It’s hard to stay clean when you’re sleeping on the streets. A new San Francisco nonprofit, Lava Mae, has an ingenious remedy: transforming old Muni buses into mobile bathrooms, complete with stall showers and toilets, that travel to neighborhoods with the greatest need.
Lave Mae and its founder, former public-relations executive Doniece Sandoval, were featuredin the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this week on the occasion of the unveiling of Bus No. 2. Sandoval’s plans include expansion throughout California.
“Delivering dignity, one shower at a time.” For more on the “One X at a Time” sloganclone, seethis 2012 post(and follow the links for more).
According to the Chronicle story:
Lava Mae’s simple solution of providing homeless people with showers and toilets has captured the attention of people around the world, many of whom have asked Sandoval to help them create a similar program.
To deal with the huge interest, Sandoval is working with the International Centre for Social Franchising, which is based in London but also has an office in San Francisco. It seeks to help organizations with a social benefit replicate their work in other places around the world.
Sandoval has decided to focus on serving 30,000 homeless people around California by 2020 — and recently met with state Sen. Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles to discuss a Lava Mae-type program there.
There’s a feel-good story behind the Lava Mae name, too. Here’s how the organization’s website tells it (verbatim):
In Spanish, “lavame” means “wash me”
In our culture, we refer to vehicles in the feminine as in, “She’s a beauty, isn’t she?”
In the South, (where our founder grew up), it’s not uncommon for people to have two first names e.g Billy Bob, Peggy Sue. Putting it all together gave birth to the name Lava Mae
OK, the copy needs some, um, cleaning up. If you want to be picky about it – hey, it’s in my job description! – it’s “lávame,” with an acute accent to mark the stress on the first syllable. And I cringed a little at the bio that reads “Brett is the principle and founder of StudioTerpeluk.”
I’ll stop quibbling now and instead reaffirm that I like the Lava Mae name: it’s friendly, personal, down-home, clever, and bilingual. (The echoes of Fannie Mae and Sallie Mae, which also aim to help people in need, may be intentional.) And I applaud the work Lava Mae is doing. In a region dominated by whiz-kid techpreneurs whose idea of “making the world a better place” is selling an app that does stuff your mom used to do for you, this is a truly creative and, yes, disruptive initiative.
This formula has proved to be a persistent and productive snowclone (or sloganclone, when it’s used in marketing). Here are two grocery-store variations I spotted within the last week.
“Help the world one banana at a time” is Whole Foods’ slogan for Whole Trade bananas, the first product to carry the Whole Trade guarantee. According to the corporate blog, the Whole Trade guarantee “is our commitment to quality, the environment and ethical trade with partners in developing countries.” The “one X at a time” sloganclone is frequently preceded by some variation of “Help[ing] the world” or “Saving the planet.”
Eat Your Vegetables is the product name; “…One Chip at a Time” is the slogan. The parent company’s name, barely visible up in the right-hand corner, is the cutesy Snikiddy. The name-origin story is cute, too (if in need of some tough-love editing):
Where did the name come from? Snikiddy® is a shortened (and let’s face it, easier to say) form of the word persnickety, which means choosy or picky. Growing up, Janet (Mary’s mom) and her siblings were known around school as the Snikiddy kids (a badge they wore proudly) because they always ate healthy lunches. Their mom (Grandma), ahead of her time with her passion for good health, would pack their lunch boxes full of locally grown produce and very simple foods. A teacher once referred to them as being persnickety and the kids’ version of the word (snikiddy) stuck.
It doesn’t hurt that the “snik” in Snikiddy suggests “snack.”
See more of my “One X at a Time” posts here and here.
Amigurumi: The art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures. The word is formed from the Japanese words ami, meaning crocheted or knitted, and nuigurumi, meaning stuffed doll. (Source: Wikipedia, which adds, “The prevailing aesthetic of amigurumi is cuteness”—a subject that meritsits own Wikipedia entry.)
In “Zombies & Robots & Bears, Oh My!,” published in Crafts, Volume 1, Mary Belton writes that the stitched-doll trend started in 1997, when an art student named Sun-Min Kim created the first Uglydolls. By 2003, Belton writes, “Uglydolls were a bona fide hit.” Two years later, a new online crafts marketplace, Etsy, introduced a larger variety of amigurumi to online customers. Early in Etsy’s existence, company founder Robert Kalin organized an amigurumi contest in which he encouraged “mashups and mutants.” According to Belton,
Contest entries included butter & toast, a pirate squid, a turtle bird, an angry sheep, and a coffee bean. The pirate squid took first place.
The snowclone "Changing the [world/earth/planet], one X at a time" appears to be more common than "Saving the [world/earth/planet], one X at a time" (584,000 Google hits for the first, with the "world" variant; 181,000 for the second). Snowclone queen Erin O'Connor includes "Saving the world, one X at a time" in her snowclones queue--a long list of snowclones awaiting analysis.
The other day, within a half-mile radius in downtown San Francisco, I spotted four billboards advertising four brands of vodka. The proliferation of vodka brands is an interesting story in itself, but not what I want to talk about here. No, what caught my attention was that three of the four billboards employed snowclones in their slogans.
I'd been musing about clones anyway, ever since reading Laura Ries's post on copycat brand strategy. However, I suspect that the creators of advertising sloganclones--as I propose to call them--aren't employing a conscious strategy. More likely they think they're being savvy and original. A little research demonstrates otherwise.
Here are the three sloganclones I spotted. (The fourth billboard, for Russian Standard vodka, simply reads "Pure Russian." Boring and undistinctive, but not a snowclone.)
Svedka--a nicely constructed name for a Swedish vodka, combining three letters from "Svenska" (Swedish for "Swedish") and three from "vodka"--is the brand with the buxom "fembot fatale" and the website copy that declares, "It's time to party like its [sic] 2033." The snowclone on Svedka's billboard invites drivers to "Make cocktails not war." (Image via AdRants.)
The second sloganclone is attached to the oldest brand in this bunch, Stolichnaya, whose handsomely designed ad proclaims Stoli to be "The Mother of All Vodka from the Motherland of Vodka." I'd seen this ad previously, but not since reading my colleague Tate Linden's commentary on "Mother of All X" over at Thingnamer. Tate notes that "Mother of All X" has been used thousands of times to promote products and services since Americans first heard Saddam Hussein threaten the "mother of all battles" during the first Gulf War. (I'm rather fond of "The Mother of All Search Engines" from Mamma.com.) In English, "Mother of ..." carries additional impact: It suggests a no-longer-shocking interjection ("Mother of God!") and the still-somewhat-shocking "motherfucker." Note the kicker at the bottom of the ad: "Choose Authenticity." Rather amusing when you consider how oft-cloned the slogan is.
For me, the most interesting combination of brand name and advertising slogan is 360 Vodka's "Saving the Planet, One Glass at a Time." This 360 Vodka is not to be confused, by the way, with Three Sixty Vodka: The latter comes from Germany and the former, a division of McCormick Distilling, is made in Weston, Missouri. (Want to be really confused? The brand name is 360 Vodka; the URL is vodka360.com. According to public records, vodka360.com changed hands in 2006 for just $1,000. You too can join the party: There are lots more "360" domains for sale here. Herpes360.com, anyone?)
The "360" part may be imitative, but other features of this brand stand out in a crowded field. 360 Vodka calls itself "the world's first green vodka": The liquor itself is clear, but its greenish bottles are made from 85% recycled glass and the distillery "has improved its eco-footprint measurably over the past 5 years." The website is sprinkled with "eco-factoids" such as "The average person generates 4.5 lbs. of trash every day." Remove the closure from a 360 Vodka bottle, mail it back in a prepaid envelope, and the distillery will donate $1 to "recognized environmental causes" through its "Close the Loop" program.
But back to the slogan. Just how popular is the formula "Saving the X, One Y at a Time"? Very. Take a look (note: some of these examples are title-clones):
Saving the Rainforest, One Morsel At a Time: Worldwatch
... and on and on. I also jotted down variations such as "one car at a time," "one flush at a time," "one square of toilet paper at a time," and--because someone had to do it, I guess--"one thong at a time."
If not original, the 360 Vodka snowclone is at least appropriate to the unusual brand story. You could argue that the Stoli snowclone is, too--it has that socialist-realist ring to it, a fitting counterpart to the visual design. Svedka is attempting something different, fashioning a brand that's all about campy futurism--and all attitude and positioning. The antiquated "Make X Not Y" snowclone does communicate campiness, but it's hard to find any futurism there.
Has anyone else spotted snowclones in advertising? Leave a comment and tell us about them.