I have fond memories, though my cholesterol level does not, of eating at D’Best Sandwich Shop in Boca Raton. It’s been a few years, but as I recently munched on a Miami Cuban‐style cheesesteak1 my mind started wandering and I got to wondering if D’Best still existed. As I went looking for their website, I recalled a few of their regional twists on the cheesesteak, like the New York style, a New Jersey style… not to mention their incredible non‐steak explosion of an entire Thanksgiving meal directly onto a bun (D’Pilgrim).
D’Best still exists, alright… but I was truly unprepared for what I found.
You see, back when I’d visit, D’Best-the-subshop was a place you’d leave coated with a thin layer of grill grease. Had to wait in line? You’re washing your hair tonight. The place was by no means messy, but it had a certain unfinished quality to it… definitely the kind of place where the food matters more than the branding. I’d describe it as feeling somehow honest… completely lacking in pretense. Kind of blue collar? Yeah, I guess.
I’m clearly no stranger to marketing, but my career hasn’t yet brought me in touch with product packaging. I like packaging, and I’ve actually bought things over the years because they were nicely packaged — stuff like candy,1 Altoids Sours, some random bike part… and yes, I’ve even bought myself a few low‐balance gift cards2 to keep in my this is so awesome file.
I recently found myself impressed with the cardboard packaging around the McDonald’s Premium McWrap — I should probably go ask for a clean one while they’re still available. I guess I didn’t notice when they added this item to the menu, because I ordered my first one by mistake. My annoyance at paying about double what I expected turned to intrigue about as soon as I peeked into my drive‐through bag.
I probably haven’t used Winamp in a decade, but learning that it’s finally going away for good brought it back to the top of my mind this week.
Winamp wasn’t just my primary digital‐music‐playing‐thing1 — like many people, it was the first thing I ever used to play MP3s.
Yes Junior, back then Windows Media Player was for CDs and WAV files, and iTunes didn’t exist yet.2
What made Winamp so awesome? I could devote a whole post3 to the genius of Winamp skins, and things I’ve been reading (1, 2, 3) overwhelmingly reference the classic “whip the llama’s ass” sound clip — which, in addition to being a neat little branding thing, was permanently imprinted on everyone’s memory by being the first thing that would play after installation.
Those were cool, but my favorite Winamp memory is something a little less… superficial, perhaps? It’s a short piece of writing that long ago was featured on the “About” page of winamp.com:
But from the company’s marketing alone, I could tell that rich chocolate Ovaltine was uncool. I had never drunk any — and decades later, I still haven’t — but if I ever had, I certainly wouldn’t have told anyone about it.
I’m not exactly sure why the stuff made my lame‐sense tingle as a kid. Maybe because Ovaltine was named after a shape (and shapes are for little kids), or that its marketing proudly proclaimed that it was full of vitamins (like everything parents love, and kids don’t), but what I suspect it was… was a little more basic than that.
If you’re not a rapper promoting your new album — and especially if you’re a non‐rapper who works in marketing — can you do us a favor and not use “drop” to mean “the date on which [my thing] is set to be released”?
I’m sorry you’ve chosen e‐mail spam or whatever the fuck you do for a living, but talking about the day your new campaign or whatever “drops” doesn’t make you sound hip or hard or whatever.
There is one acceptable use outside the rap game: are you a pregnant woman discussing the date your kid is due to be born? Then that’s… actually totally cool.
Netflix has me trained pretty well — I know never to read the red envelopes that show up at my place. These days, the flip side is always a promo for some exclusive original series I don’t care about. House of Cards is amazing? That’s wonderful; let me know when I can actually stream some goddamn movies, okay?
That’s why I was surprised when tonight’s Netflix envelopes actually managed to catch my eye. On my way back from the mailbox I found both cleverly emblazoned with different life tips from movie moms. Tonight’s haul came wrapped in choice bits of Forrest Gump and Brave — timely for Mother’s Day and all that.
I wonder how many designs there actually are in the series — I’m guessing far fewer than the hundreds the numbering system seems to suggest. I’ll be looking for more in a few days.
That’s actually pretty sweet of them. I’ll… be sure to let mom know.