This is a rant about, well, about being a hick at heart. I grew up in the country (ish). My family still lives in small-town America; quiet streets, nothing taller than 4 stories, weird laws about alcohol. It’s NASCAR country.
I say “NASCAR country” in a nice way as most people (read: anyone who lives on the West coast or on the Atlantic seaboard North of, say, Jersey) just don’t get it. And, by get it, I mean of course that they a) haven’t taken the time to think about it and b) mock it.
Take, for example (and the catalyst for this post) this continuously updated post on BoingBoing about NASCAR-branded [[insert product]]. They lead off with NASCAR-branded meats. Ok, even I thought it was a little weird, but I’ll go with the whole “Grill during the race” thing. But, as the days roll on, the comments that are being tacked onto the post are along the lines of “look at what those silly hicks also buy! Isn’t that cute!” You can almost taste the condescending attitude through your monitor (note, please don’t lick your monitor).
But, as Darren Barefoot points out, fully 1/3 of North Americans doesn’t use the Internet. Those people who are yucking it up over NASCAR branded items are also laughing themselves out of one of the fastest growing audiences in this hemisphere. Ignore for a moment the roots of NASCAR. The modern incarnation of NASCAR is a marketers wet-dream; a solid, rabid fan-base that chooses a heroic character (the driver/team) and buys a shit-ton of their merchandise. How many NASCAR-themed bumper stickers or hats have you seen this week? A dozen? Three dozen? More? You don’t get that kind of brand loyalty and repeat business with computers.
The limit of technology branding (often) is who you can drag into your home/office/car to see what you bought. The Internet has obviously expanded that audience, but still misses the nearly 33% of the population not online. NASCAR gear goes everywhere. Hats, jackets, stickers, and shirts are all the traditional avenues that drive around town, go to dinner, show up on casual Friday. NASCAR has been able to extend their brand to places technology can never go. You will never see Apple-branded fruit (ironic as it would be). You will never see Yahoo! chainsaws. Technology branding is limited to what can be shown on television or to the technical elite, most of whom have decided about a product long before it ever officially gets marketed. What, you thought Engadget and Gizmodo and their ilk were enthusiast sites?
BoingBoing readers may think they’re having a good laugh at us hick’s expense, but they’re missing the larger point. I may be taking it personally at a certain level, but I’m also able to step back and see the forest for the trees. NASCAR meat, which I’ll grant leaves an odd first impression, isn’t idiotic, it’s brilliant. Missing the point on that is truly backwards thinking if I ever saw it. Yah here?
Sidenote: For humorous commentary to many BoingBoing related posts, see Xenisucks.com.