The ‘Magic’ Behind Drawing and Erasing on Etch A Sketch

An admitted beginner in Etch A Sketch artwork until a few years ago, Arlene Biran created a respectable-looking Labrador retriever on the iconic drawing toy during a recent phone interview. “If you practice, you will get better,” she said. “And it makes you feel proud when you’ve finished.” Biran, vp, marketing and global business lead…

The Sperry Top-Sider was Inspired by Rubber Tires and a Dog’s Paw

A rare bit of agreement echoed through the fickle world of fashion in the past year. It began when Gentleman’s Quarterly (GQ) announced: “Boat shoes are back.” Next came Esquire: “Yep, boat shoes are cool again.” Newcomers such as the website Valet piped in: “The classic preppy shoe has returned.” Paul Sperry (1) came up…

How Sonic the Hedgehog Sped Past the Competition

If you had lived in New York City three decades ago and spent some time in Central Park, you might have chanced upon a slender, bookish-looking man named Naoto Ohshima. And if you had perchance run into him, you’d have influenced the course of video-game history. It was 1990. Ohshima, an artist for Sega, had…

A Grocery Exec’s Hunting Trip Inspired the Name for a Still-Famous Kentucky Bourbon

American distillers are known for protecting secret recipes and ingredients, but few guardians match the commitment of one Jimmy Russell. The Wild Turkey distillery in Lawrenceburg, Ky., where Russell has overseen the stills for 65 years, has used the same yeast strain since the 1950s. At some point, the thought occurred to Russell that were…

How Heinz Created America’s (and Ed Sheeran’s) Favorite Condiment

The internet, as most of us know by now, tends to blow up over ridiculous things. This is why, in March 2017, the web was abuzz not with actual news like the impeachment of South Korean president Park Geun-hye or the landslide in Addis Ababa, but with the tattoos of Ed Sheeran. Specifically, the Heinz…

Tab Accounts for Just 1% of Coca-Cola’s Sales, So Why Is It Still Around?

Most people would be thrilled to live in a city as hip and sophisticated as San Francisco. But Natalie Kueneman, web developer by trade, remembers how tough things were for her there. The problem wasn’t that there was no arts or tech scene; it was that Kueneman couldn’t find Tab cola for sale anywhere in…

How Charlie the Tuna Became One of the Best-Known Brand Mascots in American History

For the benefit of those unfamiliar with the phrase (and it can’t be many), “Sorry, Charlie” roughly translates to: Tough luck, bro. Urban Dictionary defines it as: “A lack of sympathy. A form of ‘get over it.'” Today’s kids might not trot out “Sorry, Charlie” as much as the youth of the 1960s did, but…

How Jamba Put Smoothies on the Map

Two years ago, Saturday Night Live aired a skit featuring Kenan Thompson and Beck Bennett stranded in the desert and dying of thirst. As Bennett gazes blearily into the distance, a wondrous vision appears. It’s a chipper young man wearing an apron and standing at a counter. He’s holding up an ice-cold yellow smoothie. “Bananamatazz…

How 50-Year-Old Fla-Vor-Ice Became an Enduring American Summertime Staple

Among the many hardships endured by children undergoing cancer treatment is nausea–and the related difficulty of finding a food they can keep down. Fortunately, young patients at the Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children, the Georgetown University Hospital and 123 other medical centers across the country can avail themselves of a simple snack that, more often…

How a Bunch of Urban Hipsters Saved Pabst Blue Ribbon

If you’re the sort who suffers for days from old commercial jingles that get stuck in your head, then by all means avoid searching YouTube for the Pabst Blue Ribbon weightlifter spot. Its doubtful premise–that a champion athlete can win first prize, but really just wants a brewski–climaxes in song: “I’ve got a taste for…

JBL, the Legendary Audio Brand That Walloped Woodstock, Is Still Packing a Punch

One afternoon in the summer of 1969, Woodstock promoter Michael Lang took sound engineer Bill Hanley to Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, N.Y., to show him the grounds for the concert he was planning. The moment Hanley looked out at 700 acres of grassy hillside, he knew the only way to throw sound that far…

How American Eagle Captured the Youth Market and Never Really Let Go

Earlier this year, American Eagle Outfitters took a gamble that turned the heads of not only customers, but other marketers as well. Like many brands pursuing the fickle tastes of Gen Z shoppers, the mall-based apparel retailer had convened focus groups full of teens, eager to hear what they did and didn’t like. And like…

How Tim Hortons Became Synonymous With Canada

About a decade ago, Tim Hortons put up a page on its website that let customers share stories about what the restaurant meant to them personally. Just in case that concept sounds a little strange–people expressing their affection for a doughnut chain–well, then, you don’t know Tim Hortons, and you’re certainly not Canadian. For 55…

How Yuengling Beer Has Endured for a Whopping 190 Years

For Americans fond of their brewskies, Dec. 5, 1933, was arguably the biggest day in history. That Sunday, Utah became the all-important 36th state to vote an end to Prohibition. To show their gratitude to Franklin D. Roosevelt–who’d reportedly said, “What America needs now is a drink”–two brewers sent gifts to the president. One was…

How Wiffle Ball Has Endured Without Advertising, Licensing or Product Placement

Nineteen fifty-three was a seminal year in world history. Biologists discovered the double helix of DNA. Sir Edmund Hillary reached the top of Everest. Dr. Jonas Salk perfected the polio vaccine. And in a suburban backyard in Fairfield, Conn., a bunch of kids played the first game of Wiffle Ball. All right, so maybe a…

Why Gorton’s Fish Sticks Make America So Nostalgic

Aug. 25, 1961, was a big day in Gloucester, Mass. In a long clapboard building on Rogers Street, just above the Inner Harbor, some 250 attendees gathered to glad-hand and listen to speeches by various VIPs, including the esteemed professor and researcher Samuel Goldblith. Up from Washington was Sen. Benjamin Smith II (D-Mass.)–keeping JFK’s seat…

The Story Behind One of the Most Controversial Candies of Our Time

As home to the Capitol’s upper house, the United States Senate Chamber is among the most storied rooms in America. Appointed with red marble pilasters and rich blue carpeting, the chamber contains 100 mahogany desks. Senators can keep whatever they like in the desks–each is assigned a specific one–but the contents of desk No. 24…

How a Nightmare Neurotoxin Became the Beloved Botox

The story tore across media outlets all over the world last year. In Saudi Arabia, a dozen camels had been disqualified from a beauty contest at the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival. A story that ran in The National, a paper published out of the United Arab Emirates, revealed that a crooked veterinarian had been caught…

Did Nike’s Swoosh Make the Brand Famous, or Is It the Other Way Around?

As arguably the most talented player in college basketball, Zion Williamson is used to making headlines–just not the kind he made last month. On Feb. 21, as the Duke forward played in the first minute of the North Carolina game, a sudden “pop” brought Williamson to the floor, clutching his knee in agony. “The world…

Paramount Pictures’ Logo Started as a Desktop Doodle, and Has Endured for 105 Years

Hollywood isn’t just an incubator of celebrity culture. It’s also home to some of the most durable brand logos in American capitalism. The celluloid trade calls them title screens, and odds are that most every adult consumer can name them by sight: Warner Brothers’ “WB” shield, Cinderella’s Castle of Disney Pictures fame and, of course,…