Tag Archives: marketing

An L.L. Bean kind of guy in Walmart apparel … Or, how to remain rugged at age 65


Don’t be fooled by outward appearances. True, I may be clad from head to toe in clothing from the sales rack in Walmart. But I’m an L.L. Bean kind of guy.

Whether I am hiking in the wilds (which I don’t do nearly enough anymore) with my dog (sorry, he’s not a Labrador, more of a sales rack sort) or savoring a cognac (well, generic on-sale diet cola beverage) by the fireplace (that can’t actually have fires in it), I generally prefer to do so while attired in soft and snuggly, well-made clothing of denim, flannel, or corduroy.

Alas, my clothing budget no longer permits such purchases from the iconic Maine purveyor of classic, durable and cozy apparel.

But this time of year, as my birthday nears, I might actually open the latest catalog that dropped through my mail slot — if for no other reason than to fend off the inquiries from my brother and sister: What do you want for your birthday?

You will always find at least one dog in an L.L. Bean catalog — generally a pointer or a Lab, either splashing through a lake or nestled peacefully in an L.L. Bean dog bed ($109-$249).

The round or rectangular dog beds come in various sizes, with either a denim or fleece cover, monogrammable, and inside a mattress made of either “loose fill” or memory foam. You can’t get a round one with memory foam, though. I’m sure there is a reason for that, but, as I’m nearing 65, I forgot.

Yes, that’s right, I am reaching the age where even foam has a better memory than I do.

The shirts in the catalog most often grab my interest. I know from experience that as soon as I open a new one up, it will feel like an old one — even an old favorite one. Yes, it is almost like paying extra for a shirt that has already been worn. But, when I’m not actually paying for it myself, I don’t care.

In the latest catalog, there are “sunwashed” shirts, and “stonewashed” shirts and “lakewashed” shirts.

I have no clue how “sunwashing” is accomplished, but I found myself wondering if there is a particular L.L. Bean employee who does the lakewashing — who, accompanied by his Labrador retriever, hauls all the new shirts to a lake in the mountains to accomplish this deed. I mean there’s gotta be, right? Otherwise it would be false advertising.

I see him as an older gentleman who preferred this job to being a Walmart greeter, because it allowed him to be in the great outdoors, with his dog. He likely fills his old Jeep with boxes of new shirts and a few times a week heads to the lake with his dog and a washboard. He’d be wearing those famous rubber-bottomed duck boots, which he gets at an employee discount.

“Lakewashing,” I’m sure, is meant to convey an image of purity and freshness and the great outdoors — and it works as long as you don’t let algae and pond scum or boycotts enter the picture.

Fortunately, in L.L. Bean World, that never happens. There, lakes remain pure, mountain streams run fresh, and you remain rugged and vital — at least until you head back to Walmart.

(Photos: L.L. Bean)

When selling technology gets out ahead of understanding technology

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When the marketing of a new technology gets ahead of refining that technology, and finding its best use, it can be disastrous.

But, biotech being what it is, and greed being what it is, it happens — a lot: Let’s start selling it before we fully understand it, much less the repercussions it might bring.

Dog cloning is one example of that. Canine genetic testing — now being marketed by some companies — might well be another.

Promising uses may exist in both technologies, but the rush to market them, the gullibility of humans, and the total lack of oversight and restrictions governing their use, have resulted in a whole new market niche — selling false hope.

With both, claims have been made that can’t be backed up. With both, the marketing claims can’t be confirmed by scientific evidence, at least in amounts most scientist deem acceptable to serve as proof. With both, the zeal to put a product or service on the marketplace has led to many outrageous claims and more than a few “woops” moments.

71VI6KUzxML._SL1500_DNA testing of dogs has become a booming business in the last 10 years, starting with the marketing of tests that promised to determine what breeds are in your dog — a fun little method of solving they mystery of a dog’s heritage by testing its blood or saliva in a lab.

Companies said then that knowing what breeds make up your dog could also be a way of keeping him or her healthy, and allow you to watch out for certain diseases and disorders that those breeds are prone to.

In more recent years, it has been used to test for genetic mutations, making it, seemingly, a more valuable diagnostic tool for veterinarians.

Today, it can be used to make life or death decisions and that, a commentary piece in the journal Nature warned last week, is a mistake.

At least it appeared to be a mistake for a little dog named Petunia.

Petunia, 13, started having trouble walking and controlling her bladder and bowels last year.

91Wg3qmDurL._SL1500_Her owners bought a $65 home genetic test, and the results showed their pug carried a mutation that is linked to a neurodegenerative condition similar to the human disease ALS — one that would lead to paralysis and eventual death.

Based on that, her owners had her put down.

What they might not have realized is that as few as 1 in 100 dogs that test positive for the common mutation develop the rare disease. Petunia’s condition could have been the result of a more-treatable spinal disorder.

“Genetic testing for pets is expanding,” the Nature article said. “Hundreds of thousands of dogs have now been genetically screened, as Petunia was, and companies are beginning to offer tests for cats. But the science is lagging. Most of these tests are based on small, underpowered studies. Neither their accuracy nor their ability to predict health outcomes has been validated. Most vets don’t know enough about the limitations of the studies, or about genetics in general, to be able to advise worried owners.

“Pet genetics must be reined in. If not, some companies will continue to profit by selling potentially misleading and often inaccurate information; pets and their owners will suffer needlessly; and opportunities to improve pet health and even to leverage studies in dogs and cats to benefit human health might be lost. Ultimately, people will become more distrustful of science and medicine.”

71aDTs6xiFL._SL1440_What’s not to be trusted here, though, is the marketing.

Claims are made before there is enough science to back them up, and we — minds boggled by all the indecipherable advances in technology around us — accept them.

Few of us really understand, and nobody — I’d argue — bothers much to look at the repercussions, to where it might all lead.

That’s what makes this Nature commentary exceptional. It was written by Lisa Moses, a veterinarian at the MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston and a research scholar on bioethics at Harvard, along with two other Boston-based experts.

Petunia’s case, she said, “is one, but there have been many of them. In fact, a number of cases just like that one are what started me thinking about this years ago, when the first genetic tests started to be used routinely.”

Co-author Elinor Karlsson, a researcher on dog genetics based at the UMass Medical School and the Broad Institute, said she was “aghast” when she learned from Moses that genetic research like hers is being used to make clinical decisions — including euthanasia.

“It really upset me,” she said. “Both the idea that people were already using genetics like this and the idea that the papers that I’ve published on things like bone cancer and compulsive disorder may also end up being used as tests, and that people wouldn’t understand what the limitations were of the work that we’ve done so far.”

The article calls for several remedies, including quality standards for how pet genetic tests are performed, how results are shared, and counselors who could help owners interpret results.

“One of the purposes of this article was just a heads-up to everybody that this needs some serious attention in an organized fashion,” said Veterinarian Steven Niemi, who co-authored the Nature commentary and is the director of the Office of Animal Resources at Harvard.

“We shall sell no wine before its time,” a wine-making company once boasted, hiring Orson Welles to voice those words in a TV ad. Of course, it wasn’t true. Gallo specialized in cheaper wines — Thunderbird even.

Nevertheless, it is advice those who are marketing technology might do well to take, at least if they want to come anywhere close to gaining the public’s trust. For the public, my advice would be don’t do it; wait for the proof.

Woof in Advertising: Butch & the boyfriend

Butch isn’t sure what to make of his master’s new boyfriend, but it’s pretty clear that — for the old dog, anyway — it’s not going to be love at first sight.

In the ad for its 2018 Crosstrek — that’s the extended version above — Subaru shows yet again that when it comes to TV ads that capture the essence of dogs, nobody does it better.

woof in advertisingThe ad depicts a couple going on their first road trip together.

The boyfriend is a little surprised to see that Butch is going along. But during the course of their weekend, he repeatedly tries, unsuccessfully, to win the affection of his new girlfriend’s faithful — and watchful — dog.

Butch remains skeptical until he sees the boyfriend get his master’s jacket for her and wrap it around her shoulders.

At that point, he decides the guy is OK, stops growling at him, and walks over and lays his head on the young man’s knee.

The ads ends with the young woman’s voice — “You can never have to many faithful companions. That’s why I got a Subaru Crosstrek” — and the tagline: “Love is out there; find it in a Subaru Crosstrek.”

Woof in Advertising is a regular feature in ohmidog! that looks at how dogs are used in advertising. For more Woof in Advertising posts, click here.

Are Perfect Petzzz a little too perfect?

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We’ve been showcasing in recent weeks a few Christmas gift ideas that are either quirky or cute, but here’s one that’s a little creepy — both the product and its marketing.

Perfect Petzzz are “breathing” stuffed dog toys that come in 10 different breeds — all with fur so authentic looking some shoppers have assumed it was harvested from real dogs.

That, as Snopes.com reported recently, is a false rumor.

Still, some creepiness remains — mostly in the way the company markets the toy on the Perfect Petzzz website:

“These adorable pets offers a real pet ownership experience without the hassles and expense. Say goodbye to feedings and vet bills. Say hello to lots of love and cuddles. Perfect Petzzz – the ultimate pet.”
cavThey bill themselves as “a unique alternative to pet ownership, we offer a lifelike experience that all ages and walks of life can appreciate. With our ‘adoption program’ you can take your new puppy or kitten home today!

“…You can even see me breathing! Our fur is soft, and we love to be petted! I even come with my very own bed, minus the fleas!”

Perfect Petzzz are not picky eaters, “consuming only one ‘D’ battery every 3 months.” They are “factory potty-trained, with all their shots and papers, including obedience classes!”

Of course, none of that is true of “real pets,” and owning a stuffed toy dog is not really a “lifelike” experience at all.

Should those things be what you are seeking in a dog, though, by all means, get one of these — as opposed to impulsively adopting a real one as a Christmas gift.

But don’t be fooled into thinking cuddling or watching this lump of fur breathe is any way the equivalent of — or in any way will prepare your child for — the experience of owning a real dog.

yorkietoyReal dogs are messy, real dogs take work. And to imply that a “perfect” dog would involve none of that — and nothing more than batteries — is irresponsible and a little spine-chilling.

Perhaps the website is trying to send out some kind of positive message by pretending buyers are “adopting” the stuffed dogs — they even include an adoption certificate — but that side of it bugs me too, as if they are trying to make a profit co-opting the goodness of real agencies that do that.

And seeing these (about $40 each) stacked up on display in a store, on top of each other, in boxes on a rack, reminds me of something you might see at a South Korean outdoor dog meat market, or on the back of a truck taking dogs to slaughter in China.

Snopes had dispelled the real dog fur rumor, which appears to have started with a single social media post by a Facebook user who somehow jumped to not just the conclusion that Perfect Petzzz were made with fur from real dogs, but that dogs were killed for that sole purpose.

Snopes says the company insists the fur is entirely synthetic.

Still, Perfect Petzzz — other than maybe being right for that person who shouldn’t have a real dog — will not be making any of my Christmas lists.

Real housewife’s pink dog food is drawing some less than stellar reviews

sparkledogWe’re sure she meant well, but “Real Housewives of Dallas” star Kameron Westcott’s new dog food line is getting some harsh reviews.

Westcott is new to the series, and one of the plot lines it follows has revolved around her efforts to develop and market a bubblegum pink dog food brand called SparkleDog.

The new line supports the Susan G. Komen Foundation, but even that worthy cause isn’t keeping some critics from declaring the product gagworthy.

As the SparkleDog website explains it, Kameron noticed that the dog food industry has “overlooked the purchasing power of women. She has made it her mission to create packaging that would appeal to women using bold pink colors, a unique shape and easy to carry bag. Her pièces de résistance was adding pink heart shaped kibbles.”

westcott“Kameron has continued her passion for animal welfare by convincing her husband Court to invest in the first company that is going to bring kill free meat to the world,” the website adds.

(I’m a little bit baffled by just how the forms of chicken and fish listed as ingredients end up in the dog food without being killed … unless maybe they have all died of old age.)

In reality, the product is mostly brown with pink kibble bits. Cranberries help provide the pinkish coloring, along with Red Dye #3.

While the website lists the ingredients, it doesn’t specify what portion of profits will be passed along to the Komen Foundation. It has promised the foundation $10,000, though.

Kameron recently lost her grandmother to cancer, according to the website, “and when she reminisced about her grandmother, she realized her love for pink and her love for being a woman came directly from her.”

On Amazon, the dog food has an average rating of 3.3 out of 5 stars, but a number of reviews are pretty harsh.

“Make sure you buy a tarp to keep your dog on, cause you will have diarrhea everywhere!!!” Another claimed the food left her dog dehydrated and weak with diarrhea. One calls it “nausea in a bag.”

A review in the Dallas Observer, however, says the two dogs who tired it under their supervision enjoyed it very much and had no ill effects.

Westcott told Page Six that the 1 star reviews are fake.

“The 1 star reviews were done by people who never purchased the product and [are] meritless. Based on internal tests we have found that dogs bowel movements are unaffected by our food,” she said.

The dog food is not organic, says Westcott, who has been described as a real life version of Reese Witherspoon’s character in “Legally Blonde.”

SparkleDog_front-bagMaking it organic, she says, would have required charging an exorbitant amount for it.

The price strikes me as a little hefty, but then I’m not a Real Housewife.

An 8-ounce bag sells for $28 on Amazon.

(Photos: Kameron Westcott, her Yorkie Louis, and her dog food, from the SparkleDog website)

IKEA launches a line aimed at pets

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Hang on to your allen wrenches, IKEA is getting into the pet market.

No, they won’t be selling some-assembly-required dachshunds, but they will be introducing a line called LURVIG (Swedish for “hairy” or “shaggy”), consisting of items the company says are tailor-made for pets.

IKEA says the comprehensive LURVIG pet product range was “created by pet loving designers” with support from “trained veterinarians” (as opposed, I guess, to veterinarians who have received no training).

In addition to the basic pet products — dog bowls and feeders, cat scratch mats, dog and cat beds — other offerings include very basic-looking furniture, like bookshelves, with one shelf designated to serve as a spot for your cat.

It appears no different from any other bookshelves. But leave the books off one shelf and, presto, it serves as a cozy place for your cat to curl up. Genius, right?

The dog blanket looks like any other furniture throw, and the tables look like any other tables.

ikeaThe only thing close to novel is a cat scratching pad that you can wrap around the leg of a table or chair, instantly turning it into a scratching post. (Only a trained veterinarian would be able to come up with something like that.)

Maybe there is more to come, but what’s been featured online so far is unimpressive, with all of the furniture appearing to be that trademark white laminated particle board.

It’s not the first time a company has taken a human product, made only the most minor, if any, variations, and re-designated it a dog product.

That’s marketing. Or, as the Swedish call it “marknadsföring.”

(Photos: IKEA)

What is it? What is it? What is it?

The video above is:

A. Retired Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps’ latest interspecies race challenger, Chewbacca, in training for their upcoming competition.

B. An advertisement for hair conditioner.

C. Cousin Itt, after falling into The Addams Family pool.

D. An Afhgan hound underwater.

“D” would seem the most obvious answer, given the camera eventually reveals a distinctive snout, but the mermaid-ish way the creature’s arms are stroking is not the least bit dog-like.

woof in advertisingIt’s actually an animation — one of a series of ads for Klarna, a Swedish e-commerce company that provides payment services for online storefronts. It’s intended to depict how “smoothly” their transactions take place.

Get it?

Chief Marketing Officer David Sandström said he and is team were trying to think of the smoothest things possible to feature in a video ad. They eventually landed on the idea of a creature with flowing tresses gliding underwater.

“The hair was a big, big part of it,” he told The Daily Dot.

The video floated around for a year on YouTube, receiving little attention.

But when Klarna shared it last month on Instagram, it quickly went viral as people tried to figure out what exactly the swimming creature was.

That — creating the mystery — was the whole idea behind the ad, Sandström said.

“We want to create a feeling of, ‘What the f–k is this?’ It’s important to us that people don’t understand what it is. The internet loves strange things. The internet loves weird.”

And even people who aren’t sure what it is want to know where they can order one, Sandström said.

“People have emailed us saying they want one and asking where they can get one.”