I've always liked the logo for Camel cigarettes. A chilled out camel in front of some pyramids, facing East, a cluster of palm trees in the background. Classic.
But every urban folklorist knows that there's another "subliminal" image in the camel's front flank. One need not even squint to distinguish the form of a man who appears to be holding his schlong, having a wee perhaps....although I've seen it somewhere that it's actually Mae West. Others assure us that it's Manneken Pis--"Little Man Pee"--a famous sculpture fountain in Brussels.
(The origin of this little piss-ant is cloaked in legend, some involving a lost little boy found the spot, others involving the boy squelching a house fire with his pee or even saving the city by peeing on the fuse of an explosive charge laid by enemies, or again, a little boy pissing on enemies from a tree.)
Flash forward to 1987. Camel re-brands itself and updates the Camel into a hip dude, shades and baseball cap, cigarette perpetually dangling from the side of his snout. Joe Camel. The subliminal messages continue. Many swear that the snout depicts nothing less than a cock and generous balls. Others say it's the base of a wang inserted deeply into a vagina. I guess that's to be expected when a phallic obsession meets an oral fixation.
What concerns us here, however, are not the alleged sexual images in this logo, but the controversy surrounding the use of a cartoon character for marketing cigarettes. After years of criticism, lawsuits and government pressure, RJ Reynolds stopped the campaign in 1997, denying all the while that they were not targeting children. However,
Internal documents produced to the court in Mangini v. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, San Francisco Superior Court No. 959516, demonstrated the industry's interest in targeting children as future smokers. The importance of the youth market was illustrated in a 1974 presentation by RJR's Vice-President of Marketing who explained that the "young adult market . . . represent[s] tomorrow's cigarette business. As this 14-24 age group matures, they will account for a key share of the total cigarette volume - for at least the next 25 years." A 1974 memo by the R. J. Reynolds Research Department points out that capturing the young adult market is vital because "virtually all [smokers] start by the age of 25" and "most smokers begin smoking regularly and select a usual brand at or before the age of 18."
Boire avec moderation
So, if cigarette companies do it, why not breweries? And what better way to get into a kid's head than with toys? (See alcopop).
Dig, if you will, the following photograph of a Lego chevalier I purchased recently for my son:
Now take a gander at the Kronenbourg beer logo:
Kronenbourg (whose name could translate into "Crown Town" if one wanted to play loose with the etymology) is a pale lager produced by the Kronenbourg brewery based in Strasbourg, founded way back in 1664 by Geronimus Hatt. Despite the fact that it's almost universally denigrated by people I know, everyone seems to drink it. Personally, I find a frosty 25cl bottle goes down especially well and when I open my first of the day I gulp it down like Bukowski, tilting my head back and downing it in one long swallow. Then I crack another.
A bit lower on the respectability scale is "33 Export". Now, I'm not saying that because the number 33 is present we're looking at Masonic symbolism. Fact is, however, there are 32 + 1 degrees in the Scottish Rite, so a link exists, if only by "passive" association (meaning I can't help it that Freemasonry pops to mind everytime I see the number 32 or 33). I thought the name might have something to do with the compass rose sometimes pictured in the logo, but the compass rose only has 32 points.
It occurs to me now that the Sol de Mayo on the Argentine flag also has 32 points and in this bears a resemblance to the compass rose, perhaps suggesting the radiation of its revolutionary ideas in all directions...32 export. Maybe 33 refers to a mysterious unknown direction? But seriously, that the sun represent a compass is reinforced by taking a look at the Uruguayan version, which features 16 rays, the four cardinal directions decidedly compass-like. A compass rose is often depicted in a simplified 16 (or 8) point form.
|16-point compass rose: Tossa del Mar, Catalonia.|
Of course not. But it is funny.
And none of these things really have anything to do with the other.