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 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 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)