marketing mayhem

Also, protein.

I don’t know, maybe it’s because the word “protein” is stabbing into my brainholes from five distinct locations on the bottle, but when I had a couple minutes to grab something from the store a hand I barely knew reached out from my side and grabbed this Protein Juice Smoothie, ignoring all red flags.

Red Flag #1: Protein Juice?

Yeah, what comes to mind there is “piss.” Protein in your urine is a bad sign; why did I pick this beverage? Oh, you mean protein AND juice? Well it still sounds disgusting. When I think “smoothie” I don’t think of a thin liquid ascending my straw. A fruit broth cannot smooth be.

Red Flag #2: Sediment

This one gave me pause, but my time was running out and I swatted the skeptical thoughts away. I’m trying to get more protein in my diet and exert more control over negative thoughts these days, okay? That kind of thinking must land me smack in the middle of the intersecting Boolean spotlights that Naked calls the “Protein Zone,” because when I turned the bottle upside down (confirming the juice-like consistency) and saw a thick layer of sediment I quickly convinced myself “oh well, you’re just going to have to give it a REAL good shake!”

Red Flag #3: A Bold Choice

It’s my first time drinking Naked (not true in the literal sense, of course. We all did it as babies, and also when we drink beer in the shower) and instead of playing it safe with apple juice or something I go straight for the creamy looking one with tropical fruits and nutritional supplements? What’s next, the voice of God telling me to build a monument out of melted tires in a Walmart parking lot? It’s a slippery slope.

The cashier asked me “are these things good?” and I said that I didn’t know yet. I almost cracked it right there to take a sip and deliver the verdict, and boy am I glad I didn’t. I shook vigorously on my way to the train platform, opened it and took a swig.

My immediate reaction was not to sense a taste but to think “someone shit in my mouth!” As I pushed my gritty tongue against the roof of my mouth the tasting notes became more refined. The overall experience is like someone chewed up a mouthful of Flintstones vitamins and milk, pressed their mouth to yours, opened up and released the suspension. It’s like being the baby of the worst bird.

I was at my local YMCA using the treadmill and staring at the muted television which was set on one of those local news channel with the headline scrolling along the bottom. It’s not Fox News, but it might as well be. I’m outnumbered by cranky old veterans and don’t care about what’s on the TV anyway, so I only glance at it every so often. Lucky me– I caught an infomercial in progress and couldn’t tear my eyes away.

I was hoping to see that beautiful struggle depicted in most infomercials: Man vs. tiny inconveniences. The flailing, the frustration WHY WON’T MY SUNGLASSES STAY STILL ON THE DASHBOARD? WHERE AM I GOING TO PUT ALL THESE SPICES? WHY DO I DESTROY EVERYTHING I TOUCH? No need for volume during an informercial; the contorted faces and flapping limbs say it all. This particular infomercial had a relatively benign problem and solution:

Problem: it can be dark sometimes, both inside and outside.

Solution: InstaBrites <— click the name to see a video and find out more! (warning: the video starts without prompting so be prepared if you hate that sort of thing like I do)

These clever little lights stay off when they’re close to a magnet, but when pulled away they turn on to illuminate drawers, cabinets, closets– you name it! So, basically refrigerator light technology but wherever you please. Sounds neat, but let’s be real:

Find a goddamned light switch. If your partner gets mad at you for turning the light on while you’re desperately trying to find your insulin in the en suite bathroom it’s time for a divorce, not InstaBrites.

Why the hell do you need to see your sewing kit in the goddamned dark? This question goes for cleaning supplies and storage containers full of clothes as well. If the entire room is dark, InstaBrites can’t help with whatever you need to do now that you have located that spool of thread. How do you even know there’s a mess to clean if the room is dark? And didn’t you put that sweater in the storage bin because you weren’t planning on wearing it anytime soon? Why do you need it now, in the dark?

Fine, putting the lights in a cooler is kind of rad. It’s definitely way better than using your phone as a flashlight and dropping it in the slushy cooler because it’s dark and you’re probably drunk.

I’m going to lay it down and say that any infomercial product can and should be used in a way not suggested by the information in the commercial. If those freaks are telling you to put the lights in your car’s glove compartment, they are scraping the bottom of the idea barrel. Show them what you’ve got with some:

Outside-the-Box thinking. I don’t know how much those kids’ shoes that light up cost, but I bet InstaBrites are cheaper. Put the magnet on one shoe and the light on the other.  Ungainly, but as your kid walks the light should go off when its feet are close together, creating a very slow flicker. Maybe if you find yourself fencing in the dark, you can see where your sword has made contact by putting a magnet on the sword and coating your opponent in InstaBrites. Look, I don’t get paid and I don’t know anything about fencing. Or kids.

What The Hell Am I Eating: Part 1 of 2

I spied (and purchased) this choice example of Marketing Mayhem during an evening Stop and Shop run. It’s a “rockin’ bag of [coffee] beans from Joey Kramer of Aerosmith.” Where do I begin? The whole concept is utterly ludicrous. I get using a leathery rock dude to brand certain things (music equipment, cheap bourbon, “chew”) — but organic coffee? Does Joey Kramer even drink coffee? Apparently so, at least according to the website, which describes him as “a coffee-lovin’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer [who] has pounded the skins since his early teens fueled by love for music and spirited beans.” Maybe this isn’t a weird celebrity endorsement…maybe Joey’s just a dude who really loves his coffee?

Despite the presence of a flaming dragon, the coffee was actually pretty good.

It WAS artisan micro brewed.

Design Assessment: Weird and a little “Planet Hollywood.” I think they should go all the way with the tackiness and include a temporary tattoo right in the bag.

What The Hell Am I [not] Eating: Part 2 of 2

I bought two bags of these tortillas at a health food store because they were out of the kind I usually buy. The graphic design style is what I refer to as “1970s-era health food.” Note the smiley sun graphic, the use of psychedelic primary colors, and the groovy religious imagery. Nowadays organic stuff tends to be all slick and hip, but back in the day everything looked like it was designed by a team of Unitarian Universalist volunteers armed with crayola markers and free love.

Mr. Max is an expert on pre-yuppified health food. As a tyke, he ate a lot of the kinds of things you needed to buy at weird-smelling bulk food stores, like Frookies (well-acknowledged to be disgusting) and Panda licorice chews.

He warned me that these would be bad. I didn’t listen.

For dinner, I made a delicious burrito filling with black beans, chipotle peppers, and roasted vegetables. Then I ruined it by putting it inside one of these completely inedible tortillas. We each choked one down and immediately chucked the rest. I still don’t understand how these could be so awful. Mr. Max thinks it’s because they’re “sprouted.” I think it’s because of the addition of millet AND spelt. Maybe. But whatever the reason, there’s no way they’re “New Mexico style.” Unless they love things that taste like fermented wheat grass and butt in the land of enchantment.

Design Assessment: Accurate. Beware anything that looks like it’s been designed by someone on a commune.

Dunkin’ Donuts. We meet again.

We live in Massachusetts and frequently travel on highways, so every once in a while (i.e., when there’s nothing else available) we stop at Dunkin’ Donuts.

I’ve already covered their poopin’ donut advertising poster, so now it’s time to pick on their drive-through menu.

Menus should keep it simple: “Breakfast.” “Lunch.” “Dinner.” “Dessert.” “Drinks.”

“Snacks,” if you must.

But certainly not “Anytime Eating.”

cedarlane quesadillas

CedarLane frozen foods and I got history. In college, I nearly subsisted on Cedarlane Quesadillas and Nantucket Nectar Half-and-Halfs. Mr. Max and I would pick them up from the 24-hour Stop & Shop, then return to my dorm room with rented VHS tapes of David Attenborough nature documents.

We were wild, I tell you.

So when I saw that CedarLane redesigned their packaging, my immediate reaction was, ‘Sacrilege!”

(I kind of dislike change.)

On further inspection, the redesign is actually kind of nice. It’s pretty in a minimalist way and it stands out next to the other frozen foods in the “natural” section. Overall, it’s not a huge departure from the original box, except when it comes to the tagline on the side of the box:

“Take home a sexy Italian.”

Get it? Because it’s an Italian dish. Mr. Max and I call dark chocolate cookies “sexy cookies” because it makes sense for a dessert to be sexy. But eggplant? Eggplant is not sexy.

Mr. Max brought home the above nutritional shake powder and as soon as I saw it I exclaimed, “DESIGNER whey? OOH FANCY!”

and then we both died of sarcasm.

Seriously, I kind of love everything about this package design. In addition to the utterly nonsensical use of the term “designer,” there’s also the phrase “America’s #1 protein since 1993.” Why not just say America’s #1 protein and leave it at that? Sticking that preposition at the end sort of turns it into the wussy opposite of a humble-brag. (Would that be a brag-humble?)

It immediately reminded me of another braggy bit of marketing that recently came to my attention: a bag from a grocery called Mediterranean Foods in Astoria.

“The best store of its kind in Astoria.”

The friend who sent this to me captioned it: “Beautiful in its modest braggadocio.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.