Jan 07

The Fort Knox of pet food

January 7 - purina cat Ever try opening a bag of Purina cat food? I'm talking about the big bags made of 'dura-weave' and boasting to be tear resistant. They're tear resistant all right. Probably nuclear bomb resistant as well.

The bag comes equipped with an innocent-looking white string one is instructed to pull to open. Trust me, it doesn't work. In fact, it doesn't even budge. Nothing. No forward progress whatsoever. It's the stubborn mule of the innocent white string world.

So, anxious to feed one's cats, one selects, instead, a knife, screwdriver or, in one extreme case, a pair of hedge clippers to pry open the impregnable bag.

Inevitably, one of two things happens:

– I gash my hand (I'm currently sporting a nasty cut on my left index finger caused by punching the damn bag in frustration).

– When the bag is finally pried open, its contents spill all over the floor. So, one is left sweeping up piles of unwanted cat food.

I'm not sure why the folks at Purina encase their precious cat food in such an impossible-to-open bag. Is it some sort of reverse psychology to jump start a cat owner's exercise program? A way to further ensure the already hungry cat is positively starving by the time its owner rips open the Fort Knox of pet food?

I think Purina has created something very special here and shouldn't limit the dura-weave technology to the pet food category. Why not partner with the military, TSA and other defense sector prospects?

I'd put my money on the Purina dura-weave in a showdown with the average flak jacket any day of the week. This stuff would stop a bazooka shell in its tracks.

And, from an image and reputation standpoint, I'd embrace the bag's Rocky Balboa-like machismo by borrowing an old Ford truck tag line. How does 'Built Purina tough' sound to you? It certainly rings true to this cat owner.

In the meantime, though, I need to do battle with the new bag. I'm ready this time, though. I've got my wife's gardening gloves to protect my damaged hands and a razor sharp box cutter. Hey, Purina Cat Chow bag: 'let's get ready to rumble!

Oct 24

An Excessive Wardrobe Doesn’t Guarantee Success

Guest blog by Laura MillsShopping_spree

Evidenced by my guest RepMan post discussing Project Runway, it’s safe to say that I’m a fan of fashion.  So, during my morning scan of yesterday’s headlines, an article in the New York Times caught my eye : “$150,000 Wardrobe for Palin May Alter Tailor-Made Image.”

$150K Wardrobe.  Wait, WHAT?!

I have no doubt that Mrs. Palin needed some new clothes for the campaign, but that is such an amazing amount of money, it’s practically an economic stimulus for Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.  That’s equivalent to about 125 Jimmy Choo handbags, 190 pairs of Manolo Blahniks, or 234 Brooks Brothers suits.

The political implications aside, does it really require $150,000 to dress in a way that communicates success?  Not in my experience.

Each month, I volunteer as a personal shopper with Dress for Success, where I assist women who are trying to make strides towards financial independence by re-entering the work force.  I work with the women to pick out interview attire that fits appropriately and, most importantly, makes them feel good about themselves.  The majority of the clothes are donations, and while I occasionally stumble upon a Calvin Klein suit or Prada pumps in the shop, most of the time the ladies walk away with outfits originally from off-the-rack retailers like the Gap or Dress Barn. 

These women look good, no matter where their suit came from, because they are put together and dressed for their body type in an outfit that makes them feel empowered.  Whether you are dressing the part for a television appearance or a job interview at JCPenny, that confidence is the asset that has the strongest correlation with personal success. It is your most important accessory, and you can’t buy it.  Not even for $150,000.

Nov 20

Stupid, desperate people

Ever watch those horrific infomercials on TV? Tony_little

Fed up with the pabulum being pitched on local TV news channels this morning, I instead decided to check out the ‘paid programming’.

What I saw was patronizing, if not pathetic. One spot, for example, featured a real estate guru who guaranteed he’d make millionaires out of any viewer willing to follow his ‘simple, six-step, zero money down’ investment philosophy.  Yeah, sure.

Another showed scores of beaming, middle-aged housewives holding up their tent-like jeans and dresses. They’d each lost inches from their waistlines by following some bogus, seven-minute isometric exercise. The erstwhile ‘big gals,’ waxed poetic about their newfound energy, love lives and wardrobes. And they positively gushed about the isometric gadget, since it required only seven minutes daily out of their busy schedules. Scores of pounds lost? Inches melted away? All from isometrics? Me thinks not.

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Oct 04

Jesus Christ, super salesman

That guy from Galilee is back again. This time He’s a super salesman for a new line of red and whiteGrapesofgalilee_3
wines called, what else?  ‘The Grapes of Galilee.’

Yes, Jesus Christ, super salesman, is back. Or at least, his name and likeness are back on the labels of everything from chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The importer said he’ll be targeting the ‘holy water’ to Catholics for the upcoming holiday season. “This is a wine for a special occasion like Christmas dinner. It will be a big talker,” said Pini Haroz.

Well, it’s got me talking. And, personally, I find it distasteful (the promotion. Not the wine. I haven’t sampled the vino yet).

Using Christ to push alcohol is just wrong, wrong, wrong. Especially considering the historical Jesus was all about poverty, humility, etc. Sure, he changed water to wine, but that was a one-time gig as I recall.

Anyway, I think Christ would be royally pissed at this misuse of His name and image.  In fact, I could see a modern Christ rampaging through the local liquor stores on Christmas Eve and breaking any bottles with his likeness on the cover (a la His assault on the moneychangers in the temple).

I’m sure Christ savored a good wine as much as the next savior. But, I’ll bet He would gag if he saw how Pini Haroz, wine importer, was ‘crossing’ the line.

Sep 13

Customer alienation 101

Professor Richtoven: Good morning, class. I’m Professor Richtoven and this is Customer Alienation 101. Gillette

Let’s start with a simple question that relates to our first case study of the semester: How many here have cut a finger or worse trying to open a packet of Gillette Mach 3 razors? Anyone? Anyone? My goodness. Everyone!

Ok, wow. Well, who would like to share a war story with the rest of the class? Yes, Smedley.

Smedley: I’ve cut myself three different times on those impossible to open packages. One time I sliced off the tip of my pinky. See the stump? Anyway, my mom insisted on taking me to the ER. So embarrassing.

Professor: Ouch. And, how does that make you feel about Gillette?

Smedley: I hate their guts.

Professor: But, you still buy their razor?

Smedley: They’re the best, professor. The best.

Professor: Interesting. Anyone else? Yes, Dimwitz.

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Aug 15

McDonald’s has become the Disney of fast food

A new study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (which sounds like a fun read, btw)C482ba8af0f895
shows that kids aged three to five overwhelmingly prefer McDonald’s-branded food items to generic ones. In the test, the tikes consistently reached for MickeyD french fries over those in plain white bags. They also opted for hamburgers, chicken nuggets and even carrots enclosed in wrapping paper with the golden arches.

This is scary stuff and shows how insidious and infectious TV advertising can be to little kids who stare at their sets hour after hour. There’s no doubt they are clearly connecting to the McDonald’s TV spots. It wouldn’t be so outrageous if childhood obesity wasn’t at all-time record highs.

So, what’s McDonald’s response to the study? A spokesman said "….. (It) was important and McDonald’s has been addressing it for quite some time." Yeah, sure.

McDonald’s, like big tobacco, has hooked millions and millions of Americans on their horrific food items and they’re not about to abandon future generations. Sure, they’ll add a salad or two to the menu, but TV commercials highlighting artery-clogging fries and burgers are just as important to Mickey D’s ongoing success as Pinocchio, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid are to Disney.

In my opinion, McDonald’s is paying lip service to the problem (pun intended). It’s up to parents to police kids’ TV viewing if they want today’s tiny tikes to avoid becoming tomorrow’s two-ton teen time bombs.

May 21

Product design pros would have loved the Spanish Inquisition

Do you have as much trouble as I do opening some of the space age product packages being made by the P&G’s, Unilevers and others?

Just this morning, I barely missed slicing opening an artery as I vainly tried to gain access to a new Mach packet of Mach III razor blades. These packages are fool-proof, knife-proof and bullet-proof. The packet containing five little containers of dental floss is positively maniacal in its stubborn refusal to be opened and could confound the cagiest bank robber.

Not only are these packets impervious to simple opening techniques, they’re made of some nasty, ragged plastic that, when punctured at long last, lie in wait for the unsuspecting consumer to reach inside and try to extract the desired consumer product.

I’m sure these Fort Knox-like packages were created in response to the Tylenol-type product tampering scares of the 1980s and 1990s. But, c’mon. There has to be a happy medium. What good to me is a new razor blade, box of dental floss or can of shaving cream when I’m howling in pain, and searching for some band-aids to stanch my bleeding? In fact, wouldn’t it be ironic if the Gestapo-like product packaging people decided to encase band-aids in these fool-proof, lethal packets? If they did, then we’d have arrived at the true end of the universe: a product that both caused pain (i.e. Slashing the bejesus out of yourself when opening the packet) and provided the solution (a band-aid to control the bleeding).

It’s madness. Sheer madness. And it does nothing to build product loyalty, either.