3.12.2009

No respect: reading the fine print

I read spam.

Not all the time, but every once in a while I have the urge to read the fine print. Navigating the herky-jerky maybe-translated-from-some-Baltic-tongue sales pitch is like a treasure hunt, with the payoff being the realization that for only $19.99 i can obtain 100 captsules of an elk urine derivative that provides 45 to 60 minute erections up to 20 times per day.

Wading into the fine print seems like a lost art. Bombarded by spam and rolling cable news tickers, most of us ... myself included ... see only the headlines. And we're paying the price for it.

They may not be true sucker bets, but they definitely play on the fact that nobody's paying full attention to the fine print.

Tropicana's "Save the Rainforest" campaign ranks right up there. While it looks simply strong on the outside of the orange juice cartons lining the freezer section, it's positively weak in the fine print.

The headline: "By simply buying specially marked packages of Tropicana Pure Premium Juice and redeeming the code on the package, you will be protecting the Amazon rainforest, saving ecosystems and fighting against global warming." For every code that consumers type in (along with their email contact), Tropicana will preserve 100 square feet of highly endangered vanishing rainforest.

The reality: If the rainforest is that threatened, and it's that easy to click-and-conserve, why doesn't Tropicana just step up and save the damn rainforest? Why hold it hostage to a national marketing campaign? Why not preserve the rainforest first, then engage the consumers about what they would like to protect next?

I felt like Sam Kinison for a moment there ...

3.11.2009

Eggs don't lie

Nine eggs from nine chickens. A sure sign of Spring, even to those of us who live in the perpetual gray gloomiverse of March.

I’m hardly a local (ie, less than seven generations of Vermont lineage), but even I know that rooting for Spring too early is a sucker bet. Generations have tried. Generations have failed.

Experienced Vermonters are so beaten down by it, in fact, that they deliberately don’t travel to anyplace too nice prior to mid-April. It’s too depressing, they say, to come back and be faced by more darkness.

So that’s the thing. So people are wary. So they don’t get too excited, too fast. But the chickens do.

The chickens have no qualms about bringing it on as soon as it starts to get even a little peckish. They eat, they drink, and apparently they get super super merry.

Producing buckets of late winter eggs, it's easy to see why one of our savvy ancestors came up with the bright idea of dyeing eggs for Easter ("...one more quiche, honey, and I'm going Postal.")

So while our chickens are focused on business, we the people are hunkered down waiting for the cruelest of months to pass. We dream and fantasize about that late June trip to the coast of Maine, and by July Fourth, we barely recognize that we’re complaining about the heat and humidity.

The funk is unavoidable, sure. But so is the recovery.

Maybe the bottom’s already here, perhaps its over the horizon. But relief is coming, and no amount of pessimism can stop it.

3.09.2009

Amazing global facts: 1 out of every 200 are Chinese ... the other 199 work for Chili's

Don’t take my word for it. Take your own tour of a steroided suburban corridor and you’ll find the same thing: overbuilt, overstocked and overleveraged sprawltowns.

Built by a Ponzi housing market fueled by homebuilders building houses for other homebuilders, many of these "communities" appeared virtually overnight. And at the same quicksilver pace that people built for the sake of building, people will retreat just as quickly.

As new suburbia dies, most of the refugees will head back to the cities, but a few lucky ones will head deeper into the countryside. And of course, when a sprawlville empties out, the big boxes left behind will inevitably falter.

So it's not a huge reach to figure that we're at the end of an era. The dominance of suburban big box retail is slipping away.

The good news is ... most of us won't miss it at all. The outdoorsy ones are happy to find their favorite brands close to home (either at the surviving destination specialty stores or online). And we like it when aspirational brands get stronger.

Those capable of bringing to life the spirit of the mountains, those that embrace and protect the soul of places where people play, those strong enough to virtually transport consumers to a lifestyle that they only dream about from their cubicle ... Those are going to do just fine.

And the rest? I got a plate of fried onion for you ...