In Consumed: Imitation of Life

Posted by Rob Walker on January 13, 2008
Posted Under: Consumed


Foliage Handsoaps: How soaps that look like little hands reconcile the contradictory attractions of novelty and familiarity.

Murketing regulars may recall my interest in things that look like other things. Today’s Consumed column in The New York Times Magazine addresses this subject by way of Foliage Handsoap.

The contrast that is embedded in things that look like other things — and its curious appeal — suggests something about one of the great conundrums of consumer behavior, or possibly even of human psychology: our attraction to the novel and our seemingly contradictory attraction to the familiar.

Read the column here.

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

Good column. I firmly believe the appeal is, as you mentioned, in spotting something familiar in a totally unexpected way. And most likely, the more realistic the thing looks, the more attracted we are to it. Those foliage soaps are wonderfully executed.

Written By Ingrid on January 13th, 2008 @ 3:31 pm

Thanks for that. And I agree, about these soaps — though I admit I’m one whose first reaction was creeped out, but they grew on me.

As it were.

Written By murketing on January 14th, 2008 @ 6:10 pm


this piece was especially enjoyed by my team here, as we have been making the mouserug ( for a decade: a mouse pad that looks like a rug, genuine fringe and all…upon first seeing it most people do a double-take HUH? and are then quite comfortable with this thing-that-looks-like-another-thing

in fact, you (Rob) and I communicated some time ago about what we do here in Colorado, I’d like to send you a couple brand new products pre-launch with info if you’d kindly let me know how to do that (address)–you and your team will enjoy these new things immensely !

Written By brown abrams on January 15th, 2008 @ 12:02 pm

Rob, I thought that the product was “hand soap” was part of the appeal; the surprise coming from different parts of your brain reconciling what you are seeing?

Written By Steve Portigal on January 15th, 2008 @ 9:09 pm

Brown: That sounds familiar, I think. Don’t send me product though, I am bound by very strict rules about not acccepting free stuff, and I would just have to return it. Also, I don’t write about anything pre-launch anyway. More on that as well as direct contact info in the FAQ on this site.

Steve: That sounds right, I kind of feel like that’s part of what the column covered. Though I was trying to make a bigger point about reconciling the familiar and the novel. I’m not sure what to add. I don’t disagree with what you’re saying.

Written By murketing on January 16th, 2008 @ 7:24 am

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