Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Raising Revenue

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Oct 19, 2011 @ 12:28 pm PDT

A late lunchtime quick news chum, all having to do with raising revenue:

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Truly Lunchtime News Chum

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Oct 10, 2011 @ 11:30 am PDT

Today’s lunchtime news chum is all about… food and marketing.

  • Marketing Food on TV. We’ve all see commercials for restaurants where the food looks so appealing… yet when you get to the restaurant, it is so… blah. There’s a reason. It turns out there is a whole special segment of the creative market devoted to making food look good. These folks are responsible for the flying food through sheets of sugar, water, or whatever; responsible for making junk food look like it is actually edible; responsible for making those water droplets move just so. A fascinating read.

  • Marking Food on the Road. An interesting article from the LA Times on the profusion of farmer’s stands on Route 152, Pacheco Pass. In this economy, it is a way for farmers to make extra money… and of course, the foodies have gotten into it.
  • Marketing Food.. to a specific gender. Dr. Pepper has introduced a new product… which it is marketed to men only. Specifically, Dr. Pepper Ten, with 10 calories, is marketed as the drink for men who want to watch calories but wouldn’t touch something labelled diet. They are pulling out all the sexist stereotypes: Instead of the dainty tan bubbles on the can, Ten will be wrapped in gunmetal grey packaging with silver bullets. There’s a Dr Pepper Ten Facebook page for men only. TV commercials are heavy on the machismo, including one spot that shows muscular men in the jungle battling snakes and bad guys and appear to shoot lasers at each other, which states: “Hey ladies. Enjoying the film? Of course not. Because this is our movie and this is our soda. You can keep the romantic comedies and lady drinks. We’re good.” Sigh. As a man, I actually find this offensive.

…and a bonus. As we’re talking about women and stereotypes: Here’s an interesting article about a Sikh custom called kesh, hair. Evidently, it is a Sikh religious precept that the body is a gift to be honored by leaving it in its natural state. Maintaining kesh, or hair, is one of the five articles of faith. However, today’s society (translate: the view of some men (I hesitate to say “many”, atlhough that is likely the case)) does not seem to like women with hair on any place other than their heads… and even there, only on selected places. This creates a problem for Sikh women, and the article explores this tension, and how they deal with the struggle. This reminds me of Mayim Bialik’s struggle to find a modest Emmy dress to fit with her goal to maintain traditional Jewish standards for modesty. I truly admire anyone who says: “This is my religious conviction, and I’m going to do what I need to do to follow it”. (Note, however, this this does not extend to the notion of “This is my religious conviction, and I’m going to force you to follow it.”)

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Celebrate the Day

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Sep 30, 2011 @ 11:30 am PDT

It’s Friday… and not just any Friday (which is enough of a reason to celebrate)… it is the end of the Government Fiscal Year, and the 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah (for those that observe two days). So, with a Happy FY11-12 to some, and a L’Shanah Tovah to others, let’s clear out those links. Note that I do plan a post on the excellent Erev Rosh Hashanah sermon given by Rabbi Shawna Brynjegard-Bialik*, as soon as she puts it online.

  • Gezundheit! The VC Star has an interesting article on ACHOO Syndrome, which causes people to sneeze when exposed to sunlight. It is a condition found in 10-35% of the population, and does have a genetic basis. It is also something that can be disruptive or dangerous. They don’t know why it happens.

  • Gluten Free Everywhere! You may have noticed that gluten-free products are popping up everywhere these days (they used to be quite scarce). Reuters has an interesting article on the trend. According to the article, Euromonitor International forecasts 2011 gluten-free sales of $1.31 billion in the United States and $2.67 billion worldwide. Sales have more than doubled since 2005 and are expected to hit $1.68 billion in the United States and $3.38 billion globally in 2015. A number of examples are given. For example, in the donut chain “fonuts”, over half the sales are GF. General Mills Inc is a leader, having reformulated some Chex breakfast cereals, Betty Crocker cake and brownie mixes and Bisquick pancake mix to remove gluten. Anheuser Busch Inbev SA sells a gluten-free beer called Redbridge, which is sold in many mainstream supermarkets. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc for years has had a gluten-free menu and Subway, the popular sandwich chain, is testing gluten-free bread and brownies in Texas and Oregon. However, this could be a bubble. Trend chasers who have no medical reason to be on a gluten-free diet account for more than half of the daily consumption of gluten-free products, said Alessio Fasano, medical director at the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research.
  • A Hallmark Moment. Hallmark has introduced unemployment condolence cards. The article doesn’t mention whether there’s a version provided where you can tuck in a check, which is what the unemployed person really needs.
  • A Quiet Corner. Back in the early 1990s, I used to do a lot of travel to Washington DC… specifically to the McLean/Tysons Corners area. The Washington Post has an interesting article on the area, and its quest to become a real city. This includes moving beyond the business park, malls, and auto lots along Route 123 and Route 7 to a real walkable city core.
  • Keep That Allen Wrench. You’ve probably thought that the most ubiquitious and annoying things on Earth were cockroaches and politicians. Ikea wants to add itself to that list: Ikea believes that as long as there’s human life on Earth, a strong Ikea has its worth. Planet Money summarizes a New Yorker article on the chain, noting the tricks of Ikea store design (such as ‘bulla bulla,’ in which a bunch of items are purposely jumbled in bins to create the impression of volume and, therefore, inexpensiveness), the problems at US plans, and the corporate song.
  • College Planning. Lastly, something that makes me feel better for college app season. Seton Hall University is offering discounts for early applicants with strong academic credentials, giving them two-thirds off the regular sticker price for tuition, a discount of some $21,000. This is evidently part of a growing trend to go beyond need-based aid to where colleges give merit aid to get the students they really want. I hope this trend continues, for I know my daughter’s target colleges are going really want her!

*: For those who are curious: Rabbi Shawna’s sermon dealt with search engine results and how they are designed to give us what we want, and how that serves only to reinforce our beliefs, not challenge them. A really good subject, addressed well.

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Friday News Chum Stew

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Jan 28, 2011 @ 11:34 am PDT

Today is Friday, and that must mean the lunch menu is news chum stew. Let’s see what tasty morsels are in today’s offering:

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Iconic Deaths

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Nov 11, 2010 @ 5:00 am PDT

Culled from recent news, here are some iconic deaths (well, most of them are):

  • Mr. Goodwrench. Yup, GM is pulling the plug on the guy, giving him that ol’ pink slip. Seems that even a bailout couldn’t save his job. He’s on the unemployment line, being replaced with “Chevrolet, Buick, GMC or Cadillac Certified Service”

  • Sara Lee. At least on baked goods. Actually, the name isn’t dying, but the bakery operations of Sara Lee are being sold to Grupo Bimbo out of Mexico City. You might say the jobs are being outsourced to Mexico, only they aren’t. You can’t do that with bakeries. The jobs are staying local. This means that brands such as Rainbo, EarthGrains, IronKids will joins Bimbo’s other brands Orowheat, Entenmann’s, Boboli and Thomas’ English Muffins. Of course, for me, this just means more variety in the Bimbo Outlet just down the street from work.
  • Mr. Peanut. OK, he’s not dead. He’s just getting a makeover. He’s gotten clothes (a gray wool, notch lapel three-button suit jacket accented with white piping, gray trousers, a white dress shirt with French cuffs and light green necktie, and a crisply folded triangle of white pocket square), as well as a voice (Robert Downey Jr.).
  • Piggie Banks. In this case, it is the pig that is dead. Yup. One enterprising company is selling a piggie bank made from actual piglets. The pigs die of natural causes, are taxidermied, and then stuffed with a coin storage unit and a cork plug. Yours for only $4,000, with half of that due as a deposit.

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Death of a Brand

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Nov 02, 2010 @ 2:12 pm PDT

I’m taking a quick late lunch break today, and I’d like to have a moment of silence for a brand that died yesterday: Pontiac.

Now, I never owned a Pontiac, but I do drive a Pontiac-clone: the Toyota Matrix. Or should I say the Pontiac Vibe was the clone, as Toyota designed the car. Therein lies the reason for the death of Pontiac: they went from a distinct brand with distinct vehicles with distinct characters to rebadging of other cars. But when Pontiac was unique, they made cars that were unparalleled. I remember their heyday in the 1970s, when they were known for their muscle cars.

In mourning this passing, I’d like to quickly muse on the life of brands. To me, at least, I love the notion of brands and advertising characters. I was pleased to see a recent Alka-Seltzer ad that brought Speedy Alka-Seltzer back to life. I still mourn the original NBC Peacock (who remembers the NBC “N”) and the NBC Chimes. I miss “Little Nipper” of RCA, and talk often about that little minx, Wendy. I guess this shows the power of advertising to turn these ideas into tangible things that we become attached to.

So, my LJ and FB friends, what are your favorite departed brands and advertising icons?

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Prescription Drugs and Toyotas

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Mar 01, 2010 @ 11:31 am PDT

The other day I had a doctor’s appointment. During the appointment, we got to talking about the relationship between prescription drug ads and Toyotas—more specifically, about the fears related to prescription drug side effects and unintended acceleration. I thought I would share some of these thoughts over lunch.

Prescription drug companies advertise their patented products heavily. During these ads, they mention all the horrific side effects of their products, but most people ignore them because, (a) the ads are designed to emphasize the good, not the bad, and (b) for the most part, these side effects are extremely rare. But still, we worry about those extremely rare side effects: in fact, some of us won’t take particular medicine out of fear for the side effects.

Similarly, the instance of unintended acceleration in Toyotas is very rare. The OC register reports that there is a new tally of the death toll: 56 people have died due to the problem. Put on your critical thinking caps, and think. Fifty six. Toyota issued over 10 million safety recalls over this: 56 problems. Whipping out my calculator, that’s .00056% — translation, extremely rare. About as rare, if not rarer, than prescription drug side effects. Yet, people are abandoning the brand over it, declaring Toyotas as unsafe.

Perhaps irrational fears have taken over our society? More worrisome, however, is that the lack of critical thinking (and math and statistics understanding) will cause people to elevate the irrational fears over the more probable, rational ones.

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An American Institution

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Jan 08, 2010 @ 12:16 pm PDT

I had thought about using my normal lunchtime writing slot to discuss this whole “post your brassiere color” thing going around Facebook, and what it says about the changes with respect to modesty in society. I mean, in the 1960s would women have done this (if, of course, Facebook was around)? Anyway, I’m not going to discuss it. I found something better. Advertising.

The Data Surfer over at the Sacramento Bee has an interesting post today about an advertising archive at Duke University. This archive is an online collection of over 7,000 U.S. and Canadian print ads, covering five product areas (beauty and hygiene, radio and television sets, transportation and World War II propaganda), spanning 1911-1955, that is searchable by product name, company, general category and date range. The ads feature many well-known brands that have existed for decades (like Ivory Soap, Crest, Greyhound Bus and Listerine), as well as those that have vanished from the marketplace (Burma-Shave, Wildroot, Braniff). They also have an online collection of vintage television commericals dating from the 1950s to the 1980s. The images are just wonderful. Alas, I haven’t yet been able to find any of Stan Freberg’s classics.

Brings back memories.

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