Kotex U: The Trendy Tampon

October 11, 2010 6 comments

DISCLAIMER: The following is a blog contribution from a female writer, because I know nothing about tampons. Nor do I want to.

There are some items in the store, that although necessary, no one likes to buy. For teens, it may be any variety of pregnancy protection, or tests in some cases. For elders, Depends.  But for many women, the choice is obvious: tampons. They are necessary – that’s for sure – but I can’t think of ANYTHING I hate buying more; you are throwing your money down the toilet (literally).

I have a system devised for any trip to CVS that requires me to buy tampons, which begins by scoping out the grounds. I’ll check for people I know, people I know but will pretend I don’t know unless I stand next to them while picking out shampoo and people I truly abhor. After that, I must do all other shopping first, saving the tampons for last. This way, you can discretely shove the large white box with the grotesque picture of a “scented plastic applicator” featured on the front under the newest addition of US Weekly and your body lotion. Lastly, wait for the lines to clear out and pray your middle school math teacher doesn’t take his place in line behind you.

That was the protocol, since age 12, until now. Kotex has singlehandedly changed one of my idiosyncrasies (and if you knew me, you would know that’s almost impossible to do). After launching U by Kotex – a campaign to “Break the Cycle” which “aims to encourage women to talk candidly and without embarrassment about periods and vaginal care,” they seem to have something else entirely. They put out a tampon box that doesn’t look like a tampon box. It’s black, not white. It has “fierce” colors and not pastels. It doesn’t feature a picture of what can be mistaken by a 9 year old boy as crosshairs for his home made pop gun. Therefore, I can now buy tampons without the whole world (or at least men) knowing I’m doing so.

It’s fine and dandy that their real pitch was to increase self-esteem and blah blah blah, but they also changed the size and color of the tampons and nowhere on the actual tampon does it say TAMPON. So now when I’m on a date and my cell phone rings and I fish around in my bag for my phone l know a tampon will not fly out and land in my salad. Actually, that may still happen but at least I can play it off as a new type of candy and hope he doesn’t ask to try some.

Sadly for Playtex and Tampax, their attempt to lure females into buying the Playtex Sport and Tampax Pearl brands did not work on me. Basically they came in a fancy box but were three dollars more expensive than the CVS brand. They still featured gross pictures and were individually packaged in slippery cellophane and were the length of pens. Not only are the U tampons the size of a stick of gum, they are typically about the same price as the generic – an added bonus.

Buying tampons are a rite of passage for any woman. But at least now nobody knows when that rite of passage is occurring. Thank you Kotex.


Stouffer’s Pizza: A Frozen Box of Yuck

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Isn’t the main function of product packaging—aside from preserving the contents— to entice the potential buyer?

If this is the case, why do I feel the urge to vomit when I look at a box of Stouffer’s Pizza?

Images on product packaging can speak volumes. Their purpose is to lure the consumer into buying something that looks so irresistible they can’t pass it up. Coca-Cola looks beautifully refreshing when an image of it splashing all over an icy glass catches your eye. A gleaming, pearly smile on a Crest toothpaste box persuades us to look our best. The gorgeous and voluptuous women on AXE body spray cans remind us of what we’re missing out on if we don’t buy that product.

So who dropped the ball over at Stouffer’s? The depiction of the preservative-laden pizza producer we see in the frozen foods section is an absolute disaster. The slab of pizza shown on the product’s box is a mess; the cheese is not melted, the crust looks waterlogged and the sauce is applied sloppily. If this is what they’re throwing out against the likes of DiGiorno’s and Freschetta, why waste the cardboard? While we’re at it, whatever happened to normal-shaped pizza?

Stouffer’s unorthodox marketing strategy apparently is to appeal to those consumers who enjoy gross pizza. There’s no other explanation for this foul play. I say fire the packaging department and start from scratch.

Now that's what I'm talking about!

Shut Up, Bob

September 14, 2010 1 comment

For those of you that live in New England, you’re very familiar with Bob’s Discount Furniture.

For those of you that don’t live in New England, consider yourself lucky.

Bob’s Discount Furniture has rapidly become the prototype local advertiser: cheesy jingles, low definition camera quality, and commercials with nothing in the background but a sea of white.

Bob has extremely low self-esteem, often to the point where he constantly must remind himself that he has the lowest prices of any furniture retailer in the area. Bob does this through the filming of grainy, low budget ad spots during which he repeats over and over again how incredibly awesome his prices are in relation to “the other guy.” A glaring feature universally found in cheap, local advertisements like Bob’s is the flashing colorful graphic displaying the product’s price. Bob utilizes this tool to the most extreme level, particularly when promoting his pride and joy, a tempur-pedic line of mattresses ingeniously named the “Bob-O-Pedic.”

Bob’s voice is unbearably shrill. His recent terrorization of radio airwaves has magnified this fact. Bob feels the need to maximize his voice’s annoyingness through dreadful catchphrases like “come on down!,” “lickety-split delivery!,” and “it’s a no-brainer!”

Bob’s appearance is less professional than a hot dog vendor’s. He dresses in tight Levi’s, raggedy polo shirts and sneakers that appear to be thrift store Sauconys. His comb over is disheveled and his goatee is unkempt. Bob is a poor figurehead for New England’s retail mattress industry.

Bob often appears as a clay-mation character in his television commercials. This neither detracts nor adds to his attractiveness as the company’s spokesperson as the character is equally obnoxious and serves only as a miniature version of Bob with an over-sized head.

The one nod I will give to Bob is that he is blatantly honest in his advertising, something many marketers are unable to claim. His mattress mantra is that “I can’t promise you’ll sleep better, but you’ll save a whole lot more.” He doesn’t over inflate his product’s performance as he really only attempts to compete on price.

Honest as he is, Bob is flat out painful to watch and listen to. He redefined low-budget advertising in New England through awful commercials, poor humor, and a voice that could launch a house pet into a fit of seizures. The man who forces millions to dive for the remote on a daily basis, Bob took the unconventional route in developing brand recognition; make them hate you so much that they’ll remember you forever. I hate you, Bob. But damn it, I respect you.

Classic Ad: “Be Like Mike”

September 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Has there ever been a more blatant and straightforward celebrity endorsement than this classic commercial?

“Be Like Mike. Drink Gatorade.”

No reading between the lines there. Gatorade didn’t even attempt to play with kids’ emotions. They barely had to do a thing. Just put Michael Jordan on screen with a few children and watch the product fly off the shelves. He’s the hero of a generation and the greatest basketball player of all time; his mere presence next to a Gatorade bottle launches the beverage into immortality. Throw in one of the most memorable advertising melodies in recent memory and you have yourself a legendary marketing campaign.

There’s so much to love about this ad. The song is catchy, the highlights give you goose bumps and kids can easily relate to the concept because they’ve all pretended at one time or another to be a famous athlete. Who better to portray this message than his Airness at the height of his popularity? 1992, the good old days.

On a side note: What’s with MJ touching that kid inappropriately at the 0:17 mark?

Falafel’s: The Next Great Fast Food Chain

September 8, 2010 2 comments

Every now and again I think about the next great franchise.

Will it be an electronics outlet, like Best Buy? Could it be another toy store like Toys-R-Us? Perhaps it will be a gym with a discounted-membership, such as Planet Fitness?

While these are all healthy and profitable businesses, it’s well known that the franchise model translates best to the quick-service food industry. Franchising helped corporate giants like McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and Pizza Hut grow to the gargantuan levels on which they operate today.

Although fast food franchises have the best track record of success, hasn’t this market been fully saturated for some time now? You can find a burger and fries just about anywhere. Pizza has always been readily available. Grade ‘D’ meat is accessible via Taco Bell’s Chalupas and Cheesy Gordita Crunches. Fast seafood has been refined by the appalling Long John Silver’s chain. And with the influx of “upscale” quick-service franchises like Chipotle, Fresh City and Panera Bread, there isn’t much wiggle room left to innovate within this market.

Or is there?

Introducing the next great fast food chain: “Falafel’s.”

Mediterranean food has yet to be accounted for in fast food’s industrial composition. Pita bread, grape leaves and hummus have untapped potential. Picture Subway, but with pita wraps in place of sub rolls. Chicken and steak are grilled, with fresh veggies and spices adding flavor to a limitless menu. Additionally, the health-consciousness Mediterranean food provides make the timing of a falafel chain just right. And with the relative simplicity of the cuisine, the franchising transition would be utterly seamless.

It makes sense. So why hasn’t the first “Falafel’s” location been opened yet? Perhaps the millions of redneck Americans who make up fast food’s target market associate Mediterranean food with Al Qaeda. Maybe investors are worried middle-eastern fare would not appeal to a wide enough consumer base. Or it could be that people are simply frightened by the appearance of hummus.

Whatever the case may be, it’s a shame nobody with a few million dollars to spare has experimented with the idea yet. The best part about this proposal is the relative inexpensiveness of overhead; all you need is a grill, some tongs and a frialator and you’re basically in business. Once you get a few customers in the door to try the food, the business will expand through word-of-mouth and local promotions.

Who ever thought there would be a fast food demand for international cuisines like Panda Express and Taco Bell? My point is that all franchises originated somewhere at sometime, unbeknownst to how they would perform in the long term. “Falafel’s” could be a disaster upon introduction, but how can we know for sure? We can’t until we try. So try a gyro—because they’re pretty damn good.

Product Flashback: JNCO Jeans

September 2, 2010 2 comments

Growing up in the 90’s exposed me to some ridiculous fashion trends. From L.A. Lights to parachute pants to Starter jackets and everything in between, the final decade of the millennium was chock-full of laughable and absurd clothing.

Perhaps the most memorable of these trends from a young man’s perspective were the heavy-denim, deep-pocketed, cartoon-embroidered phenomenon known as JNCO jeans. In an era where baggy pants = cool person, JNCOs were an absolute must-have for all middle school males looking to make a colossal splash in school hallways.

Priced at a preposterous $60 a pair, JNCOs were a tough sell to the parents during back-to-school shopping. I had better luck getting my mom to buy me the unrated VHS of American Pie than I did scoring a pair of JNCOs complete with a wallet chain. Made popular by the edgy, skater phase of the 1990’s, JNCOs epitomized the “I can’t believe I wore those” revelations of the 2000’s.

Characterized primarily by the giant back pockets which often reached the floor and pants legs which could shelter a small family, JNCOs were probably best remembered by the colorful embroideries which graced the seat of the jeans. These usually featured graffiti-like designs of the brand name accompanied by a character like Flamehead or Wolfgang, the product mascots, who regularly appeared in the mini-comics that came with the pants purchase. As opposed to today, where many jean styles look the same, JNCOs allowed for differentiation based on the prominent pocket graphics. Young buyers strove to obtain a unique pocket design in order to set themselves apart from the pack.

Often imitated by lesser-quality competitors like PACO and Zonz, JNCO dominated the bizarre jeans industry for the latter half of the decade. Around the time Carson Daly left TRL, the luster of JNCOs had fizzled out completely. Like many great fads, JNCOs were simply far too outrageous to last beyond several years. The 12-18 year old segment that had previously held them sacred finally outgrew them while the new generation failed to realize their awesomeness.

JNCOs may never make a comeback in my lifetime, but their impact on my young adulthood remains significant. I’ll surely never have as much pocket space as I did when I was 12.

Domino’s and The Cardboard Crust Campaign

August 30, 2010 1 comment

Domino’s, the inventors of pizza delivery, are breaking down barriers once again.

When Domino’s boldly criticized its own pizza on national television, many believed the franchise’s demise was near. Fueled by an ad campaign which condemned their former product, Forbes reported that Domino’s has tallied a profit increase of nearly 100% since the fourth quarter of 2009.

The innovative marketing done by the pizza giant includes TV ads with “actual footage” of consumers claiming Domino’s consisted of cardboard crust as well as ketchup in lieu of tomato sauce. They go on to discuss the complete re-invention of their product’s ingredients, enhancing the crust with garlic butter and improving the sauce by adding basil. Essentially, Domino’s admitted that their product sucked for decades and indirectly insulted the taste of those customers who actually had enjoyed the pizza for that time period.

It took some serious guts to acknowledge as Domino’s was already largely successful regardless of their self-proclaimed failure of a food offering. They were a market leader yet obviously felt there was room to seriously rewrite the way they did business. I can’t think of a bigger advertising gamble in recent years than the one Domino’s took in late 2009. Can you imagine Olive Garden suddenly deciding to say “You know what? Our food is garbage and has been for years. We will now offer an entirely different menu and stop attempting to brainwash you through our unrealistic portrayals of the American consumer. For the millions of people who actually bought our food all along–and actually enjoyed it–the joke’s on you!”

In doing this, Domino’s risked alienation of its loyal consumer base who liked things the way they were. The truth is, Americans hate change. They’re most comfortable in doing what they know best, as evidenced by the millions of U.S. citizens who annually return to Disney World for vacation or the many blue-collar workers who enjoy a Big Mac on their daily lunch break like clockwork. We don’t often step outside the box and try new things, Which is what makes Domino’s recent success such a surprise.

The most intriguing part is that the pizza really doesn’t taste that different. Many people will tell you otherwise because they’ve been made to believe the product now tastes better and are psychologically unable to form an unrestricted opinion. The fact of the matter is Domino’s was never made with the highest quality ingredients, and it still isn’t. A hint of basil here and there isn’t enough to convince me that a significant change has taken place. From my perspective, the company’s past achievements were a direct outcome of product convenience (delivery and price) rather than the quality of the pizza.

Regardless, the campaign has been an unmistakable success. Patrons who never liked the pizza will now give it a second chance while loyal customers will be happy to discover it hasn’t changed all that drastically. The key question going forward is whether or not these new customers will be retained as future buyers. Are these profits a product of one-time purchases or are they a legitimate result of the new and improved Domino’s Pizza?

We will soon find out. But for now, the crust is no longer cardboard. So that’s a start.