Sometime around 1992, the hot color in U.S. marketing became "clear," i.e., transparent. It was a trend primarily in beverages -- Crystal Pepsi, Zima, OK Cola, etc. -- exacerbated by the growing popularity of bottled waters (Evian and its ilk). But it spread to other areas like liquid soap (Ivory), deodorant (Ban), and even motor oil (Amoco).

Supposedly, this was supposed to make the products feel lighter and more natural -- no heavy artificial colors weighing them down. Better for you, and more natural too!

That's a nice sentiment, but something about these products made even a nature boy like me double up in laughter. I mean, who are you kidding -- a more natural COLA? You mean, "clear" like the cola that the animals drink in the wild? Oh, please.

So I suppose we lost out on a chance to remove artificial colors from a lot of our products. But with marketing as transparent (so to speak) as this, clear products were bound to draw some ridicule, such as the Crystal Gravy sketch on Saturday Night Live.

It also didn't help that the clear drinks sucked. OK, Crystal Pepsi has its supporters on E2, and I'll defer to them, having never drunk the stuff. But I have tasted Zima, and my life is worse for it. People also might have disliked the incongruity of seeing clear but tasting "colored." (No racial pun intended!)

"Clear" died out quickly as a hot color, but its legacy lives on. They still sell soap and deodorant in clear forms, for example, and in both cases it makes sense -- I mean, who gives a damn what color those things are? Zima still sells (to whom, I have no idea). And of course, bottled water became an enormous industry by the end of the 1990s. And as of 2002, we have the lurking plague of Smirnoff Ice and a slew of copycat clear beverages coming soon.

-- SNL sketch:

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