Recently I ran across this fascinating article published in the Economist –
where entrepreneurs in Asia and elsewhere are marketing products based on “boldly offensive” images and iconic people. For example, Vini Nostalgici, an Italian drinks company, sells about 45,000 bottles of Adolf Hitler wine each year. Vintages named after Mussolini, Lenin and Stalin are also popular. What is just as interesting is that the quality of the product is often irrelevant. Have these small businesses found some untapped, albeit deranged, market or is there something else going on here?
Entrepreneurship scholars talk a lot about how individuals need to build legitimacy for their products and services, that is, get them to be seen as acceptable and appropriate. With such blatantly illegitimate merchandise such as “boldly offensive” products, how does legitimacy concepts square with this reality?
Its an interesting question. One explanation is that it is legitimate according to some sub-culture of people that have very little connection to the reality of these offensive images and ideas. However, this doesn’t explain how the offensive products could be successfully marketed in a country like Italy. Another explanation is that the products ARE illegitimate in mainstream thinking, and that majority opinion is attractive to people who wish identify themselves are counter-culture. The illegitimate is legitimate. Given that “boldly offensive” products are easily transportable and private rather than a immobile and public, it may be the case that entrepreneurs have create and found a market of deviance. It would be more shocking and interesting, I suppose, to see “bloody offensive” clothing labels.
Whatever the reasons, it will be interesting to see if “bloody offensive” brands continue to gain a market footing, or whether this is part of long list of temporary fashions.