Thursday, October 28, 2010

It Could be Worse. Oh, Wait, No It Couldn't.

When it comes to politics and elections in the year 2010, it is clear the new marketing credo is to muddy the waters until nothing is clear... or preferably even visible. Of course dirty politics is not a new concept. Hell, even filthy politics has been around for centuries.

But the newest phase of political campaigning – flood the airwaves and Internet with a tsunami wave of lies and innuendos until virtually everyone is gasping for air – well, that's new. Choking the life out of people until they are powerless to understand, let alone care enough to vote, that is a new low for the electoral process.

On the other hand, particularly during the economic recession, congratulations to all the media outlets – traditional and online – who have reaped the benefits of the deluge of ad dollars being pumped into their revenue streams for the express purpose of drowning out the truth.

Back in the '60s, Timothy Leary encouraged us to "turn on, tune in and drop out." He wasn't just talking about getting high, he was encouraging the masses to detach themselves from the existing conventions and hierarchies in society. Given the current state of political campaigning, a flashback may be in order.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

American Made. American Tested. American Approved.

So, Tuesday night I am watching Modern Marvels on the History Channel. The focus of this particular episode was on the world's sharpest swords, knives, razors, etc. I was particularly fascinated by the Cutco cutlery (which I have in my own kitchen drawer) and the process they use to test the sharpness and longevity of their products. It was a marvel.

Once upon a time in America, this was a big deal – to test your products and prove their invincibility. Cutco deserves kudos for maintaining its commitment to sharpness for more than a half-century. Today, most companies and consumers are merely concerned about whether or not products are tested on animals, which is all fine and good, but what about the product's efficacy and viability and durability?

Then I came across this story about Woolrich – another great American company that's been around for a very long time (180 years to be precise). They are iconic to outdoorspeople, especially those of us in the northern states who enjoy hiking and fishing in the dead of winter. You don't want your Woolrich, you need your Woolrich. But after nearly two centuries, you would think it was no longer necessary to test and prove themselves.

Apparently it is.

Woolrich, who first supported polar exploration in 1939 when it outfitted Admiral Byrd's third Antarctic expedition, which included extensive study of geology, biology, meteorology and exploration of the southern polar region, is once again venturing into the cold.

On October 2nd, Dale Andersen Ph.D., of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, departed for a three-month expedition to dive in remote lakes below twenty feet of ice to better understand how microbial life is able to exist in extreme environments on Earth. Along with his cameras and scientific gear, Andersen will be wearing and testing various Woolrich garments.

According to its news release, "Woolrich is providing Andersen with mid-layers, socks, headwear, and outerwear to use and provide feedback during this and future trips."

For the record, the annual average temperature in the interior of Antarctica is -50°C (-58°F). If Woolrich is good enough for Dr. Anderson below 20-feet of ice in this temperature, I am pretty confident it will hold up to the conditions on the Rocky River in the Cleveland Metroparks.

My congratulations to both of these American manufacturers for continuing to represent the best of what made this country great.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Heroes... Not Counting My Dad (Dennis B.)

When I was a kid, hero-worship was encouraged at home, at school and throughout the community. So it comes as no surprise that I admired, looked up to and emulated dozens of people who were heroic to me.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Edward R. Murrow, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Muhammad Ali, Mahatma Gandhi, John Glenn, Mother Teresa...

I will admit it is an eclectic group. And it makes me question my own definition of a hero. Without referencing Merriam-Webster, I suppose the thing these men and women all shared was an uncommon courage and a conviction to a set of principles that I considered important: human rights, free speech, freedom, equality, peace, exploration, gentility and humility.

And I guess I kind of feel sorry for kids growing up today; sorry that they don't appear to have the same types of heroes to choose from. At the very least, it seems like the number of real candidates has dwindled. And I am reminded of the lyrics of a song written and sung by one of my musical heroes (Brian Wilson).

I was sittin' in a crummy movie with my hands on my chin
Oh the violence that occurs seems like we never win

Love and mercy that's what you need tonight
So, love and mercy to you and your friends tonight

I was lyin' in my room and the news came on TV
A lotta people out there hurtin' and it really scares me

Love and mercy that's what you need tonight
So, love and mercy to you and your friends tonight

I was standin' in a bar and watchin' all the people there
Oh the lonliness in this world well it's just not fair

Hey love and mercy that's what you need tonight
So, love and mercy to you and your friends tonight
Love and mercy that's what you need tonight
Love and mercy tonight
Love and mercy

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Marketing Carrots as Junk Food? Sounds Like Junk Marketing.

So a bunch of carrot farmers get together and decide to launch a $25 million ad campaign to make packaged baby carrots cool for teens. Sounds about right to me.

And here's the strategy: Position and market packaged baby carrots as a kind of junk food. According to the NPR report I heard and read, the marketing concept is to "colonize kids' brains with the idea that baby carrots are extreme and that the crunch is really awesome."

And according to the marketing expert at the agency behind the campaign, "it is a satire on [ads for Doritos and Mountain Dew]. It's like junk food advertising is a bit ridiculous, so let's have fun with it."

Okay, so I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that this is an idiotic idea, the likes of which Wile E. Coyote might conjure up to catch a roadrunner. I am not saying it won't work. I am saying I see no foundation for investing $25 million into what appears to be an Acme-approved concept. I mean why not just paint anvils orange and drop them off cliffs onto unsuspecting teenagers' heads?

According to the story, "The carrot campaign also has a strategy to get bags of baby carrots into teenagers' hands easily via school vending machines." Seriously, these farmers are investing $25 million to promote carrots like junk food and put them into the junk food distribution stream via vending machines.

I just got one thing left to say about this: "What an embezzle! What an ultramaroon!"