Thursday, March 16, 2017

Just a bit off target

It’s been a hallmark of the past few decades that much of what’s familiarly local (First National Bank of Boston, Dini’s Seafood, Filene’s) has become regrettably bland and interchangeable (Bank America, Red Lobster, Macy’s). I will make one note here: ain’t nobody misses Dini’s. But, yeah, we all miss the local color.

Some organizations try to make us forget that everywhere has become anywhere. Occasionally they succeed. A few years back, Bank America had a series of billboard ads that brilliantly captured Boston’s being a Red Sox town. (Can’t recall the details, but they were terrific.)

Most attempts to at localization are pretty feeble. But Target’s recent try at acting locally was a really big swing-n-a-miss. tshirt

What Target did was start to sell Boston-themed tee-shirts.

Which would have been fine, if they didn’t botch them so badly.

On that shirt to the left, they included Cambridge in with The Hub. That I can actually forgive. Much as it is (and considers itself) a separate city, Cambridge is part of greater Boston.

But Mission Hills? Huh?

Mission Hills sounds like a development in Southern California, like the one E.T. was filmed in. Adobe, terracotta, backyard pools, and a nod to Junipero Serra and the Franciscans who set up all those missions. Here, it’s Mission Hill, a single hill named after a Redemptorist (not Franciscan) church established when the famine Irish started flooding into Boston. Mission Church actually has a name – Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help – but no one in Boston (even the parishioners, I suspect) knows it by that name. (I had to google it, and I lived for four years in spitting distance of it.) Around here, it’s Mission Church. On Mission Hill.

Mission Hills? Go back to California.

The shirt to the right is even worse.

Bad enough they spelled Jamaica Plain wrong. (Jamaca Plain.) But, as anyone in Boston can tell you, when you ask someone from Jamaica Plain where they live, the answer, as often as not, is JP. Saying Jamaica Plain is almost as much a giveaway as telling someone to take a right off of Massachusetts Avenue onto Commonwealth Avenue. (That’s Mass Ave and Comm Ave, to you, stranger.)

And I have never heard anyone use the word Central to describe downtown Boston. From the map, they’ve lumped Beacon Hill, the Financial District, and Chinatown together. That’s quite a lump. And it’s a lump no one calls Central. The only Central around here was the Central Artery which, thanks to the Big Dig and the largesse of the American taxpayer, is all dead and buried.

The goofiest goof on the shirt, of course, is calling Southie Southy. Given how Southie has, thanks to Matt, Ben, and Marky Mark, become a trope for a certain type of foul-mouthed, scally-capped, stupidity-prone Irish American, you’d think that they could have got this one right. Are these tee-shirt designers not familiar with that grand old song, “I was born down on A Street, brought up on B Street, Southie is my home town”? Sheesh. Even folks from Worcester know Southie is Southie. Accept no substitutes, especially Southy.

On yet another shirt, they had West Roxbury as West Roxberry. Maybe if locals pronounced it West Roxberry, that would make some sense. But it’s West Roxbry. Or just plain old West Rox.

Then there’s the Neponset River, which in Target-ese is Nepsonset.

The shirts are being pulled, but what do you expect? They were apparently designed by a New York tee-shirt company.

All this reminds me of non-local intra-inning commentator that the Red Sox employed a few years ago. Part of her job was reading tweets that came in during the games, and one time I heard her call one of the Twitterers “Do-Trat.” LMAO. Anyone from these parts knows a Dot Rat (someone from Dorchester) when they see their handle.

Target has, of course, offered up a mea culpa of sorts.

“Certainly, localization is something Target is committed to, and we love to be able to carry products that are reflective of the local community, which is why you would see Boston T-shirts in our Boston stores,” said Target spokeswoman Jessica Carlson in a telephone interview.

“We apologize for any disappointment that this may have caused.” (Source: Boston Globe)

Boston to Jessica Carlson, who’s probably a perfectly nice person working out of Minneapolis HQ:

Disappointment? You have got to be kidding. Ain’t nobody here disappointed to see Southie as Southy, Jamaca Plain, Mission Hills. Jessica, Jessica, Jessica. If you need to know anything about targeting products to us locals, you need to know that we thrive on stuff like this.

Meanwhile, in a few weeks there will be kids in the Third World wearing Nepsonset tee-shirts and wondering where the hell Nepsonset is.

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