Monday’s mail brought a little brochure from Smart, the micro-car brand that’s manufactured by Daimler AG and distributed in the U.S. by Mercedes-Benz.
The brochure is a real un-fest. Here’s the cover:
Unthink. Uncrowd. Uncomplicated. Unlandfill. Uncar.
Inside, another headline declares the Smart to be “Unpricey.”
There’s even more Un on the Smart website:
Untame. Uncar. (Can anyone tell me what “tridion” is?) (UPDATE: See the first comment.)
The Pure coupe is the “unboring” “uncar.”
There’s also a Passion cabriolet, which can be unroofed.
These 2013 models seem to have replaced the original Smart Fortwo, which I have chosen to pronounce “Fort Wo.”
We haven’t seen this much unning since April 2009, when KFC introduced its “UNthink” slogan to accompany the UNfried menu. Later that year, Ben Zimmer devoted an “On Language” column in the New York Times Magazine to what he called “The Age of Undoing”: he discussed social-media coinages such as “unfriend” and “unfollow” and the business world’s “unconference” and “unmarketing.” (Ben followed up with a more scholarly analysis in the Visual Thesaurus.)
The granddaddy of Un-branding—the ur-Un, you might say—was J. Walter Thompson’s positioning of 7Up as “The Uncola” in a campaign that lasted from 1968 to 1974.
The first 7Up Uncola ad from 1968. 7Up was “un in a million”; the company even produced glassware in an inverted Coke-glass shape. See more Uncola ads in a 2004 student paper about 7Up posted on the Duke University website.
Compared with those old 7Up ads, Smart’s TV campaign from last fall is underwhelming.
But I’ll give it this much credit: it’s an improvement over tiny-car rival Fiat 500’s original slogan: “You Are. We Car.”
Credit for the title of this post goes, of course, to Ralph Wiggum.