American Way: Deviant brands, you write, exist independently of the original product associated with them. They take on a life of their own, right?
Wacker: Yes. Think Eddie Bauer. You've got the Eddie Bauer Expedition truck, Eddie Bauer wallpaper, diaper bags, and so on. Or Harley-Davidson. Its brand now lures consumers to buy plush toys, panties, and other things nobody ever associated with motor-
cycling. And there's Hello Kitty, where licensing is the product. It's now a cultural icon that appears on about 1,500 licensed products. Think about it. A sketch of a cat generates more than a billion dollars in sales a year.
American Way: You call Absolut Vodka a master of deviant marketing. How so?
Wacker: They're the antithesis of Microsoft, trying to sustain themselves by being quite edgy. Remember the Absolut Father's Day ties, with the pictures of spermatozoa on them? That was a wonderful application of deviant marketing. You can find dozens of Absolut items on eBay, which proves that, sometimes, advertising can become a product.
American Way: There's a real paradox in your book. As ideas move from the Fringe and begin creating markets, they lose much of their authenticity.
Wacker: Right. The less authentic an idea becomes to its creators, the more money that can be made from it as it's sanitized and packaged. Even when an idea becomes a cliché, there's money to be made in satirizing it.