Living in Berlin gives me the ability to be a fly on the wall detecting all things German from a scientific and cultural perspective. What intrigues me are foreign products, what they are, how they are designed, and their accompanying marketing campaigns. I tend to gravitate towards product packaging that is minimal with innovative 3D functionality, paying close attention to font usage and color palettes. The simpler and more incognito the product looks, the better. And lastly, marketing strategies (and hiccups) that reveal underlying societal presumptions. So what does one do when ingrained, psychological acceptance or refusal of products from a diverse American standpoint is met with products that in America would otherwise NEVER be allowed to reach the marketplace?
You make Obama-Fingers. Spehe, the Germany-based frozen food company has released it’s newest food to supermarkets and it’s a basic product that is consumed every day by millions of poultry loving aficionados – fried chicken fingers. The catch is that these delicious eats bear the name of America’s first African American president – Barack Obama. Gasp!
My first reaction was that the marketer behind the naming of these poultry sticks would be canned in 3.2 seconds in America. Heads would roll! In fact, these babies wouldn’t even make it through the first round of marketing meetings. Having been in meetings where multicultural marketing managers routinely repeat the importance of consumer sensitivities, I was torn.
Initially, I laughed and thought ‘Oh my God, there would be a massive uproar in America over this product.’ At the same time, I asked myself if this would be such a big deal if the US president was not African American or if Obama graced packages of arugula. I’ve always been a progressive, up and onwards kind of girl never getting hung up on racial divides, stereotypes (you are what you make yourself out to be), or fumbled understanding of foreign cultures. However, I asked myself if this German company was well aware of the fried chicken and watermelon tags generalized about African Americans? Was Spehe trying to score cool points with the new young, in-tune German population in a country, that has been for decades, relentlessly trying to reclaim its place in today’s post-Nazi world as a tolerant multikulti-culture-accepting and open society?
In the end, I thought this chicken fingers product was laughable; clueless, cheesy, gaudy, idiot-in-charge marketing. Most of my friend’s from back home in the US – one now living in Amsterdam and the rest living back home in the States – were NOT amused. The anger meter ranged from irritated to flat out livid. They stated they didn’t like the negative view of black Americans and that connecting fried chicken to Obama was an insult and absolutely repulsive.
But I ask if it is wise for black people to instinctively connect themselves to fried chicken, and in turn reapply and reconfirm this stereotype themselves or if African Americans were indeed being racially attacked by way of Obama?
What do you think?
Psst. Over here. Yeah, you. Scribble scrabbles and Berlinski rambles from the land of Currywurst and Apfelschorle. Life in Berlin as a true-blue New Yorker unfolds with each day uncovering magical (and ‘WTF?’) moments and revelations. Fleeing from Idaho-anized NYC and eight years of working my (imaginary) balls off in entertainment and media, I yearned for something ‘freshe und neu’ in a city far and removed. So I escaped to the unpaved and crumbling Berlin, Germany. I’ve been here for eight months now and have settled into my outrageously cheap apt in Prenzlauerberg (Expat-ville…get me outta here!)