Do Muscleheads Hate Graphic Design?

A work friend of mine recently decided to start bulking up. He purchased one of those three gallon tubs of protein powder from GNC - specifically, Russian Bear 5000. As you'll see above, the packaging layout for this product is astonishing. When was the last time you saw black, yellow, white, pink and purple integrated together? And what font is that?

I am no workout freak and definitely not in the target market for these powders, so I recognize that my personal opinion about this category might not prove too insightful. With that said, I am baffled by the packaging. Does Russian Bear 5K have a marketing department? Or even an unpaid marketing intern? Were there several designs that were rejected before they ultimately chose the packaging above?

My friend explained that he chose RB5K because it contains more calories per serving than many of the other competiting brands. I'm sure that this appeal accounts for why some protein powders succeed, but gnc.com's best sellers section lists products that appear to be successful for other reasons. One example of this is MuscleTech Nitro-Tech Hardcore Triple Chocolate Milkshake. Just below the pronouncement of being "hardcore" the label explains that one scoop will "immediately trigger an anabolic environment by optimizing nitrogen retention, nutrient absorption, protein synthesis and cellular regeneration."

Perhaps this swirl of black, purple, red and yellow best illustrates what this process looks like inside of your body. Or maybe it's difficult to connote badass-ness AND explain complex metabolic processes. (Even so, I don't believe they are drawing enough attention this high chocolate multiple - 3X. I wonder if that translates to 300% cacao in gourmand terms.)

Do muscle powders lack traditional notions of "good design" because the people using these products believe that what is visually attractive cannot be hardcore? Is this market so reliant on word-of-mouth that packaging is irrelevant? Or is this a strategy that no one has yet explored?

photo credits: russianbear5000.com & gnc.com

Simply A Good Idea

The solubility of sugar crystals in iced coffee is quite low. It prevents me from sweetening this drink to my desired level. Still, I often find myself purchasing this beverage at coffee shops that don't offer simple syrup - mostly because this liquid is such a rarity.

Thankfully, the Dunkin' Donuts near my office (34th & Madison) has recently begun squirting this fine liquid into their iced coffees as they assemble them behind the counter.

Since the Dunkin' franchise model allows its stores a mild amount of rogueish behavior I'd be somewhat surprised if this is a national initiative. But I think it should be, as it's a very subtle refinement that improves the product experience (unless you enjoy chomping on sugar crystals). Nothing about this change would prevent Dunkin' from maintaining its position as the unpretentious, functional coffee shop choice for people that wouldn't mind watching yuppie scum die - while scarfing down a donut hole or two.

Yes, simple syrup is rarely seen sweetening coffee outside of boho/trendy coffee shops, but Dunkers could avoid this halo as long as they didn't make you ask for it in Fritalian. (Plus, the chain has been adding Starbucks-like drinks to its menu for some time.)

If it's cost effective they should roll this out.

photo credit: Flickr - xsquared

Dentist Office Video Slideshows

It's hard to trace exactly when the changeover occurred, but sometime within the past decade the dental community made a striking decision. No longer was it adequate to engage in a waiting room pamphlet-based soft sell of available services. In the old days, after you finished reading Newsweek and started scanning the area for other good magazines, a small table offering generic materials about porcelin veneers might catch your eye. Maybe you'd walk over and read through them - maybe not. It was all very calm, opt-in and low-pressure. Downright civilized. Then the video screens showed up.

The before and after photo story is a compelling narrative in the Western world. When a TV infomerical for an ab machine morphs a before shot of some pudgy loser into an after shot of some ripped dude kicking ass, I am always impressed. No, that pudgy guy isn't an aesthetic ideal, but he's certainly not offensive. The same cannot be said of the ravages of periodontosis.

But dentists everywhere seem to love showing frightful before and after video slideshows. Sometimes the TV is mounted in the waiting room - but most often in the examining room. What I find strange about this practice is that these aren't personal highlight reels. I'm quite confident that my dentist was not the one responsible for any of the work being displayed. These are just strange, abstract horror stories with remarkably happy endings.

Not only do these montages make patients less comfortable in an already tense environment, they also don't really make all that much sense when analzyed as point-of-sale signage. After all, if I'm that guy with only two teeth in my mouth, I hardly think that seeing a before/after combo that matches my predicament will put me over the edge and convince me to get some work done. If my problem is on the screen and I'm at the dentist, chances are high that I'm not there for a 6 month cleaning.

These screens should only be utilized to pitch the more mundane cosmetic services (such as teeth whitening). Unbelievable success stories need to be saved for campaigns outside of the office, to wow people who thought there was no hope left for their smile.

photo credit: markpolansky.com

The Heineken Draught Keg: Fresh as Ever

Draft keg beer is a living thing. It stays fresh for 30-45 days and must be kept cold at all times. It is quite delicious.

Most domestically produced bottled/canned beer is pasteurized. (Exceptions include microbrewed bottle conditioned beers.) Pasteurization involves passing filled, capped bottles (or sealed cans) through a 140 degree water rinse for several minutes to kill bacteria and therefore stabilize the beer. This is what allows it to sit at room temperature for months at a time. Many imported kegs also undergo pasteurization to survive the much longer journey from brewery to distant bar glass. Unfortunately, this process often ruins a beer's flavor profile.

Heineken seemingly turned these accepted truths upside down with its 2007 release of the Draught Keg. How, you may wonder, were they able to design a keg that doesn't need to be kept cold, has no apparent shelf life, but can dispense brewery fresh beer for thirty consecutive days after opening?

Well, they didn't. The Heineken Draught Keg contains the same pasteurized beer as Heineken cans and bottles. However, this 5 liter keg features a built-in pressurized carbon dioxide pump that creates the same perfectly foamy head that you'd get from a bar keg. (The pressure is also what allows the beer to remain crisply pasteurized for 30 days after opening.)

It's important to note that Heineken has virtually no keg heritage here in the U.S. Not only is it a no-show at college keggers, Heineken is rarely, if ever, on tap at the local bar. It's the perfect beer to offer in pseudo fresh-keg form, since it has no readily fresh tap for comparison.

Why are consumers so crazy about this item? (It's a heavily stocked item in my area.) I think the associative brilliance of this innovation is that it pretends to be a beer snob solution (think Guinness draught can/bottle nitrogen widgets) while really tapping into the needs of the post-grad keg reminiscers and present day party-goers seeking to bring something kitschy/different through the front door. It's a keg (and a "cute" one at that), but it doesn't weigh 75 lbs. Mini keg. Case closed.

It's fascinating that Heineken is the only brand offering a faux-fresh keg at liquor and convenience stores nationwide. What's next, the Corona keg? Budweiser, are you paying attention?

Photo Credit: Flickr - nicnbill

Can Fish, Rock & Roll or Baseball Ever Save Camden, NJ?

The Voice of the Eye - Flickr

My foolish, unflagging love for a band that plays songs called "Fluffhead" and "You Enjoy Myself" led me to one of the most dangerous cities in America last Sunday.  Since I've taken a stroll through South Central LA and have spent a fair amount of time in the parts of Brooklyn that don't have gourmet dog pastry stores, I thought I would be somewhat prepared for what I would encounter in Camden, NJ.  Our group had printed out Google Map directions to the Susquehanna Bank Center, but after choosing the wrong exit for Route 30 and bending at the ibanker-in-the-car's uninformed insistence to follow the roads that an iPhone suggested, we found ourselves driving through the center of this fair hamlet.

You can only see so many consecutive, crumbling buildings and overgrown lots (the choicest surrounded by barbed wire) before getting the sense that New Jersey has given up on this place. Some Wikipedia research revealed that this isn't exactly the case.  In addition to building a concert ampitheatre, the last 20 years have seen investment in a waterfront aquarium and the creation of a minor league baseball team.

After paying Livenation $20 to park in an end-times airplane hangar we asked the parking attendant how long it usually takes to get out of the heavily packed lot after a show.  It was quite telling and sad to hear her say "Oh, I don't know.  I get out of here before the concert starts."  Her voice was less marked by summer job boredom and more by human survival instinct.

I don't pretend to have any answers, but rather I'm just intrigued by Camden as a case study of failed (or insanely slow) gentrification.  If these seemingly popular infrastructure ventures have not led to much positive growth in the surrounding non-waterfront community, what will help? Should stadiums and family event centers only be built after a struggling community gets the financial support to fix its core problems - joblessness, poverty, et. al?  Maybe these buildings shouldn't be Step #1.  Is it important to build these structures in areas that require one to drive through the city, rather than situate them near a highway entrance/exit?

Do you wait until Google deems the area safe enough to drive its Street View mapping car through, before breaking ground? (It's quite ironic that Camden hasn't been Street View'd yet, as it's one of the few places in America through which you'd actually need to take a virtual stroll before showing up.)

Mark Paul Gosselaar is Smart



Jimmy Fallon has been leading a charge to reunite the cast of Saved by the Bell (celebrating its 20th anniversary) as a way of drawing some attention to his late night show.  Surprisingly, most of the cast has signed on for this.

It's tough for any actor to escape a campy past and still be in on the joke - rather than part of it. This past Monday, Mark Paul Gosselaar did this in impressive form.  He appeared on Fallon's show, fully in character, to pledge his participation in the reunion. Rather than show up in a suit and sheepishly listen as Fallon annoyingly rehashes his favorite Bayside moments, Gosselaar rocked a familiar old outfit and even interrupted the interview to take a call from Jessie Spano on his giant, grey, iconic cell phone.  Definitely worth a watch.

Amtrak: Step Yo Game Up

Flickr - Pandangel

Amtrak has so many problems that writing this post somewhat pains me.  I've had many great experiences with this service, but the company's absolute inability to keep costs down prevents me from riding with any serious regularity.  Unfortunately, a recent industry innovation may further deepen Amtrak's problems.

Up until last year the transportation options for getting around the Northeast had clear lines of demarcation.  Flying was situated at the top of the tier, for its perceived time savings, despite the time usually allotted to security checks, delays and transportation by cab/subway to/from the airport.  Amtrak sat one rung below. That left Greyhound, Fung Wah and Lucky Star to fight over the business of poor college students, post-grads, and middle-aged adults without cars.

Within the last year or so two new bus lines joined the market: Megabus and Bolt Bus (a Greyhound subsidiary).  These services launched offering WiFi internet access for laptop users. The connection speed doesn't allow one to download movies, but the bandwidth certainly lends itself to robust web surfing.  Currently, this offering serves mostly as a differentiator between the bus lines.  I can't imagine that too many regular Amtrak riders are trading down to the WiFi buses.

But, it's likely that there's going to be a glacial trend to the downside.  Although I don't have solid data regarding the Amtrak ridership demo, I assume that historically there's been an element of trading up from buses to trains as income rises.  Poor college students eventually get jobs, and recent grads with crappy jobs sometimes improve their lot in life.   If Amtrak never gets around to offering WiFi, I find it quite unlikely that current WiFi bus riders (for business or pleasure trips) trade up to Amtrak with the same regularity that bus passengers typically did in the past. (This worldview assumes that services such as MiFi remain expensive and far from mainstream for quite some time.)

If Amtrak does offer WiFi, however, it probably won't lead to a substantive increase in ridership - so it's a slight incremental cost without too much positive benefit (aside from staying relevant).  Still, I find it hard to believe that the cost savings of eliminating their free magazine couldn't pay for WiFi for every passenger (or at least 2-3 devoted WiFi cars).

My colleague Jeffrey pointed out that perhaps some drivers would be convinced to ride the train for certain trips if they knew that they could get some WiFi-related work done during the ride.  Though this is a valid point, I'm not convinced that drivers are malleable enough in their transporation habits to choose the train often enough to result in a tangible volume shift in this segment.

To end on an unrealistically positive note, if Amtrak could somehow find a way to decrease its ticket prices by 40-60% and offer WiFi, then I think there would be a tremendous shift in the way everyone gets around.  Until then, enjoy the Snack Car.

mydailystyle's eBay Auctions

mydailystyle.es

Style blogs are 2000s apparel punk rock.  I love the way that they spit in the face of fashion magazine ad clutter & industry pretension and get right to the point - cool/wearable clothing, styled well. Some of it is preposterously expensive and some is thrifted - depending upon on the wearer.  Perspective either takes the form of candid street capture of the best dressed people seen that day or one person's daily fashion diary.

Some of the current best are The Sartorialist, (great for his high quotient of natty men's style) Style and the City (Paris/London street fashion) and Kanye West's favorite: Sea of Shoes (I definitely didn't know about Margiela in high school).

The daily diary style blogs all follow the same basic format:  1) Picture of the day's outfit 2) List of brands featured 3) Fawning comments from readers.  One favorite blog of mine adds a slight twist to this formula and really opens up the possibility for a interesting brand collabo.

It's called my daily style and is curated by woman from Barcelona. She's been posting since March 2008 and has over 2,400,000 hits.  She chooses amazing outfit combinations then runs off to a cool part of the city to stage her own impromptu photoshoots.  

Interestingly, the right margin of her page links to an eBay store listing some of the items that she's worn.  Each of the garments have 900+ views each.  She's found a unique way to monetize her blog by liquidating her old items to the readers that admire them.

I think there's an opportunity here for a brand to contact her and create amazing limited 1 of 1s or 1 of 10s and have her feature them and sell through her eBay page.  Undoubtedly she'd be incented by the opportunity to design/consult on the product.  Scott Schumann's giddy post about his Gap ad showed that no matter how popular a style blogger may be, acknowledgement from a major brand is downright flattering

It would absolutely make sense for a brand to become involved in such a collabo, as these style blogs are one of the major spheres of influence today.  Even the fashion magazines cover them. It's incredible that I even need to call out this opportunity.  Is the image at the top of this post not insane?

A Most Uncouth Product Development

Source Material: Departures Online Magazine: Desire & Acquire

Many, many of my mid-to-late 20s friends have told me about non-iron Brooks Brothers dress shirts during the last 5 years. I have yet to experience their wonders first-hand, but have been told that you pull them out of the washer, hang up, and then BLAMO, you have a perfectly ironed shirt the next morning.

This strikes me as a product development worth mentioning. Brooks Brothers doesn't exactly deny that they sell this shirt, but they certainly don't mention it in their print ads. If you go to their website, you'll notice that the preponderance of their men's dress shirts are non-iron.

What's most interesting about the word-of-mouth I keep getting is that it's mostly from friends that don't have a history of purchasing their product.  The company's decision not to explicitly advertise this product feature vaguely reminds me of Frederic Rouzaud's (Managing Director of Louis Roederer) comments on hip-hop stars popping bottles onto models. Is there something declasse about not having all of one's shirts dry cleaned? Are they ashamed that some of their customers don't work in private equity? Or are they just choosing not to clutter their ads with relevant information?  (Yes, I understand it's "lifestyle advertising," but some people live a lifestyle that involves begrudginly ironing their shirts every morning, and I'm sure they'd like to be targeted too.)

The Xlerator: Classy Functionality


Just when you thought humankind had developed every object that's capable of exuding class through elegant functionality, along came the the Excel Dryer company of East Longmeadow, MA.  For years they produced the typical, nice-try public restroom hand dryers that inpatient people everywhere use for about 5 seconds before wiping their hands on their pants.

Sometime in the early 2000s the company unleashed their Xlerator model. This machine blasts out heatless air onto your hands so quickly and hard that skin is freakishly pushed away. The entire drying process takes 10 seconds.  And the gorgeousness of the design runs a close second in importance - it's really an objet d'art.  (At least compared to other things you find in public restrooms.)

When I first began to notice this product I found myself assigning high-levels of esteem to any early-adopter dining establishment. Now, since the product has been on the market for quite some time, I have different response.  I view any upscale restaurant lacking an Xlerator as somewhat of a dump.  Ok sure, you may have a human being standing in the bathroom squirting soap onto my hand and handing me a paper towel, but does he make jet-engine noises?  And I have to give him a $1 tip? (Honestly, there are times when I wish there was a vending machine-like dollar bill insertion point in the Xlerator - with the tips going directly to the design team.)

Attention: Ballers, Shot Callers & Those With Early Stage Gingival Diseases


Over the last 3-5 years the dental floss market experienced a major shift in its sales volume potential via product improvement. Despite all of the previous advances that had supposedly made flossing easier (waxed nylon) and dual-functioning (zesty mint flavor freshens breath!), the purchaser profile for this product remained stagnant:

People who actively try to prevent the putrefication of their mouths.

Yes, flossing is a huge pain. You’ve got to twirl the thread around your fingers, angle it in, work on one of the main four regions and then repeat. This routine is supposed to take place either during the dark hours of the morning or late at night before bed. Few tedious tasks are ever completed at these times. For many flossing is such a pain that they knowingly risk developing considerable, nasty mouth problems just to avoid the experience.

In mid-2004 my local Brooklyn, NY Target store began carrying a floss product from a mysterious industry player named Den-Tek. They offered what they called “floss picks” that came with a pre-threaded nylon strand on a thin plastic hook – intended for one-time disposable use (seen below).

Conceptually, this was a big step forward in the dental game, as it sought to answer consumers’ cries that proper dental care was a hassle. Unfortunately, this item was a design failure, as the floss in this iteration came threaded parallel to the stick, forcing most of one’s hand into the mouth at an awkward angle to land the floss perfectly into the spaces between the molars. This maneuver proved very difficult.

A slight design tweak was a game-changer of the flossing experience. About 3-4 years ago Crest introduced their fabulous take on the floss pick – unceremoniously named the Crest Glide Floss Pick. This version takes the shape of a men’s razor, with the floss threaded perpendicularly to the contoured handle. Each space between the teeth is now easily reachable with the flick of wrist. It's possible to floss well in 10-15 seconds. I find it hard to explain just how easy it is to use this lazy-man's product. I've transitioned from a twice-a-week flosser into a consistent 6 days-a-week pro.

It will be fascinating to see how Crest and its competitors seize the opportunity that this innovation has made possible. (They haven't done too much as of yet.) Yes, the Crest Glide model is significantly more expensive than the Crest spool variety (2-3 times) -- based on the 30-picks per pack you get vs. 60 flosses per spool. However, I don't think this type of price comparison is apt, and I hope to see Crest address this issue in its messaging, as non-users shouldn't be price comparing against a product they have no intention of using.

The significant growth opportunity in this space is transitioning non-users or light-users to steady gliders. I will propose my reco'd marketing plan in a future post (hint: centered on replacing spools with gliders in those oft-ignored post-dentist visit baggies and tapping into people's fears that their easily remediable laziness is causing health problems).

Gingivites, your dream product has arrived.

The Original, Humbling, Possibly Accidental, Pre-Video Age... DVD Easter Egg

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In 1973 Pink Floyd released The Dark Side of the Moon, the band’s greatest commercial and critical success. The album is as equally revered for its innovative use of synthesizers, sampling and looping as it is for its unique exploration of how one is driven to insanity. The group's interest in the latter subject was likely inspired by the departure and voluntary seclusion of former lead singer/composer, Syd Barrett. (Wikipedia)

This work is regarded as one of the finest rock albums of all-time.

In the early to mid-1990s members of the alt.music.pink-floyd usenet group began discussing whether or not a series of grand cosmic synchronicities or purposeful alignments result when the start of DSOTM is lined up with the third roar of the MGM lion at the beginning of The Wizard of Oz. (Since DSOTM is significantly shorter than The Wizard of Oz, one is required to play the album on repeat more than twice to match the length of the film.)

Viewing the fan-based discovery and the genesis of the phenomenon as unintentional is troubling. Playing movies and albums at the same time and reviewing their synchronicities had no precedent in the early 90s, so it's unclear what motivated someone to originally try this. More importantly, the clear signposting at the roar seems like a convenient shorthand to be used while rehearsing or tweaking - so perhaps a person involved with the album’s production ultimately revealed this secret.

Despite these hints at intentionality, it's important to remember that DSOTM was created during an era that preceded movie ownership. If Pink Floyd were to have purposely written the album to match up with the movie, no one could have seen this creation outside of a theatre (if at all, as this was well before the age of Rocky Horror-type midnight movie screenings). It’s definitely impressive to create a work that is “ahead of its time,” but its a different, bizarre, staggering achievement to make something inside (and that determines the shape) of your career-defining album that is so far ahead of the technology of the time that it might never be experienced by more than 50 people. Was Pink Floyd partying with electrical engineering Ph.D. candidates who clued them into the imminent, explosive progress of video and its implications for viewing movies at home – that would eventually unleash their project to the masses?

As there’s no accounting for taste or strong convictions, it would be foolish for me to try to convince you that this work is intentional. Yes, the movie transitions from black & white to Technicolor when Dorothy opens the door to Oz – right as the song “Money” begins. Yes, the lyrics “don’t give me that do goody good bullshit” line up with Glenda’s arrival – and so on, and on.

There are as many moments of chilling, bizarre coincidence as there are head scratching spans of nothing. However, given that the 43-minute album coincides on repeat with moments throughout the entire length of the 98-minute film, it appears that Pink Floyd could be forgiven for some dull, unrelated parts. In fact, what intensifies the experience for many viewers is the inconclusiveness of the evidence - if each part of every song coincided with the film, it wouldn't be as eerily interesting.

Best of all is the band's continued refutation of (and chuckling at) claims that they knowingly created this, which only further intensifies the mystery.

So, the next time you discover a hidden behind-the-scenes-featurette on your Dark Knight DVD, please wait about 20 years (or at least a few minutes) before tweeting about it, out of deference to the genre's quasi-originator.

Asher Roth's Dope Little Blazer

As silly as it sounds to someone unfamiliar with the genre, the boldest possible statement in hip-hop is never a phrase, but rather, comes in the form of a child's photograph. Because of the precedent set by Biggie and Nas, it's widely understood that dropping a debut album with a picture (or likeness) of one as a child is the ultimate demand to be taken seriously.

For this reason I am disappointed with the cover that Asher Roth and his handlers created for his debut, Asleep in the Bread Aisle. A young, white rapper that sounds remarkably similar (tonally) to Eminem, he’s been trying to identify himself as the true suburban answer to hip-hop. Now that all of the middle-class white kids that bumped Liquid Swords in their moms' Camrys have grown up, we are led to believe that a special one among them has emerged with a point of view and a mic. In his first few videos Asher has done a pretty convincing job of raging at college parties and riding a mountain bike through leafy towns.

However, I think this jokey creation myth could have been perfectly cemented if he had used a cover similar to the one I have mocked up (above, source material from laserportraits.net). No more would need to be said about his past if there was proof of a laser-background in his elementary school picture – and the preposterousness of this image on a rap album cover would quicken the bizarre dialogue about where he fits into the hip-hop cannon.

As an intriguing figure for hip-hop to have to process (given the support he's received from major industry players that otherwise have historically shown discriminating taste), he should have demanded to be taken seriously, rather than politely requested it while he stunts with Cee-lo and tries to ignore rap beefs from Spencer Pratt.

Urban Outfitters: A Lesson in Store Design

Urban Outfitters has a lot of haters.  Much of this contempt is lobbed at the company’s tremendously efficient ability to mine current trends and offer fixture after fixture of items that would take a “true hipster” weeks to find at different thrift stores and boutiques - all in one location.  Why spend a lifetime searching for a neon yellow t-shirt screenprinted with Alfonso Ribeiro’s face, when he’s right there, smirking at you?

Urban has 140 locations throughout the U.S, Canada and Europe.  At a chosen few (Chicago, Austin and Cambridge, MA, among others) they’ve purposely shattered the glass in the entranceway to the store.  Perhaps the glass was manufactured this way – admittedly, my knowledge of store buildouts in the “bombed-out” aesthetic is rather limited.

(Cambridge, MA location - Photo from Cprior23 on Flickr)

I would love to know what motivated the store selection for this technique.  Yes, it adds an additional element of "urban grit," but more importantly, it's really difficult to project protest onto a store whose windows are already broken.  Did they expect conflict?

Up until my online research tonight I had only known about the Cambridge, MA windows.  I'd always thought that management made a purposeful decision not to bow down to the dissenters who had broken them.  As someone who finds walking through their doors equal parts embarassing and exciting, I often felt lame shopping at a store that others disliked so much that they sought to destroy it.  I wonder how many other shoppers made the same conclusion about the provenance of the windows.

It’s definitely a humorous inversion of the Kelling & Coles broken window theory, as the arrival of an Urban Outfitters in an expandingly gentrified part of town (think Cobble Hill, Brooklyn) usually snuffs out that neighborhood’s last grasps at being cool/"street" and confirms the beginning of the ironic pseudo-danger era.

Hint of... A Slightly Sweeter Future?

In the late 1990s Frito-Lay widely introduced the concept of marketing just a little bit of a flavor in the packaged foods space – with the Tostitos: Hint of Lime extension.  Perhaps they felt it was too much of a leap for the customer to imagine eating a “Lime Flavored” chip, so they did a little copy tweaking.

Lately I’ve noticed that there are more flavor “suggestions” than I originally realized.  Ritz Crackers has a “Hint of Salt” offering.  This is quite significant, as ordinarily this Ritz version would be labeled "Low in Sodium" - one of the least fun food identifications available to a marketer.  Instead, this name confers the idea that the Ritz scientists sprinkled salt onto crackers enough times that they eventually determined just the right amount of salt needed to replicate the Ritz experience for high blood pressure sufferers.  There's a certain considerate charm to the name.

Just as importantly, we should note the widespread success (and subsequent Coca-Cola buyout) of Honest Tea.  The iced tea category had always been missing a wide-open opportunity.  It wasn't until the mid-to-late 2000s, when Seth Goldman’s company (est. 1998) gained wider distro, that he was able to fully provide a unique answer to the omnipresence of 30g of sugar per serving canned/bottled iced tea.  Why not add just a hint of sugar or honey and change the product entirely from a quasi-soda into a health food?  Honest Tea calls itself “just a tad sweet”.

I really shudder when I think about how many cans of Cool Nestea I drank in the mid-90s, just not knowing what iced tea was truly capable of.

Is it possible that this “hint of” trend has greater potential?  What if certain foods were developed and labeled not as diet/lite/zero/free, but rather as slightly fatty/chocolatey/sweet?  

Cut Your Creatives: Run a Retro Ad



Some brands really need to evaluate why they're developing new campaigns. Juicy Fruit is a prime example. They recently started running a TV campaign with country singer Julianne Hough. It's supposed to be a rockin' reimagination of the classic 80s Juicy Fruit ads. And perhaps it is. However, the only thing I ever think about when I see the product in store and now watch this commercial is their ubiquitous 80s ads of beachgoers and skiiers. When you have a brand identity that is so nostalgically seared into the brains of such a large swath of the population, why not explore how to use that? The flush of positive feelings and memories that a viewer experiences when watching their classic 80s spots really can't be replicated when watching an ad produced today. Sure, twelve year olds might not get it, but the commercial above doesn't appear to be targeting 12 year-olds anyway - but rather the Dancing With the Stars set.

A classic ad should be good for more than generating clicks on youtube.

I've been told that running old ads isn't possible because it's so difficult to track down the actors and get permission to use them. I think the real reason we're not seeing this is that it's counter-intuitive for a creative. It would be hard to raise one's hand in a strategy meeting and propose that your agency do nothing other than pull out an old Betacam tape.

Sure, you can argue that the product design has changed, so the sticks of Juicy Fruit in the 80s commercial below are outdated. If a product truly has changed or if the strategy behind the targeting is DRASTICALLY different, then no, a brand shouldn't be running old ads. However, if you're Juicy Fruit, a gum with a seemingly nebulous target and the same exact product, then it makes sense.

If we've relived 80s fashions, music, childhood toys and other related ephemera for the last 5-10 years, why shouldn't some brands consider re-running the decade's most effective ads if they're still targeting the same general demo? It's very strange that no one is trying this. Consider it, Juicy Fruit.

Hey Dramamine: Get Your Shit Together

One brand that's inexcusably dark and definitely not mature is Dramamine. As a motion sickness sufferer I keep a tube with me for all car/bus/train/plane trips. I've been taking this product since I was 3 years old.

Within the past month I've told two different motion sickness sufferers about this product and their response was "I've heard of it, but I don't really know what it is."

I'm not asking the good folks at Pfizer to start vlogging, or wage a faux-guerrila campaign with wild postings all over urban areas. Nor do we need to go all Bogusky on this one. I would like them to simply tell people about their product. How about some out of home ads in train stations and airports, reminding customers about their potential ailments?


If Pepsi feels the need to flight print ads in Canada about their miniature soda cans, I think a drug that prevents you from puking all over the Northeast Corridor Amtrak line merits some advertising effort - and could certainly boost awareness to their target demo.

Re-Working Some Classics

I've been a huge fan of the Nike Blazer Umber/Volt since its release. The pop of highlighter yellow on the swoosh and intricate laser etching on pigskin leather gives this 70s shoe model a really nice Aztec/80s/Hoosiers/futuristic flair. I've never seen anyone wear these nor have I read a blog posting that lists anything other than its existence. In a hyper-strike world this is general release gold.
(Photo Courtesy of SneakerFreaker)

Now look at the first release of the Franken-Jordan Spiz'ike line. A fusion of the III, IV and who knows what else, this shoe sold out quickly in '06, perhaps mostly to eBay speculators. Sneakerheads are mostly split on whether or not this Jordan line extension is a disgrace or just the only other direction you can go in after you retro every dope Jordan model in dozens of colors and fabrications. If the Jordan well has run dry, this is its empty pail. (Photo Courtesy of FreshnessMag)