Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Week 4: Disney

American Mass Culture
Week 5

Disney, Consumer Culture, Brand Meaning, Consumption, Identity





This week we learn…..



       1930s – Walt Disney begins thinking about building a city

       Realizes every Mickey Mouse toy is an advertisement for his cartoons – realized the concept of “Synergy”



       Now everyone in marketing realizes that those childhood toys and experiences, in adulthood, become the desire to enter into the world of that identity, to become the meaning of the brand

       Disney began understanding this before any other big brand



       This strong consumer desire to become one with favorite pop-culture products is exploited by every one of the superbrands — from Nike to Viacom to the Gap to Martha Stewart – as they use synergy-based lifestyle marketing


       Disney is the best: Michael J. Wolf, a famous management consultant to big companies like Viacom, Time Warner, MTV, writes:

“I can't begin to count the number of times that people who run consumer businesses have confided to me that their goal is to create the broadbased success that Disney seems to bring to every project and every business it touches.”



       Or as Shaq put it in his own marketing efforts:

Everyone wants to be…..


“… Mickey Mouse."


       Disney invented modern branding


       Walt Disney Company created the model for the branded superstore, opening the first Disney Store in 1984.

       Such branded stores, in expensive locations, often lose money. But they create brand image and help spread the idea of the brand


       Disney also created the branded holiday – not merely resorts, but also a Disney cruise ship line, which goes to Disney’s privately owned island in the Caribbean.

       Even Nike has a sports-themed cruise ship line….


       Branded towns, too: Disney owns Celebration, Florida, a Disney branded town.

       The irony of Celebration: (from No Logo)

Oddly enough, Celebration is not even sales vehicle for Mickey Mouse licensed products; it is, in contemporary terms an almost Disney-free town - no doubt the only one left in America. In other words, when Disney finally reached its fully enclosed, synergized, self-sufficient space, it chose to create a pre-Disneyfied world- its calm, understated aesthetics are the antithesis of the cartoon world for sale down the freeway at Disney World.”


There are no other brands allowed either.  But as one critic says, “it is private space that pretends to be public” since everything is under Disney’s control, from the size of the roads to the shape and color of the buildings.s


       "Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive. This facility makes it the most versatile and explicit means of communication yet devised for quick mass appreciation."

-            Walt Disney, Founder, Walt Disney Group of Companies.


       "Disney boldly diversified into television, commercials, music, comic strips and amusement parks at a time when other studios could think of little but celluloid"



       As noted before, Walt Disney invented the ideas of brand management, merchandising campaigns, and brand extension into other product fields


       In 1927, Disney created the highly successful Oswald the Lucky Rabbit for Universal Pictures.

       He left Universal over a copyright dispute and in 1928 invented Mickey Mouse

       With third Mickey cartoon, Steamboat Willie, Disney introduced synchronized sound. Very Popular


       In early 1930s Disney experimented with animation that created emotions, and experiences


       In 1938, with the film Snow White, the first-full length animated picture, he became the first producer to have a complete merchandising campaign for a film.

       It became the highest-grossing film of all time.



       He started Mickey Mouse Clubs for children which offered them games and prizes, to cement their loyalty to the company.


       In early 1940s he began to imagine the first theme park, Disneyworld, with rides and Disney-themed products

       But Disney spent the 1940s doing war-related propaganda for the government


       In the 1950s Disney became a major name in television


       Note role of TV in creating brand synergy between TV, movies, and toy and other products


       In 1950 Disney released Cinderella, a huge hit, which led to opening of Disneyworld in California in 1955

       Walt Disney became confident in TV as a medium to promote his movies, when other companies were afraid of the new technology


       1960s Disney moved into live-action films with Swiss Family Robinson, The Absent-Minded Professor, and one of the greatest movies ever made, Mary Poppins.




       Walt died in 1960s

       In 1971 Disney World Florida opened

       Walt’s son Roy dies in 1970s. Company begins to lose its direction and intelligence – it turned down Raiders of the Lost Ark and ET


       Early 1980s Disney was more concerned with real estate and recreation than entertainment

       The company was dying. In 1983 the Bass brothers bought 25% of Disney and installed new management team headed by Michael Eisener


       From 1983 to 1987, annual revenues more than doubled, profits nearly quintupled, and the value of Disney stock went from $2 billion to $23 billion.

       Expansion depended largely on a wide array of business activities in which the new management team aggressively exploited the Disney brand name, such as the stores


       1990s = Disney Decade

       Disney bought many other companies, including ABC and ESPN

       Released  The Little Mermaid (1989),  Beauty and the Beast (1991) and The Lion King (1994), most successful animated feature ever produced, resurrected its movie power


       Late 1990s saw Disney begin to sink again, but after Eisner was forced out (in Shrek Lord Farquaad is thought to be Michael Eisener) Disney grew with Pirates of the Caribbean (2003) and Finding Nemo (2003),

       TV:  Disney experiences continued success with TV hits such as Desperate HousewivesLostGreys’ Anatomy,High School Musical, and Hannah Montana

Consumption and Identity.

modern identities are structured around the experience of consumption.

Central Insight

     modern identities are structured around the experience of consumption.



        Consumption and construction of identity.


        material and symbolic elements of consumption


        Consumption as manipulation by producers.


        Consumption as cultural expression.


        The role of desire plays in our consumption choices



Consumption and construction of identity.

       When we consume things, we construct an identity

       When we want to construct an identity, we consume things

material and symbolic elements of consumption

       You buy a smartphone because you think you need one

       You buy an Apple iPhone because it means something different than a Samsung

       You need transportation, so you buy a vehicle

       You buy a Mercedes because you want the status it gives you


Consumption as manipulation by producers.

       Producers manipulate you

       To manipulate you, they manipulate the material and symbolic elements of the product.

Consumption as cultural expression. 

       What do you consume because you are Taiwanese? Han? Chinese? Hakka? Muslim? Christian? Chinese Folk Religionist? Middle-class? Upper-class? Working class?

The role of desire plays in our consumption choices

       The real production is the production of desire

      What is it that we are Consuming?

        A material element and a symbolic element.

        About more than the satisfaction of 'needs'

        images, feelings, fantasies, archetypes

        individual identity  and group identity?

        Consumption to create outgroups or others.

Defining Consumption

       different from the economic definition of consumption

       the buying, using and interpretation of goods:

       central notion: modern identities are structured around the experience of consumption.  

Consumption and Status

         The symbolic marking out of status groups



         Thorstein Veblen 1889 - conspicuous consumption  -- engaged in by all groups, depends on relative level of spending on consumption and leisure (big homes that can store more stuff!)


         Mary Douglas: objects mark out symbolic status


Consumption as ‘lack’

       Post-consumption ‘emptiness’

       Consumption, then, is founded on a LACK or DESIRE for something that is absent

        an unfinished self.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Week Four: Xmas and marketing...

       1.  Describe Christmas in America before 1800.
       2.  Who originally invented Santa Claus? Why did he do that? Where did the idea of Santa giving gifts and coming down the chimney come from?
       3. Who gave us our first visual image of Santa Claus?
       4. Who invented our modern image of Santa Claus and why?

If you went back to colonial America 350 years ago, you would notice that there were no holidays. There was no Christmas and there was no Easter. There was no Halloween and no Valentines Day.
Take the example of Christmas. In New England, the celebration of Christmas was illegal. In Massachusetts there was a fine for celebrating the holiday. In the southern colonies of Virginia and Maryland, it simply wasn't celebrated.
Let us jump ahead to 1800. Christmas is no longer illegal. But Christmas was definitely different than it is today. Christmas was not centered around the family or children or giving presents. There were no Christmas trees with ornaments and lights. There were no Christmas cards; and there was no kissing beneath the mistletoe. Nor were there Christmas songs. Most amazingly of all, there was no Santa Claus or St. Nicholas.
What there was in 1800 was a drunken street carnival, a loud combination of Halloween and New Year's Eve. The poor would demand entrance into the homes of the rich and aggressively beg for food, drink, and money. Sometimes things would get out of control and there would be robbery, vandalism, sexual assault, and plenty of drinking. In 1828, a particularly violent Christmas riot in New York led the city to establish its first professional police force.
Christmas celebrations in 1800 had their origins in the midwinter worship of Saturn and Bacchus, not Christ. By the second century, the Romans were regularly feasting, drinking from December 17, the first day of Saturnalia, to January First. They also decorated their houses with evergreen boughs.
In the fourth century, Christians began to celebrate Christ's birth on December 25, the winter solstice on the Roman calendar. The church agreed to let the holiday be celebrated more or less as it always was. The Christmas celebration that arose in Medieval Europe was an occasion for crazy behavior, spending of money, public sexual behavior, and violations of social order. In medieval and early modern Europe, at Christmas the people often elected a "Lord of Misrule" to rule over these annual revels. In one episode in 1637 in England, the crowd gave the Lord of Misrule a wife in a public marriage service conducted by a fellow Christmas celebrator pretending to be a minister. The newlyweds had sex on the spot, in front of everyone!
The Puritans who moved to America from England were Christians of the controlling type. They were particularly upset by two Christmas practices: One was mumming, the exchange of clothes between men and women. Even worse was the outbreak of rioting, drunkenness, and sex. It was this celebration that the New England Puritans tried to kill.
But despite the Puritans' best efforts, Christmas in America became an excuse for dangerous fun. At Christmastime, men drank rum, fired guns wildly, and costumed themselves in animal fur or women's clothing, crossing species and gender. In New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and other cities, they formed parades, which involved beating on big pots, blowing on trumpets and horns, and setting off firecrackers.
Then, during the early 1800s, Christmas became a cultural battleground. During the early 1800s, Protestant Christians challenged the popular Christmas. They called for a shorter, more refined, more family-centered celebration at the end of the year.
As the historian Stephen Nissenbaum has shown, a small group of New Yorkers were primarily responsible for creating a new kind of a Christmas. The first was Washington Irving, a famous writer. Irving had long complained about the lack of American traditions, heroes, and distinctively American holidays. He became the inventor of Santa Claus. He took several legends about a Dutch St. Nicholas and built on them to create an American tradition.
In his 1809 History of New York, he described celebrations of St. Nicholas in what was then New Amsterdam. Although such celebrations never happened, the book became a best seller of its day, read not only in the finest houses of New York City but in primitive wooden houses on the frontier. After its publication, the St. Nicholas legend traveled fast.
In 1822 Clement Clarke Moore provided the first description of Santa Claus that we know today. He became famous for a 56-line poem written to amuse his children. By penning the poem that begins "Twas the night before Christmas," Moore Americanized the Old World St. Nicholas, turning him into jolly Santa Claus, a plump, happy elf with a sleigh full of toys and eight flying reindeer. He moved St. Nicholas's visit to December 24, not December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas' day.
Moore mixed a number of European legends together: the gift giving of the Dutch St. Nicholas, the Norse god Thor's sleigh pulled by flying goats, the chimney descent of a mythical visitor in Germany, and the French and Italian practice of hanging stockings. The name was an Americanization of the Dutch nickname Sinter Clas.
It is remarkable how long it took before our modern symbols of Christmas became fixed. The first painting of St. Nicholas by an American artist did not appear until 1837. In the early days, Santa Claus didn't necessary give children presents; he was often pictured holding a wooden rod in his hands, and he punished children with a whipping. In 1839, there was even a Broadway production: Santa Claus: Or, The Orgies of St. Nicholas.
While Clement Moore had given the country a written description of the ideal St. Nicholas, it was the political cartoonist Thomas Nast who developed the visual image of Santa Claus. When he was just 21-years-old, Nast gave Santa his familiar shape: fat and jolly, with a stocking cap and a long white beard. Previously, Santa Claus was often depicted as tall, thin and domineering - often with black hair and a stiff hat.
Nast's first Santa Claus appeared during the Civil War in 1863 as a morale booster for Northern soldiers. His drawings showed Santa arriving at a camp of Union soldiers in his reindeer sleigh, wearing a special suit decorated with the stars and stripes. But it was not until 1886 that a Boston printer named Louis Prang introduced a Christmas card that showed Santa in a red suit. Around the same time, a store in Brockton, Massachusetts, had the first department store Santa.
It was during the Great Depression of the 1930s that the Coca Cola Company created the image of Santa Claus that still lives today. Coke hired a Chicago artist to create a Christmas advertising campaign. The artist, Haddon Sundblom, produced a new archetype for Santa Claus. America during the Great Depression needed a strong symbol of happy consumerism, and Sundblom gave him to us. He looks like a kindly uncle who enjoys his work. He steals from the refrigerator and takes time to play with the family dog.

The essential point is that the modern family Christmas is not a timeless tradition - an ancient, venerable tradition steeped in religious significance. It was something that was invented just 150 years ago.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Week 2-3 PPT Spr 2016

American Mass Culture
Week 3
Lessons from the Merchants of Cool

The Construction of Cool

       What is cool?

       Where does it come from?

       Who says what it is and isn’t?

       How does it spread?

       What is the function of cool?

       How does the consumer idea of cool reflect and construct corporate control and organization of culture?


What is Cool?

       Authenticity (but you can’t MAKE it, you have to FIND it)


What is Cool?

       Rebellion against the mainstream


What is Cool?

       Minority/marginalized origin (the myth of mainstream separation from The Authentic)


What Cool is Not





How cool spreads

       Diffusion – the spread of new ideas of technology from person to person

How cool spreads

Famous study:

       Bruce Ryan and Neal Gross's analysis of the spread of hybrid seed corn in Greene County, Iowa, in the nineteen-thirties.

How cool spreads

       Of two hundred and fifty-nine farmers studied by Ryan and Gross:

        1933: only few farmers used the seed

       1934: 16 began using it

       1935: 21 farmers

       1936: 36 farmers

       1937: 61

       1938: 46

       1939: 36

       1940: 14

       1949: 257 total using the seed, all but TWO

How cool spreads

Diffusion terms

       Innovators (the first crazy few, high social status, very social, many contacts)

       Early adopters (copy the wild innovators, high opinion leadership, younger, educated, good social status)

       Early majority (above average social status but not opinion leaders)

       late majority (skeptics who follow the majority, lower social status, fewer resources)

       Laggards (conservatives who value “tradition” with lower social status and education, and a small circle of social contacts)


How cool spreads

How cool spreads

       Only INNOVATORS are cool

       Only a small number of INNOVATORS


       The actual number of cool leaders is small and they differ from location to location

       “Cool is a set of dialects, not a language”

Coolhunters thus….

       Picking the right person is harder than it sounds, though. Piney Kahn, who works for DeeDee, says, "There are a lot of people in the gray area. You've got these kids who dress ultra funky and have their own style. Then you realize they're just running after their friends." The trick is not just to be able to tell who is different but to be able to tell when that difference represents something truly cool. It's a gut thing. You have to somehow just know. DeeDee hired Piney because Piney clearly knows: she is twenty-four and used to work with the Beastie Boys and has the formidable self-possession of someone who is not only cool herself but whose parents were cool. "I mean," she says, "they named me after a tree.“

What is cool

       The PARADOXES of cool:


       Once you make something cool, and everyone does it….. It is not cool anymore.

       Cool can only be observed, and only by other cool people

What is the function of cool?

       To sell young people products of large corporations

       Consider it a kind of technology for getting young consumers to buy products…..  !!!!!

Corporate Construction
of Consumer Culture


       How does the consumer idea of cool reflect and construct corporate control and organization of culture?

       If rebellion is cool and becomes part of product marketing, how can people struggle against the System


Corporate Construction
of Consumer Culture

       Consider the nations of the world…

       Which are innovators of “cool”? Early adopters? Laggards?