While shopping on Sunday I saw two varieties of chips I had not seen before. These things must be noted. There is a reason they make them, and it’s not just to use the false promise of novelty to subtly rearrange our buying patterns while still keeping us within the brand’s reach. I mean, it would be folly for Tostitos to introduce a competing brand; once you’ve done that, and told people it’s okay not to buy Tostitos, who knows how far they will stray.
So there’s now Cantina Style, with a new salsa line in the same design. What are cantina style? Other brands use the term. This site says:
You might have seen the commercials, which position the chips as restaurant-style chips that you might find at your local Mexican eatery. I find that kinda weird, since Tostitos are already "restaurant-style" chips.
So you like the authentic experience? Then dress down, stroll up, and stride into the cantina. The restaurant lifestyle may suit others who don't mind suits, but you need to feel comfortable, eat informal, and party to the crunching of friends and friendly strangers.
That's the authentic experience you get every time you open a bag of Tangos™ Cantina Style Tortilla Chips. But don't let the informal tavern setting fool you; these are the serious, real deal chips. We use the best…so you can be The Crunch of the Party™ with the best.
I have often been fooled by informal settings to believe that the chips are not serious. The copy continues:
Scooping salsa or noshing nachos, the most loco hombres will be taken to the cantina of their dreams by the lighter texture and unique crispy corn flavor. Float there on a bed of Tangos Cantina Style Tortilla Chips — ¡arriba! — because the party won't wait forever!
I think it’s likely that the loco hombres can be taken to a cantina of their dreams by substandard chips, because they are loco. It’s more difficult to transport someone who’s completely sane and has an iron grip on reality. If you were to ask me to describe the Cantina of my Dreams, I’d probably say lots of real Mexican food. Cerveza Leon, beachfront location, and so on. Floating on a mattress made of crushed corn chips would not be on the list.
At least they reassure you that this uncomfortable hallucinogenic interlude will not arriba! last forever.
There is a review here. It includes this line:
Detractors wished they were a hair saltier in order to punch up the corn flavor, but this became a nonissue when paired with salsa.
Salty hair nonissue: this is entirely expected in a piece whose headline commands you go Get Your Snack On.
Also, this. Huffpost said:
Frito-Lay, which makes Ruffles, said it's serious about marketing these chips to a male audience. "Onion rings are one of those staple guy get-together foods," said Tony Matta, Frito-Lay North America vice president of marketing, in a press release. "“Guys live for those moments when they’re hanging out together at a bar, diner or tailgate party trading epic stories and munching on their favorite snacks. We wanted to incorporate that flavor for guys to share for any impromptu gathering." The release describes the chips as "a truly unapologetic snack experience that satisfies man hunger at just about any time."
Men hate apologetic snack experiences. I do have to wonder what copy editor inserted "just about" into that last sentence. I don't think anyone's been sued for false advertising for saying that the potato chips did not satisfy Man Hunger in every instance. It seems a rather safe assertion.
Note: by "Guys live for those moments when they're trading epic stories and munching" they mean guys who do not need to be sold on the idea of Beer Battered Onion Ring Potato Chips. They're pre-sold. Knowing some marking team is behind this, focus-testing "MAX" and adding "Maximum Taste" because the focus group was just trolling them and saying "Max could be, like, you know, some guy's name," actually works against the product.
Men love authentic snack experiences. Now, marketing folk, let me ask you: that Ruffles logo above. Does that really speak to men? Is there something about that merry, jostling array of letters to which men respond on an elemental level?
No. Here's what Ruffles have going for them: structural integrity. Most of the time they don’t snap when you use them in a dip. Ninety percent chance of no breakage in a salsa-type situation; fifty-fifty with your stiffer dips, like the French Onion. That’s why guys buy them. But sometimes they just forget about that part and get the stuff that’s cheaper but dependable, meaning, the brand they remember from picnics as a kid. Usually some local brand that came in a box with two big bags of chips, each of which was half air. Good and fresh and greasy.
Anyway, because you have millions of dollars to spend on designing and testing, you spend it, and you come up with products bursting with color and different typefaces and brand positioning and so on, and so on.
Press releases about the "guys" at the "diner" and the "epic" stories just shows that they're in full denial about what would really work. With that market, I mean. The one they profess to understand so well.
All these products and I haven't even gotten to Products! yet.
The weekly feature that looks at old ads and logos, and tries to find some little scrap of history or knowledge that adds to our store of useless, inapplicable information. You’ll never impress anyone with this stuff. You’ll never win a trivia contest. But sometimes useless knowledge the most fun. Why must everything matter?
I don’t know why you would buy Tuf-Lustre when you could buy the Self-Polishing type. And Tuf-Lustre sounds like a brand name for a Viagra-type pill that gives you deplorable manners.
The E.L. Bruce company does not have a wikipedia page. It was based in Memphis, all right, but it also sold power and water to the Mississippi town of . . . Bruce. Which was named after the timber company of Robert Bruce. The E. L. Bruce company made hardwood floors, and was concerned about termites affecting the floors they made. Don’t know why; once they’ve sold you the floor, I don’t know how termites are their concern. At least that’s how wikipedia puts it - perhaps they were worried about termites in the storage areas.
But, you say, there was no wikipedia page for Bruce. True, but there’s one for the product they invented to kill termites: TERMINIX.
Why is the lady wearing tartan? Because “Bruce” is a Scottish name, and that meant Thrift, back before it meant skinny heroin addicts on the dole.
You can’t beat the expression of pride on the anthropomorphic bean-bag:
A&P also offered spaghetti, apparently in portions that would feed all the field hands:
I love that picture. The boy looks unsure, though; perhaps he's the sonof the severe woman on the left, who has told him not to accept spaghetti from strange men, even if they have a female accomplice.
That's from 1945.
Was there such a thing as inauthentic modern styling?
Wikipedia has this about Raytheon’s early years:
The company's first product was a gaseous (helium) rectifier that was based on Charles Smith's earlier astronomical research of the star Zeta Puppis.
Er. Okay. That's all they said. The rectifier changed current from AC to DC, so people could listen to radio without batteries. (It’s complicated. Tubes are involved.) This led to the growth of radio, which was eventually killed off as a dramatic medium by TV! Which Raytheon made. Apple didn’t even intra-company product line cannibalization, you know.
They made TVs for a while, and the Future-Proof models had UHF tuners. That would be channels 14 - 83. Now, gather ‘round, children. Once upon a time your TV had a dial you turned with your hand. You had four stations, at most - the networks, plus some dinky Public TV station. When you turned the channel it resisted, but just a bit, and you landed on the next channel with a certain satisfying solidity. If you spun the channels too hard your parents objected, because it might wear something out.
And it did, eventually; the channel knob went over a metal rod with a flat indentation on one side. This fitted into a plastic sleeve that matched the shape of the rod - stop snickering in the back, now - and if you gave the knob too much of a yank - I said, stop that! - it loosened the plastic, or snapped the tiny plastic ridge that held in a metal small plate. So now you had to change the channel by tilting the knob up slightly and pushing in, but this only worked for a while. Eventually you used pliers.
UHF tuners were different; they clicked instead of chunked, and you could blow through them at great speed because no one cared if the knob broke. There was nothing on. It was the strangest thing, a haunting thing, a maddening thing: all those stations, all those empty stations. Waiting.
Anyway. Raytheon bought Amana, and used the name to roll out a new device it was sure people would like. And they did.
A reminder that this stuff used to be controversial.
I think I’ve done these guys before - they invented modern Pork & Beans, more or less, and made Gatorade.
But this stuff just looks like it would be made of dog food. Chili in a can can be a frightening thing. About once a year I have a can of Hormel chili, because it’s so awful and so good. With some pepper cheese, some jalapenos - man, you pay for days. It’s not food, but it can double as it.
The way it comes out of the can - a long, shuddering slurrrp - ought to warn you off, but it never does.
Poet, confectioner, unhinged sniper - the name is rich with tradition. Stephen Whitman was a 19-year old entrepreneur who set up a candy & fruit store on the Philidelphia waterfront - in 1842. That’s an old brand, in other words. The sampler was introduced in 1912.
Some of these samplers did not meet the test of time.
Fresh and Fussy?
A compendium of old ads, with oddly dramatic music and questionable pacing:
Hey, I have one of those ads.
Those big-city girls don't impress easily, but a Whitman sampler? The guy must be loaded!