Mongols -- from 'wild bunch' to kiddies' lunch bunch?
If the government were truly clever -– a big "if," I know -– it could not only knock the wheels out from under a notorious motorcycle gang, but it could also manage to turn that gang’s mascot from a fearsome figure into a punch line.
Federal prosecutors are trying to take control of the Mongols’ motorcycle gang logo away from the group, as reported in L.A. Now.
The feds’ thinking goes that if you take away the insignia, you take apart the central identifier for the whole gang, which has been accused in a racketeering indictment of murder, torture and drug trafficking; the feds say a number of the group's members have been convicted.
Registering the logo as a trademark was a stroke of ingenuity by the Mongols motorcycle gang. This is a further stroke of ingenuity on the part of the feds. But they should exercise a little more imagination. Don’t stop at just legally owning the logo. Really own it -- undercut its marketing value as a tough-guy recruiting tool. Don’t just threaten its members with violation of copyright laws if they use it; make it embarrassingly the opposite of everything they stand for.
Corporations fight ferociously to protect their brand and logo identities against all sorts of potential damage. Off and on for about 30 years, Procter & Gamble, one of the country’s most conservative corporations, operating in Cincinnati, one of the country’s most conservative cities, has had to bat down dopey rumors that its venerable trademark, a rather charming illustration of a 19th century man-in-the-crescent-moon gazing upon 13 stars, was in fact a satanic symbol. (Honestly, do you really think we need to make stuff up when a credulous public so readily supplies such stupefying kookiness?)
Now: Think of the disturbing magical creature in the Harry Potter books, the boggart, which can turn itself into whatever your mind most fears -- and which can be defeated by being turned into an object of ridicule.
So, with deliberation and even a certain pleasure, the feds could not only lock up the Mongols’ sinister logo just like it’s trying to do to the group’s members, but it also could tap a few marketing consultants and change the menace of the Mongols logo.
Make it look laughable. Make it look childish. Make it look cute and cuddly. Make it look like anything but a motorcycle gang logo.
Design a stylized, cheerful color-by-numbers version for children’s Crayon projects. Make the motorcycle into a tricycle, and turn the scimitar in the figure’s hand into a UNICEF trick-or-treat bag. Encourage animal shelters to put pink and blue "Mongols Help Mongrels" sweaters on the tiniest, fluffiest little puppies up for adoption. Put a Norman Rockwell smile in place of the Mongol’s scowl, set a pair of bunny-rabbit ears on him instead of that ponytail, and dress him in Lord Fauntleroy knickers and Crocs.
Come to think of it, the feds should use exactly this kind of approach to cut other offenders down to size, like taking on the swaggering image of omnipotence and competence projected by those Wall Street megalith moguls who took down the economy in order to enrich themselves beyond the dreams of avarice.
Oh wait -– those gentlemen already did that to themselves.
-- Patt Morrison
Photo: Mongols' insignia. Credit: Ric Francis / Associated Press