Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Poptarts v. Toaster Strudel

I think Pillsbury's Toaster Strudel should give up trying to directly compete with Kellogg's Pop-tarts. Don't get me wrong, I think Toaster Strudel is delicious, but the strudel lacks many of the main features that make Pop-tarts so great.
Toaster Strudel must be stored in the freezer and then heated and frosted before it can be eaten. Pop-tarts, on the other hand offer much more convenience. They can sit on the shelf right next to the dry cereal and oatmeal, and can be easily taken with you to be eaten at a later time. In fact, when I was in high school, i used to bring the brown sugar ones with me to school and eat them mid-morning as a snack.

The TV advertisements for Toaster Strudel are aimed at kids, the same main target that Pop-tarts are marketed too. Toaster Strudel is never going to be a Pop-tart. They should quit trying to beat Kellogg's and go for a different demographic such as young professionals with "more sophisticated" taste. In fact, they could be marketed as the perfect breakfast food for pairing with a hot cup of joe. We all know that coffee has become a social craze through Starbucks and other coffee competitors.

I think Toaster Strudel is a great product and a delicious breakfast food, but Pillsbury should go for a different market segment rather than trying to take on Pop-tarts head-on.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Are Catalogs Still Effective?: An L.L. Bean Case Study

We're fast approaching the season for holiday shopping. The places I first think to shop are the internet (especially if I need to do some research on a product) and browsing in local brick and mortar stores. However, the current L.L. Bean catalog appeared in my mailbox last week and got me thinking about whether catalogs are still relevant and effective for modern consumers.

L.L. Bean, a well-known company that has been around for quite sometime, started off only selling their particular kind of shoes, ideal for nasty weather and keep toes warm and dry. They have expanded their products over the years to include outdoor apparel and accessories, casual and classic clothing, and are famous for their monogrammed totes and back-packs. Though they have retail stores, it seems that the bulk of their sales, historically, happen through their catalog (and more recently their online catalog option).

I think L.L. Bean is successful because they provide high-quality products and have developed a loyal group of customers. In fact, I know of the company, because my aunt and uncle have always been fans of their products. I also think they maintain their relationship with customers through their catalogs.

Having a catalog appear in your mail box every several months can be annoying if unsolicited or from a company you have no intention of continuing a relationship with. However, if a company with a good reputation and a more subtle approach seeks your attention, it's not so off-putting. L.L. Bean catalogs have a piece of artwork on the front, rather than a celebrity or star product. They are organized so that you can easily flip to the section you're interested in, and they're not overly sales-pitchy.

I like catalogs because they allow you to browse from your couch in a way that the internet can't. The internet, for the most part, only shows you items directly related to what you typed into a search box. A catalog can put things in front of you that may enhance your daily life, but you didn't know you needed (which is a great benefit to the catalog company). In general, I won't buy clothing items from a catalog, but I certainly have looked up items on the internet for more details, after a catalog introduced them to me.

Catalogs are not dead yet. For certain companies, like L.L. Bean, they have a way of keeping products in the consumer's field of vision and drive loyalty and sales. They are expensive to produce, and not appropriate for every company, but some can certainly still make them work to their advantage.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Party in the USA

When I hear Party in the USA on the radio I immediately change the station. Partially, it's because just don't like the song, but also Miley Cyrus annoys me because of how her fame has been used to create products.

I'm sure I will never understand why anyone finds Miley Cyrus appealing, but she seems to have legions of fans. Personally, I think there are many young women out there who could out shine Miley both in talent and style, but my biggest pet-peeve is how the "Miley Cyrus" brand has been used.

There countless Hannah Montana and more recently her alter-ego, Miley Cyrus branded products. Hannah Montana items include everything from dolls to wigs. Miley has transformed into being a pop star instead of just playing one on TV, and she now has a clothing line prominently featured in Wal-Marts across the country on top of everything else. I can understand using a celebrity name as a branding tool, both for the benefit of the performer or personality and for the retail industry. However, I think there is a line that has been crossed in this case.

I don't think her product lines are simply a part of being a teen pop celebrity. Taylor Swift has been equally successful. However, because Miss Swift's class and wider appeal, I think her career will go much further than Miss Cyrus. I suppose Miley's handlers are trying to capitalize on her boom of pre-teen (and getting older) fans, but I think it may be detrimental to the rest of her career (if she has one). Celebrities that "play hard to get" and seem classier seem to have more longevity in their fan base and successful careers throughout their lifetime. Maybe Miley could try the classier approach, but maybe instead she'll burn out, fans will get tired of seeing her products, and we'll all be spared her musical "genius." Harsh I know, but her over-merchandising and her songs annoy me.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pet Fish

Like many people, I enjoy having a pet (even if it's just a plant). It gives me someone to care for and interact with. My pet of choice would probably be a people-friendly feline. Unfortunately, I'm very allergic to cats and don't have a living situation that would fit with keeping a furry pet. The next best option, I think, is having an aquarium.

I know that Betta Fish are popular and I have friends that keep them as pets, but I really don't understand the allure.
They just seem so boring to me. Maybe people are lazy or just don't want to deal with a more expensive tank that requires a filter and other maintenance. But I think if you're going to go for fish, it's much more worth the effort to make an investment in fresh water fish that actually have some life to them.

I've had fish before, but I recently acquired a new aquarium and stocked it with the essentials: gravel, fake and real plants, rocks, decor items with hiding places, and of course, finned friends. I have 3 Pineapple Swordtails (2 females and a male) and 5 Danios. My fish don't have big fluffy tails or aggressive tendencies. They seem to coexist happily in my 10 gallon tank, hide in the "broken pots" tank decor and among the plants, and gobble up the flakes I feed them daily.

Maybe I'm just amused by the simple things in life, but I could sit and watch my fish for hours and not get bored. It seems that they never swim the same path twice, and I can pick out the differences between the personalities of the danios and swordtails. It has struck me how amazing something as seemingly simple as an aquarium is really a complex balance of organisms and chemicals.

I guess my point is that I don't understand why people bother with seemingly lifeless Betta fish, but more importantly, I think we should stop and smell the roses, so to speak. Marveling at life's seemingly simple things, like the fish in my aquarium, can give us perspective on how life is truly complex and beautiful.