Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ode to a Pantone Mug

Back in 2008, when The Toad first began this blog, a new item was duly scouted, spotted and installed online. It was a line of mugs from Pantone Color, and they immediately enchanted me to no end. Looking at them in a hipster store in Silverlake, I thought to myself, "these are a hit."

It's proven true. After the mugs were posted on Toad (handily just in time for the holiday season), they suddenly appeared everywhere. In every magazine gift guide, in every stylish accessory store. At first, The Toad congratulated herself on her Faith Popcornish ability to so successfully trend spot. But then, I thought: nonsense. I must be part of a marketing herd on some level (although Toads don't usually run in herds). How does a product get plucked from oblivion and thrust into the retail spotlight? Who decides?

In this case, it's now obvious to me: The Toad (along with every other person or animal in journalism, design, or writing generally) has a publishing background. Thus, Pantone evokes warm, fuzzy, and familiar feelings when it's plastered onto a new everyday object like a mug. Pantone mugs resonate with a specific population which happens to be put in a position of relative power: what trend makers choose is what gets the most attention. As an experiment, I went to the Uncommon Goods site and looked at the consumer online reviews for the mugs. Sure enough, they were almost always purchased by graphic designers, or people in the publishing industry, or purchased as gifts for people in the industry. Just an endless loop of common experience driving the popularity of one item. And how many more items are just like the mugs; of particular interest to one particular class and background, foisted upon the rest of the world as an "it" product.

That being said, The Toad still loves those mugs. In fact, she keeps waiting for someone to give them to her as a gift. Alas, no one has the guts to buy The Toad gifts. Can't imagine why.

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