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Depression Chic

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But it remains to be seen how long the approach can work. While economists agree that the recession will likely deepen before it improves, if life begins looking a little bit too much like the Great Depression, stuff like retro 1930s fashion and bad Dust Bowl jokes are unlikely to get the laughs -- or the sales -- they're enjoying now. As Weindruch puts it, "Nothing will undermine a history-based campaign quicker than the present."

Indeed, the online news-satire site CAP News has already parodied the Great Depression marketing trend by recently running a business story on the debut of Green Giant "Sorry Your Assets Are Frozen Vegetables" and "Credit Crisis Cranberries."

For now, however, Andrew Shaffer will keep looking for rights-free images of the 1930s to pair with snarky copy for his greeting cards. The way he sees it, if the dark days of the 1930s suddenly have marketing potential, it was only a matter of time. "Every other decade of the 20th century has been plundered," he says. "The Great Depression is actually something that's fresh."