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EXCURSIONS IN LATERAL THINKING FROM

AMHERST, MASSACHUSETTS AND THE PIONEER VALLEY








Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Mixed-Message Branding at CAT-Scan Springs





 
Last week, in a CAT-scan waiting area, I toasted two other patients while downing my EZ EM Barium Sulfate Smoothie. (four glasses; one every 15 minutes) You drink it for its “contrast” coating that articulates the diagnostic dye injected during the scan.

The flavored, thick-textured smoothie is supposed to mask the drink’s underlying metallic taste. But the pained expressions of my waiting room mates (one had opted for banana; the other berry) told no lies: The drink proved less than a mixological triumph. I did somewhat better with vanilla, but all three of us shared equally in onset bloating.

Too Many Choices?


Pouring my second round, I took comfort in the bottle’s label depicting a foamy smoothie accompanied by a vanilla floret and beans. But then, my eye spotted the graphic of a gastrointestinal track in the label’s southwest corner. How whimsically it mirrored the smoothie graphic with its exclamatory straw. And what an addition to a kid’s crazy straw that gastro-appendage might make.

Inspiration for a crazy straw?


But why ruin vanilla imagery with that alimentary distraction? The answer: Consumers don’t purchase the product. It’s the clinics and medical technicians who do. Let's drink to them all.
The Barista's Delight: Mochaccino

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: A Title of Uncommon Stickiness




The [just published] Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer sports a title that sets viscosity records in mental stickiness. It reminds us by example that titles are much more than accessories or afterthoughts. Would I have opened the book, Heroic Librarians Save the Day down Sub-Sahara Way? Probably not.  

A title—bad-ass or otherwise—contributes disproportionately to a book’s identity. And it wields added weight via the Primacy Effect, which skews the impact of messages positioned up front.
The above title succeeds on multiple fronts. Each of its components—i.e., bad-ass librarians; Timbuktu—evokes concrete images. And their juxtaposition is amusingly anomalous. You just might  open the book to find out why.

Preserving Culture


What’s more, the title’s got rhythm. Individually and in combination, its components aid and abet percussive, polyrhythmic cadences. On first and subsequent hearings, the title’s 11-syllable play-out seemed vaguely familiar. Then I remembered the Owl and the Pussycat:



The Bad-Ass            Librarians of                            Timbuktu

The     Owl               and the pussy cat                    went to sea

My only misgiving with all this is that in lending the title dominance on the book’s cover/dust jacket, the publisher has diminished clarity by deploying a stylized fancy-ass cursive (sse first graphic). By the way, the book is a gracefully written deep dive into Mali's beautiful literary and musical heritage—a culture (among others) that is at risk at the hands of bad-asses (not the librarians) who infuse their transcendent aims with testosterone poisoning.