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Scent of desperation

18 December, 2008

‘Fire Meets Desire’ screenshot

Sometimes I find it simply too difficult to understand the marketing ploys of ailing companies trying to revive their once illustrious brands in the eyes of newly discerning, disapproving customers. Granted it didn’t take much re-education to bring the American fast-food industry to its own demise, considering the operative premise behind a multi-million dollar franchised conglomerate built around the concept of bread bun, burger pattie and trans fat was doomed to clog an artery in an age when obesity is at its most alarming level. So when it had once been so easy to follow the seemingly inspired trend of blaming Big Business for one’s own individual failing to actively seek adequate, ‘slow’ nutrition elsewhere, even the banning of lawsuits by the US House of Representatives back in 2004 was not enough to stifle the battle cries of overly-indulgent self-neglecters and bad press further fueled by Morgan Spurlock’s pseudo-science Super Size Me documentary, the all-revealing publication of Fast Food Nation, and sheer good old-fashioned common sense. And despite all efforts of the National Restaurant Association to lobby for a change of heart in the public consensus over an anti-fast-food campaign so quickly picking up pace and empathy, an invitation to head over to Mickie Dee’s with a friend today is more than likely to spark a heated debate over the National Weight Control Registry, even if you do happen to walk in on healthy salad day.

But just when you thought there was no breathing room left to try, Burger King Corp. (in affiliation with the same ‘Have It Your Way Technology’ that brought about the curiously-named Simpsonize Me microsite) has recently begun to market a men’s fragrance that smells like… Well, would you believe me if I said meat? Because that’s precisely what FLAME™ is being advertised as smelling like, and with an almost revoltingly stomach-churning hook to boot, ‘the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat’ unwittingly points to Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (the 1908 meatpacking equivalent of Eric Schlosser’s famed topic of investigative journalism in 2003). Currently on sale (and sold-out) in New York for $3.99 via Ricky’s Costume Superstore, I’m not exactly too sure whose image this body spray is supposed to help: BK’s or Ricky’s? No less with a website designed to bring the bad taste of bachelor-pad kitsch to the mouth, this is perhaps the funniest product I have come across since the release of the iBod vibrator. Now only time will tell whether this is an item to be taken at all seriously, though whilst gauging shoppers’ responses thus far, I can already see that that probably won’t be the case (my favourite line, by Chris from WV: ‘this is a great way to meat woman’ [sic]). But what is likely, however, is that FLAME™ will achieve cult status, soon going on to become a limited edition item whilst further spreading news at lightning speed around the world…

And fait accompli: Burger King will have managed to stimulate (and perhaps even expand) its market-base. It serves to distract us for five minutes from what it’s really known for (angina) through a clever though awkward showing of horizontal differentiation in marketing-development structure, inevitably lending a hand to mainstream consumers and ad junkies to help associate it with the sort of macho humour that might spark a drive up in sales. But even if this does manage to once more make fast-food cool, sexy, and unhindered by public disrepute through legal castration, I think it all looks embarrassingly desperate more than anything else — much like any man who would dare to wear it.

Sarah Badr © MMVIII

See also: Burger King Corporation

‘Burger chain markets meat scent’ (BBC News)

Super Size Me (SnagFilms)

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One comment

  1. […] development, the unscrupulously suspect realms of banking and finance, the institution of art and commercialization of anything that can generate revenue, ad infinitum. As our lives become increasingly downsized, […]



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