Monday, February 12, 2007

Payless Shoes, Lipton Tea.... and the British Empire

A connection made through the magic of semiotics. The following is from an interview in n+1 Magazine:

A.S. Hamrah [ASH]: But you can barely see it [the new Payless Shoes logo] as it is. It’s like the orange from the old logo is haunting the new logo. Payless is haunting itself.

n+1: Is that a term semioticians use?

ASH: It’s a term I use.

n+1: What’s another example of haunting?

ASH: I don’t know if you can picture the Lipton’s tea box. Lipton is named for Sir Thomas J. Lipton, the founder of the company, who was a yachtsman and became a symbol of the British Empire . There’s a tiny picture of him in the corner of the box. He’s all white, not like a white colonialist, but white like a ghost. But no one ever notices that or thinks about Sir Thomas Lipton anymore. In fact he’s not even “Sir” anymore on the box, he’s just Thomas J. Lipton. They made him really small and they pushed him into the corner, where he now haunts his own brand. I guess they don’t want their tea to be associated with imperialism.Payless doesn’t have a figure like Thomas J. Lipton, but they’re haunting their own brand just the same. (link)

You could also reverse this logic: By drinking Lipton tea, the "native" is cannibalizing the colonial master's body, via metonymy. The ghost of Thomas Lipton in the logo is the spectre of colonial history, now reduced to a vestige.

More prosaically, here is some interesting background on the story of the rise of Lipton's tea empire (including the plantations in Ceylon/Sri Lanka).

Can anyone think of other examples of semiotic "haunting," in advertising or elsewhere?

(While you're at n+1, also check out the moving testimonial to the assasinated Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, on n+1's main page)

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Blogger Blue said...

There are always things like Betty Crocker and Aunt Jemima and even Barbie... the outward appearance changes to match a growing sense of awareness, but the new face is always positioned in such a way that it automatically (and, dare I say, deliberately) evokes the old face, even though the old image is no longer present.

Will this haunting go away once there are no more people to remember the old logos?

2:42 PM  
Anonymous Shashwati said...

And whatever happened to Tropicana?

10:28 PM  
Anonymous Uk Online Shoes said...

I don’t know if anybody agree with me, But I like this new Payless Shoes logo(because it might look like ‘yin & yang’

But as ASH said, ’This Payless logo change is not good’. I also think when a company changes its logo it should do that with great care and analysis. Changing logo doesn’t mean that company or brand is entirely changing. Conversion and change should be according to the old one, atleast to some extent.

Babur Schah

5:27 AM  

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