Got “X?”:The Lazy Man’s Advertisement

August 26, 2010 1 comment

The “Got Milk?” slogan was first used to promote the healthy consumption of fresh dairy 17 years ago, in October of 1993.

A widespread and critical success, “Got Milk?” boosted the sale of milk nationwide (particularly in California), as the campaign today enjoys 90% awareness among American consumers. Through effective TV spots like the Alexander Hamilton $10,000 radio question and influential print advertisements featuring the milk mustache, “Got Milk?” has solidified itself a spot in the pop culture hall of fame.

Due to the campaign’s sensational results, parodies and spin-offs of the “Got Milk?” slogan have corrupted local and national advertising channels. The motto’s proneness to word substitution–as in ‘Got X?’ where x equals any given product–has paved the way for countless rip-offs and lazy attempts at creating witty advertising. Frustrated at the thought of actually having to produce an original slogan or catchphrase, small business owners simply borrow and ‘customize’ the two-word ad-line in hopes that its promotional prowess will attract potential customers.

Now, I understand that small businesses have other interests in mind and cannot focus their immediate attention on marketing. However, there are thousands of unique slogan possibilities for the many different business types–all of which take perhaps a few hours of brainstorming to generate. Besides, when a farm stand, for instance, advertises with the motto “Got Corn?,” the entire premise of the original “Got Milk?” campaign becomes irrational; the whole concept of those famous milk ads was to show characters in situations where they desperately needed a glass of milk in order to avoid some sort of catastrophe. By altering the motto, this concept becomes completely illogical. Consumers will not be able to wash down their peanut butter sandwiches with an ice cold glass of corn.

On top of all this, the “Got Milk?” campaign has unofficially become stale and overused. It is no longer cutting-edge, innovative or sharp. We don’t continue to hear variations of “where’s the beef?” or “the other white meat” yet simple-minded marketers insist on beating the “Got Milk?” mantra to a slow and painful death. It’s like an internet meme that will never die,  the ‘Charlie Bit my Finger’ of large-scale advertising campaigns. Almost to a fault, its simple but poignant two-word structure has allowed for massive duplication.

“Got Milk?” has become a staple of American society. It has become bigger than milk itself, to the point where no subsequent dairy catchphrase can possibly topple it. And for this reason, “Got Milk?” and its unimaginative variations will never go away.


Blockbuster Video: A Relic of Modern Business

August 20, 2010 1 comment

Where did Blockbuster go wrong?

Were their advertising campaigns no longer sufficient? Were promotions like “Life After Late Fees” not enough to pique consumer interest? Did people just stop watching movies altogether?

Blockbuster Video, as we knew it twenty years ago, was an innovative and groundbreaking franchise. Its profit model was simple and successful: buy videos and other media in bulk and rent to customers for a flat rate. If customers failed to make a return on time, they were charged a late fee. If a video was given back damaged, the customer paid full price to replace it. It allowed consumers the flexibility of watching both new and old movies without having to compromise and pay full price for ownership. In essence, Blockbuster’s unique business design operated as a for-profit library. Inventory was cyclical; movies went out, and soon came right back in. Margins were low, business was booming.

And then, several decades later, the competition came.

Consumers became able to order movies directly through their cable box, saving the hassle of having to leave the house. Netflix, the media by mail provider, was founded on the premise of unlimited rentals for $9.99/month. Libraries of free movies were offered through online services like Hulu. RedBox, the $1 movie vending machine, flooded supermarkets and convenience stores. Apple made the concept of transportable media via iPod and iPad a reality.

And Blockbuster…well, they still rented single items at $5/night. People began to notice the asterisk next to the “no more late fees” claim. And worst of all, people actually had to leave the house to rent a movie.

Blockbuster sat back and watched in horror as their market share plummeted. They failed to react. And once they finally did something about it by founding Blockbuster Total Access, it was too late. Blockbuster had become an afterthought, a dinosaur of modern business. Stores closed, stocks free-fell, and revenues dropped by a staggering $4 billion a year. The franchise became the prototype of poor response time, a firsthand example of what happens when a company fails to evolve.

It’s funny, but I find myself on nights with nothing to do wishing the Blockbuster in town hadn’t closed its doors. Sometimes the selection at RedBox is minimal and the only choices on Comcast are “Hot Tub Time Machine” and “Cop Out.” I miss Blockbuster’s enormous selection and walls upon walls of new releases. I loved the fact that it was usually a safe bet they’d have some obscure movie like “Killer Clowns from Outer Space” in stock at any given time.

Visiting an active Blockbuster store is like a time warp to 2001, when PlayStation 2 was cutting edge and Russell Crowe was still relevant. Now, however, employees are like zombies, aisles are devoid of customers and spider webs grow inside each and every DVD case. The way it looks today leads me to wonder whether the Blockbuster franchise will be remembered for its innovations at the dawn of the rental age or more for its epic meltdown at the end of it. It’s truly a depressing sight.

Next in line: Barnes & Noble.

Categories: Strategies Tags: , , ,

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 Placement: Mike’s Hard Lemonade

August 12, 2010 1 comment

On a hot summer day, there are few things more enjoyable than kickin’ back with the homies, shootin’ some hoops, checkin’ out the babes and suckin back a cold six pack of Mike’s Hard Pomegranate Punch–twist offs.

That probably doesn’t sound entirely natural, and for good reason. My point is that it’s difficult to think of a product with more of a challenge in promoting manliness than Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

Sure, they taste great. They offer an assortment of tantalizing flavors from black cherry to mango punch. And as demoralizing as it it to admit, they are quite refreshing. The mixture of carbonation and fruitiness reminds me of the days when I would throw down three or four All-Sport thirst quenchers in one sitting. The bubbly burn of an ice cold Mike’s traveling down my gullet is the stuff dreams are made of.

Despite all this, I would rather be caught dead than show up at a social gathering wielding a case of Mike’s. It’s simply the perception of the product; no matter how hard Mike tries to convince us of his drink’s ultimate masculinity, the charming taste of fresh fruits and berries remains. The tangy essence of Mike’s will always be grouped in the same womanly-beverage category as wine coolers, Zima, Twisted Tea, and Smirnoff. And although at one point there were Bros Icing Bros, it was all done in jest.

The simple fact: Beer is manly, lemonade is not. Men will never sit down at the dinner table after a long day of work, tie and shirt disheveled and undone, ready to dig into a t-bone steak and baked potato, all washed down with a nice, crisp Mike’s Hard. Would Stone Cold Steve Austin ever crack open two Mike’s Hard Lemonades while high atop the turnbuckle,  firing up a sold out arena? Would Doc Holliday ever kick back 10 shots of Mike’s Hard Peach before a showdown at the OK Corral? It’s just not in the cards. Fruity, carbonated alcohol is simply not written into the male DNA.  “Lemonade for Grown-Ups,” the slogan reads. Is that supposed to make us feel at ease?

Make no mistake: Mike’s Hard is tasty. But trying to convince men that this is merely a sweet and sugary alternative to beer is ludicrous. Sell it to the ladies and then go get me a Pabst. And make it snappy!

Categories: Uncategorized

American Runs on Munchkins

As the ad campaign goes, “America Runs on Dunkin’.” And that’s probably not a good thing.

If we’re relying on jelly doughnuts, bacon, egg and cheese bagel sandwiches and sugar-laden fruit Coolattas to get us through each day, then that doesn’t say much about America.

We know we’re obese. Of course we love fat, lard, processed cheese and carbohydrates. But why must Dunkin’ Donuts mock us with such an asinine and downright insulting slogan? In a way, it’s all part of Dunkin’s psychological mind game; Make them think they can’t function without our product, and pretty soon they won’t.

Coffee is like a pack of cigarettes or a stick of chewing gum–without them, America’s addictive nature will render it uncomfortable and unable to accomplish everyday tasks. We must have these products in order to operate. Coffee runs through our veins. Cream cheese oozes from our pores.

But because it’s not McDonald’s or Burger King feeding us, we see no qualms about consuming it on a daily basis. Society tell us that fast food and cigarettes are hurtful but it jovially welcomes an addiction to breakfast pastries and coffee with open arms. Dunkin’ Donuts is rarely held accountable in obesity headlines, although it technically is fast food. But since there are no cheeseburgers on the menu, feel free to indulge, America.

Coffee has become the trendy, unofficial consumer product of white collar America. Iced coffee, blueberry-raspberry coffee, coffee coolattas, faux-coffee shakes, and coffee with whipped cream and flavor shots all provide an endless stream of income to franchises like Dunkin’s. Many Americans don’t even enjoy the taste of coffee. Because they are apart of white collar America, however, society deems it a crucial product to consume in order to remain productive. And if all of your co-workers are drinking it, you might as well drink it too.

What if the home of the Big Mac changed its slogan to “America Runs on McDonald’s?” It probably wouldn’t go over too well with the media or special interest groups. Morgan Spurlock would be forced to come out from beneath his rock to make another documentary.

Yet, the America Runs on Dunkin’ tag remains–and the nation continues to ask itself: “Why can’t I lose any weight?”

P.S. Speaking of documentaries and fatness, I wish Michael Moore would do a film on American obesity. Irony at its finest.

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.