad plays more like a statement of purpose or Manifesto (and certainly makes for a more coherent and clear manifesto than the one Microsoft deployed to premiere Bing). It lays out the philosophies that kids hold dear, not being quiet, not blending in, living fast, dying young and leaving a good corpse. Okay, on those last three, I lied.

The messages are delivered via edgy anonymous voice over artist and squiggly, chalky words that float on the screen over - what a surprise - very conventional images of food and fun until they are erased. It made me think of school, an image that always has a positive association and popularity among the young folk. So it's about as edgy and in your face as an Archie comic, or a puppy.

Funny thing is, if you come in just a second or two late on the ad, and miss the 'not be quiet', the squiggly chalk words on display seem to counteract the intent of the edgy voiceover guy. When he says 'We will not try to blend in', the magic screen says 'blend in.' When he talks about not disappearing into the background, the magic screen says 'disappear into the background.' It's like Miracle Whip is sending not so subtle or subliminal messages to the kids. Blend in, be invisible, eat our condiment, like it.

"We're not like the others; we won't ever try to be," says the voiceover guy, forgetting that most youth want to fit in, be accepted, or at least disappear in the background so the athletic kids don't haul off and wedgie them. Those who decide not to blend in generally do it when it is forced on them, so it become a perverse badge of pride. Which must be why Miracle Whip talks about itself as a 'mixed up blend of one of a kind spices.'

Let's put aside the fact that they put that text on the screen without any hyphens - rebels! - and deal with the substance of that message. Since a 'blend' is a 'mix', the copy is either lazy and needlessly redundant, or the 'mixed up' means that Miracle Whip doesn't know what it is or what it wants to be, apart from some vague notion of being unique. Since the ad never defines how Miracle Whip is unique, does not blend in, etc., I'll venture to say that mixed up must be referring to an identity crisis. Maybe that's what makes it unique - we don't know what we are, but we should would like it if you'd embrace us as fresh, hip and daring.

And therein lies the problem of such branding: if you and all your friends start eating Miracle Whip because you don't want to fit in, how are you expressing your individuality? The mind reels. Okay, Miracle Whip, I give in. You won't tone it down. But could you at least define what it is you won't tone down so I know why you are shouting about it?

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