Archive for the ‘Products’ Category

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!

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.

Top 5: Cereal Mascots

August 18, 2010 1 comment

A Cereal Mascot Reunion

Over the years, cereal brands have created some of the most recognizable product mascots across Consumer America.

We understand that Lucky Charms are magically delicious. We have heard on several occasions that Sugar Bear can’t get enough of that Golden Crisp. We have seen that furry-crackhead-hamster-thing go wild over Honey Comb. And we all know how enthusiastic Tony the Tiger is about the greatness of Frosted Flakes.

The famous faces of breakfast cereals are what make the advertising of these products so memorable. Along with toys and games like Crossfire and Hungry Hungry Hippos, cereal ads are the TV commercials we relate most with our childhood. Some characters’ shelf lives have spanned generations; others fizzed out when their product failed upon market introduction. The solitary thing these mascots have in common is the everlasting perception they have crafted within the common consumer’s memory; they will forever be a personified depiction of the brands they represent.  And long after their pizazz and spunk finally wears out, like in the image above, they will still be remembered. Simply put, bowls and spoons would not be the same without them.

In honor of these legends of advertising, the folks over at Scrambled Egg Shower (which consists of me) have compiled the five greatest cereal mascots of all-time:

#5: Count Chocula

Slogan: “I vant to eat your cereal!”

Analysis: Like Cookie Crisp, Count Chocula was the cereal that your mom would never buy for you because it had no redeeming health benefits. Nevertheless, the Count Chocula mascot is what has made the product so popular for nearly four decades. Released in 1971 with Franken Berry as the first wave of General Mill’s monster-themed cereals, the Count was an immediate hit thanks to his appealing characteristics–vampire accent, sharp teeth and a love of chocolate marshmallows.

Over time, Count Chocula’s appearance has been refined several times over, from frightening and fierce to cartoonish and goofy, but never for a moment lost an ounce of swagger. Although expansions to the monster clan like Fruit Brute and Yummy Mummy never quite made it, Count Chocula and his counterparts now enjoy a huge cult following. Today, Count Chocula assumes the role of pack leader among the monster cereal mascots, which also includes the likes of dimwitted Franken Berry and later-introduced Boo Berry.

#4: Sugar Bear

Slogan: “Can’t get enough of that Golden Crisp!”

Analysis: Sugar Bear is so damn cool I can’t even stand it. Picture a combination of the Fonz, Dean Martin and the Dos-Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” in the form of an anthropomorphic bear. The guy just can’t lose. And that is precisely what makes Sugar Bear so enormously appealing. Few cereal mascots were bonified “winners.” Characters like the Trix Rabbit had the Wile E. Coyote gene; they were so clueless and bumbling that they rarely ever got a hold of the prize they pined for. Sugar Bear did it with ease an an overwhelmingly calm nature, and he made his antagonist, Grannie Goodwitch, look like a fool in the process.

First introduced in 1964 on the Saturday morning cartoon Linus the Lionhearted, Sugar Bear’s laid-back demeanor has allowed him to outlast the test of time. He witnessed the end of the Sugar Crisp era and the dawn of the Golden Crisp age, thwarting away bad guys who threatened to steal away his bowl of sugary goodness. Above all, when no one else could, Sugar Bear was able to make turtlenecks look cool. He was the smoothest, hippest, and baddest product mascot we have ever seen.

#3: Trix Rabbit

Slogan: “Silly Rabbit, Trix are for Kids.”

Analysis: On the opposite end of the coolness spectrum is the poor, pitiful Trix Rabbit. The Trix Rabbit loved the fruity and wonderful taste of Trix cereal, but could never quite get his hands on a bowl of it. This was the fault of those rambunctious little rascals who continuously claimed that he was a “silly rabbit,” and that “Trix are for kids.”  Really, would it have been too much to ask for one measly bowl of cereal? To be honest, I wholeheartedly understand the Trix Rabbit’s frustration. Perhaps the simple solution would have been to go to the grocery store and buy his own box?

Despite the Trix Rabbit’s feeble attempts at scoring a bowl of the cereal he made famous, he remains one of the most recognizable figureheads in the breakfast industry. Since his debut in 1959, the Trix Rabbit’s tenure as the cereal’s mascot has been longstanding and powerful; Trix welcomed its own yogurt line in the mid-1990’s and has perennially topped the sales boards of children’s breakfast cereals since the product’s inception. Say what you want about his constant failures, but plain and simple, the Trix Rabbit puts asses in the seats.

#2: Cap’n Crunch

Slogan: “You and the Cap’n make it hap’n.”

Analysis: What is there to say about this naval legend other than the fact that he was my idol during adolescence? I don’t think any other product mascot positively influenced my cereal-consumption experience as much as the Cap’n. He gave waking up for school a new purpose. We shared so many gloriously non-soggy meals together that a special bond was formed, one which continues to this day. Original Cap’n Crunch, Peanut Butter Crunch, Crunch Berries…I enjoyed them all. Quite honestly, me and the Cap’n did make it happen.

First introduced in 1963, Cap’n Crunch has since proved himself more than worthy of sailing the milky seas. Through countless advertising campaigns and promotions, the Cap’n’s pioneering leadership qualities helped guide generations of adoring children and young teens. The best-selling Post cereal to date, Cap’n Crunch has been spun-off into over twenty variations, all of which were proudly represented by the Cap’n himself. Strange as it is, he makes us forget that we’re actually admiring an elderly, mustachioed man dressed as a sailor. But because of his continuous successes, Cap’n Crunch is well deserving of the #2 spot.

#1: Tony the Tiger

Slogan: “They’re G-r-r-reat!”

Analysis: And the #1 spot belongs to the Bo Jackson of cereal mascots, Tony the Tiger. He’s the prototype All-American–athletic, popular, friendly, motivated…as far as orange cartoon felines go, he’s the anti-Garfield. As consumers, he makes us feel entirely comfortable adoring a giant, talking cat that skateboards and plays football with small children. His distinct booming voice is recognized just about anywhere and his ability to do just about anything physical gives Tony an unheralded mass appeal.

First introduced on a box of Frosted Flakes in 1958, Tony’s road to fame was not effortless. He actually had to win the heart of the public by beating our potential suitors Katy the Kangaroo, Elmo the Elephant and Newt the Gnu in a Kellogg’s campaign designed to find the face of the Frosted Flakes brand in 1952. He was forced to make a name for himself when he appeared on Frosted Flakes packaging accompanied by Hanna-Barbera characters Huckleberry Hound and Snagglepuss. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that Tony became a cereal icon; Kellogg’s gave the mascot human-like traits and a boisterous Italian-American characterization. It took decades, but the gregarious Tiger was finally transformed into a breakfast God.

Find someone who dislikes Tony the Tiger. I defy you. It’s simply impossible. He’s revolutionized the cereal advertising landscape. He’s given Frosted Flakes a voice, face and a name. He’s the one and only tiger… with the one and only taste.

Honorable Mentions:

Dig-Em (Smacks)

Snap, Crackle and Pop (Rice Krispies)

Sonny (Cocoa Puffs)

Toucan Sam (Fruit Loops)

Would You Eat This?

I saw this at Shaw’s, and I’m not sure what Humboldt Fog is, or why it exists, but this is definitely not its finest hour. Anything that involves pasteurized goats with a layer of ash is inedible in my book. How do you even eat this? Just take a big chomp out of the wedge? Or do you sprinkle it on something? So many questions to be answered. All I know is that Humboldt Fog is an enigma.

Product Flashback: Surge

Not sure why these guys are jumping over a bunch of couches for a bottle of soda, or why there are several couches in the middle of the road anyway, but remember Surge? Created to compete with Mountain Dew, Coca-Cola first launched this product in 1996 in Norway as “Urge” before being introduced in the US in 1997. After a steady decline in sales after its initial launch, the beverage was sadly discontinued in 2002. This product has actually become somewhat of a collectors item and cult phenomenon, as buyers pay top dollar for unopened cans or bottles as well as Surge merchandise. This aluminum cylinder of expired soft drink has a current bid of $51.00 with 9 hours remaining:

Yes, that is a can of soda.

Many would argue this product paved the way for energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster, etc. but I don’t buy it because Mountain Dew came first. The product tasted nearly the same as the Dew, was advertised almost identically, and came in similar neon green packaging. Essentially, Surge was a second attempt at making Mello Yello popular by marketing the product differently.

Nevertheless, Surge is still a little piece of nostalgia from the 1990’s. With the product came some memorable, “extreme” skateboarder/snowboarder themed ads that were very popular at the time. The one I remember most featured the fat, freckly kid from the Big Green who has since fallen off the face of the earth. Here it is:

Surge may never come back as “Surge,” considering it is now called Vault, but for now we can relish in the fact that there are still some refreshing, flat, unopened cans that expired ten years ago out there somewhere. And as long as those exist, there will always be morons willing to pay $51.00 for them.

Bad Product: Circus Peanuts

As much as I love hardened orange gelatin in the shape of a peanut shell, I’m going to start this blog off by mentioning the general public’s collective disdain for the candy known as “Circus Peanuts.” And since this is a blog about a buyer’s perspective of Corporate America’s product and service offerings, what better place to start than with one of the most infamously recognized and contemplated candy treats?

What are they? I’m sure you’ve seen them. They usually come in the 2 for 99 cents red and clear candy packaging at CVS. They’re mass produced by either Brach’s or Sathers, the same company who brought you the disgusting knockoff version of Swedish Fish, Darlin’ Marlins. They’re essentially stiff, stale neon marshmallows manufactured to look like a legume. Yet, strangely and inappropriately enough, they’re banana flavored. Mind-boggling.

I Wikipedia’d the origins of the Circus Peanut phenomenon and apparently they were created in the 1800’s, but were available only seasonally because sellers were unable to preserve them. Eventually, the polyethylene packaging revolution took over and Circus Peanuts were available year-round for our snacking pleasure. Another fun fact: a General Mills VP discovered how fantastic Circus Peanuts tasted in his cereal, thus opening the door for the world’s favorite hardened-marshmallow cereal, Lucky Charms. Who knew?

Aside from being hard as a cinder block, they actually are quite enjoyable. They’re horribly bad for you and eating more than two of them is vomit-inducing. But they dissolve in your mouth and the banana flavor is oddly pleasing. Not to mention you can eat them several years after you buy them because they taste stale regardless of when they were purchased.

Circus Peanuts were an ill-conceived and downright strange idea, but damn it, I love them.