Anyone who has witnessed a food photo shoot knows that there is a vast difference between making food look delicious through the lens of a camera and actually making it taste great. This is true of both gourmet dishes concocted by renowned chefs and fast foods sold from a drive-thru window. Under hot studio lights, fresh vegetables wilt, peaches turn brown, hot foods coagulate and moist foods dry out. Photographers use “stand-in” foods during set-up and have back-ups in case the “star dish” proves not to be photogenic. Food stylists have an arsenal of tricks to simulate, imitate, and enhance ingredients to create a “just-made” illusion. Styling this hamburger shoot for McDonald’s is tame compared to most food shoots. What it didn’t show is what a Big Mac looks like after it has been wrapped in paper flattening out the bun and squashed into a bag with fries on top.
Most people don’t know this product by brand name, but they know exactly what you are talking about when you describe the pine tree-shaped air fresheners that dangle from rearview mirrors of taxicabs and long-haul trucks all over the world. The product is trademarked under the name “Little Trees” and manufactured in the U.S. by the Car-Freshner Corporation, but the shape is far more recognizable than the name. In fact, unlike the contoured bottles that people immediately associate with Coca-Cola and the Golden Arches that is synonymous with McDonald’s, these cut-out tree silhouettes don’t recall a name so much as a particular scent, location and purpose. That hasn’t hurt sales a bit; Little Trees trees have sold in the billions since they came on the market in the mid-1950s.
Here’s a case of taking the same visual concept and using it to communicate two different marketing messages. This “night light” print ad, created by Cossette West in Canada, promotes the fact that McDonald’s is now open all night, 24/7.
It builds on a visual idea, conceived by Leo Burnett USA, for an outdoor marketing campaign touting McDonald’s as having the “Best Fries on the Planet.” Visible from three miles around, the billboard shot vertical beams of golden light up from a super-sized French-fry packet, illuminating the night skies of Chicago. Although this spectacular “tribute to fries” garnered lots of accolades for its ingenuity, the outdoor light show was also called insensitive for what some considered an uncanny resemblance to the Twin Tower “Tribute in Light” commemoration of the 9/11 tragedy. We don’t think so. For one thing, the billboard – which came down last week – was only shown in Chicago near the company’s headquarters. Also, the red box of fries is so iconic that viewers immediately associate it with the fast-food giant and chuckle. Don’t know whether this marketing concept will be extended beyond print ads and billboards, but maybe it should be turned into a promotional giveaway of a real “french fry” night light.
The fact that the Museum of Communism in Prague is next to a casino and above a McDonald’s burger restaurant is an ironic “thumbing one’s nose” at the oppressors who kept the Czech Republic under nearly a half century of totalitarian rule. The museum, which has as its slogan “Communism: The Dream, the Reality, the Nightmare,” is dedicated to relating what daily life was like living behind the Iron Curtain, right up to the Velvet Revolution that led to the overthrow of the Communist government in 1989. It includes everything from video clips, Soviet memorabilia, and a replica of a Soviet interrogation room.
Apple identifies itself with an apple; McDonald’s with its golden arches, and Nike with its swoosh. Does Starbucks’ green mermaid enjoy the same graphic brand recognition without accompaniment of its name?
In unveiling its new no-name logo yesterday, Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ CEO, explained that the 40-year-old company had moved away from its core coffee offerings and the new logo was “more suitable” for the future of its business. Signaling that the company has broadened its branded product line by dropping the word “Coffee” from its identity makes sense, but why drop “Starbucks” too?