Monday, October 12, 2009

Marketing and Extreme Sports...The Other White Meat

I've already taken a couple of pot shots at the dorks at Sram who make such goofy, half-witted decisions like shipping derailleurs in cookie tins and crayon boxes, but while on my last trip to the Nantahala National Forest last month...something else popped out at me. This marketing crap may just finally be over the deep edge, artistically speaking of course. (?)

Ever want a whitewater kayak? You know, those stubby little plastic glorified soup-spoons that so many rough and tumble Phish kids seem to crave? No? Me neither.

But I digress.

If you've been under a rock, or maybe you've spent the last ten years saddling your fat-ass on a Harley on Highway 19 out in front of the restaurant at the NOC, rather than even noticing that there's a river on the other side of the building, much less a sport called whitewater paddling, then you may not know about these little day-glow milk cartons that the river rats call 'play boats'. Basically these things are as wide as they are long, which is to say they are not necessarily wide, just damn short. They allow you to, rather than just paddle down the river, instead perform many maneuvers of questionable necessity previously reserved for ballet dancers, like the "pirouette." Or my favorite, "the invert and drown."

Play boats have one thing in common though, monocolor cartoonish logos and related names which have little or nothing to do with boats, or rivers, or even ballet.

The "Mamba", for example.

From Wikipedia: "Mambas, of the genus Dendroaspis, are fast-moving land-dwelling snakes of Africa. The black mamba (D. polylepis) is the longest venomous snake in Africa, with an extremely potent neurotoxic venom that attacks the nervous system, and cardiotoxins which attack the heart; the bite is often fatal to humans without access to proper first aid and subsequent antivenom treatment, because it shuts down the lungs and heart."

Makes perfect sense. Nothing makes me want to tackle the exciting whitewater of our nation's southeastern rivers like a big fat poisonous African land snake. I once called my sixth grade Social Studies teacher, Mr Kodish, a fat Mamba. That was the first time I got sent to the dean's office that year. Mr Kodish had about as much in common with an African snake as that dorky little red plastic boat. Although this one is even an '8.0' version, which I guess correlates to the newest release of Internet Explorer, or maybe its a Richter Scale measurement?


Then there's this little marketing wiz-critter. Meet Piranha.

Wikipedia talk: "A piranha a member of a family of omnivorous freshwater fish which live in South American rivers. In Venezuelan rivers, they are called caribes. They are known for their sharp teeth and a voracious appetite for meat."

At least we're off land here with this one. I guess there's some association with being a carnivorous fish and a rough and tumble sunshine-yellow play boat. Most Piranha boat owners, however, probably don't know that the logo proofs unveiled during the marketing research looked like this:


And then of course, we have one of the more common kayak brands to populate the rivers of the Appalachians, Dagger.

Wikispeak again..."A dagger (probably from Vulgar Latin: 'daca' - a Dacian knife) is a typically double-edged blade used for stabbing or thrusting. They often fulfill the role of a secondary defense weapon in close combat."

Stabbing. Thrusting. A double edged blade. OK, I get the symbolism here, but then I get lost. Secondary weapon? If you're on a boat, intended to carve up and attack the nastiest whitewater, what's the primary weapon then? Your Ipod packed to the gills with Phish tunes and Widespread Panic? Points lost for lack of imagination on the execution of the logo too. Simple is good, yes, but please, the thing looks like a diagram in a dentifrice instruction manual outlining how to properly floss your molars.


Then we go all fictitious with "Liquid Logic"

Liquid Logic?! I don't even know what that could possibly mean! I'm not even sure I can elucidate what that might 'logically' imply!? The water is the liquid yes, but logical water? Isn't one of the over-arching tenants of fluid dynamics that of complete chaos and unpredictability? Who reached for the word "Logic" in the boardroom?

And of course, the NOC has to tag along with the monochrome logo-isms too. We're one slip shy here, of one of those tacky 'OBX' oval stickers seen so prevalently on the other side of North Carolina.

All of which just leaves me 'clammy'. Still, there's a lot of good stuff to take your mind off the incessant marketing that seems to permeate our hobbies and our overall enjoyment of the outdoors. All you have to do is take a peek at the weathered and battered shop-wagon, and see the faded and peeling symbols of a different and once much more popular extreme sport.

Get back on a bike. Really.


Steve said...

To quote a line from The Graduate: "Do you just hate EVERYTHING?"


I doubt Mr. Kodish had any idea what you were saying when you called him a Mamba.

Utahdog! said...

You should see my tassels...

*whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!*

Paul said...

When we paddled I had a Dagger Showdown and Caroline had a Necky Gliss. They were cool. We were cool.

Utahdog! said...

I was cool once. Once.