Marketing Mayhem: Resistance is Futile

The other day this came in the mail as part of one of those (usually useless) value-pack type things of coupons for area chain businesses and Chinese food places.

“Resistance is Futile” is a catchphrase from Star Trek: The Next Generation — more specifically from the villains known as The Borg, a race of alien machine monsters who assimilate other beings into their “collective.”

Even if you couldn’t place the reference, it probably still sounds somewhat familiar owing to its inclusion in the universal nerd lexicon, along with tribbles, Soylent Green, and the phrase “damn dirty apes.”

Now, it’s no secret that marketing, like basically all media, deals primarily in dominant cultural ideas. TV commercials for cleaning products depict women as household managers who cook and clean (seriously, try to think of a commercial that shows a guy mopping a floor), acne commercials target teenagers anxious to be popular, and weight loss commercials exploit people’s deep longing to fit mainstream models of beauty.

But nowadays marketing doesn’t just want to appeal to our inner hegemony — they want to reach the niche markets of the subcultures: nerds, punks, asexuals, aspies — you name it. So now we’re stuck with Burger King’s subservient chicken, the Red Cross tweeting about “Tiger Blood,” and a whole host of other viral/subversive/annoying marketing campaigns all vying for the attention of alternative and youth culture.

Which brings me back to this flyer, which namechecks geek touchpoint ST:TNG both in the catchphrase and in the image of the pretzels hanging, like a Borg Cube, in the space of a blue background. It is clever, but I can’t help but feel that behind it is some executive in a Porsche rattling off ways to appeal to the nerds he made fun of in college.

“I don’t know, don’t they like Star Trek? Do something on that. Later we’ll do something for geeky women — maybe we could get that girl who played Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer? I think they liked her. Oh – I’m late for a 2 o’clock with my condo Realtor — I’ll have my intern follow-up with you.”

Conclusion: It kind of made me laugh, but it also made me think that marketing should stick to irritating the mainstream culture, or at least come up with a less dated cultural touchstone for nerds. What’s wrong with Dr. Who or Torchwood?

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