Box Vox

packaging as content

September 28, 2012

BoxVox & Consumer Confusion

You might think from the previous 4 posts about self-rhyming brand names, that I’m all for it, but in the very first year of this blog’s existence I noted some drawbacks to brand names of this type…

Here is a pitfall of branding with a self-rhyming name. I thought “box vox” was a logical and suitable name for this blog in which I would hold forth on the subject of packaging (BoxVox as in “voice of the package”). Trouble is, if you find two words that rhyme, then someone else has also noticed this.

That’s what I wrote in November of 2007 about a theremin-like electronic musical instrument named “BoxVox.” Since then I’ve found a few other brands with the same name as my blog. Some of these enterprises are close enough in nature to what I do, that there is some likelihood of consumer confusion. Not that I’m inclined to launch any trademark infringement lawsuits about it.

This is just a round-up to help clarify things… a sort of a consumer guide— like a Wikipedia (disambiguation) page for BoxVox name brands.

Yes, THIS is Box Vox, but there are at least three others…

1. BoxVox, the musical instrument
When I wrote about this in 2007, I had attributed it’s creation to someone I thought was named Jon Kanon. Recently, however, I unearthed a pdf file that shows that it was in fact a collaborative project by Gustaf Carlberg, Jon Bernholdt Olsen, Wolfgang Mähr, Björn Östlund and Robin Söderström done in 2006–2007 at the IT University of Gothenburg.

“…the BoxVox is a shiny, polished, black cube of 40 cm edge length made of wood and standing on rubber stoppers (see Figures 1-4). The corners and edges are rounded, the sensor and light fittings are embedded in two opposing sides and the top. These fittings hold two sets of LED halogen lights and a pair of silver ultrasound sensors. One side we regard as the front, features a standard ungrounded female power connector and a 6.3 millimetre female stereo audio jack for sound output to an amplifier.”

2. BoxVox, the clothing brand
This Danish brand was conceived of as “fashion out of the box” around 2009.

THE BOXVOX STORY

Two good friends from Denmark went on a road trip around Europe in the summer of 2009. After visiting music festivals in northern Germany and surfing the French west coast they ended up in Spain for some serious partying. One night they were sitting behind their VW transporter talking about the making of a new Danish brand. They both agreed that quality and creativity should be the key factors and that it should be “fashion out of the box”.

After returning from Spain the first person they meet was the girlfriend of one of them… she said “make it casual”.

One of the friends played in a band and when he asked the drummer for one thing to add to the brand, the drummer shortly said, “trashed”. The day after they called their artist friend and asked what… he thought was the most important in a new brand. Daniel said that “colourful graphics” would be cool.

Then they called their poor ass friend, who is a business school student and he just said, “even though you guys will give my poor ass free clothing I think you should make it affordable for everyone else”, so they decided to make it affordable.

A couple of days later on a Saturday night out partying with their friend who is a solid snowboarder… He said, “make something different, something I haven´t seen before”.

After a hard night out they dropped of the snowboarder friend, and just before closing the door to the taxi he yelled “CRAZY, make something crazy guys, and I will rock it in the alps”. Crazy was added to the brand and the friends decided they had enough ideas for the creation of BOXVOX.

 (One more BoxVox, after the fold…) (more…)

September 27, 2012

Self-Rhyming Band Names

It’s Thursday of “self-rhyming brand name week” on box vox. Debated with myself on where to go next. There are still plenty of food brands and other products with self-rhyming names… Lean Cuisine, Shake ’n Bake, Pall Mall, OshKosh B’gosh, Handy Andy, Humpty Dumpty. Any one of these brands might be interesting to examine. (“Pall Mall” was 19th century London Cockney rhyming slang for a girl.)

But band names are also brand names, and since rhyming is so much a part of songwriting, it should come as no surprise that there are bands that have branded themselves with this particular mnemonic device.

Milli Vanilli, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Oingo Boingo, Chumbawamba, Quiot Riot and Scritti Polliti are just a few examples. (What have I missed?)

One thing I like noting is the package-related bottle cap graphic on the cover of Scritti Politti’s album with the self-rhyming title of “Anomie & Bonhomie.”

Also package-related: the cover of Chumbawamba’s hit song, “Tubthumping” references the Arm & Hammer logo for some reason…

Full disclosure: I too was once in a band with a self-rhyming name.

(One more self-rhyming band name, after the fold…) (more…)

September 26, 2012

Piggly Wiggly

Founded by Clarence Saunders 96 years ago, Piggly Wiggly is another notable self-rhyming brand name

Saunders’ reason for choosing the intriguing name Piggly Wiggly remains a mystery; he was curiously reluctant to explain its origin. One story is that he saw from a train window several little pigs struggling to get under a fence, and the rhyming name occurred to him then. Someone once asked him why he had chosen such an unusual name for his organization, and Saunders’ reply was, “So people will ask that very question.” He wanted and found a name that would be talked about and remembered.

Over the years Piggly Wiggly has trademarked quite a few versions and variations of their anthropomorphic pig mascot. (I like the radiating lines around pig and name in the two lower black & white trademarks. Makes the pig look embarrassed or flustered or something. Also reminds me of the Keith Haring “radiant baby” motif.)

More significant than the anthropomorphic logo, however, was Saunders’ patented “self-service” grocery store concept…

The challenge was to develop a system of retailing that was as rational, manageable, impersonal, and friction free as the systems by which the goods were produced. In 1916 the Memphis grocer Clarence Saunders developed the heart of such a system in his first Piggly Wiggly store. The system, which he patented, reconfigured the grocery store as a maze. Once shoppers passed through the turnstile, they were directed down one aisle, up the next, and on through the third and forth until they had passes every item in the store, before arriving at the cash register and exit. This system industrialized consumption by making shoppers assemblers of their own order.

Thomas Hine, The Total Package

Almost 100 years later, some of the “modernity” of the concept may have waned a bit…

By now Piggly Wiggly has evolved into a contemporary, strip-mall style store (similar in appearance to Hobby Lobby) and like most contemporary supermarkets, they have for some time carried their own brands.


Piggly Wiggly “Sunset Gold” evaporated milk label, 1959


A Piggly Wiggly “header card”


Another Piggly Wiggly evaporated milk label, 1980


Piggly Wiggly paper grocery bag and plastic produce bag

(More Piggly Wiggly branding, after the fold…) (more…)

September 25, 2012

Laffy Taffy (& Other Self-Rhyming Brand Names)


Top left: Early Beich’s “Laffy Taffy” wrapper from before being bout out by Nestle (from: Jason Liebig’s Flickr Photostream); on right a Cadbury’s “Curly Wurly” wrapper (from: Jason Liebig’s Flickr Photostream); below that: an early “Reese’s Pieces” wrapper (from: Jason Liebig’s Flickr Photostream); bottom row left: 1950s “Dubble Bubble” bubble gum (via: Ebay); on right: original (flattened out) “Mello Yello” soda can (from: Jason Liebig’s Flickr Photostream)

Continuing with the self-rhyming brand name thread, here are some high-fructose examples. I wanted to stick with two syllable rhymes, but there are certainly other sweets whose brand names have internal rhyme schemes… Pixie Stix, Payday, Swedish Fish, Ring Dings… and I’m sure there are many others… what have I left out? (Feel free to jump in here.)

Note how many of these names use misspelled words… “Laffy” (not laughy), “Wurly” (not whirly), “Dubble” (not double) and “mello yello” (not Mellow Yellow). In most cases, the misspelling serves to make the rhyming words a closer match, typographically.

With “Mello Yello,” I wondered, was the removal of the two ‘w’s to avoid litigation with Donovan? Except that (according to Wikipedia) they used a cover version of his song in the soda’s introductory TV commercial, so who knows?

Quality of graphics is mixed, in my opinion. I really like the early “Curly Wurly” typography. Interesting that in both “Laffy Taffy” and “Curly Wurly” the ‘y’s loop around to intrude on the preceding letters. The typography of the early “Reese’s Pieces” wrapper looks bad to me. The stroked outline on “Reese’s” seems too heavy and looks as if it might be cutting into the letter shapes. (Could also be bad trapping, I suppose.)

Anyway, it’s “self-rhyming brand name week” on box vox.

September 24, 2012

Hobby Lobby

I hadn’t heard of “Hobby Lobby” before, but they’re recently in the news and since the previous post was about a product with the rhyming name, “Hippy Sippy(and since this blog also has a rhyming name) I figured it must be a sign.

Headquartered in Oklahoma City, Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., is a chain of craft stores founded by David Green in 1972. Similar to Michaels and JoAnn Fabric & Craft Stores, except that Hobby Lobby has made Christianity a big part of its branding message…

The foundation of our business has been, and will continue to be strong values, and honoring the Lord in a manner consistent with Biblical principles. Hobby Lobby store hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and all Hobby Lobby stores are closed on Sunday.

 Apart from allowing employees a day of rest to go to church, the virtue of being closed on Sunday is the suggestion that Hobby Lobby is willing to forgo millions of dollars in potential Sunday sales because they’re just not as money-grubbing as their ungodly competitors. As long as the public can be persuaded to anthropomorphize business entities — (“Corporations are people, my friend.”) — then it’s just good branding to try and make your corporation seem less like what it actually is (a business) and more like your avuncular neighbor (with 514 stores and over 28 million square feet of retail space.)

Earlier this month, Hobby Lobby filed a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Health Care Act’s “mandate”…

INTRODUCTION Plaintiffs, a devout Christian family, have built one of largest and most successful retail chains in America. Their faith is woven into their business. It is reflected in what they sell, in how they advertise, in how they treat employees, in how much they give to charity, and in the one day of the week when their stores are closed. In a profound way, their business is a ministry. The Defendant government officials have issued a rule (the “mandate”) that requires millions of American business owners, including Plaintiffs, to cover abortion-inducing drugs and devices in employee health insurance. Plaintiffs’ religious convictions forbid them from complying.

Represented by the “Becket Fund for Religious Liberty” Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit is similar to another recent challenge from Wheaton College (also represented by the Becket Fund). In that earlier lawsuit, it turned out that the college’s health insurance plan was already covering the contraception required by the Health Care mandate.

Hobby Lobby has a similar due diligence problem. It was only the prospect of “Obamacare” going fully into effect that made them notice this detail of their existing employee healthcare coverage…

“Recently, after learning about the nationally prominent HHS mandate controversy, Hobby Lobby re-examined its insurance policies to ensure they continued to be consistent with its faith. During that re-examination, Hobby Lobby discovered that the formulary for its prescription drug policy included two drugs—Plan and Ella—that could cause an abortion. Coverage of these drugs was not included knowingly or deliberately by the Green family. Such coverage is out of step with the rest of Hobby Lobby’s policies, which explicitly exclude abortion-causing contraceptive devices and pregnancy-termination drugs. Hobby Lobby therefore immediately excluded the inconsistent drugs from its policies.”

As RealityCheck.org puts it:

“…it seems that Hobby Lobby saw fit to ramp up its religious fervor only when it became politically expedient to do so. As such, Hobby Lobby’s complaints about religious freedom ring as hollow as they do false.”

Three more fun facts about Hobby Lobby:

1. Their in-house graphic design department sometimes wins package design awards.

2. They have a job opening in Oklahoma City for a Graphic Artist.

3. There is another trademarked  “Hobby Lobby” that regularly causes consumer confusion…

(more…)

September 21, 2012

Hippy Sippy


Top, Left: “Hippy Sippys bead candy & pinback button, from about 1967 humorously shaped like a plastic hypodermic from the Mike Jittlov Collection of Merchandising Oddities”; on right a photo from 1971 book “Toys that Don’t Care”; lower, left: Hippy Sippy button showing product use (from Racooncity’s Photobucket); lower, right: “1960′s Albert’s Hippy Sippy Candy in Syringe Packaging” sold on ebay for $260

 

“Hippy Sippy,” a late 1960s candy made in Japan and imported by R.J. Albert & Sons came in a hypodermic syringe shaped container, caused some controversy at the time, and was apparently “recalled” by the FDA in 1969.

The photo (above right) from Edward M Swartz’s 1971 book Toys that Don’t Care shows an “Albert’s Hippy Sippys” package next to a real syringe for comparative purposes and offers a scathing critique of toy industry “self-regulation.”

We wage an all-out war on drugs, yet tolerate the marketing of a toy imitation hypodermic needle called “Hippy Sippy” complete with an attached button saying “Hippy Sippy says “I’ll Try Anything.’ ” The removal of these toys from the market may not solve our national drug… problems, but what effects will their continued availability have on our children? The toy industry is big business with three billion dollars in sales annually — approximately the level of new car sales in 1970. Detroit, however, must meet certain federal safety regulations while toy makers are under no such restriction. The toy industry engages in a form of self-regulation which is, in fact, no regulation at all. The reason for this failure at internal regulation is the highly competitive nature of the industry which views safety precautions as a costly luxury.

 

But was Hippy Sippy a toy or was it a candy? An 1968 article in “Candy and Snack Industry” magazine asserts that the candy industry was being unfairly singled out:

The “big story” dealt with protests voiced by parents and town officials over the sale to children of tiny, round chocolate candies that come in containers resembling hypodermic needles and syringes with such slogans as “Hippy Sippy,” “Happiness Lives” and “Love.” (The product is manufactured in Japan and sold in the United States by a reputable, highly ethical, well known importer, who incidentally has withdrawn it from the market.)

Funny?

We wish we could laugh. But whether we like it or not, it really isn’t funny at all. Right or wrong, this is the kind of negative PR that will not only hurt the seller of the not too important product, but the entire candy industry. In many ways this item has its share of irony. For some reason, the same type of product marketed by the toy field would hardly cause a ripple.

Candy and snack industry: Volume 131, 1968

Interestingly, syringe-shaped toys were, in fact, also “causing ripples” and were given equal criticism along with Albert’s Hippy Sippys in Toys That Don’t Care.

The “reputable, highly ethical, well known importer” was Sidney J. Albert, who Candy and Snack Industry magazine described 1 year earlier as, “a soft-spoken and affable man of some 60 years, and rarely does he get excited except when talking about his firm and the future of importing.”

In his 1995 book, Forgotten Fads and Fabulous Flops, Paul Kirchner noted:

Offered in festive 1968 by the Alberts company, Hippy-Sippy consisted of multi-colored pill-sized candies sold in a toy hypodermic needle. In case the drug analogy escaped anyone, it came with buttons carrying messages such as: “Hippy-Sippy says: I’ll try anything,” and “Happiness Lives.” The candy…  gives new meaning to the term “junk food”

From the November 5, 1969 issue of the Press Telegram:

HYPODERMIC GOODIES
Supervisor Uptight Over Hippy Sippys

Los Angeles County authorities found themselves a bit uptight about a candy product called Hippy Sippy. Supervisor Kenneth Halm noted that William Hunt, a member of the county’s Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Commission, was concerned that the beads were encased in plastic bottles which he said were shaped like hypodermic needles, contain straws for children to sip the beads and are sold along with buttons with labels such as “Sock It To Me” and “Please Feed Me.” Halm said Hunt feared that youngsters might begin to experiment with drugs later if they buy candy from such containers. Hippy Sippys are not only sold in Hunt’s home town of Gardena but in a refreshment stand on the second floor of the Hall of Administration…. one moppet about 5 years old appeared not too into the drug scene when shown the candy. “It just looks like a bottle” she said.

 R.J. Albert & Sons eventually moved from the Bronx to Connecticut and no longer imports candy in syringe-shaped containers. Although, others do…

(Today’s version, after the fold…) (more…)

September 20, 2012

Vintage Syringe Packaging


Brian Sadgrove’s 1970s design for a pre-filled dose of Megacillin (penicillin G benzathine) for Fauldings Pharmaceuticals

It’s “hypodermic syringe week” on box vox. I didn’t know it when I started, but it turns out to be habit forming.

Today we have some graphic design and branding for syringes boxes. Like capsules, I tend to think of syringes as packages, in their own right. But like many containers, syringes require their own protective containers.

Pre-filled Megacillin syringes from the 1970s were probably disposable, but most of the examples below are from an earlier time when syringes were reusable medical instruments, rather than disposable medical waste.

Vintage syringe branding above is from Russia, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Italy and the United States. (Photos mostly came from eBay.)

A couple of observations: this is not consumer packaging for the store shelf, so it’s interesting to see deluxe gold and silver foil packs. The differentiation of colors here seem to be about syringe sizes — a visual aid for doctors and nurses perusing the medical supply cabinet… A nice variety of diagrammatic syringe illustrations…

September 19, 2012

Jeannie McKendry’s Bottles with Syringes

Researching the previous post, I was excited to discover this installation by Jeannie McKendry entitled, “Bottles with Syringes.”

I am not an artist. I am a diabetic, and these are my tools. For over 20 years, I have been dependent on these syringes to keep me alive. Each bottle now contains about two weeks worth of my medical waste…”

Jeannie McKendry, 2006

Part of the 2006 “Code Blue” exhibit at Art Murmur in Los Angeles, these bottles (mostly liquor, but also one ketchup bottle) reminded me of Peter Cuba’s 2010 project where he labeled a variety of jars and bottles with Budweiser labels. (wine, water, spray paint, Elmer’s glue, peanut butter… all given a fraudulent brand unity by unauthorized use of the Budweiser beer label.)

McKendry’s assortment of bottles are afforded a similar brand unity, but it’s a uniformity of content, rather than labeling.

I also like the polemic impact of defining herself, not as an artist, but as a diabetic. Bottled syringes are jarring because we don’t like to imagine swallowing “sharps.” Here, however, the meaning is not: “You are what you eat.” It’s more like: “You are what you treat.” (Or more precisely: “You are the disease that you treat.”) For chronic diseases like diabetes where the treatment is not a cure, but a lifetime regimen of injections, these accumulations of supposedly “disposable” medical supplies have, for many people, become totems of personal significance.

For McKendry, being a diabetic has also informed her career choices and views on healthcare policy. Asked what she thought about the current political wrangling about the Affordable Healthcare Act, she wrote:

“…while I don’t think Obamacare goes far enough, and I wish it wasn’t so beneficial to the insurance industry… I think it is definitely a step in the right direction.  I think you would be hard pressed to find a diabetic out there that doesn’t love the fact that insurance companies can no longer discriminate against you just for having diabetes. If Romney wins (or steals) the election, repeals healthcare reform and defines rape as a form of birth control I’m moving out of the country.”

I too, am hard-pressed to see what’s so bad about more Americans having healthcare coverage. It definitely did my family some good that I could keep my son covered for a couple of years after he graduated college, before he was able to get a job that offered health insurance.

For Republicans to now condemn the “mandate”— (itself a huge concession to Republicans who were opposed the “public option” because of their McCarthyesque phobia of socialized medicine) — seems more than a little dishonest. You’d think they’d be satisfied with a regulated but totally “privatized” system, but they prefer to now use this “bipartisan compromise” as the Achilles heel, by which to attack the law in court.

(Read the rest of McKendry’s “artist’s statement” after the fold…) (more…)

September 18, 2012

Bottled Medical Waste


Top left: “36 weeks worth of clipped Pegasys syringes in a 1.4 L soda bottle” (via: just another one fighting hepatitis c); on right: 2 liter soda bottle full of diabetic syringes (via: Mackey Family Fun); 2nd row, left: recommended “Home Syringe Disposal” method (via: Jefferson County Public Health); on right: a soda bottle of syringes found at a cemetery in Queens, NYC (via: Satan’s Laundromat); bottom row, left bottle of syringes found “at work” (via: Odinslaw’s Flickr Photostream); on right: “It’s my shtick”—Maida Sperling’s 2001 photograph of bottled syringes arranged to form a clock

Let’s see. Where were we? My last post was on Thursday. Usually the flow of package-related content is more steady. Sorry about the gap. Think of it as an air bubble in your infusion tubing. You were all hooked up, but just not getting any medicine.

Today we’ll continue with the syringe thing. Hân Pham’s special lid for soda cans, brings up another point about soda pop and syringes. Those who must inject themselves with various prescribed medicines are sometimes advised to use soda bottles to dispose of their “sharps.”

Place all sharps and potentially infectious waste in a puncture‐resistant container with a sealing lid like a one‐liter soda bottle, one gallon juice container, or plastic laundry detergent container. Clearly label the container as medical waste (example “SHARPS: DO NOT OPEN!”), seal tightly, and tape closed for added safety.

Medical Waste Disposal instructions (via: Alaska Division of Environmental Health)

Once a soda bottle is full of syringes, however, it’s important to realize that the bottle is no longer to be considered recyclable. But even when a syringe-filled bottle is correctly assigned to a landfill-bound garbage truck, there are still potential health hazards…

The bottles full of syringes rarely withstand the pressure of processing. They pop open in the garbage truck, leaving the “pickers,” who have to sift through piles of trash hunting for recyclables, at high risk of getting stuck with a needle that may be contaminated with HIV, hepatitis viruses or other bloodborne pathogens.

via: American Medical News

Also interesting to note that sometimes soda bottles full of needles wind up completely outside of regulated waste streams as with the bottle above that was found in a NYC cemetery. (See also: this 2006 story of a bottle of syringes found in a cemetery in Australia.)

(See also: Diabetic Packaging)

September 13, 2012

Of Soda and Syringe


Top left: “Anti Coke Poster” photo-illustration by Bernice Chao; on right: a similar photo illustration (artist unknown) from a blog post about Malcolm Gladwell on Simplovore; 2nd row, right: photograph by Fabian Frausto; bottom row, left: photo-illustration from iCancer5 article entitled, “Sugar CAN Make You Dumb, US Scientists Warned“; on right: Dave Makes’ “Coke and Diabetes” poster/logo

 

For beverage brand Coca-Cola, climbing to the top of the heap has certain drawbacks. As the iconic brand of all brands, Coca-Cola is the obvious choice for pointedly ironic commentary, as with these illustrations that all combine the idea of Coke and syringes.

The meaning varies somewhat… in its patent medicine days, Coca Cola used to contain cocaine… nowadays, the idea that sugar, itself, is addictive has traction… and then there’s the issue of public health, obesity and type 2 diabetes. The price of success for the Coke brand, is that it gets to be the poster child for all of these negative issues.

Yet it was Pepsi, not Coke, that was embroiled in the 1993 product tampering scare in which consumers from 20 different states claimed to find syringes in their cans of Pepsi and Diet Pepsi.

Store surveillance video of Gail M. Levine putting a syringe into her Diet Pepsi was a key piece of evidence that turned things around for Pepsi… (video via: Public Relations: A Values-Driven Approach)

On the morning of June 15, 1993, Levine entered a King Soopers supermarket in Aurora, Colorado, and approached the customer service counter with a can of Diet Pepsi from a six-pack she had. Levine asked the clerk at the service counter to open the can for her. The clerk opened the can and returned it to Levine. Levine then gave the clerk a check to cash. While the clerk was cashing the check, Levine placed a syringe containing a needle into the open can of Diet Pepsi. Levine handed the can back to the clerk, claiming that she heard something in the can. The clerk took the can, emptied its contents into a container, and discovered the syringe. The store manager took possession of the can, the syringe, and the remaining five unopened Diet Pepsi cans. Believing that Levine had paid for the six-pack of Diet Pepsi, the manager had the clerk refund the cost to Levine.

After leaving the store, Levine contacted local television stations. Those stations interviewed her and her story ran on local news broadcasts in the Denver area. During the evening of June 15, Levine telephoned a number of individuals she knew and either asked them to watch for her on TV or asked whether they had seen her on TV. Among those persons Levine contacted was Myra Young, Levine’s manicurist. Young told Levine that the news stories suggested that Levine had put the syringe in the can of Diet Pepsi. Later that same evening, Levine again contacted Young and said that she (Levine) should probably get an attorney. Levine then asked Young if she knew any attorneys and Young recommended her brother, Dale Sadler.

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v. Gail M. Levine, Defendant-Appellant., 41 F.3d 607 (10th Cir. 1994)

Interestingly, this product-tampering story has a diabetic element: “Levine is diabetic and had a prescription for syringes…”

Clearly diabetics are important consumers of diet soda, but sometimes even a diabetic will turn against the brand and go rogue.

More recently, Hân Pham’s invention for cheaply disposing of syringes has again given us a reason to associate soda cans with used syringes…

 (See also: Diabetic Coke, Diabetic Packaging and Uncapped Landfill Bottle #2)