Young girl on the marketing of kid’s toys.

Consider this an antidote to the faith-in-humanity-destroying collection of tweets I posted the other day. Young Riley wants to know why marketing people think girls are only interested in pink princesses:

Damn good question indeed. Perhaps she’ll grow up to make some changes in how toys are marketed some day.

Does anyone actually give a shit if a product changes its packaging graphics?

Every now and then some big brand name will decide that the look of its packaging has gotten old and boring so they decide to spice things up with a redesign. That much I can understand, but what I don’t understand is why they think a change in the look of their packaging is in any way a selling point for their product?

Note, I’m not talking about a new container design such as a no-drip bottle or easy-pour spout or what have you, just a change in the graphics on the package. Take, for example, the folks who make Barilla whole grain spaghetti. They’re about to unleash a new look for the box and they just can’t help but tell you about it:

Pic of Barilla spaghetti package.

Click to embiggen.

Along the right hand side of the box you’ll see that they’re advertising what the box is going to look like in the near future. What’s worse is the fact that, as pointed out by the folks at Slate.com, they had to redesign the current package just to tout the upcoming redesign. According to the back of the box “nothing else has changed” about the product.

I realize I’ve got an above average IQ, but I just don’t understand why I should care. OK, I can maybe see a reason in the idea that some idiots may get confused by the new package and be unable to determine that the product is right there in front of them, but you can do that without selling it as being some great new feature of your product. I don’t buy spaghetti based on how pretty the box it comes in happens to be.

I had the same reaction when Coca-Cola announced that they had new plastic bottles that were similar in shape to the old glass bottles. (They recently made the same change to their 2-liter bottles.) I didn’t care if the bottle was shaped like the old glass ones. It wasn’t a major factor in my purchasing decision. Now, had they brought back glass bottles then I’d have been much more interested. I’ve always thought the product tasted better in glass bottles.

Knowing my track record I’m probably in the minority on this topic similar to how I’m in the minority about those stupid kindergarten-like motivational posters some companies like to plaster all over their workplaces. I find them insulting to my intelligence, but I’m told they actually work which is why employers use them. I’m probably too cynical for it to work on me.

Electronic Arts wants you to sin with a booth babe at Comic Con. (#Blogathon)

Seems EA is once again trying a potentially controversial promotion for their upcoming game Dante’s Inferno at this year’s Comic Con. They’re hold a contest where the price is a date with a booth babe:

Electronic Arts is running a Dante’s Inferno contest at Comic-Con that promises “a sinful night with two hot girls” as a reward for snagging multiple pictures with any booth babes—or, as the contest puts it, committing “acts of lust.”

The promotional flier asks entrants to Facebook, Twitter or email in their pictures with booth babes. The grand prize winner, handpicked by EA staff, wins “a night with the hottest girl at Comic-Con, dinner, booty and more.”

Since when did EA get into the pimping business? That’s what their promotion makes it sound like they’re doing anyway.

As it turns out EA isn’t really serious about you sinning with the boot babes. The official rules at www.sintowin.com forbid any actual sinning:

“Judges reserve the right, in their sole and absolute discretion, to disqualify any Submissions that are inappropriate for any reason, including without limitation, for depicting or mentioning sex, violence, drugs, alcohol and/or inappropriate language,” reads the fine print.

So apparently they want you to run around getting your picture taken with as many booth babes as possible and “committing acts of lust” but they don’t want any pictures that depict or mention sex or any of the other potential sins one might engage in. Seems somewhat contradictory, doesn’t it? Do they really expect these people to read the fine print and abide by it? I feel a little sorry for any booth babes they end up caught up in this promotion. This could go badly very quickly.

Disney yanks pre-teen underwear with the message “Dive In” printed on them.

Sometimes in the mad and heady rush of marketing the shit out of a popular bit of intellectual property the folks at Disney tend to overlook how something might come across as, shall we say, a tad inappropriate. Disney has a big hit with the High School Musical movies and they’re marketing the hell out of them wherever they can. One item they should’ve thought twice about was panties for ‘tween girls that were themed after a scene in High School Musical 2 where the two main characters sing about how they love each other while dancing in and around a swimming pool. The panties, in keeping with the theme, had the words “Dive In” printed on them.

Needless to say, this hasn’t sat well with some parents:

“My daughter and I thought it was rather inappropriate for a 7 year old to be wearing them. ‘Dive In’ was written across them,” Ralf said. “Well, without being rude, we thought it was rather suggestive.”

“I think it is inappropriate because you just never know who could be out and about and see that and just think it was a bit too enticing for a young child to be wearing,” she said. “I would like to see all the products removed from the shelves.”

Well you’ve gotten your wish. Disney has announced they’re yanking down their panties:

“Unfortunately, an oversight was made and the text on the underwear was used out context,” Disney said in a statement. “This product will not be part of any forthcoming collections and the remaining product has been removed from shelves.”

You can see the panties in the pic to the left (click to embiggen) and, honestly, it’s not as bad as it sounds in the news stories. I expected the words to be printed in ALL CAPS using big block letters and bright primary colors, but it’s actually something you’d have to be looking at closely to really notice. Still there’s no point in tempting fate I suppose, though if Disney ever wants to start marketing to a more mature crowd I think they’d have another hit on their hands in the novelty underwear department.

Microsoft uses Vista haters to demonstrate that Vista’s not so bad.

If you’ve spent much time here then you already know that I think Windows Vista is a decent operating system that is unfairly maligned. If I had a dime for every time I’ve had someone talk to me about how much Vista sucks only to say they haven’t tried it when I ask if they’ve even touched the OS, well, I’d have at least a few bucks to spend. Surely I’m not the only person who’s noticed that it’s gotten to the point of being “common knowledge” that Vista blows chunks such that the criticisms are repeated endlessly by people who haven’t even used the OS.

It seems Microsoft noticed that trend as well and they set out to put it to the test:

Spurred by an e-mail from someone deep in the marketing ranks, Microsoft last week traveled to San Francisco, rounding up Windows XP users who had negative impressions of Vista. The subjects were put on video, asked about their Vista impressions, and then shown a “new” operating system, code-named Mojave. More than 90 percent gave positive feedback on what they saw. Then they were told that “Mojave” was actually Windows Vista.

“Oh wow,” said one user, eliciting exactly the exclamation that Microsoft had hoped to garner when it first released the operating system more than 18 months ago. Instead, the operating system got mixed reviews and criticisms for its lack of compatibility and other headaches.

To be sure, the focus groups didn’t have to install Vista or hook it up to their existing home network. Still, the emotional appeal of the “everyman” trying Vista and liking it clearly packs an emotional punch, something the company has desperately needed. Microsoft is still trying to figure out just how it will use the Mojave footage in its marketing, though it will clearly have a place.

I wouldn’t be surprised by that at all. Certainly Vista has it’s issues, but then what OS doesn’t. The truth is the problems it had at launch were no where near as bad as what XP went through and, as was the case with past versions of Windows, it’s been slowly improving since then.

Apparently Microsoft is rolling out a new campaign promoting Vista that will run into the hundreds of millions in dollars and will include such things as free technical support for small businesses that switch to using Vista. Along the way you can be sure they’re going to be using that Mojave footage to show that Vista has gotten a bad rap:

“In the weeks ahead, we’ll launch a campaign to address any lingering doubts our customers may have about Windows Vista,” Ballmer wrote. “And later this year, you’ll see a more comprehensive effort to redefine the meaning and value of Windows for our customers.”

What gives the Mojave project its power, though, is the fact that it isn’t Ballmer or someone else at Microsoft saying that Vista has gotten a bad rap. It’s everyday people.

With scenes reminiscent of both Apple’s “real people” campaign of a few years back as well as classic commercials from Folgers and others, the Mojave project could prove a formidable weapon.

The Mojave project is remarkable both for its humble origin as well as the speed with which it was pulled off. The idea started barely two weeks ago in an e-mail from Microsoft’s David Webster to several superiors, including Veghte. Given the green light, Microsoft started videotaping responses just last week, in San Francisco. The preview Veghte gave to CNET News on Wednesday was the first time the footage had been shown outside the company and its contractors.

The footage could get a public airing as soon as next week or even at Thursday’s financial analyst meeting, although plans were still in flux as of late Wednesday night.

With the success of Apple’s anti-Vista ads—Macs are up to an 8.5 market share now—I’m surprised it’s taken this long for Microsoft to get around to fighting back. Now the question is are the big enough to overcome “conventional wisdom”?