New Products of the Year | Year In Review | Chicago Reader

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New Products of the Year

Milestones in Marketing



8 Blue M&M's: Back in January the corporate candy kingpins at Mars announced a consumer poll to choose a new M&M's color. The ballot listed blue, purple, pink, and an option to leave the colors as they were. But the firm neglected to mention that if a new color was selected, it wouldn't simply be added to the mix--it would replace tan, which would be exiled from the M&M's family of colors. As a result, voters didn't realize they were sending tan off to the glue factory. Ten weeks and over ten million votes later, blue was the landslide winner, with 54 percent of the vote. Only then did Mars acknowledge its plans for tan genocide, which struck some consumers as the sort of election fraud usually reserved for third-world dictatorships. This led to a small "save tan" protest that failed to sway the powers that be. Blue had its debut and tan its demise in late summer.

8 Crayola Magic Scent Crayons: A different sort of consumer protest was registered at the offices of Binney & Smith, manufacturers of Crayola Crayons. The company launched its Crayola Magic Scent Crayons in 1994, using an array of food-based fragrances. But parents complained that their kids might be tempted to eat crayons that smelled like cherry, bubblegum, banana, and so forth. So in '95 the company gave the product a complete overhaul, resorting to fragrances that might be considered unusual at best. The black Magic Scent crayon, which originally smelled like licorice, now smells like leather jacket. And blue went from blueberry to--get this--new car. In the most amusing switcheroo, brown changed from chocolate to dirt. Apparently nobody told Binney & Smith that small children like to eat the latter as much as the former.

8 Coors Artic Ice: It was a big year for beer, including the national release of Coors Artic Ice, misspelling and all. (Look at the name again if you didn't catch it the first time.) According to Coors press releases, the Artic Ice name was a deliberate attempt to come up with a moniker that would be "easily noticed, easily pronounced, and memorable." It marks a low point in American product literacy. The company's line is that they were inspired by the obvious misspellings in such products as Nestle's Quik and Kix cereal, which means the Coors crew completely missed the point: an obvious misspelling is, well, obvious, while a subtle misspelling just looks like a stupid mistake. In any event, according to a Coors consumer relations rep, the real reason for the misspelling is actually much simpler: the firm was unable to trademark the name Arctic Ice properly spelled.

8 Grenade: Nature's Best, a Long Island firm that specializes in products for bodybuilders and other gym rats, launched an energy drink called Grenade. They packaged it in an olive drab plastic bottle shaped like a shell casing and used a military-style stencil font on the package. Nature's Best prexy Hal Katz said the company and its ad agency arrived at the name because it provided the desired energy motif and included the suffix -ade, associated with other beverages like "lemonade." This explanation, however, wasn't borne out by the company's print ad for the product, which showed a real hand grenade captioned "Warning: Contains an enormous amount of explosive energy," next to a bottle of Grenade captioned "Ditto." In spite of this relentless munitions-based pitch, Katz said Nature's Best has no plans to pursue any cross-promotional deals with weapons manufacturers--yet.

8 Frosted Cheerios: General Mills' Cheerios cereal line, which already features honey-nut and apple-cinnamon varieties, took another step away from oat-bran purity with the autumn launch of Frosted Cheerios. Early consumer reviews were mixed. Several unimpressed cereal mavens on the alt.cereal newsgroup pointed out that Frosted Cheerios taste exactly like Alpha-Bits. "Yeah," sniffed one observer, "only every letter's an 'O.'"

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jasmine Redfern; illustrations/Peter Hannah.

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