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Wittle Waze: A Brand Will Work Our Brain

Elodie Blakely

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Yesterday, while gingerly assisting her touch up her roots, my mother, with her chin to chest, muttered inaudibly, "I discovered this really cute traffic app…" 

"What? Waze?" I interrupted. 

This is the same woman who, three weeks earlier, send me a magazine clipping about "a really cool new start-up you should look at". The article was about Warby Parker. From my vantage point, her "discoveries" frequently seem to have been found under a rock, the same rock, perhaps, that she apparently lives under. 

Reflexively, I began to crack wise. But I stopped short. Her description of Waze as a 'cute' app…why, that had been my impression too! I'd hardly say traffic is cute. Traffic conjures caricatures of angry commuters, spilling coffee, scalding laps, soured moods and ruined mornings. Accidents. Assholes. Arbitrary outbursts. And elongated honks. 

The branding of Waze speaks to a different language of inter-vehicular communication: the friendly staccato voice of "Beep beep!" (think Magic School Bus theme...). Waze makes traffic friendly information to be shared between friends. Waze frames real-time traffic and road information as social content, in turn, creating a networked community of drivers who aim to actually help each other.

The brand is cute in obvious ways. The iconography looks like Tokyo street signage or illustrations you might find in a kindergarten classroom. Their landing page leads with a "Guided Tour" (oh please do hold my hand, Waze). Take a moment to watch this video.

 Are you smiling a little bit? Do the little "Wazer" cars make you go all falsetto and want to squeeze something?

 Humor me for a moment. In 1943, zoologist and enthnologist Konrad Lorenze postulated the Kindchenschema, a genetic feature set found in all infants, humans and animals alike. 


 A small body size with a disproportionately large head, big eyes, protruding forehead, chubby cheeks, small chin, soft rounded body, elasticity of limbs--these are just some features that make up the Kindchenschema. 

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The Wazer is a stripped articulation of this schema.

The Kindchenschema, whose gestalt connotes helplessness and weakness,  serves the evolutionary purpose of encouraging parents to protect their young. Some studies suggest cute images stimulate the same pleasure centers of the brain aroused by sex, a good meal or psychoactive drugs like cocaine. These neotenous proportions trigger a nurturing and caring human response, which also seems to relax us and keep us smiling. Waze is wise on several levels. Perhaps unknowingly, Waze puts these biological responses to work in order to alleviate the woes of traffic. And by keeping us calm and protective, it's worth considering that this effect could make our responses to traffic less dangerous. That is, if we can keep ourselves from coo-ing at our phones while driving.














Elodie Blakely

Humor me for a moment:

I was thinking about what my friend Dino was saying the other day about a website for potato chips...who exactly is looking at a website for cheetos? or Lays potato chips? 

I came across this website the other day and it's utterly baffling. First I want to tell you how and why I came across this site. I was sitting around the dinner table with friends...we were all yuckin' it up and we started talking about snacks that we loved in elementary school. We related tales of snack time bartering and we all agreed...gushers were king. You could trade a whole bag of Goldfish for 2 gushers--if you were a fool, of course--but still, that was considered by most a reasonable trade. 

But what ARE gushers, really? And fruit roll-ups (remember tongue tattoos?)? Fruit-by-the-foot? So we "did a google on it" (as my mom sometimes says) to find out what ingredients comprised Fruit Gushers. 

And so we found this:

I encourage you all to explore this site. Especially the "Snackians" section and the "Become An Omnomgineer" video. The animation and visual design is stunning, in its own bizarre way. Click on the Snackians...they have these peculiar introductions (the female one is especially ridiculous, it's just like, "Hey! This is what a girl is!"...reprehensible prescriptive nonsense...) And the Omnomgineer video? It's clearly taking cues from Tim&Eric, with its strange editing, random subject matter, and public access vibe. And their new tagline..."OM NOM NOM". Their (new) brand has this smattering of internet humor elements that don't seem appropriate to the market audience...presumably little kids, who eat this...whatever it is.

Who exactly is this site for? If it's for kids, what kind of kid is going to a gushers site? Moreover, what kind of parent is taking their kid to a gushers website? What is the purpose of this site? It appears as though they went 'big', not 'home'. It doesn't seem like they skimped on the's pretty elaborate for what it is. But what is it?

Well, it says. At the very top of homepage, almost imperceptibly, there is a airplane with a banner:
"Hey kids! This is Advertising"

Needless to say, I never figured out what the ingredients were.