Archive for the 'Krusty Brand Seal of Approval' Category


Marketing Horrorshow Coming Soon to a Vagina Near You!

Lisa vs Malibu Stacy3“I want you to hear what Malibu Stacy is telling a generation of little girls.” – Lisa Simpson
“Thinking too much gives you wrinkles.” – Malibu Stacy Doll

Are you female?  Do you like being marketed to by condescending idiots?  If you answered “Yes” to the first question then the people behind Simpsons merchandise couldn’t care less about your answer to the second.  Behold the unironically stereotypical marketing push known as “Ladies of Springfield”.  Fisking time! 

20 years on and The Simpsons is still going strong. We take a look at the Ladies of Springfield licensing drive.

It may be 20 years old, but The Simpsons remains one of the most groundbreaking and innovative entertainment franchises in the world.

“Groundbreaking” in the sense that there’s nothing they won’t merchandise, or “groundbreaking” in the sense that the show has been six feet under for a long time?  I agree with one of those definitions.  This is followed by some “quick facts” which can be summed up as follows, “People still like watching the show.”  Then we get to to the heart of the matter:

With popularity for The Simpsons showing no signs of abating, and a healthy licensing and merchandising programme for the main brand, Fox launched the Ladies of Springfield brand at Brand Licensing Europe in 2008.

I must have missed that presentation at BLE 2008.  Shucks, and I thought I saw everything.

“The initiative was created due to the proven and researched popularity of The Simpsons amongst females of all ages,” explains Jennifer Buchanan, director of European licensing at Fox L&M. “The audience profile of the series shows an almost equal balance of males and females. Fox L&M identified an opportunity to harness the popular appeal of the show and target the female consumer by creating an umbrella brand that brings together the female characters with their own look and feel.”

That translates from Marketspeak roughly as, “Women weren’t buy as much crap as we thought they should so we’re going to cram girly stuff down their throats.  Get me my pink color wheel!” 

A style guide was developed featuring Lisa, Marge and Maggie – as well as the other key female characters such as Patty and Selma – with product launching a year later.

Style guide?  I’m intrigued.  Can I suggest one for the Zombie Simpsons writers?

“Fox has worked closely with licensees to drive the Ladies of Springfield initiative and with their ongoing support we have seen the programme steadily grow across the UK and Europe,” Buchanan continues. “We launched apparel into retail for autumn/winter 2009. This first wave of the brand initiative took us into tween fashion along with support in nightwear. Key retail partners were Bershka, Primark, Bhs, Tesco, George and Next.

This might just be me, but I find the juxtaposition of implicitly martial terminology (“first wave”, “brand initiative”) with “tween fashion” a wee bit telling.  Parents of Europe, we are about to attack your pre-pubescent daughters!  Surrender or be destroyed! 

“Bridging the gap between fashion and sport, a range of female specialist cycling shirts were launched in Evans Cycles.”

“Cycling shirts”, because nothing says “high end specialty fitness” like Patty & Selma.  But it’s about to get so much worse:

The programme will continue to roll out into stationery, soft furnishings and housewares.

Let me consult this copy of “Ladies Home Journal” from 1954.  Yep these are in there.

In 2011, Buchanan says that Fox is aiming to make Marge the ambassador for Mother’s Day – as Homer has become for Father’s Day – as well as driving opportunities for seasonal event POS for Mother’s Day, Valentines and Christmas.

Wait, wait, slow down there.  When did Homer become the “ambassador” for Father’s Day?  For that matter, what the hell does an “ambassador” for a made up holiday do?  Also, I’m pretty sure “POS” in this context is supposed to mean “Points of Sale”.  But it works much better if you use “Pieces of Shit”.  See:

as well as driving opportunities for seasonal event Pieces of Shit for Mother’s Day, Valentines and Christmas.

Not only does that make more sense, but it’s a more accurate description and reads better too. 

The strength of the main character’s personalities, their individual look and imagery are the main drivers of the LOS licensing programme.

They did it again!  This time I’m going with “Lots of Shit” instead of “Ladies of Springfield”. 

Marge, for example, is being positioned as a domestic goddess who keeps the family together, with product being targeted at over 18s. Lisa, meanwhile, is ‘Princess Prodigy” aimed at six to nine year-olds, tween/teens and adults, while Maggie has cute appeal and is aimed at the same demographics as Lisa.

Sadly 1-year-olds cannot make purchasing decisions on their own, so we’re going to target the baby at the same crowd as the 8-year-old.  And “Princess Prodigy”?  That’s an oxymoron.  While I understand the appeal of “princess” style marketing (because it means that your little girl gets to feel important and protected and oh-so-special) it might be useful to point out to her that in real life princesses are inbred dilettantes whose primary role is to serve as a unwilling family brood mare.  Just sayin’. 

Buchanan adds: “Maggie and Lisa both work well on apparel and accessories. Marge is ideal for Mother’s Day opportunities for gift, homewares and social expressions.

Social expressions”?  Like a sign that says “Fuck You And Your Sexist Marketing”? 

In addition, Marge’s recent appearance on the cover of Playboy is not only testament to the brand [it was the first time an animated character has been featured on the front cover], but a big statement for Marge herself. Not only is she a domestic goddess, but she’s a Playboy pin up.

You know what else she is?  A cartoon.  But never mind that, ladies please commence comparing your bodies to a drawing. 

From all accounts we are in the age of the ‘cougar’ and Patty and Selman who “Will Marry for Money” are perfect for humorous product applications to capture this current social trend.”

Okay, “Selman” is probably just a typo.  Even if we set aside the stupidity of the “cougar” as a concept, it’s not exactly Patty & Selma that would spring to mind as examples.  But no fad can go unused, I suppose. 

This year will see the Lots of Shit programme roll out strategically across stationery, bags and homewares, with other categories to follow. International Greetings is due to launch new back to school lines, DNC will have lunch bags and drinkware ranges available from spring, while Character World has developed Maggie duvet sets.

I made one change the quote above.  See if you can spot it.  

Moving on, and Fox L&M is looking to sign new partners in creative play, housewares and gift, as well as developing the healthcare, beauty and jewellery sectors. There will also be a strong focus on Marge for Mother’s Day in 2011.

Now we’re talking.  Let no effeminate product category escape!  Though I must admit I am curious about “creative play”.  Is that like art supplies and card games, or is it more like sex swings and dildos?  And can’t it be both?

“The continued TV support and worldwide recognition of The Simpsons characters is a firm foundation from which to grow the LOS in terms of new product categories, style guides and breadth of appeal and market,” says Buchanan. “Marge, Lisa and Maggie have the potential to be as popular as Homer and Bart, creating a fun male-female brand offering.”

Oh that first sentence is a dagger, “continued TV support”, the true motivation behind Zombie Simpsons.  Though I can’t help but be amused by an ostensibly equality minded goal like “a fun male-female brand offering” being achieved through rapacious exploitation of every conceivable female stereotype this side of a lesbian biker.  

So, where does Buchanan see the Ladies of Springfield in five years time? “Lisa and Maggie will be firmly established as leading girl characters from teens and tweens across key market categories such as toys, electronic, gifting and apparel, while Marge inspired gifting, homewares and greetings ranges will be firm favourites at retail for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Licensing opportunities for secondary characters Patty, Selma and Edna will also have been developed.”

I don’t find any of the above any more or less offensive than the rest of the crappy merchandise FOX has cranked out over the years.  In the end it’s all just more overpriced landfill fodder and I see no point in worrying about it.  But with the exception of the bizarrely out of place “cycling shirts” every single product or category of products mentioned here is as nakedly sexist as you could make it.  Which is not to say that “housewares” and duvet covers are illegitimate, or even that women are less likely to buy them, only that the exclusion of any other kind of product is as unsurprising as it is lazy. 

It’s all the more tragic when it comes to slapping Lisa’s image on these things since she’s as feminist, scientific and skeptical a character as you could ask for.  Where are the Lisa Simpson beach microscopes?  Or the Lisa Simpson saxophone stuff?  Or the Lisa Simpson hockey pads?  Or the Lisa Simpson line of “I like you as a friend, now please leave me alone” merchandise? 

Lisa Simpson is a globally recognized symbol that could, with just the tiniest bit of creativity, be used to market an enormous number of products that don’t often see branding of this type.  But the FOX licensing people have instead chosen to stagger forward and do the same lame old shit that has always been done.  I didn’t really expect anything different, and the show always had a tense relationship with all the crap that it was used to sell, but this is beyond parody.  Or at least it would be if The Simpsons hadn’t viciously parodied it already sixteen fucking years ago. 


A “Little” Fail

Misquoted Simpsons MerchandiseThis is a drink tray.  It was officially licensed by FOX.  Someone in a nice office signed off on this.  And yet the simple act of proofreading an eleven word quote, quite possibly the most used quote this side of “D’oh”, was too much quality control to ask.  Of course getting the quote wrong takes away from it.  It’s not as funny when you add the word “little” because it diminishes the otherwise universal scale of the quote.  Shit like this, retailing for a mere £3.99, is the primary reason Zombie Simpsons is still on the air. 


Crappy Simpsons Merchandise Comes to the iPhone

There’s a repetitive and unoriginal game for the iPhone which happens to feature the Simpsons.  Here’s the nut of it:

In The Simpsons Arcade, you play as Homer, who is on a quest to chase down a mysterious doughnut which also happens to be host to a USB flash drive that holds some kind of secret information that nearly the entire population of Springfield seems to be in on.


The gameplay in The Simpsons Arcade isn’t anything to write home about. There are much better arcade-style beat-em-ups on the platform with better animations and more depth such as the recently released OMG Pirates! and other similar games. However, if you’re a fan of the series, The Simpsons Arcade comes with enough Simpsons references between familiar locales and popular characters as bosses that you’ll likely enjoy playing it.

I have not played this game (I don’t even have an iPhone) so I don’t want to pretend to review it.  But it sure sounds like a pedestrian game with a hollow shell of a story that serves no purpose other than as yet another platform to slap with the Simpsons brand.  There’s a YouTube video of gameplay at that link and it isn’t encouraging either. 

Cheap crap like this is why Zombie Simpsons continues to exist.  The boring show maintains the prominence of the brand and the brand makes any boring product more likely to sell no matter how little thought or care went into its construction.  Garbage in, garbage out.


Weird Batch of eBay Simpsons Stuff

Oh eBay, you make it so easy for people to sell the most entertainingly oddball stuff.  First up we have this wind up Maggie novelty item that, according to the seller, “WORKS STILL”:

Wind Up eBay Maggie 

Next on the block is this rather frightening looking “walking” Homer robot:

Walking Homer eBay Toy

That thing looks like a cross between Homer and that stupid robot FOX has on during football.  The combination of the distorted, semi-muscled torso with the blank stare and strange grin on the head is really unnerving. 

Finally, how about some novelty Euro notes with Simpsons characters on them?  There’s a 20 Euro note with Maggie, a 200 with Homer, and a few others:

Simpsons Novelty Euros

Note the Krusty Brand Seal of Approval in the lower right hand corners.  That’s how you know it authentic fake money. 


How Not to Photoshop Your Crappy Merchandise

Floating Homer Radio

“Ohhh, The Tinkler.  I like the sound of that.” – Homer Simpson

The image at right is for an AM/FM radio in the shape of Homer.  On the product website it is listed as “no longer available”, which is no great loss.  What I’d like to draw your attention to, however, is the remarkably smooth line the “water” makes as it runs along Homer’s torso.  And I mean really, remarkably smooth, as in no variance whatsoever. 

It’s one thing to advertise crappy Simpsons merchandise, lots of links I come across do that.  It’s another to not even bother to photograph it in use but instead paste it into some generic background image of pool water.  This will not make you king or queen of summertime. 

(Found via Geeky Gadgets)


Zombie Bart


Hey look, another relevant t-shirt with a delightful portmanteau for a name: “Zombart.” You can even buy it from Single Second for twenty-eight whole Canadian dollars. Officially, it’s billed as a tribute to “both Zombies and our childhood,” but really it’s another indicator of the public’s increasing awareness of shitty, shitty Zombie Simpsons. We will prevail, DHS readers. Have patience.


Serak Is Sad

“Well, if you wanted to make Serak the Preparer cry, mission accomplished.” – Kang
Kang or Kodos

Poor Serak, he never was a headliner.

Do you have $30 dollars you don’t need?  How about $60?  Want a pair of 6-inch Kang and Kodos dolls?  They come out next month, so start saving your pennies.

Here’s the kicker though, they come “blind boxed”, which means you don’t know which one you’re going to get.  Question: if you order two are you guaranteed one of each?  They aren’t officially for sale yet so I couldn’t find an answer on the website.  Are they greedy enough to make you keep ordering?  Do the employees at the warehouse even have a method to identify which is which?

(via theregoesdave)


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