Homer Simpson’s Duff Beer: Barley, Hops and Cultural Stories?
My first column for Core77, Homer Simpson’s Duff Beer: Barley, Hops and Cultural Stories? is up. Here’s an excerpt (but click through to see the whole piece):
We were in Rome a few weeks ago – essentially the bonus portion of my trip to Munich to speak about culture at the UPA conference. Turns out it’s cheaper to buy separate return tickets San Francisco-to-Rome and Rome-to-Munich, giving us an extra opportunity to explore. Upon arrival into Rome, we took the train into the city, with jet-lagged eyes upon early morning haze, grabbing clues from the random bits we could see out the window. As we passed through a train station, I spotted a young woman on the platform wearing a sweatshirt that read "Duff Beer" with the typeface and logo that is probably familiar to anyone who’s watched The Simpsons. I was intrigued at the notion that the Simpsons was popular enough in Italy that the young-and-hip would be not only be wearing clothing from the show but something more obscure than, say, Bart exclaiming "Non hanno una vacca, l’uomo!"
While the Duff website (in German) makes liberal use of the (dare I say it) comic Simpsons font, the copy emphasizes just regular beer stuff and offers no content that connects back to the actual Simpsons television show. This may be the most quiet, understated bit of post-modern marketing, evar. Even if the product doesn’t mention Homer or Springfield, we the consumer have Homer in our minds. We bring that experience to it. Sure, that information is not technically present in the product, so in theory one might come upon the product with no knowledge (that was the premise of The Gods Must Be Crazy). But Homer is everywhere in the culture (probably even in the Kalahari) – you probably can not feasibly experience this Duff Bier without that context.