Friday, August 10, 2007


Well, I’m back in the saddle after a brief sojourn on the Continent with Sweetie. There’s nothing like a wine-soaked meditation in branding’s Garden of Eden to give a cowboy some perspective. Take, for instance, these revelations scribbled on the back of a boarding pass…

Overheard at the airport in Milan at 6A – freakin’ – M over the clip-clop of little Crocs: “Mommy! They’ve got Minute Maid!” Now, how can you say globalization is a bad thing? At least, as long as ‘global brand’ really means ‘American stuff you can get anywhere’, it sure seems to keep the kids happy.

Can someone explain Paul and Shark to me? I saw this brand worn by lots of briefcase-toting businessmen in mufti. It appears to be like Dockers for rich people. You know, so you’ve got more money, but still no imagination.

Okay, and here’s a handy travel hint: In Europe, Martini is a brand, not a magical healing potion. I ordered one in a very fine establishment, and it confusingly arrived on the rocks.

Worst. Martini. Ever.

That’s because it was vermouth. Ironic, don’t you think?

Here’s how much Europeans love brands, unlike the Puritanically ambivalent relationship we have with them here in the colonies: Sweetie marches up to a street vendor selling designer sunglasses and demands to know their provenance. The vendor looks to the left and then to the right like Lefty the Salesman on Sesame Street and then says, “Mafia.” Because there, you see, ‘stolen’ is more socially acceptable than ‘fake’.

Can I just say, I love Samsonite Black Label? Yes, it turns out they sell it here in the Great White North, online at least. But there, they have actual stores, complete with dreamy ambient lounge music and obliviously hip staff. What a wonderfully exuberant, brave and all too rare example of a brand extending itself UPwards. While a procession of the world’s great brands are slouching towards Bentonville in an effort to trade margin for volume, here’s workaday Samsonite asking itself not, “How can we make this cheaper,” but rather, “How can we make this cooler?” There should be a medal for this.

… and then there were some Byzantine exchange rate calculations on the stuff we bought, a tomato sauce stain, and an incoherent scrawl on the subject of why nobody can afford business class anymore.

It’s good to be home.

P.S. In case you thought that branding’s rich pageant had halted for the summer, here are two stories from this week that need no sarcastic illumination from me:

Can a brand be used as punishment? Ask misbehaving Thai police officers…

A placebo can make a headache go away. And, apparently, a brand can make a French fry taste better. Behold its terrifying power…


Stuart said...

You kiddin' me? Paul and Shark is *the*best*clothing*ever*

Their sweaters wear like iron, their jackets are like some kind of 21st century space shield and - yeah - they are cool (though, some of the stuff is out there and I have found myself wanting to like it more than I do, if you get me drift).

But, mock not the Shark, Cowboy.

BrandCowboy said...

Hmmm... maybe it was the people.

Proving, if nothing else, that a brand is never solely under the control of its owner. Cuz, man, you would not have liked these guys. They all looked like logistics managers heading home from a team building off-site, tense and guilt-ridden because their wives picked out their clothes for them and they can't look them in the eye when they get home because of that unfortunate thing at the off-site with the stripper and the celery stick. Y'know?

Stuart said...