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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Post # 175 - Mountian Dew Typhoon Part II: Positive Spin 5/16/2010

I decided I was underwhelmed with Pepsi's reponse to my previous, negative letter so I wanted to try from a different angle.

Dear Mountain Dew,

As a fourth year student in business school, all of my focus is on a career in marketing. I spend hours watching television commercials, leafing through print ads, and online, researching web ads. I love researching ads from the past. From the fifties, right up to those goofy nuns chugging Doctor Pepper back in the late 1970’s. With old ads, you have the advantage of history—to know what worked and what didn’t, and possibly why.

I’ve concluded that today’s advertising in the United States, has become far too watered down, politically correct, and too neutered. Aside from a company like Axe, who sells their product as a means to “get chicks”, everything else has become so vanilla, so dull.

When I saw your DEWmocracy promotion, I about fell out of my chair. I couldn’t believe my eyes--a big company who is actually willing to name their product after a typhoon. “Well”, I said, “that is something else”.

Mountain Dew Typhoon is bold. It’s brash. On some level, it’s insensitive, but that’s okay once in a while. I’m sure; initially there will be some backlash—probably from the Chinese government. However, as you and I both know, media attention, good or bad, equates to free publicity.

By stirring the pot, Pepsi creates attention. Attention leads to consumer interest, which leads to Coke dollars winding up in the Pepsi coffers. It starts with the foreign country-hating subset. It continues with the Weather Channel Slappies who DVR the storm season coverage. When someone raises too big of a stink, you throw $200,000 into a newly formed Pepsi Typhoon Relief Fund, and spin your product as “designed to create awareness”. More cheap publicity, more Coke dollars from human interest fans.

I’m going to be loosely basing my final dissertation on your product. Since we are required to “invent” a product for our case study, I’m creating a Tsunami Energy Drink. Same idea—let the consumers pick it from three choices. Market it heavily, weather the backlash, kick off the relief fund, and reap all of the profits along the way. When consumer interest dies down in 14-18 months, make it quietly go way, just in time for the next promotion.

I have a few more questions:

1) Was Typhoon the idea of one person, or does the whole Marketing Team share credit? I was just wondering if there’s a new whiz kid around there. It’s so different and far out compared to your past work.

2) Were other natural disasters considered? (volcano, tornado, monsoons, etc.)? Just wondering what the thought process was for name selection.

Any information that you can provide is greatly appreciated.

Thank You,

Stephan Mariendo
No Response

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Post # 174 - TempurPedic: How Do I Avoid A Used Bed? 1-2-2011

Dear TempurPedic,

My wife, Millie and I are excited about our prospective purchase of one of your memory foam mattresses.  When we stayed with a friend in Decatur, we slept on his guest bed.  For once, I slept all night with no back problems.

My chiropractor pointed out that the memory foam mattress provides good spinal support, reduces tossing and turning during sleep, is firm, yet cushioning, has a lifespan of more than 10 years and requires little maintenance.

Our love counselor urged us to do a trial because, in his words, “things are definitely different.”   I said “we can’t do that at the store!”  Apparently, your fine company offers a ninety night trial period.

Here’s my concern.  If our love doctor is telling us to “give her a whirl” first, I’m sure everyone’s love counselor is recommending the same thing.  I’m a bit of a germ-a-phobe.

Hypothetically, if someone returns their TempurPedic mattress after 89 nights, what are the chances that I might be purchasing their love nest?  How can I be assured that I’m not getting someone else’s leftovers?  Do I need to buy a black light?

If I can be assured of getting an unused mattress, where do the used ones end up?  Hotels?  Brothels?  Truck stops?

I need to know!

Subject: RE: Tempur-Pedic email received at 1/3/2011 10:03:47 PM [#60D8CN]
Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2011 11:51:01 -0500

We do not sell used mattresses. The used mattresses either get shredded for carpet padding or they are donated to charities.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Post # 173 - Redbox and The Naughty Video Curtain - 3/24/11

Dear Redbox,

Twenty-nine years ago, my college rival, Tommy Davidson and I opened rival video stores on opposite sides of town.  His parents were supportive.  He had the hotter girlfriend and the ever-so-slightly better GPA.  However, he chose to stock predominately beta vision videos.  I chose to stock VHS.  Tommy’s business was my first victory. 

A Blockbuster moved in to Tommy’s store and thrived for years on his broken dreams.  Soon a Hollywood Video and a Family Video set up shop on the other corners.

One by one, the other stores faded.  First, Hollywood Video tanked, then Family Video, and finally, last week, the giant, Blockbuster. 

Somehow, through thick and thin, I managed to survive.  From VHS to DVD, and DVD to Blu-Ray.  I credit three things:  1) Hard work.  2) Customer satisfaction.  3) A special roomful of naughty videos with a curtain.  Until last week.

Last week, I shut my doors for the last time.  Red Box, with your $1 per night impulse vending machine video rentals at local grocers everywhere, killed me.  Congratulations and "Curse You" at the same time.

Here’s some food for thought as you move forward with my loyal customers, whose names and film preferences I know by heart.  Every neighborhood’s sex offender map resembles an M & M Cookie.  As a father of six daughters—Julie, Janey, Judy, Jenny, Jonnie, and Kim, it’s my job to know the names and faces and offenses.  I’d see many of those creepy "29-Year-Old-IT-Guy-Living-In-Mom’s-Basement-Emerging-Only-For-Pizza-Rolls" faces at my store, often coming out of the special room.  I often wondered whether the special room, the same room that special interest groups wanted removed, kept the creeps and their creepiness in mom’s basement instead of our neighborhoods, grocery stores, gas station restrooms, rest stops, and Chuck E. Cheeses.

With my store closing, there is no special room with a curtain.  There’s no outlet for the creep-o's.  There’s no "what's behind the curtain" wonderment for 13 year-old boys, sent into the store by Dad to rent “Weekend At Bernies II.” 

You need to add a tiny curtain section to your vending machines.  You owe it to neighborhoods and creeps everywhere.  And if you do, you will be rewarded financially, for years to come.

Let me now what you think!


Date: Fri, 25 Mar 2011 10:11:46 -0500
Subject: RE: General Question

Hello Jerry,

Thank you for your e-mail. I apologize for the inconvenience. Your comments, suggestions & business are important to us. I will share the information you have provided with the appropriate parties.

If you have any additional questions, comments regarding this issue please contact us at 866-redbox3 (866-733-2693) to avoid any further delay in resolving your matter.

Thank you for your valued business,

redbox Customer Care
Subject: RE: General Question
Date: Tue, 12 Apr 2011 22:14:52 -0400

Dear Redbox,

Just following up.  My last grocery store visit revealed no tiny curtain area.  I saw no customers renting videos.  And to top it all off, the news truck was in our neighborhood because some 45-53 year-old creepo with grey hair and red complexion was dancing outside his late model Blue Volvo, trying to entice the kids.  Instead of watching a Red Box (naughty) video in mom's basement with the partially warmed up Jeno's Pizza Rolls and tepid Snapple.

How are the plans coming?  Do you have mock-ups?  Prototypes?  Focus Groups?  Let's get rolling!

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Essay # 8 - Anatomy of a Half Marathon

Friends of ours, Laura and Mike, are involved with a great charity for a hospital in Saginaw.  It’s called Covenant Kids. 

Covenant for Kids provides things like Nintendo Wii’s and other things for kids that are facing health issues that they shouldn’t have to face.   This charity is basically, my Faygo scheme times a thousand.

Last year, Laura organized a great event—the first ever “Go the Extra Mile for Covenant Kids” Street Race.   Laura has been a good friend of mine since college, and it’s a good cause, so I was all in.  The event included a Half Marathon, 10K, 5K, Mile Fun Run.  I took part in the 10K.  I wasn’t prepared for a Half Maratho at the timen.  However, I promised then that I’d do the half this year.

Fast forward to January 2nd of this year.  I’m 240 lbs, and out of shape.  It’s crummy outside.  I know the race is in four months and 8 days.  I ran 2 miles.  The next week, I ran 20.  For the following three months, I ran almost 300 miles, almost all outside, in blizzards, 5 degree weather, up and down bridges, even in the dry, desert heat of Arizona.  All in the name of health and race preparation.
On Sunday, April 10, as I stood on the start line, with a young girl singing the national anthem and my wife and kids looking on.  The anthem made the hair stand on my arms, and took my mind off of my self-doubt, and the fact that I forgot my watch.  I depend on the watch—I’ve never been good at pacing myself. 

The first mile went well.  I kept it under control, learning from my jackrabbit start to the Brooksie last fall.  I let the speedsters take off.  Second, third mile went really well—I had a nice pace (probably ).  As I approached mile 4, I had reeled in four or five of those speedsters.  I was thinking, “man—Coach Karl would be proud!” 

Coach Karl was my high school coach—he was loud, prickly, and knew exactly what buttons to push.  Got a senior who’s coasting?  Stick a freshman in his place.  Knock the senior down a peg, give the freshman a little boost.  I had been the freshman and the senior.  Coach Karl died on 10/25/03.   His death was a kick-in-the-pants for me—it lead to a year of intense training, and my first (and last) marathon, the Free Press on 10/24/04.  I did a , with a half split.  More importantly—I’ve been running ever since.

By mile 6, I was starting to feel it.  Coach Karl always said “Jerry—you’re best when you have your stride.”  So I opened up my stride.  He also used to tell me that “looking back means you’re doubting yourself.”  So I didn’t look back, but I cheated.   Laura had stationed volunteers at each mile marker.  I counted the seconds between their cheers for me, and the cheers for the people behind me.

By Mile 8, fatigue was full-on.  I popped a few Clif-Bloks.  I thought about how my wife and kids had made the trip, and how I didn’t want to disappoint them.  By now, I had slipped from approximately 7th place to approximately 11th place.

I remembered my last race—by Mile 8, I was in pure hell.  I wasn’t in hell this time—I tried to turn that into motivation.  It was getting harder now.  I was counting the number of workouts I ran above 8 miles this year.  I did one 9 miler, and a 10 miler.  I need to do more next time.

At Mile 9, I really tried to keep my stride open, but it wasn’t working.   When you’re brought up as a “racer, ” when someone passes you and you’re fatigued, it’s demoralizing.  It feels a lot like Castaway, when Wilson is floating away in the horizon.  I feel helpless and lonely.  I think I was now in 15th.

At Mile 10, the skies were threatening rain.  At this point, I really didn’t care.  Rain would make a great excuse, and my family wouldn’t see me sucking at the finish line, because they’d be in the school (I’d told them to stay dry).  I needed motivation.  I started thinking about all the good work that Laura had done.  Setting the race up.  What a great course!  Organizing volunteers, police, fire, etc.  Publicizing, setting up an outstanding activity area, finding the perfect little girl to sing the anthem, and at the end, they had raised money and awareness for this great cause.  That made me feel better, but not faster.

Then, I thought about a kid I grew up with.  He was in my Boy Scout troop.  Nicest kid in the world—soft spoken, quiet, everyone liked him.  A few years later, I learned that he needed a bone marrow transplant.  I remember that it was unsuccessful, and he passed away.  I remember thinking of  four or five other kids from my childhood that I didn’t like, and why couldn’t it be them instead.  Anyway, I thought about “Joe” and how much he’d like playing the Wii, and how maybe it would have taken his mind off of some of his suffering.

The thought of Joe sort of carried me through, until Mile 12.  I toughened up.  17th place now, no more people passing me, dammit!   I thought of other races—times when I toughened up.  News Herald 1989, a teammate and I duking it out for the last All Downriver medal at Willow Metropark (which I claimed).  A time on the Wyandotte track in 10th grade when Coach Karl put two upperclassmen in my 3200 race to “seal a victory.”   A time in 11th grade when he replaced me in the 400 with a freshman, and had me run JV.   I always raced better when I was angry.

So there were two guys behind me who had me in their sights.  That made me angry.  Not really, but I needed to be angry.  So I looked back at them like “okay, let’s go.”  I sped up.  A good song came on my mp3 player.  They chased.  I ran.  Then, we hit mile 13. 

With .1 left, I could see the finish line crowd.  I remembered how I always tell my daughter when she’s swimming, to finish strong.  I sprinted.  It felt great and terrible at the same time.  I crossed the finish line, .  3rd in my age group, and I beat some whippersnappers.  It felt great.   As you get older, these things are more and more special, and I like that my kids will remember these races as they're feeding me tapioca and helping me onto the crapper.

As a follow-up, today, a friend of mine posted on Facebook about a little girl that needs a bone marrow transplant.  I hurried over on my lunch hour, to the grade school in Southfield (barely made it--they closed at ).  I let them test me, and now I'm registered. 

I hope I’m a match.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Post # 172 Tums: One Tum For Everyone!!! - January 1, 2011

Dear Tums,

As a concerned parent, I was comparing ingredients at the local pharmacy.  As I held three Tums varieties in my hands, I made a few observations.

First, Regular Strength Tums has 500 mL per tablet of the active ingredient, compared to 750 mL in Extra Strength.  This makes perfect sense. 

This is where the wheels come off the train, Extra Strength Tums and Children’s Tums each have 750 mL of active ingredient per tablet.  Kids and Drunkies get the same whollop in their pills.

In what world does it make sense to feed my child a pill as strong as extra strength?

As for pricing, Regular Strength is roughly $4.50 for 150.  I can find Extra Strength Tums, roughly $4 for 96.   Childrens Tums are roughly $4 for 36 tablets. 

Let me get this straight.  “Too Much Nacho Dip” pays 3 cents a Tum.  “Too Many Jello Shots,” and her friends pay 4 cents a Tum.    Single Mom working two jobs pays 11 cents a Tum for her kid, because she’s in too big a hurry to stop and read the label.

This is going to sound crazy.  Let’s just have one Tum for everyone.  Extra Strength – 750 mL.  Make them in all of the various flavors.  Nacho Guy and Drunk Chick can figure out how to handle their dosages, or better yet, taper off on all the sliders and tequila shooters.  This could be a teaching moment for them. 

For once, people with kids could maybe catch a break on something and pay 7 cents per tablet less.

What do you think?

Subject: Regarding Case ID: 3627704
Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2011 10:00:18 -0500

Dear Jerry,


We have received your e-mail message regarding Tums® E-X antacid/calcium supplement.
Tums® Kids tablets are indicated for children ages 2 – 11 as an antacid/calcium supplement.  The maximum daily dosage, however, is much lower than for adults and divided into segments for 2 - 4 year olds and 4 years to adult.  There is a dosage chart on the back with both weight and age.
Dosing has not been developed for children with Tums® Regular, but the dosing on TUMS Kids would apply to other E-X products.  TUMS Kids was developed to provide parents with a stomach remedy for their children that was easy to give (scored tablets make dosing easy for kids age 2-11) and easy to take (available in Cherry, a flavors kids love, and in the Smoothies format, a smooth dissolving texture). 
Comments such as yours allow us the opportunity to experience our endeavors from the standpoint of our customers. We will certainly pass along your comments to those who are involved directly in the manufacture and marketing of Tums® E-X antacid/calcium supplement.

Again, we are glad that you took the time to share your opinions.


GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare
Case # 3627704
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