23 cartoons about marketing

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Cleveland Gets a C+

By Ray Lesser


Recently an alliance of businesses and foundations in Cleveland paid over a million dollars to some consultants to come up with a new slogan for our region. After “a disciplined 10-step process,” which included many committee meetings, brand platform development, focus grouping, and expense account travel to various other cities who’ve gone through similar branding searches, the consultants delivered our new name. Cleveland is now Cleveland+. So we can finally get down to marketing the region by changing that C on our ball caps to a C+. “Cleveland: Slightly Above Average!” Or maybe something like, “Cleveland Plus: A Plus-Size City for Plus-Size People!”

The powers that be are embracing this new slogan with as much gusto as they can muster, by plastering plus-size banners on hospitals, office buildings and at the airport, to greet visitors. Another banner at the airport features its own new slogan, based on the baggage tag abbreviation for our city: “CLE: Going Places!” It was better than the alternative idea: “CLE: Let’s Get Out Of Here While We Still Can!”

Clevelanders of the past couple of generations have grown up with an inferiority complex, and ongoing dread about our future. We’ve gone from ranking as the 7th largest city in the U.S. in 1950 to 40th last year. During that span, the population of the city has fallen by half. Lately, things have only gotten worse. Since George W. has been running the show in Washington, Ohio lost about 250,000 manufacturing jobs. Not surprisingly, we’re also at the epicenter of the home foreclosure crisis.

This latest crisis has had some positive effects. There are apparently many fewer homeless people sleeping on Cleveland city streets this winter. Instead, they have taken to living in some of the 15,000 homes that are currently vacant due to foreclosure. The downside is that organized gangs of men are breaking into vacant houses and stripping them of their copper wiring and pipes. There is a growing world demand for copper, mostly coming as the result of the manufacturing boom in China. So it has become profitable for some of the multitude of laid-off workers here to strip out the few salvageable parts of their grandparents’ and parents’ legacies of solidly built homes, and sell them for scrap. This enables Chinese workers to manufacture video game systems, iPods, and other electronic gizmos to keep us occupied until all our money (and copper plumbing) runs out. In the same way that we used to put signs on our cars that said “No Radio” to stave off thieves who would break the windows just to get at the car stereo, vacant Cleveland homes now carry signs saying, “No Copper. All PVC Pipes,” in an attempt to stave off looters.

Cleveland has already had its fair share of image problems. We’re the home of the Cuyahoga River, which was so polluted in the 1970s that it caught on fire. That disaster was compounded in the national consciousness when our mayor at the time, Ralph Perk, managed to set his hair on fire while attempting to cut a ribbon with a welding torch for a photo op. Perk’s wife, Lucille, gained national renown when she rejected a dinner invitation from the White House so she wouldn’t miss her regular bowling night. We’re used to being referred to as “The Mistake on the Lake” and to seeing many of our brightest stars leave us behind for better offers somewhere else.

But despite it all, Cleveland remains a great place to live, and those of us who love it here still think of it as “The Best Location in the Nation,” the city’s slogan back in the good old days of the 50s and early 60s. There is much reason for optimism about our future. For example, local athlete LeBron James has become the best basketball player in the world and practically single-handedly carried our team to the championship series last year. (But does the team have to play in the Quickie Loans Arena?)

More importantly, our strong history of innovation in technology and manufacturing offers us great opportunities to remake our city as a leader in the green revolution of the 21st century. Recently, one of the leading environmental organizations here, EcoCity Cleveland, merged with our wonderful Museum of Natural History to create a center for regional sustainability called GreenCity-BlueLake Institute. The museum plans to totally remake itself to showcase the evolutionary history of the planet from the Big Bang 14 billion years ago to the climate change event that is currently taking place. This will make a nice contrast to the recently opened Creation Museum near the opposite end of Ohio, where the dinosaurs roam the Garden of Eden.

Cleveland offers tremendous potential for future development. We sit astride the largest body of fresh water on the planet. We have more wind than the Windy City. We already have most of the infrastructure in place to handle twice as many people as currently live here, and if you’re looking for a house at a bargain basement price, now’s the time to buy. But do make sure you check the plumbing first.

So who needs a name that branding consultants swoon over, like they have in Las Vegas (What Happens Here, Stays Here) or Walla Walla, Washington (The City So Nice, They Named It Twice).

We’re working on the vision of becoming a Green City on a Blue Lake, but in the meantime, we’re already the birthplace of Rock and Roll, as well as home to its Hall of Fame.

Cleveland Rocks!

A Conmenist Takeover

By Ray Lesser


The Conmenists began their rise to power in the 1950s with the infamous Marlboro Man ad campaign. Marlboro cigarettes had originally been promoted as “mild as May” and perfect for sophisticated women. But sales were dismal, and by the fifties the public had begun to suspect a link between smoking and cancer. To calm smokers’ fears, the tobacco industry began adding filters to cigarettes to trap some of that nasty cancer, and used actors dressed in lab coats to assure the public of their product’s safety. Philip Morris decided to add a filter to Marlboros and relaunch the brand. But how would they sell them to their best customers, young men, and overcome the perception of Marlboros as a sissified woman’s brand? The great advertising con man Leo Burnett came up with the answer. “I said, ‘What’s the most masculine symbol you can think of?’ And right off the top of his head one of our writers spoke up and said a cowboy. And I said, ‘That’s for sure.'” And thus was born the Marlboro Man, and the cigarette moved from being a nearly defunct brand to number one in the world, with a U.S. market share of 41%. This means that the Marlboro Man alone accounts for 180,000 of the annual deaths from smoking in our country (of 440,000 total). Go Cowboys! Or should I say, go Con Boys!

The Conmenists continued their inexorable rise to power, increasing their hold over the economy throughout the sixties and seventies by utilizing the greatest weapon ever created for conning people: television. With an endless series of ad campaigns for products ranging from the relatively benign Crest toothpaste (“Look Ma, no cavities!”), to nutritionless, cavity-causing sugar-water (“It’s the Real Thing!”), the con men used the most sophisticated scientific methods combined with the almost unlimited resources and industrial might of multi-national corporations, to take over an increasing share of the shelf-space in markets, the market share of every product sector, and the psychic space of their target audiences, the American public, who were soon given a new name: the consumer. Whatever the con men wanted to con the consumer to consume – from the savory cardiovascular time-bombs of McDonalds (“You deserve a break today!”) to bitter, watered down beer (“Tastes great, less filling!”) – they found ways to make us willingly line up to buy. They got us to fill our giant sized shopping carts with antibiotic pumped animals raised in suffocating death camps (“Frank Perdue: it takes a tough man to make a tender chicken.”), overpriced shoes made by virtual slave labor (“Just do it!”), and even toxic chemicals to change our physical appearance (“Does she or doesn’t she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure”).

But the turning point in the Conmenist takeover came when the con men hired a Hollywood actor to turn the Marlboro Man persona into a presidential candidate. With the help of the greatest advertising minds of their generation, the con men managed to sell their candidate the same way that they were able to sell crappy hamburgers, beer, or breakfast cereal (“Reagan for President: It’s morning again in America!”). From that point on they realized they didn’t need to find a real leader in order to take over the U.S. government, just somebody who could play one on TV. America has never been the same since.

George Bush, the latest hack chosen to play the part of Marlboro Man, wasn’t even an actor, although he did perform as a Yale college cheerleader. Since this faux-cowboy came to power, he has given his con men creators carte blanche to write the laws governing their own industries, and then come up with slogans to sell to consumers. To gut the Clean Air Act, highly polluting energy industries secretly wrote the Clear Skies Initiative. To encourage clear cutting of wilderness areas the timber industry wrote the Healthy Forests Act. Gutting civil liberties guaranteed by the constitution became The Patriot Act.

Every lie the Conmenist Politburo wanted us to believe was turned into an ad slogan. When they wanted to sell us a war in Iraq they waited until September 11, 2002, the first anniversary of 9/11. “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August,” explained Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew Card. And he should know, since his previous position was as head of the trade association for the Big Three automakers. Then the ad campaign began in earnest. “The smoking gun could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” “Shock and Awe.” “Mission Accomplished.” “Bring ’em on!” “The insurgency is in its last throes.” And now that the whole war has gone to shit, and all the reasons for starting it revealed as lies, “We must fight the terrorists where they live so we don’t have to fight them where we live.” In the meantime, our incredibly gullible consumer representatives in congress just bought another $100 billion worth of this worthless product with our credit cards (“I can’t believe I bought the whole thing”).

Right now the Conmenists are eavesdropping on our private conversations (“Reach out and touch someone”). They’ve turned the U.S. Treasury into a piggybank for special interests (“Have it your way”). They’ve invaded Iraq to try to pillage their oil (“Good till the last drop”), and are debating whether to attack Iran, another oil-rich country (“Betcha can’t eat just one”). No one in the mainstream media seems to care that our leaders are out of their minds (“Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t”). This will probably continue as long as most countries around the world continue to front us more consumer goodies (“Visa: Don’t leave home without it”).

So the con men running things will keep reading Forbes (“Capitalist tool”), driving their “ultimate driving machines,” and buying the latest, coolest toy available (“Because I’m worth it”). The Conmenist takeover is complete. Everyone is completely under the con mens’ spell. They’ve even managed to con themselves.