Here’s a trend I’ve been tracking: tiny bits of marketing copy in unexpected places—garment labels, the undersides of container lids, inside shipping boxes. What makes these messages noteworthy is their tone: either a cheeky wink or a scrap of fortune-cookie wisdom.
Here’s an example of the fortune-cookie style.
“My life is a picture of my mind”: label on a top by Flax (a brand name that is also a generic fiber name—confusing!). I have no idea what this means.
And here’s another.
“Let every space fulfill its true potential”: inside the package of an Elfa file cart.
And here’s one of the cheeky-perky messages.
“Let’s do this again sometime”: inside the wrapper of a Honey Mama’s tangerine-tahini chocolate bar (which, btw, is crazy-delicious and also crazy-expensive).
I started noticing these micromessages (hat tip to Chris Johnson, author of Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little) earlier this summer, when Ben Yagoda brought the trend to my attention. Ben is best known for his many books on popular-culture topics and for his blog about Britishisms that have crept into American English, He’s also a keen observer of the world of commerce—my domain—so of course I was interested when he sent me this image in mid-June, of a message on a Soda Stream box.
“Honey I’m Home ;)“ The emoticon sends it beyond cheekiness into twee territory.
A little later that month he came through with this tip acknowledgment from a ride-hailing service he’d used.
“Thanks for supporting Khari. This will probably go toward the dry cleaning bill for their superhero cape.” As Dorothy Parker once wrote of The House at Pooh Corner, Tonstant Weader fwowed up.
But wait, there’s more!
Cadence makes little (expensive) hexagonal containers that can hold jewelry and lotions and other stuff and which adhere together with a satisfying magnetic click. I’m not exactly sure what those products have to do with this message on the packaging, unless it’s a play on the concept of cadence, which means “a sequence of notes or chords comprising the close of a musical phrase.” Hmm. I still don’t get it.
“Only you move like you”
And here's another. Every stick in a JonnyPops frozen treat is inscribed with a “good deed” like these:
“Set a good example for someone!”
”Stand up for what you believe in!”
The good-deeds reminders are part of the company’s mission. As they say on the FAQ page: “We source our good deeds from friends, customers and family members who inspire us. It has always been important for us to share something from our personal lives with our fans. The good news is you can participate, too! Just send us an email or give us a call and you may just see your deed printed on a stick!”
Another frozen-treat brand, Eclipse Foods, opts for a blandly upbeat greeting.
“It’s really cool spending time with you!” Cool. Get it?
My favorite micromessage so far is this one from Porto, a San Francisco company that is also the source of my new favorite pants. (These, if you’re curious. Photos don’t do them justice. The fabric is sublime.)
“Clothes aren’t going to change the world, the women who wear them are.”
Have you seen any interesting (or mysterious, or awful) micromessages lately?