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10/27/2006

Every once in a while, a catchphrase comes along that induces mania and nausea in equal doses. Normally it is conveyed through some movie, show, commercial or song. Past examples include the gut-wrenching “drop it like it’s hot,” the ever-irritating “Yeah, baby” from the Austin Powers film series, and the classic “Axis of Evil.”

Oh, wait, that last one never caught on, did it? Sorry.

While novel at first, these little sayings get old faster than day-old milk. As a bachelor living on his own, you learn these things quickly. Point is, there’s a phrase going around right now that makes me want to take the perpetrator and play a game of tag using soldering irons. That phrase, you ask?

“I’m bringing sexy back.”

This has to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. First off, no one is bringing sexy back, alright? Sexy was never missing to begin with, so it doesn’t need to be brought back. It’s asinine in its concept and needs to be scrapped entirely.

And for the record, if sexy was somehow suddenly missing, I’m willing to bet that Jessica Alba would be the one to bring it back. At least before she hits the wall.

Furthermore, my greater, much more substantial gripe is the fact that anyone who says this was never sexy for a day in his/her life. Take a look out there… with the exception of Timberlake, is anyone saying this even remotely sexy? When someone with a cocked eye and a harelip tells me they’re bringing sexy back, I feel like telling them I’m bringing polka back, because I think that I’m a much more likely scenario than their claim. It’s like the pic of the 300 pound kid wearing the shirt that says “I FUCK ON THE FIRST DATE.” It’s a whopping fat oxymoron sitting right there in your face, larger than life and twice as ugly.

More than anything you just wanna slap the person in the face and tell them that they can’t bring back what was never theirs in the first place.

Sexy’s not goin’ anywhere, people. If you wanna bring something back, stick to 8-tracks, Pop Rocks and the Gremlin. There’s a reason those items are not around anymore… they were all useless in their conception. Sexy is far from useless and far from gone. There will always be beautiful, alluring, completely unattainable people in the public eye for men and women alike to drool over. So please, next time you decide to quote a song lyric, pick something from “The Humpty Dance,” will ya? I’d rather hear about your exploits in a Burger King bathroom than your arrogant proclamation of a skewed self-image.

So drop this phrase like it’s hot, get jiggy with it and talk to the hand before you get served, alrighty then? Word to your mother.

Goodnight and have a pleasant tomorrow.

10/26/2006

OK, I’ve worked in marketing for nearly two years, and have studied it closely for the last six and counting. Overall, I generally like the field that I’ve chosen for myself. I’ve always had a keen interest on an idea becoming a reality. It’s the same reason I enjoy writing as much as I do; I get to see my thoughts and beliefs put down on paper, transposed from intangible to realization. It’s dang cool if I don’t mind saying.

However, I have been aware for a long time about the ethical matters surrounding my area of expertise. I don’t think you can every deny the fact that business, regardless of it’s area of specificity, orbits around profit. I grasp that and accept it. Right now, I’m fortunate enough to have landed a position with a responsible, morally fit company that I can say I’m proud to work for. That’s saying something as we approach 2K7.

And in keeping up with market trends, it’s hard to bite your tongue when you see something like this

Now, unless I missed my guess, this highly caffeinated, highly absurd energy drink is named after a pretty destructive narcotic most often consumed by high rollers and rock stars. I actually remember the first time I heard about it… I was leaving the gym just a couple weeks ago and bumped into my cousin. He was talking to the kid at the desk, and he said they were chatting about a new energy drink on the market. When he told me the name, I thought he was joking. When I heard about it again a week later, my jaw almost dropped. I’d like to say that after 25 years on this pebble, the overwhelming ignorance of the general public can’t surprise me anymore. I’d like to say that.

Normally I’d ask myself, “What are these people thinking?” But in this case, I already know what they’re thinking: image equals dollars. There’s no question that tapping into a deviant lifestyle can yield ginormous profit margins. One need look no further than a Spencer’s Gifts to verify that. The boatload of sleaze contained in those little mall-stops is enough to fill up two arcs.

And yeah, those shops can be good for a briefly sustained, heavily innuendo-laden chuckle. That’s OK, they make no bones about it. That’s why you’ll see those funky looking leaves everywhere to realize this.

So maybe, just maybe, this new drink belongs in that sort of outlet and not the average corner store.

Obviously when you release a product of any sort, especially a food or beverage item, you want it to be largely accessible to people everywhere. That’s a given, and convenience stores seem like a natural fit (especially for energy drinks). However, there comes a certain line of responsibility with any product, regardless of the medium. It’s the reason that Playboy magazines are poly-bagged. Same reason the GTA games have an M rating.

(An aside… I’ll hearken back to my early LSS days where my first full-length post was about current trends in the video game market. I have to say that the watering down of San Andreas due to the “hot coffee” module is absurd. Look, any way you cut it, these games are rated M for a reason. It says pretty clearly on the package 17+. Any 17-year-old can get into an R-rated flick and see more vivid sex scenes than what was portrayed in the glitch. Besides that, the overwhelming amount of violence in the game is as good a lightning rod as any for the right-wing pundits to assault, yet they chose scenes depicting carnality between humans. This is really, really stupid. It reminds me of when South Park: BLU and Team America were forced to downplay language and similar scenes in lieu of ridiculously depicted blood and guts. These conservative shamans should seriously get their shit together and prioritize their asinine gripes. Maybe then they’d step out of the negative light that the Bush Administration has cast upon them all. We now return you to your regularly scheduled post…)

So this company has now, for all intents and purposes, crossed that line of responsibility into the realm of “just don’t give a fuck anymore. We want money, now.” It’s one thing to be suggestive with your product or promotion. Big Johnson is a great example. It’s clear what they were implying even though they weren’t outright saying it.

(Another aside… I remember a kid in my high school who wore a Big Johnson shirt weekly and switched it up with a Co-ed Naked shirt on a regular basis. Nobody said boo to him. When did we get so bloody uptight in this country?)

Cocaine, however, is just plain overt in its self-designation. No one’s even trying to make any apologies. I understand the cognition behind it – drink this and it’ll feel like you’re on a massive energy high, and you’ll be able to stay up later, party longer, work out harder. OK, I get it. Does this mean I have to inhale this carbonated cocktail nasally?

Promoting a lifestyle is one thing, promoting a narcotic is something altogether different and frickin’ dangerous at that. Anyone in business really should know where to draw the lines of responsibility, and those that fail to do so typically fail miserably.

This is the thing about controversy that you will find in any and all cases: controversy for the sake of thought is a good thing. If it gets people to unwrap their heads around the mundane nature of daily life and try to come up with a different line of thinking, then there’s no problem with it. Controversy for the sake of controversy is not a good thing. It’s cheap heat any way you slice it, and when you go for the easy way out, it has short-term effects often forgotten after a very brief period.

Why do you think Anna Nicole Smith keeps doing all these crazy, nonsensical things? It’s the only way she can keep in the public eye as she really has no redeeming value as a person.
Similarly, it’s dangerous for any outlet to carry such a touchy product on their shelves as they themselves face the consequences as much as the creator and owner of the intellectual property. Kudos to 7-Eleven for putting the kibosh on this sucker early and not even taking the risk. Risk has to be calculated, folks, never blind. Plain and simple.

But then again, this is sleaze marketing at its finest. You think these guys don’t already have Plan B lined up? I guarantee that “Cocaine” was never intended to be their primary name. They probably have some other generic, less flashy name floating around in their demented little think tank that they’ll unleash like a Red Bull in a China shop after the heat really pours on thick. Which it no doubt will. They’ve made a name for themselves, and sure enough people will be gassing up at their local Mobil on the Run, perusing the aisles to attain a lottery ticket and some impulse buys, and they’ll come across The-Energy-Drink-Formerly-Kno—nah, on second thought, I’m not gonna resort to the old “Prince” nomenclature hitch. Too cliché. I much prefer a pseudonym. How about CardioSplode? ‘Cause if this thing touts itself as sporting 350 percent more caffeine than Red Bull, someone’s heart is bound to detonate upon consumption.

(Yet another aside, more relevant than the previous two, though… I heard tell that the real reason legislators were up in arms about this drink was not because of the name or the lifestyle it promotes, but because of the insane caffeine content and possible risks in drinking it. While I have no argument that this is a concern, I hope it did not overshadow the obvious.)

So, someone sees a can of CardioSplode and thinks, “Oh yeah… that’s the controversial drink that had to change its name. Hmm, wonder what it’s like?” Impulse buy turns into curiosity buy. If these wizards can generate enough curiosity buys to give them a chunky piece of the pie, I’m sure the thinking is that they will have a solid boost in a rapidly growing, increasingly crowded segment. The second part is key simply because competition is incredibly fierce right now, and it’s getting harder and harder for these drinks to differentiate from one another. What better way to differentiate than with a catchy, taboo new name?

So yeah. This is the kinda stuff that does make me ashamed to say I’m in marketing sometimes. It’s hard to say whether or not it’s the norm with all companies and their products, but I think few would result to such underhanded methods. Although to be fair, we have come a long way. Remember subliminal messages in various mediums? Those went the way of the dinosaur eons ago. And in an ironic twist, it’s interesting to note that Coca-Cola used to actually contain cocaine in its earliest incarnations. Now just promoting the word alone is subject to crucifixion, never mind the actual content. Nice to know that some progress has been made. Now if only I could clue in everyone else…

Goodnight and have a pleasant tomorrow.