Happy Labor Day!
See you in September.
Lo’ those many years ago, the cool thing to have with you at college was an electric typewriter and a stereo phonograph.
But as with most things in the world, today’s gadgets and gizmo's are smaller and faster and wireless. And the three or four critical devices virtually all students must have are a computer, a cell phone – usually with a built-in digital camera – and if not, a digital camera, and an iPod.
Our annual survey of 7,500 households with school-aged children revealed that $590 is the average 2007 for all back to school purchases, more than half of that going for computers and related such items.
One other thing that’s different about going to school today is that with a computer notebook no matter how much you stuff into it, it doesn't get bigger or heavier.
This is just the icing on the cake. For years now the company has been accused of creating an unattainable body image for women via their popular Barbie® doll. Critics condemn Barbie suggesting that her too ideal physique and perfect looks might have a harmful effect on young girls' self-images.
For the record, it turns out that today the average woman in the US is 5’4” tall, wears a size 12 dress, and has measurements of 37-29-40. A life-sized Barbie would be 7’ 2” tall and would have measurements of 40-22-36. Oh, and her neck is twice the length of a normal human being.
So it was ironic to find Mattel is now fighting on the adult toy front: a pornographic web site, using the name”China Barbie.”
In a lawsuit filed in US District Court, Mattel said that the adult entertainer was using a domain name containing the word "barbie" in a "bad faith attempt to profit from Mattel's Barbie trademarks" and had damaged Mattel's good name.
The real doll, China Barbie, a human being who can talk and move on her own, says her measurements are 34D-22-33, so it’s not likely that anyone is going to confuse her with the plastic version. Although given Mattel’s recent record of quality control, maybe that’s not the case!
Gotham seems to have been the first city to have its own signature municipal condoms, and the program has rubbed New Yorkers the right way. Nearly 6 million have been handed out since the program began.
It’s hoped that the distribution of millions of NYC condoms will help promote safe sex to prevent AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases, and unwanted pregnancies. Any city organization can order free condoms for distribution through the web site – nyccondom.org – or by calling 311.
The condom packet design not only seems to be engaging New Yorkers, but is adding new meaning to the archetypical New York maxim, “We’ve got you covered!”
Well, the schools must have been successful because the number of college applications has continued to increase, and schools have rejected more people than ever before. Even factoring in the increase in the number of college-aged students, AKA, the “Baby Echo,” both public and private colleges and universities have had to turn down a higher percentage of, what admissions directors say are, the best-qualified students they've ever seen.
College officials say growing Internet use accounts for much of the application growth. More students are seeking admission online, using the common application, an electronic form that can be submitted to nearly 300 campuses nationwide. I know that my son used the common app too, so we had some real-life involvement as to where some of the application “inflation” came from.
So, just like non-ivy covered brands, reliance upon web-based engagement is playing a bigger role in how colleges and universities “position” themselves and how students are influenced regarding prospective educational providers. As such, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at the top-10 US colleges and universities – ranked by their web popularity. They were:
1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
3 University of California, Berkeley
5 University of Michigan
6 The University of Texas, Austin
7 University of Washington
8 Universities of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
So, where did my son Ben end up? Well, after a fair number of acceptances (as well as his share of rejections) today we’re heading off to get him settled in at Carnegie Mellon University. The school, founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1900, merged with the Mellon Institute in 1967 to form Carnegie Mellon University. Its 140-acre main campus is three miles from Downtown Pittsburgh, PA, and is made up of seven colleges and schools.
Since its inception, CMU has grown into a world-renowned institution, with programs ranked among the best in the United States. And although surveys are just one measure of overall educational excellence, US News & World Report ranked it 21st among the US National Universities. Newsweek named the University one of the “New Ivies” in 2006. Both reports were strangely silent about its website popularity (which was 16th out of the top-100 in the world)!
Go Ben! Go Tartans!
Born January 8, 1935, Elvis began singing in Memphis when he was 19. He was the poor boy made good, the white boy who brought black music into the mainstream, the sex symbol that was a mama's boy, the rebel who remained a patriot, and the star that died young. American composer Leonard Bernstein called him, “the greatest cultural force in the twentieth century.”
While not the first performer to blend blues and country, Elvis was the first to popularize rock and roll with his 1956 hit "Heartbreak Hotel." He topped the charts ahead of the 25th anniversary of his death in 2002 after Nike used a remix of “A Little Less Conversation” in its World Cup ad campaign.
Forbes magazine ranks Presley as the second-highest-earning dead celebrity (just after Nirvana's Kurt Cobain) and remains the best-selling solo artist of all time with over a billion records sold worldwide. He’s a dream brand, pulling in more money now than he did at the height of his career, with annual earnings estimated to be between 40 and 50 million dollars.
In total, he had 81 gold-selling albums, entered Billboard's Hot 100 pop singles chart 149 times, and made 31 films as an actor. And the dream continues. Elvis continues to draw in new fans of all ages. Currently there are more than 600 official Elvis Fan clubs in 45 countries. Not bad for an artist who never toured outside North America! His iconic image graces everything from paintings on velvet to multi-million-dollar ad campaigns.
Like any great brand, the values that Elvis stood for resonate with consumers today. Bruce Springsteen captured the Elvis brand magic noting, "it was like he came along and whispered some dream in everybody's ear, and somehow we all dreamed it."
Elvis may have left the building, but the brand still lives. Long live the King!
Now the newly reconfigured and repositioned brand will come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee, put into place to reassure consumers that ConAgra Foods has fixed the problems that allowed salmonella to contaminate the product. Along with the guarantee, Peter Pan will now be sold in a different-shaped bottle with the purity/safely guarantee printed large enough for a dairy animal to read.
In making the announcement, ConAgra Foods didn't actually mention the nationwide recall, but emphasized the brand's history and surveys showing consumer interest and the redesigned bottle with the prominent guarantee. I would love to have seen those surveys!
But wait, there’s more! As part of the launch, all the consumers who contacted ConAgra during the recall, including those who became ill, will receive coupons for a free jar of the peanut butter. And $1-off coupons will be offered to other consumers.
It’s an interesting tactic given the circumstances. Coupons for consumer confidence. And a dollar at that! What’s your family’s health and safety worth?
We’ll wait and see, but engagement metrics in the category indicate that it’s neither a leveragable nor believable strategy. Unless you also believe in fairies!
The other words on the street (but definitely not on TV or in print) are “caveat emptor,” because "enhanced" can mean anything from added fruit flavoring to oxygen to nutrients to lord knows what! All that added stuff sounds good though, doesn’t it? And effortless? You have to drink something anyway, so why not get a lot extra for very little effort?
The thing is, is that all those perceived benefits are often just that, perceptions, AKA, marketing ploys. For example, “super-oxygenated" water implies added oxygen will give you an energy boost. The reality? The amount of extra oxygen that can be dissolved into a 500ml bottle of water is about one lungful of fresh air. And you don’t want to know how many bottles of “vitaminized” water you’d actually have to drink to meet your minimum daily requirements. So, buyer beware! Or at least read the label.
The FDA reports about a third of bottled water (plain and enhanced) comes from municipal sources, AKA, “community water sources,” which is just another term for a larger version of the faucet in your kitchen. That’s the “source” of two of the leading brands of bottled water — Dasani from Coca-Cola and Aquafina from PepsiCo. Brands are supposed to include the phrase“from a community water system” or “from a municipal source” on their labels when water comes directly from the tap, but if the water is distilled or de-ionized or fiddled with in some way (think added, unspecified minerals or “other natural flavors”), it can be called “purified” or “enhanced,” and it doesn’t have to.
So read those labels and keep in mind the elemental truth of vincit veritas (truth conquers all things). Except, perhaps, in the face of a really well positioned marketing stratagem. Because in their quest to be thinner, healthier, and more hydrated, some consumers are willing to swallow anything!
The thing is, he wasn’t talking about the ads for sea monkeys or garden seeds or x-ray specs like there were in days of yesteryear, he was talking about actual product placements.
Hearing this, we did what we do best – research, and discovered the following rationale offered up by one of the perpetrators, Nate Tobecksen, a Nike spokesperson who said, "We are always looking for new and interesting ways of connecting with our consumers. This is certainly one of them."
Over the years comic book heroes and heroines have managed to conquer many foes. But they appear to be powerless to thwart the devious and influential Ad-Man. One supposes that they will have to rely on an army of mild-mannered sidekicks – Comic Book Readers – who despite their young ages are already on to all these tactics, and are ready, willing, and able to utilize their Disengagement Rays!