By DJ Salinger, TOKYO – The new U2 album “No Line on the Horizon” has debuted in Japan with some copies featuring a sticker on the front jacket of a silver equal sign logo (=) dead center.
Ubiquitous Japanese cell phone giant SoftBank uses the exact same logo as their logo.
Is this a coincidental free cross-promotion by the popular Irish pub favorites?
How does SoftBank feel about it? Flattered? Ripped off? After all, someone at a desk, locked in the labyrinthine Tokyo marketing office presumably rushed out and serviced-marked the U2 logo first, right?
Hey man – that’s my equal sign!
Brushing aside the issue of whether it is really fair to logoize such commonly used designs as the equal sign to advertise your company, by using the recognized service mark of SoftBank, U2, who is enormously popular in Japan, is at the very least providing free promotion for the telecommunications company.
Unlike Japan’s other 2 main cell firms, SoftBank has a reputation for contracting foreign (English-speaking) stars to advertise their products (Brad Pitt among them), not without attracting some controversy along the way – SoftBank has been criticized for playing on racial stereotypes in their ads.
Some object to the general bizarreness of SoftBank’s “White Plan” sales campaign. Although, to be fair, SoftBank is just one of a multitude of companies in Japan pushing “white values”.
The 3 major players in the cell phone biz here are DoCoMo (the oldest and traditionally due to the conservative nature of the nation, the brand of choice for business folks, even thought they’re generally the most expensive phones); Au (newer, and until recently had cornered the market for college students due to cheaper text messaging services); and SoftBank (the newest, has had ups and downs but is currently enjoying impressive growth due to its catchy tv ads featuring a talking dog and the black character who is referred to as “Obama” in one commercial).
Personally, as a human man, living in Japan and surrounded by towering Softbank/Au/DoCoMo ads in every public area competing for my drunk email text messages, when I saw “No Line On the Horizon” sitting on the display shelf of my local record shoppe in Shimokitazawa, I pooped my pants.
My first thought was “holy shit, now U2 have really sold out.
I mean, I thought, they’ve not only accepted a sponsorship from SoftBank – they’ve gone ahead and put SoftBank’s logo on the front cover of their album!
Or have they?