What in the World—Week of March 28

Birkenstock goes way up market
Would Carrie Bradshaw wear Birkenstocks? Maybe if they were designed by Manolo Blahnik. That’s now possible IRL, after the iconic sandal brand hired the famed high-end shoe designer to create some fancier options for women. The new line (costing between $680 and $810) was introduced last week, and features six different styles with sparkly buckles and colour options including royal blue and fuchsia. This may seem like a Covid-inspired decision by Manolo Blahnik to go down-market for a reality where people go out less and have less reason to buy the famous shoes. But Stuart Heritage at The Guardian suggests it may be more about Birkenstock going upmarket: “[D]espite its utilitarian origins, Birkenstock is now also a luxury brand. Last year, the company was acquired by an investment fund part-owned by the luxury French conglomerate LVMH,” he wrote. “So perhaps this is LVMH’s attempt to pull Birkenstock in line with the rest of its luxury lineup.”

Pepsi has a syrupy new product
Today in unusual Pepsi brand extensions: The cola giant has partnered with IHOP on a new limited-edition drink. Pepsi says that the new Pepsi Maple Syrup Cola “combines the indulgent flavour profile of maple syrup with the crisp, refreshing caramel notes of a Pepsi.” In what has become a customary tactic for limited-edition products like these, the new cola is only available to 2,000 people through an online contest on Twitter and Instagram called #ShowUsYourStack. “[I]t isn’t often we get to bring together two iconic brands to satisfy the cravings of pancake and Pepsi lovers alike,” said Pepsi’s chief marketing officer, Todd Kaplan. Pepsi has become something of a specialist in these products in recent years, partnering with the likes of Peeps and Cracker Jack.

GIF inventor Stephen Wilhite dies at 74
Stephen Wilhite, the man who invented the GIF, has died from Covid at the age of 74. According to The Verge, Wilhite worked on the GIF (short for Graphics Interchange Format) while working at CompuServe in the 1980s. Today, the looping clips are a deeply embedded part of online language, used by people around the world to communicate reactions, jokes and messages. GIPHY, the largest platform for GIFS, boasts that it serves up more than 10 billion pieces of (mostly GIF) content to more than 700 million people each day. Wilhite’s death is unlikely to put to rest exactly how GIF is pronounced, though. Even though Wilhite himself stated on multiple occasions that it’s pronounced like the peanut butter. “The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations,” he told The New York Times in 2013. “They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.”

P&O Cruises says it’s NOT P&O Ferries
Britain’s largest cruise line, P&O Cruises, has launched a marketing campaign to distance itself from the similarly named British company P&O Ferries—which has faced heavy criticism for its dismissal of 800 employees via a video message. P&O Cruises, a division of Carnival Corporation, was caught up in the backlash, with people calling for boycotts on Twitter. It ran full page ads in several daily newspapers on Friday pointing out that it is not affiliated with the ferry business. The ad features an actual tweet calling for the boycott, while the copy explains, “Our names may both begin with P&O, but that’s where the similarity ends.” The print ads were accompanied by a short video, while a message pointing out that the two companies are not affiliated is prominently displayed on its website. According to MarketingWeek, the cruise operator’s brand health index score has fallen by 18.8 points since the scandal broke.

Ba da ba ba bad blood
Rapper Pusha T has long claimed that he and his brother were underpaid for writing McDonald’s famous “I’m Lovin’ It” jingle in 2003. While credit for the jingle is disputed, the perceived injustice inspired Pusha T’s new Arby’s ad / diss track about its Spicy Fish Sandwich. “The whole world love it / Now I gotta crush it,” he says to open the 75-second ad. “Filet-o-Fish is *** / And you should be disgusted.” “I am solely responsible for the ‘I’m Lovin‘ It’ swag and the jingle of that company,” Pusha T told Rolling Stone. “That’s just real. I am the reason. Now I gotta crush it.” Pusha T also took direct aim at Drake in his last diss track “Story of Adidon.” “I hope [‘Spicy Fish Diss’] has more cultural impact [than ‘Adidon’], ‘cause that’s gonna go direct to my pocket,” he said.

David Brown